New flood emergency plan in the South Bay

- After months of fallout over the Coyote Creek flooding, the two lead agencies put their differences behind them on Friday. A joint meeting of the San Jose city council and Santa Clara Valley Water District board ended after both bodies adopted a flood disaster emergency action plan. 

Physical signs of cooperation commenced months ago with the construction of a berm to protect the Rock Springs neighborhood. At City Hall, the two sides sat on opposite each other, but stood united in their goal of adopting a flood disaster emergency action plan.

"You're seeing here today a spirit of collaboration working together which is going to make things work much smoother and easier for all of us," said John Varela, the water district board chairman.

The 80-page document spells out details about monitoring creek water levels, and communicating information to city leaders, first responders, and residents. Four categories representing four stages of an impending emergency -- from "preparedness" to "warning" -- and within each, a specific list of what to do.

Last February, days of torrential rain and a release from the Anderson Dam forced the Coyote Creek to overrun its banks, flooding three San Jose neighborhoods. A chain of emails -- sent in the dead of night -- shows the water district did tell city staffers the creek levels were rising slightly faster than expected. But there was no actual warning or emergency declaration. 
Now the plan of action is to get the word of possible danger out earlier, using the "El-RAD" audible system if needed to blast the alert for miles in all directions.

"We do have methods, boots on the ground, door knocking, sending out flyers, for our harder-to-reach populations," said San Jose city spokeswoman Cheryl Wessling.

Also, the plan calls for keeping water levels at Anderson Damn lower, preventing the runoff that exacerbated the bad situation. And constructing this berm, so that if all else fails, there is a last line of defense.

"We're fixing the most immediate issues around, concerning our residents are properly warned. and that everyone knows their responsibility when the emergency's coming," said Mayor Sam Liccardo, (D) San Jose.

The plan went active as of noon Friday, and is adaptable to other waterways, not just the Coyote Creek, which is the longest in Santa Clara County. The city hopes to get the remaining 42 families still living in temporary housing into permanent housing before the one-year anniversary.

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