Rep. Swalwell tours East Bay storm damage, calls for more federal assistance

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) took a closer look at some of the damage recent storms caused in his East Bay district. A portion of A Street, a major thoroughfare that connects Hayward and Castro Valley, was washed away by the rain and surging in San Lorenzo Creek. 

"It’s eye-popping to see it the way it’s currently standing," said Swalwell. "So many of us have relied on local infrastructure and this commands us to do everything we can to get it back up and going." 

Swalwell joined with Alameda County public works officials and the sheriff’s office to require more federal assistance, specifically a major disaster declaration, to help reimburse counties for the recovery work ahead. 

"The known damage so far, is estimated at $52 million," said Lt. Miguel Ibarra from the Alameda County Sheriff’s office. "83% of it is directly related to public critical infrastructure such as roads, canals, [and] school damage."  

Alameda County Public Works is trying to respond to all the infrastructure issues in the county but says all departments have been overwhelmed. 

"First storm we’ve seen like this in many years, and it’s taken a toll on our critical infrastructure," said John Medlock Jr., deputy director for Alameda County Public Works. "…there’s over 20 examples of critical failures on infrastructure."

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Different from President Biden’s emergency declaration, a major disaster declaration would provide California with assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure. 

"By having everybody coordinating together, local, state and federal, it’s not just about helping people recover, but finding creative solutions, sometimes that takes the synergy of everyone together," said former FEMA presidential appointee Mark Neveau. 

In order to qualify, damage assessments must meet a certain threshold, something Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state is determining, while he toured damage in Capitola this week. 

"When conditions are right, and we’ve assessed the damage, we’ll make a determination on a major disaster declaration," Newsom told reporters.

After seeing A street, Swalwell is certain his area will qualify for more federal funding for their recovery. He also points out, with more rain in the forecast, the damage estimates could grow. 

"This is a storm unlike anything we’ve ever seen in our lifetime, it’s up and down the state, and we know another storm is on its way, so the damage we’re looking at could be worse," said Swalwell.