Santa Clara water distict combating invasive vegetation growth along waterways

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is taking steps to combat invasive vegetation growth along county waterways. But these efforts also serve another purpose, which could yield benefits as the beginning of rainy season is right around the corner. In a section of heavy overgrowth in North San Jose, district crews are trying to save the Coyote Creek from onslaught by encroaching vegetation.

"It's a large scale effort that will hopefully in turn increase the ecological habitat and wildlife habitat along the coyote creek corridor," said district vegetation manager Jennifer Codianne.

Permits allow the removal of 40 different species over 16 acres, including Arundo Donax, commonly called "giant reeds." The plants have been cut down on the west side of the bank, but on the east, it's overgrown and presents a danger with the coming rainy season.

"When the flows come through carrying trees and debris, trash, it gets trapped in the arundo (reeds) and isn't able to move down stream," Codianne said.

Last February, the Coyote overran its banks, flooding three San Jose neighborhoods. Hundreds of residents were displaced by the rising waters, due in part from historic rainfall, a release from Anderson Damn, and overgrowth in the creek, which clogged the waterway and pushed water levels higher.

"When you lose everything you own, I've been there -- my home in Alviso. I lost it three times, everything I own. You never forget it," said water district vice chairman Richard Santos.

He says one-million tax dollars has been spent the past five years clearing 132 acres of land. Part of that money also goes to removing homeless encampments along various waterways. District officials say these encampments lead to more trash in the creek, which increases the potential for flooding.

"They typically leave a lot of debris, so there are water quality issues from their habitation here. And from their clothing, tents and the garbage they leave after they're done with it," said Sue Tippets, the operations and maintenance manager for the water district.

After the vegetation is cleared, crews will come back and apply a pesticide to prevent regrowth. They'll have to continue these efforts for five years since the "giant reeds" are extremely resilient. Crews are also staging construction equipment in the Rock Springs neighborhood, which was one area flooded in February. They'll construct a 900-foot berm near the playground, made of dirt and vinyl, as a short term project to prevent flooding. Work will begin next week.