Funding, repair woes continue for Peninsula levees

Redwood Shores’s levees may soon be strengthened, while the fate of eroded levees near the Dumbarton Bridge remains in limbo.

In Redwood Shores, a levee segment near the South Bayside System Authority wastewater treatment plant, currently at 7 feet, will be raised to 9.5 feet — the city’s standard. Farther south, levees near the mouth of the San Francisquito Creek have eroded and cracked, heightening concerns about flood risks for homes and roads near Highway 84.

“On the East Palo Alto side, it’s more of an immediate problem because the levees protect homes on that side,” said Supervisor Rich Gordon, director of the San Mateo County Flood Control District.

Those levees were identified earlier this month as eligible for state funding after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in San Mateo County. But Lynn Scarlett, acting director of the federal Department of the Interior, said last week that she doesn’t see the need to spend federal dollars to fix California’s levees.

“What they’re saying about California’s levees doesn’t make any sense whatsoever,” Gordon said.

State bonds on the November ballot include $4.15 billion for levees — but only along the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Locally, south county cities have made little headway in shoring up the Mosley tract, a deteriorating cluster of levees north of the Dumbarton Bridge. Though located in East Palo Alto, they are owned by the city of San Jose as part of a wetlands mitigation area.

San Jose officials have said they do not plan to repair those levees, according to Kent Steffens, public works director for Menlo Park. A breach, first noted in 2003, has remained untouched despite concerns that it flooded a frontage road and threatened a PG&E substation on New Year’s Eve 2005. Continued erosion increases the flood risk for homes and roadways in Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and Palo Alto, Steffens said.

Redwood Shores funds its flood-control system entirely through a tax assessed on homeowners, according to Chu Chang, manager of engineering and construction for Redwood City. It will cost approximately $800,000 to bring the remaining levees up to the city’s standard, a project the City Council is slated to vote on tonight.

“We don’t think it’s a danger, but it depends on the tide elevation,” Changsaid. In winter, when storm surges and flooding are fiercest, Redwood Shores’ lagoon is lowered to absorb additional water.

The Redwood City Council meets tonight at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1017 Middlefield Road.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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