Rincon de los Esteros

Tonight’s public hearing for the Alviso Slough Restoration Project was well-attended by supporters of the project. I’d estimate there were 125 people in the audience, and more than 50 got up to speak in favor, with 20-30 turning in comment cards to be read into the record. Katherine Oven began with a presentation that summarized the six identified alternatives, but Alternative 5, “the whole enchilada,” as several people referred to it, is what everyone meant when they referred to the project.

As I’ve noted before, there is a very strong feeling among Alvisans that they are owed recompense for years of neglect. One can argue that the Santa Clara Valley Water District is not the agency responsible for the recreational needs and economic revitalization of Alviso, but it happens to be the agency with the money.

More disturbing to me was the insistence that Alternative 5 would make residents safer from flooding. Ms. Oven carefully stressed that the project will maintain existing levels of riverine flood protection. The area of the channel that would be dredged is still some 2 miles upstream of the bay. Flood waters would speed up in the deeper section, then run into the still-narrow downstream channel and back up, flowing around existing levees and through New Chicago Marsh back into Alviso.

Of course, this wouldn’t be allowed; Alternative 5 calls for measures to mitigate this danger. But it is an article of faith that the Alviso Slough Restoration Project is a flood control project, and is necessary to avert another disaster like the flooding in 1983. No one is talking about dredging the entire channel out to the bay.

There were several interesting comments. Charles Taylor noted that, of the $500 million spent in total on flood protection work on the Guadalupe River, $22 million was probably wasted, so Alternative 5 was comparatively very cheap. He also opined that many more people would get enjoyment from a restored Alviso marina than would ever use the river trail through downtown, or the expensive landscaping that was such a big part of the $500 million for the rest of the river. Eddie Souza, the former mayor of Santa Clara, thought that a revitalized Alviso marina could become a new transportation center for the South Bay, and could even play a role in emergency evacuations.

But the overriding feeling of the meeting was that Alviso deserves this project because of the neglect that it has suffered over the years.