Lorraine Trask was sleeping in her bed when the deluge poured past her house just west of Highway 101. A heavy sleeper, Trask didn't hear the rains that were rapidly flooding the entire area and strolled outside to go to work, expecting nothing out of the ordinary.
But when she emerged from her home one morning in February of 1998, she encountered a body of water lapping three feet up her driveway.
"Well I guess I'm not going to work today," Trask said to her neighbor.
Her home is one of the 5,500 properties in the area laying within the boundaries of the San Francisquito 100-year Flood Plain, which was identified as an area of acute concern after record water flows that year caused more than $26.6 million in property damage.
Subsequent to that flood, the cities of Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and other local organizations resolved to create a plan that would minimize the potential for flooding by changing how water is funneled to the bay.
They formed an agency called the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority, which Thursday night hosted a public comment session at the International School of the Peninsula in Palo Alto for their first project, dubbed the San Francisquito Creek Flood Reduction Project.
"This project is an essential first step in providing the channel capacity to all future flood protection projects in the system," said Kevin Murray, San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority Project Manager.
The project's goal is to accommodate a deluge of water that statistically would only occur every 100 years, by expanding the channels through which the water currently flows and directing them with levees and flood walls. The flood that Trask experienced was what is known as a 45-year flood, or one that only occurs every 45 years.
"I wish they'd start on this thing. I'm excited about it and I hope nothing stops it," Trask said. "The way politics goes you never know what's going to happen with plans."
When the project first began almost 10 years ago, they had 26 options, said Matthew Jones, a consultant with ICF International who has been fine tuning the details of the project which would be the first of its kind in the Bay Area. No local, state or federal governmental body mandated that the authority form.
ICF and the SFJPA are now discerning the potential impacts to air quality, noise, traffic, water quality, biological resources, and others based on the concerns that people raise during these public comment sessions.
One of the primary concerns that was raised by attendees on Thursday night was the accumulation of silt along the water exit area. A significant amount of silt washes down from the San Francisquito Watershed each year and builds up in the East Palo Alto segment, forcing water back up San Francisquito Creek. Murray said that they plan to create a maintenance plan to address that.
The public comment period ends at 5 p.m. on October 15. People who cannot make it to the next public comment session can submit their concerns via email to Kevin Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org.