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Statement from Chair Varela in response to letter from Mayor Liccardo

 March 13, 2017




We read Mayor Liccardo’s letter today and share his interest in determining the factors that led to the devastating flooding that occurred during the Presidents' Day Weekend.

We would like to correct some of the statements made in Mayor Liccardo’s letter:

  1. The Mayor knew well in advance that we would send a representative, but not our entire board or engineers to the special council meeting. (See March 3 and March 8 letters listed below)

  2. We sent our Water District’s most senior government affairs and communications official, Rick Callender, to make a presentation at the government hearing--as well as to provide a series of answers to questions that the City desired information about.

  3. The information that the Mayor and City requested was presented hours in advance of the hearing so that the City staff would have the opportunity to review our answers for its public hearing.(See March 9 letter)

  4. We believe we used our time wisely by using our resources, board members and staff to work on answering the City’s questions in advance of the meeting as well as reviewing information to attempt to prevent future risk of flooding to San Jose residents. (See March 9 letter)

  5. On March 2, in a telephone call with the Mayor, I offered to have a joint meeting between the City Council and the District Board, but this offer was declined. Instead the Mayor invited us to be present in the audience at the City’s March 9 hearing. I followed up with the attached March 3 letter confirming that a staff representative would be present.
The Water District is working closely with the City to improve the situation. We are interested in facts, not blame, which only serves to dishonor those who have been harmed and displaced by the flood waters.

We all listened in sympathy to the Special City of San Jose City Council hearing, to the expression of sorrow, disappointment and anguish expressed by the residents of San Jose who were devastated by the flood waters . Their stories of losing homes, belongings, and mementos of great personal meaning to them and their families touched everyone's hearts. The impact of this flood on their lives, livelihoods, and their neighborhoods is immense.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District has pledged to work with the City, County and other emergency service providers to do everything in our power to review, and improve, what can be done in the future to reduce the risk of the type of flooding that destroyed so many homes and deeply impacted so many of our residents. We have been carrying out this pledge and we will continue to do so.

Some of the statements made by City officials at the City hearing (as well as Mayor Liccardo’s letter today) about what led to the flooding were made in good-faith, but without full knowledge or facts of how procedures, protocols, and data about water flow,creek maintenance, Anderson Dam, and other factors that led to their delay in notifying residents that these flood waters were going to impact the residents and neighborhoods.

SCVWD followed the procedures and protocols necessary for a substantial weather event such as this one. We want to find factual, real,engineering and communication solutions to the issues faced by all. We believe that working together for the benefit of all residents is more important than short-term political theater.

Again, and most importantly, we will continue to work cooperatively with San Jose to determine how to improve and better coordinate and communicate in the future as well as reduce flood risk for our residents and neighborhoods, as well as address the Mayor’s and the community’s questions, during our April community meetings which are currently being planned.

John L. Varela
Chair
Santa Clara Valley Water District