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E5: San Francisquito Creek Flood Protection, San Francisco Bay to Middlefield Road—Palo Alto

This project is sponsored by the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (SFCJPA), of which the District is a member agency, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The project builds on the planning and design tasks initiated as part of the Clean, Safe Creeks plan.  

Preferred project: A federal-state-local partnership

This project will complete construction of setback levees and floodwalls from San Francisco Bay to Highway 101 to provide 1% flood protection and ecosystem benefits. Upstream of Highway 101 the project will provide 1% (or 100-year) flood protection, ecosystem protection and recreational benefits.

The work upstream of Highway 101 will remedy channel constrictions and modify bridges at Newell Road and Pope/Chaucer Street, and include; a combination of: modified bridges at University Avenue and Middlefield Road; upstream detention; under-ground bypass channels; and floodwalls.

Local-state-funding-only project: 
The local-state-funding-only project will be the same as the preferred project downstream of Highway 101; but upstream of Highway 101, the project will remedy channel constrictions and modify bridges at Newell Road and Pope/Chaucer Street to allow the channel to contain flood waters equal to the channel's capacity of 7,000 cubic feet per second, approximately a 30-year event. Allowing this level of water to flow through the channel will protect approximately 3,000 parcels in Palo Alto from a flood event close to the February 1998 flood, the largest on record. Currently the channel can only convey a 15-year flood event.

If sufficient funding becomes available, a 1% flood protection project upstream of Highway 101, including some combination of: modifications to University Avenue and Middlefield Road bridges; upstream detention; underground bypass channels; and floodwalls, could be built.


  • Provides 1% flood protection for approximately 3,000 homes and businesses in Palo Alto
  • Reduces bank erosion and sedimentation-related impacts along San Francisquito Creek
  • Provides new or improved habitats for endangered species 
  • Improves water quality
  • Enhances recreational opportunities for the community
  • Leverages dollars via cost-shares and grants from the state Department of Water Resources and the California Department of Transportation

Project Status

(As of September 2017)

  • Upstream of Highway 101 reach
    After receiving input from the community in 2013, the SFCJPA determined the need for a smaller scale project that addresses creek flooding similar to the 1998 flood and that is achievable with current funding constraints. It is now proposing to evaluate 5 project alternatives: 1) no action; 2) modify Pope-Chaucer bridge and widen creek channel bottlenecks; 3) construct one or more upstream detention basins; 4) construct an underground bypass culvert; and 5) construction floodwalls along the channel.

    4 public scoping meetings were held in January and February 2017 and the SFCJPA will develop a Draft Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIR) to evaluate the environmental impacts of each alternative. The release of the Draft EIR, as well as a public review period and additional public meetings, are planned for spring 2018.

    Simultaneously, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing a similar federal document, a combined Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement (FS/EIS). The Army Corps will evaluate alternatives for a single purpose flood risk project, which could include combinations of solutions (floodwalls, bypass channel, etc.) to identify the alternative with the best cost-benefit ratio.

    The SFCJPA and Army Corps are working together to develop environmental documentation that will result in the locally preferred plan. The environmental review processes include multiple opportunities for the community to provide comments and feedback about the alternatives being analyzed.
    • A separate environmental review for the replacement of the Newell Road Bridge is being managed by the City of Palo Alto. A Draft EIR is expected to be developed in 2017. For more information, visit the city’s website.
    • Caltrans is currently replacing the Highway 101 bridge and frontage roads to improve traffic flow and allow channel widening and expects the new bridge to be completed in 2017.

Key Performance Indicators

On June 10, 2014, the Board conducted a public hearing on the modification to the San Francisquito Creek Flood Protection Project. Below is the modified text of the preferred project with state and local funding:

The work upstream of Highway 101 would remedy channel constrictions and modify bridges at Newell Road and Pope/Chaucer Street, and include; a combination of: modified bridges at University Avenue and Middlefield Road, upstream detention, underground bypass channels, and floodwalls.

  1. Preferred project with federal and local funding: Protect more than 3,000 parcels by providing 1% flood protection.

  2. With state and local funding only: Protect approximately 3,000 parcels from flooding (100-year protection downstream of Highway 101, and approximately 30-year protection upstream of Highway 101).


Priority E-200

FY17 Annual Report Status 

StatusOn Target
Project FinishThrough
FY 2018
Safe Clean Water
Program funding

$47.2 M**

(2015 Dollars)

**More financial information: 5-Year Implementation Plan, pages: 19-27
LocationPalo Alto

Pope-Chaucer Bridge th

Pope/Chaucer Street Bridge Replacement Project

Project Fact Sheets

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