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Pope-Chaucer bridge replacement

From: E. John Sebes <"E.>
Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2014 19:06:15 -0800

Ms. Collins and Joint Powers Authority Staff,

I am a San Francisquito creek resident, writing to you today to express
my opinion about the several options being considered now for mitigating
flood risks in my neighborhood.

I've lived right on the creek for over 20 years, seen the flooding, and
seen the benefit of the basic mitigations (large scale debris removal)
put in place 17 or so years ago after several of our neighbors' house
had the creek run right though. So I believe that I am aware of risk,
feel it personally, and have stake in flood threats, risks, costs, and
benefits. Also, as a recovering designer and engineer, I have a strong
motivation to support incremental solutions that can be readily assessed
for impact, to focus on the most immediate and apparent issues, and to
first seek the greatest benefit at the most reasonable cost and most
manageable execution risk.

That's why I support "Alternative 3 – True At-grade Bridge" because it
removes the greatest risk factor: the current culvert bridge acting as a
major impediment in a 40-year-magnitude flood. This is the alternative
that is the easiest to assess for benefit and cost, and carries far less
risk than the more ambitious plans. Those other plans' greater risks
include both significant cost over-runs, and un-anticipated side effects
from impact on trees, erosion, and creekbed destabilization. I simply
don't believe that it is feasible for those risks to be reasonably
assessed and managed; as a result, I view the more ambitious
alternatives to be too risky.

Let me also say that I do not share the objective of some of the JPA, to
protect against a 100-year-scale flood, particularly by applying
brute-force channel control over the creek itself, for significant
stretches of the creekbed. Over the longer term, I would be supportive
the various approaches to upstream retention, emergency runoff, and so
forth. Those are major efforts, however, with significant requirements
for environmental impact study, and significant costs for major
construction efforts.

 From where I sit today, I find it difficult to believe that the cost
such efforts would be in-line with a benefit that would apply to a few
hundred downstream residents, if the 100-year-scale flood happened
today. If it turns out that such future projects are warranted, I would
of course be pleased to have the extra protection of my home; at the
same time, if costs were prohibitive, I would be satisfied if the
40-year goal was met with the least impact on the creek itself.

Finally, let me say that I already feel that my family would have enough
options for flood safety, if the single greatest risk factor were
removed. As a creekside resident, I have long been dis-satisfied with
the man-made risk of flooding created by a poorly designed bridge; as a
result I support the elimination of this man-made risk. But by the same
token, I feel that the remaining natural risk is acceptable for those of
us who choose to live on the creek. We all have the most basic option
for risk reduction: move to a home on higher ground. Having accepted the
natural flood risk when we moved into our beloved creekside
neighborhood, I do not feel that the local government is required to
spend large sums to alter the creek itself. More routine maintenance (as
was not done before 17 years ago), yes; abatement of significant
man-made erosion, yes; flood-walls and/or major storm drain construction
projects, no.

One last point. Given the location of my home, I am not one of the
people whose view would be most significantly impacted by floodwalls. I
am opposed to those and other invasive measures, not because of esthetic
concerns, because I believe that they are the wrong thing to do, based
on the views that I have expressed here.

Respectfully submitted,
John Sebes
633 Woodland Ave., Menlo Park
13 February 2014
Received on Thu Feb 13 2014 - 19:06:02 PST

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