Graniterock construction team ready to move a mountain from Llagas Creek

Posted by Shanna McCord Crigger on Sep 5, 2019

A $68 million project to protect southern Santa Clara County residents and businesses from Llagas Creek flooding requires removing a mountain of dirt from the creek – 650,000 yards to be exact.

Graniterock’s construction team kicked off the historic project – led by Jim Mitchell, Noemy Madrigal, Bryan Jones, Ricky Smith, Cory Kelly and Bart Wilkins with estimating by Randy Bonino – with a celebration Aug. 28 that included leaders from various local, state and federal agencies who helped make it a reality.

After decades of costly floods and more than 60 years after Congress first approved it, the Valley Water project is finally happening with help from Graniterock.

Upon completion, this project will provide protection to more than 1,100 homes, 500 businesses and 1,300 acres of agricultural lands in Gilroy, Morgan Hill and the unincorporated areas of San Martin.

“Our team is excited and ready to get this started and deliver excellent work for the people of Santa Clara County,” Jim said. “We’ve got a lot of different parts to the project and at some point in 2020 expect to have four crews busy out here. It’s going to be challenging and rewarding. Valley Water has a great team that will really help this be successful for everyone.”

The work centers on modifying a 14-mile stretch of creek in a fashion that would withstand flooding during a large, rare storm that typically happens every 100 years.

Llagas Creek will be widened and the channel deepened, along with instream installations of boulders and rip rap.

About 2,000 linear feet of Llagas Creek will be restored for endangered steelhead trout.

The project includes a high water flow bypass tunnel and box culvert replacements.

In addition, the work involves landscaping, 105 acres of re-vegetation and road crossing improvements at Watsonville and Monterey roads and Buena Vista and Masten avenues.

Lake Silveira will be dried out and graded and converted into a natural habitat for wildlife.

The Upper Llagas Creek flood control project has been described as critical to the Santa Clara County community since proposed by the Eisenhower Administration in the 1950s.

Only now has public funding become available through local parcel taxes paired with state and federal funds to push it forward.

“This is a project that has spanned decades,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren told the crowd gathered for the groundbreaking. “It is envisioned by this motto: ‘Never give up.’ We’re never going to give up on the people of South County, and the people whose property and lives will be protected by this project.”

Construction on Phase 1, already under way, began near Buena Vista Avenue in Gilroy, at the extreme downstream end of the project.

Crews will work their way upstream through 4.2 miles of Llagas Creek and create the wetlands around Lake Silveira.

Phase 2 is expected to begin in spring 2020, completing the remaining 9.7 miles through Llagas Road, including the 100-year level of flood protection in downtown Morgan Hill.

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