Many people do not realize that much of Alameda County is in a floodplain. In fact, until the 1950s and 1960s, large portions of the county flooded repeatedly. Flooding closed businesses and schools, interrupted transportation and utility services, and even took lives.
The Alameda County Flood Control & Water Conservation District (District) was created by the state legislature in 1949 at the request of county residents (see District Act 205). The District designed and constructed flood control infrastructure assuming full build-out of the county. Cities and unincorporated areas, grouped by “zones” corresponding to area watersheds and community boundaries, joined the District to gain protection from devastating floods.
Today, the District’s flood control infrastructure—a system of pump stations; erosion control structures; dams; and hundreds of miles of pipeline, channels, levees, and creeks—protects nine zones in western Alameda County, stretching from Emeryville to Fremont (map). Work is ongoing to upgrade or replace aging equipment, keep flood control channels clear of silt and debris, and evaluate impacts of new developments on our creeks and channels.
In the 1980s, the District responded to a nationwide call to clean up surface water bodies with the creation of the Clean Water Program, which leads 17 city and regional agencies in improving the quality of stormwater discharge. The District takes pride in its work on the Clean Water Program.
Over the last decade, the District has turned even greater attention to environmental concerns. This includes repairing local creeks damaged by stormwater flows; returning channelized waterways to more natural settings; adding parks, trails, and learning centers in watershed areas; working to prevent stormwater pollution; and educating the public about individual and collective roles we can all take to create a healthier environment.
Thanks to the work of the District, former floodplains are now prime real estate for housing and Bay Area businesses.
For more information on some of the leaders who helped make the Alameda County Flood Control District what it is today, please visit our Hall of Fame.