Brian Slesinsky's Weblog

Saturday, 11 Mar 2006

Permanente Creek

In a few weeks I'll be moving to a cottage in Los Altos that's not far from Permanente Creek. This creek runs almost directly north. Most of the water is diverted by an artificial channel into Stevens Creek, but the creek itself goes north under 101, along the west side of the Google campus, and out to the bay. This part of the creek is man-made; originally it disappeared into the marshland. There's a trail that runs along the creek and construction is to begin this year on a pedestrian/bike bridge over 101.

Upstream, the creek flows from land owned by Hanson Permanente Cement (formerly Kaiser Cement). A rock quarry raises a lot of dust, some of that gets into the creek, and apparently there are ponds where the dust settles out, but that must have been insufficient because in 1999 the S.F. Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board ordered them to clean it up. I couldn't find anything explaining what happened since then.

The Kaiser Cement company was started by Henry J. Kaiser, who had a house in the hills next to Permanente creek. He also started Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest HMO's. Kaiser Permanente was named after the creek. The creek, in turn, was named "Permanente" by the Spanish because it was a reliable source of water that didn't dry up in the summer.

The creek has flooded many times before and probably will again. According to the map I saw, the property where I'll be living is outside the 100-year flood zone, but some people downstream aren't so lucky. There's a government project to do more about the flooding. Construction might begin in 2008.

[Update, July 2007: Permanente Creek does dry up in the summer nowadays. According to the June-July issue of Spinning Crank, the Permanente Creek Trail 101 overcrossing needs additional funding and its start date is still unknown. Hansen Permanente Cement is requesting government approval for an expansion of Hansen Quarry.]

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