MORGAN HILL, Calif. (KGO) -- A huge milestone was marked in the ongoing effort to protect parts of southern Santa Clara County from flooding, as local and federal officials broke ground Wednesday on a massive project that will bring much-needed improvements to Upper Llagas Creek, which runs through Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy.
"The cul-de-sacs are completely flooded to the point where they can't even drive out. You'll see neighbors out here with little boats cruising around in canoes," said Morgan Hill resident Luana Crotteau.
Next week, the first phase of construction will begin on the 4-year flood protection project, which has been in the works since the 1950s. Officials hope to finish by the fall of 2023.
"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," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren of San Jose, who played a key role in helping to secure funding for the $180 million effort.
Local officials came together with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the groundbreaking.
"We're pleased that all these people are here to champion the effort the entire community has been waiting for," said John Varela, who serves on the Valley Water board of directors.
The nearly 14-mile long project will include creek channel widening and deepening, a high water flow bypass tunnel, and habitat improvements for wildlife, among other improvements.
When completed, the project will provide flood protection for approximately 1,100 homes, 500 businesses and nearly 1,300 acres of agricultural land in southern Santa Clara County.
"Everyone's taking ownership for it, addressing the problem, and we look forward to getting it cleared up," said Crotteau.
Massive flood protection project coming to southern Santa Clara County