Atherton is moving forward with a plan to build in Holbrook-Palmer Park an underground storm-water processing facility that will help control pollution and flooding.
The City Council voted unanimously Sept. 6 to sign an amended agreement with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and to begin the process of finding a design contractor.
Caltrans has offered Atherton a $13.6 million grant to design and build the facility that will capture storm water and other runoff, filter out pollutants, and control flooding by slowly releasing the water to the Bay.
The government is requiring communities and agencies to clean up storm water before releasing it. The project will give Caltrans credit for treating runoff from Interstate 280 and from El Camino Real (Highway 84). Atherton will also get credits for cleaning up town water.
The original plan was to build the facility at Las Lomitas School as part of a school construction project, but the town's negotiations with the school reached an impasse this summer.
The major sticking point appeared to be that Atherton officials want to be able to drop the project once the design is done if it appears that the costs of maintaining the facility – which Atherton will be responsible for – are too high.
Caltrans has agreed that Atherton could back out at that point, at no cost; the school district wouldn't agree to that because it would already have changed some of its construction plans to accommodate the facility.
City Engineer Marty Hanneman said that if the council approves the design of the project, construction will probably start late in 2018 and be completed in 2020. Right now, the exact location of the underground facility has not been determined.