ANTIOCH -- With growth in the horizon for East Contra Costa, the agency responsible for making sure water doesn't flood the region's neighborhoods during a major storm is working at a feverish pace to meet that demand.
Construction is going full-speed ahead on a $10 million project to create a 62-acre bathtub-like detention basin at the southeast tip of Antioch.
"Our goal is to get out in front of the development, and look ahead for the long term as the area builds out," said Mike Carlson, the Contra Costa Flood Control District's assistant chief engineer.
Work on the Upper Sand Creek Basin started in mid-April and is expected to be done by mid-October, he said.
The basin, designed for temporarily holding water so it can slowly be released downstream, will be able to contain eight times as much stormwater than the former basin, built in 1994 on the same spot.
Large excavators and other vehicles were busy this week digging out dirt and clearing out the area east of Deer Valley Road and south of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School, leaving some to wonder if a new housing development or road construction was in progress.
The bulk of the funding for the basin comes from developer fees based on a parcel's water runoff. The last piece came about a year ago by way of a $2 million state grant, Carlson said.
The basin, which has been in the pipeline for improving water flow in the Marsh Creek Watershed system almost two decades, requires several environmental permits. Work can only be done from April to October, according to the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife rules.
During a site tour this week, project manager Carl Roner pointed out that a key component to the project would be trash capture, a large screen that would stop water bottles and other debris as small as cigarette butts from entering the creek.
"Every little bit of pollution prevention helps," said Diane Burgis, executive director of nonprofit Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed.
About 70 percent of the trash that winds up in the ocean comes from inland sources, she said.
Aside from the handful of days a year where it will be needed to collect water, the basin will have a substantial community benefit, Roner said. Antioch plans to one day turn the basin into a 40-acre sports park, while another part near the creek will become about 10 acres of wetlands.
"It's a good opportunity to share the property, so that everyone can use and enjoy it," Carlson said.
As part of the project, Contra Costa officials have been growing acorns, California sage and other native plant species at a nursery at the county offices in Martinez for the area's creek restoration. The basin site had become degraded over the years because of cattle grazing and farming, Roner said.
"It used to be that all (the flood district) cared about is water conveyance," Burgis said. "But, there's been some great leadership in supporting our community to create more naturalized features that improve the experience while protecting our homes."
Local high schools, service organizations and community clubs are being invited to participate in the habitat restoration.
For more information about the project, visit www.uppersandcreekbasin.org.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.