San Francisco, CA—Construction work has begun on the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s (SFPUC) Alameda Creek Watershed Center in Sunol, which will raise awareness of the natural and cultural history of the Alameda Creek Watershed and the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System.
Located next to the Sunol Water Temple in the East Bay at the historic confluence of two creeks, the Alameda Creek Watershed Center will explore the interaction of people and nature and the significance of water in sustaining both. The location of the center is the ancestral home of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe.
“This center will offer opportunities to learn about the past, present and future of the Alameda Watershed while also educating visitors about our water system,” said SFPUC General Manager Harlan L. Kelly, Jr. “We understand why this land is important to so many people, and we are excited to celebrate that rich history here at the center. From the art to the amenities to the resources available—this will truly be a community center for everyone.”
The SFPUC and the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe began a multi-year partnership on the pre-excavation, study, and careful preservation of archaeological finds from the Watershed Center area. The lessons of what has been discovered there, and replicas of some of the more than 13,000 artifacts that have been found will be reflected in the Watershed Center exhibits and education programs.
“The proposal for the construction of the SFPUC educational Watershed facility, located adjacent to the Sunol Water Temple commenced with discussions and the establishment of a partnership of mutual respect, understanding and common goals between the SFPUC and the Muwekma Ohlone Tribal leadership back in 2014,” said Muwekma Ohlone Tribal Vice Chairwoman Monica V. Arellano, who has worked closely with the SFPUC staff in all phases of work. “It is in this spirit of mutual cooperation and respect that the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe looks forward to the completion of this significant educational endeavor at our ancestral heritage site that the Tribal leadership has named Síi Túupentak meaning Place of the Water Round House Site. Aho!”
The center will have indoor and outdoor features, including an exhibit hall with an 8,000-gallon stream profile aquarium, a watershed discovery lab to host school programs, a community room, a watershed discovery trail that mimics the flora of the Alameda Creek Watershed, semi-immersive history alcoves, and the restoration of the picnic area nestled under sycamores along the creek. It will also include an outdoor art installation designed by Walter Kitundu, a nationally-celebrated artist and MacArthur Fellowship recipient. Kitundu’s proposed design, titled Ruupaywa, pays tribute to the Alameda Creek Watershed and the historical and contemporary Muwekma Ohlone people. The eagle is a significant figure in the creation story of the Muwekma Ohlone people, and the Alameda Creek Watershed is one of the nation’s top nesting sites for Golden Eagles.
Pre-construction activities began in March 2020, but were temporarily put on hold due to public health orders related to the coronavirus pandemic. Construction activities re-started on May 11th after Bay Area Health officers loosened restrictions on construction activities. Crews on site follow strict safety measures to protect the health of our workers and the public. Construction of the center is scheduled for completion in March 2022.
The SFPUC owns approximately 38,000 acres of the Alameda Creek Watershed, which includes lands in both Alameda and Santa Clara Counties. These lands contain two drinking water reservoirs -- San Antonio Reservoir to the north and Calaveras Reservoir to the south. Calaveras Reservoir is the largest of the SFPUC’s five Bay Area reservoirs, which, when combined with groundwater, collectively account for 15 percent of the agency’s total supply. Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in the Sierra Nevada provides roughly 85 percent of the SFPUC’s water supply.
The SFPUC is committed to being a good neighbor and environmental steward in the communities we serve. Along with the Southeast Community Center, the SFPUC manages community and education-focused sites on property that it owns such as the College Hill Learning Garden, the Sunol AgPark and Hummingbird Farm.
The SFPUC has been working with community partners on these efforts for decades, which were formalized in our Community Benefits and Water Enterprise Environmental Stewardship policies. These initiatives shape how the SFPUC provides water, power and sewer services while ensuring the work positively impacts the communities it serves.
“The Watershed Center will take Sunol into the future,” said Connie De Grange, a local resident and chair of the Sunol Citizen Advisory Council. “The opening of the Watershed Center, the Water Temple and the picnic area will bring renewed life to our little town. The purpose of the new Center aligns with the values of Sunol: protecting the watershed, preserving the environment, and celebrating our history.”
In March the SFPUC began work on its new Southeast Community Center in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood. Owned and operated by the SFPUC, the center will provide community meeting rooms, two acres of green space, and a wide range of social services including low cost child care and youth programs.
About the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is a department of the City and County of San Francisco. It delivers drinking water to 2.7 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area, collects and treats wastewater for the City and County of San Francisco, and generates clean power for municipal buildings, residents, and businesses. Our mission is to provide our customers with high quality, efficient and reliable water, power, and sewer services in a manner that values environmental and community interests and sustains the resources entrusted to our care. Learn more at www.sfwater.org.