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Santa Clara Valley Water considers ordinance banning encampments along creeks

A proposed new ordinance could soon force unhoused people living along Santa Clara County creeks to leave.

Santa Clara Valley Water says creekside camps are posing a growing hazard to the environment and water managers are relying on the new proposal to ban those camps.

“The idea is to protect the natural resources of the area, to reverse the effects the amount of garbage, trash debris, hazardous materials in the waterways,” Mark Bilski, an assistant officer for Valley Water Good Neighbor Program.

Valley Water says creekside camps are harming the environment. The water district’s Safe Clean Water Program recently hauled off 797 tons of debris from creekside land and waterways.

“From furniture to shopping carts, to trash to biowaste, to hazardous waste,” Bilski said.

Valley Water leaders are proposing a new ordinance that would ban creekside camping along 295 miles of property the district owns and manages in Santa clara County.

If approved, the ordinance would ban creek camping and those who refuse to leave could face up to $500 in fines and even jail time.

“If they want to ban encampments, then they need to focus on giving us permanent housing instead of temporary housing,” said Isolda Matamoros, who lives in an encampment in San Jose.

Dozens of people consider an encampment alongside the Guadalupe River in San Jose their home.

Matamoros said she believes people who reside there actually help the environment.

“We actually clean up the debris where we live,” Matamoros said. “The rivers are clean.”

If the district board approves the ordinance it could take effect as early as this summer. The public will get a chance to weigh in on the ordinance at 1 p.m. Friday at Santa Clara Valley Water headquarters.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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