A neglected portion of a floodprone tributary of the Petaluma River could get a makeover if an $825,000 grant is given final approval.

A plan to reduce flooding and rehabilitate habitat along a stretch of Capri Creek from North McDowell Boulevard to Maria Drive has been recommended for a grant from the Bay Area Regional Water Management Plan.

Capri Creek runs through east Petaluma, flowing west past the Santa Rosa Junior College campus before narrowing to a cattail-filled canal that parallels Sunrise Parkway. The creek then goes under North McDowell Boulevard and flows into the Petaluma River.

It's the portion that parallels Sunrise Parkway, running by the Sunrise Parkway open space and community gardens, that the city would like to rehabilitate. The creek is known to spill its banks in heavy rains, especially near North McDowell Boulevard, causing flooding in the nearby Capri Villa mobile home park.

Residents recall floods where water rose about a foot high within the development and one where the water was almost three feet high. In the 2005/06 New Years Eve Flood, many residents from the Capri Villa mobile home park were evacuated due to flooding, recalled Rita Fuller, who with her husband manages the site.

Widening the creek would be a welcome flood prevention measure, Fuller said. "You never know when it's going to quit raining" once it starts, she remarked outside her home on Monday. "We could be due for another long rainy season."

The City Council voted unanimously in February to apply for the grant, which, if it receives final approval, will not only widen the creek's banks through a terracing project, but also install native plants and encourage stewardship by neighbors of the park. It is funded by a state bond issued in 2006.

County Supervisor David Rabbitt said that he was happy to see state water bond funds getting into local communities.

"The draft funding recommendations for both the Bay Area and North Coast 'integrated regional water management' plans are critical for helping reduce water waste, improve water and habitat quality, and bring funding to disadvantaged communities," he said.

Pam Tuft, a special projects manager for the city's water department, said this project is just the latest in a series of grants the city has received to reduce the chance of flooding in northern Petaluma. Plans for another project in the Denman Reach area, funded by two grants worth more than $1.8 million, are now underway. Tuft expects that construction on that project, which will install terracing meant to increase water capacity along the Petaluma River, as well as a trail, will begin in the spring.

Meanwhile, planning is already underway on the Capri Creek project, thanks to $217,000 provided for a feasibility study, permitting and design costs by the local advisory committee to the Sonoma County Water Agency. The total undertaking is expected to cost $1.1 million.

Specifically, the project would reduce the chance of the creek flooding by creating terraces that increase how much water the creek can hold. Sediment and debris will also be removed from the waterway.

The project also calls for enhancing wildlife habitat by planting trees and native shrubs along the creek.

It entails outreach to neighboring residents, which Tuft hopes will encourage neighbors to take ownership of the creek that runs near their homes.

This effort could tie in well with the community garden that has been operating near the corner of North McDowell Bouelevard and Sunrise Parkway for about two years now. The garden's presence has brought renewed attention to a little-noticed stretch of open land.

The garden, which was moved from its originally planned location in order to accommodate the future flood project, has been popular, says Deanna Statler, who has maintained a plot there since it opened. She was out picking the last of tomatoes from her plants on a recent Friday. She said the flood project sounded like a good idea.

"I don't want to see it flood here, so anything they can do to stop it would be good," she said.

She added that shade trees would be a welcome addition for dog walkers and young soccer players who frequent the area.

Petaluma should know if it has received the grant funding by late November, Tuft said. If it does, the city will have to complete an environmental review for the project and solicit public input before moving forward.

"We want the neighborhoods on both sides of Sunrise Parkway involved," she said. "This is their front yard."

(Contact Jamie Hansen at jamie.hansen@ar guscourier.com.)