SAN JOSE (KPIX) — Crews in the South Bay are working to clear trash from the Guadalupe River ahead of the rainy season, but the coronavirus pandemic is impacting efforts.

The Guadalupe River, which passes under Branham Road, is mostly dry during the summer. But winter rains can easily create 10 to 15 feet of raging water here.

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Officials with Santa Clara Valley Water say tens of thousands of pounds of garbage created by homeless encampments must be removed before winter. The trash has been an ongoing problem since 2014, says Valley Water Interim Deputy Operating Officer Jennifer Codianne.

“We were typically cleaning up about 120 encampments a year back then. Our most recent year has been over 500 encampments,” explained Codianne.

When crews arrived Thursday morning, the homeless left. For their safety and to help keep the waterways clear, all of the trash must go.

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“Since the COVID pandemic started, the CDC issued guidelines that we should not disturb the homeless encampments,” said Codianne. “They’re worried that potentially moving the homeless around would move the disease around.”

So the homeless will stay until an outreach group persuades them to move.

One Santa Clara County official took KPIX 5 cameras to a drainage culvert that stretches for miles under San Jose, noting that some people are actually living in the drains.

“Some do. We have some on Silver Creek that actually do that also,” he said.

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It is another issue that needs to be resolved before the rain starts.