ENCINITAS — It’s no secret that Leucadia’s low-lying commercial strip, portions of Vulcan Avenue and other residential streets and alleys are prone to flooding.
The solution is also not a mystery according to some residents who are constantly inconvenienced by the pools of water that form during heavy rains.
The San Diego County Grand Jury released a report on May 29 detailing how the city has failed to follow through on plans suggested nearly eight years ago to ease flooding in the area.
The panel recommended the city immediately begin to create a plan to curb the flooding. The report includes a recommendation that the city divert rainwater through the base of a bluff in the Leucadia Roadside Park, an area the report calls the “most troublesome low-point” in the area. “Despite the profusion of possible storm drain fixes, Leucadia has never achieved a consistently workable system,” the report reads in part.
City Manager Gus Vina was not immediately available for comment.
Tim Calver, a Leucadia resident since 2004, lives in one of the lowest-lying parts of the community. He contends that the public works department is misusing the so-called fix for Leucadia’s flooding problem, a tide-flex valve installed at Roadside Park. “If the valve is shut then we drain fine,” he said, “but when public works opens it up it stops Leucadia’s drain flow.”
Larry Watt, the city’s engineering department director said that his department is in charge of maintaining the pumps that control the flooding. “Maybe once or twice a storm season we have to (open the valve).”
But he said the recent rains have made the practice more common. “Leucadia Roadside Park is at the bottom of the bowl,” Watt added.
Leslie Ross a lifelong resident knows the consequences of opening the valve to relieve the over-burdened drainage system. Her home, which is situated off the alley behind the Leucadia Plaza building was flooded twice within two years.
In 2004 and 2006, Ross watched as the water bubbled up from the newly installed valve and rushed into her home. She estimated the damage from both floods at $100,000. “I’ve talked to city staff on several occasions. I’ve presented drainage questions to the council in private and public,” she said. “I’ve gotten nothing, no tangible response.”
“Our water has nowhere to go when the system is overwhelmed with the water being pumped from Union and Vulcan,” Ross said. She settled a claim against the city in 2004 but said the city did nothing in 2006 when her home was flooded a second time. “It’s a diversion of water.”
Ross said the streetscape improvements scheduled to begin this year don’t include drainage. “They’re going to make it all pretty but where’s the water going to go?”
The valve, installed in 2004, was supposed to relieve puddle water from Leucadia but it’s been used to relieve old Encinitas’ water and ends up flooding Leucadia, according to Ross and Calver. “They have no idea how much stress they have caused me,” Ross said.
A 2004 study by Rick Engineering recommended a system that would send overflow water through a main drainpipe, running from Batiquitos Lagoon to Leucadia Roadside Park, would range from 5 to 10 feet in diameter and cost $36.2 million to install.
Jurors also urged the city to explore creating a so-called special assessment district that would serve to raise tax money for future repairs and improvements to the Leucadia storm drain system.
The Grand Jury’s examination of Leucadia’s flooding found that no funding exists in the city’s budget for improvements to the storm drains in the community.
“For some reason we send all of our water up north to Batiquitos instead of Cottonwood Creek,” Calver said. “(Cottonwood Creek) was designed to hold overflow water, so I don’t understand why it isn’t being utilized.”
Calver said the biggest issue regarding improper drainage is safety. “It makes it dangerous in Leucadia. For example, an ambulance can’t get down the alley, houses have been flooded, not to mention the inconvenience,” he said.
“It just leaves the biggest mess,” Calver said. “This isn’t clean water we’re talking about either.” His shed and tools were damaged in a recent flood.
“There really isn’t any need to pump over the bluff at Beacon’s Beach,” Calver maintained. “It feels like their Leucadia has always been treated second best.” However, he said he holds out hope that the problems will be fixed. “I know our engineers can figure this out. They can fix this issue once and for all.”
A call to the city’s engineering department was not returned.