ENCINITAS — The flow of Rossini Creek has slowed; sections farther downstream have dried up completely. And some Cardiff residents are pointing to construction of the Encinitas Community Park as the likely reason.
They aired out their concerns on Monday at City Hall during a Q&A session updating the community on the park’s status.
The creek starts at the foot of the park, snaking southwest and discharging into a storm drain near Birmingham Drive and San Elijo Avenue. The riparian habitat of the creek supports vegetation as well as frogs and other wildlife.
Construction began on the 44-acre park in the fall.
Given the timing, resident Eleanor Musick said that’s the most probable explanation for the creek waning.
“I live on the creek; I see it every single day,” Musick said. “And it’s never run dry in the nine years I’ve been here…even during the drought years of 2008 and 2009. Something changed and it changed virtually overnight.”
Musick posted fliers on street poles around Cardiff asking residents to take action.
Echoing other residents, she said the city should hire an independent environmental consultant to investigate why the creek stopped flowing.
Glenn Pruim, director of engineering and public works, said the city thoroughly analyzed the matter. It found that there’s no possibility that park construction affected the creek.
“We have a great interest in (this),” Pruim said. “We always want to make sure that if there’s unintended consequences of any of our projects, that we make sure we address those. And we feel in this case that we have.”
Rossini Creek’s flow comes from two sources, according to the city. Much of it is from a watershed east of Interstate 5. Particularly during the rainy season, runoff from the upstream watershed is collected at a pipe on the park property. From there, the runoff continues traveling west, feeding Rossini Creek.
Pruim said that very little storm runoff has entered the park pipe in the past few months; hence, there’s no chance for the park to divert that source.
“Nothing being done on the park site has affected the drainage that could have been conveyed through the park site,” Pruim said.
The creek also receives excess irrigation from homes downstream of the park, which is currently providing what little is left of the stream.
Musick noted a 1992 study from the state’s Riparian Parkways Task Force reports that groundwater also supplies the creek. Consequently, she asked whether moving around large amounts of soil during construction blocked off the groundwater.
Parks and Recreation staff, however, said that the groundwater is 30 feet deep. And Pruim said construction never involved digging deeper than 10 feet.
Joey Randall, a Cardiff resident and management analyst with the Olivenhain Municipal Water District, was among those in the audience. He said the state had the driest spring on record, likely explaining the creek’s disappearance.
“As an ephemeral stream, it’s largely dependent on rainfall,” Randall said.
And while the creek flowed during past droughts, he said the current water shortage is especially severe.
A resident pressed Pruim on why Parks and Recreation hasn’t commissioned an independent study on the park’s impact on the creek. Pruim noted that the department doesn’t currently have money allocated for a study.
“We reached out to some engineering firms to see if they’re interested in helping us, and none of them were interested in helping us for free,” he said.
“We get a certain amount of money budgeted by the City Council to do certain things,” Pruim added. “From a park management perspective, we don’t have specific funds set aside to perform the kind of study we’re looking at.”
Councilman Tony Kranz, who was in attendance, said after the meeting he was considering placing Rossini Creek on a city council agenda. Before doing so, he wanted to learn more about the cost of an independent study.
To save money, some residents at the meeting suggested that the city partner with a nonprofit or university that can get to the bottom of why the creek ceased flowing.
The park is expected to debut next spring.