ENCINITAS — It’s a problem the city of Encinitas has been dealing with for decades: Flooding throughout Leucadia during heavy rains. On Thanksgiving Day, it got so bad public works employees were called in to help alleviate flooding in the area, some reportedly worked until 5 the next morning. It’s leaving some residents to wonder what can — and will — be done to finally fix the problem.
“The Leucadia area is a natural sump,” said Carl Quiram, director of public works in Encinitas. “When the area was developed it was under county control and no drainage was required to be installed. Now the area is fully developed with no significant drainage infrastructure.”
Quiram said the areas in Leucadia hardest hit by flooding include the area around Leucadia Park and the alley behind Pandora Pizza, because it is the lowest elevation. He said other areas that typically flood are on Orpheus Avenue, Union Street and Hymettus Avenue.
A city report from 2004 adds Hygeia, Hermes and Eucalyptus avenues, and Jason, Fulvia, Naiad, Glaucus, and East Glaucus streets to the list of neighborhoods that have experienced flooding and requested assistance.
Quiram said in the short term, the department of public works, as it has for years, mans several pumps to move stormwater out of low areas that do not have drainage systems to handle the flow. He said in the long-term, the city has engineering consultants studying various drainage system improvements to alleviate the flooding issues.
The proposed Leucadia Streetscape plan is poised to be one such long-term solution.
“We have proposed, and council has been supportive, on adding drainage system improvements to the Streetscape design,” Quiram said. “As the project moves towards final design, the improvements will hopefully get incorporated.”
Over the years, Encinitas has made a number of attempts to alleviate flooding in Leucadia. In 2001 the city installed a nearly $4 million network of drainpipes along Coast Highway 101 designed to evacuate stormwater that in the past would have sat stagnant for weeks after rains.
In 2003 the city enhanced the existing storm drain system to reduce the extent of flooding during small, frequent storm events, which resulted in lower ponded water elevations and constant drainage at a more regulated rate.
In 2004 the city constructed a 1,300-foot-long earthen channel parallel to Vulcan Avenue, from Orpheus Avenue to Union Street. The ditch was designed to alleviate some flooding within Vulcan Avenue and convey storm runoff to the headwall of the storm drain system in the NCTD right-of way near Union Street.
This past August, the City Council hired a consultant to create the Leucadia Area Watershed Master Plan, at a cost of almost half a million dollars. According to a city report, the plan will analyze flooding conditions in the Leucadia and Old Encinitas areas and address current and future flood impacts. The plan will be a dynamic tool to prioritize projects for initial implementation and will adapt over time as improvements are built.
“There’s an opportunity for this (watershed) study to inform at the 100-year storm event level the streetscape project. … The current Leucadia Streetscape is a temporary project, it’s not intended to handle the 100-year, which is the big monster storm,” Ed Wimmer, city engineer said at the Aug. 28 Encinitas City Council meeting. “This watershed master plan that’s before you this evening will handle the big, monster 100-year storm.”
A recent Facebook post by Leucadia resident JP St. Pierre got some residents, and city Councilman Tony Kranz, weighing in on the flooding issue.
“The city of Encinitas has mismanaged Leucadia flooding since 1986,” St. Pierre wrote. “Our current mayor and city council are organized and professional and could finally bring the real solutions we need if we poke them gently enough.”
Bobby Hartman replied, “Mismanaged or ignored? I really hope they will work on this!”
Sofia Walden said she feels they will finally see significant improvements with Streetscape, which calls for “drainage repairs and corrections to the outdated design and poor functionality of the 100+ old infrastructure. Looking forward to it.”
Others, like Gary Murphy, who said he was involved in all meetings and designs from 1996 until 2012, wrote that he has his doubts. He said as he understands it, the drainage design for Streetscape is not the total fix.
“I don’t think that there is one engineer left that was involved in the drainage in 2003, 2004, 2005, these are when all of the designs were done and the major storms caused the problems. The storm we had on Thanksgiving was one of these kinds of storms,” he wrote. He later added, “The new engineers are starting over from scratch so it will take years.”
Kranz assured the commenters that this issue will be on a City Council agenda in the next couple months and urged them to “Stay engaged.”
Wimmer said the first report on the Watershed Plan will be presented at the Dec. 18 council meeting.
Tawny McCray is a native San Diegan and graduate of San Diego State University. She has known she wanted to be a journalist since writing for her Jr. High School newspaper in 1991. She has worked at The Star News in Chula Vista, The San Diego Union Tribune and ABC 10News San Diego. She has recently freelanced for Scripps Ranch News and The Poway Eagle and is a longtime freelancer with creators.com. She is working on authoring books with her twin sister, Nyla. She and her husband have two kids and live in South Park.