OCEANSIDE — Oceanside took action to further flood control measures along the San Luis Rey River.
City Council approved setting aside 298 acres of habitat within the river watershed to help satisfy mitigation requirements and move the flood control project forward.
The 4-1 vote on Aug. 27 to declare restrictive covenants is a step towards project completion.
There are still years of work ahead. Flood control efforts by the Army Corps of Engineers will continue through 2020.
“We’re all frustrated with the length of time this project has taken,” David Van Dorpe, Army Corps of Engineers deputy district engineer, said. “We want to do right by the folks of Oceanside.”
There was some grumbling from council members about the $270,000 costs of mowing river vegetation, estimated $330,000 to $600,000 annual price for mitigation land maintenance through perpetuity, and lengthy timeline of the project.
Mayor Jim Wood, who cast the no vote, and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez pressed to find a way for the county to take over responsibility to maintain the river watershed.
“Luckily or unluckily we’re stewards of this phenomenal resource,” Sanchez said.
Councilman Jack Feller questioned the California Fish and Game mitigation requirement to set aside land to protect endangered species.
“I can’t believe birds that flourish everywhere are endangered in this section of the river,” Feller said.
All council members agreed improving flood safety is in the city’s best interest.
Presently the river has a 60-year flood risk certification. The goal is to complete needed interventions to raise the certification to 100-years.
The set aside habitat helps fulfill requirements to secure a permit to work on the river levee.
With the permit in hand the Army Corps of Engineers will inspection and repair the levee.
Invasive trees and brushes outside the river’s protected habitat areas will be mowed down this fall to enable water flow.
The city will then petition FEMA to reevaluation the river’s flood risk.
An improved flood rating will relieve homeowners in low-lying areas adjacent to river of mandatory flood insurance, and keep everyone safer.
The city has taken continuous steps to upgrade the river’s flood risk rating for the last two decade.
The Army Corps of Engineers completed building the sand bottom levee in 2000.
Mowing along the river watershed was done in 2008 and 2012, and will continue as needed indefinitely.
In future efforts river bottom sand will be removed, and placed on beaches if it is compatible.
Once the project is completed, the watershed will be recertified, and the city will have the ongoing responsibility to maintain the land area and levee.