COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Is Leucadia’s flooding problem really Old Encinitas’ problem?

To the city of Encinitas Engineering Department, Public Works Department and any other citizens concerned about dirty water going in to the ocean:
On Dec. 21, Leucadia was hit with a storm that dropped more than an inch of rain. Although the system in the Leucadia area handled the storm all though the morning hours, at about 1:50 p.m. the city decided to open a gate valve on Vulcan by RCP to release water from the east side of the railroad tracks south of Union Street. In doing so, it overtaxed the system downstream in Leucadia and caused flooding in the sump areas west of 101, coming close to flooding and endangering more than 20 homes.
The city procedure is to pump this dirty, raw, unfiltered water over the bluff to Beacon’s Beach, a local surf spot. This brings up two questions: does Leucadia have a drainage problem or is it Old Encinitas’ problem? And do we really have to pump over the bluff to solve this problem?
In 1986, five communities were incorporated as a city to become Encinitas. I have always considered it a single city. However, in dealing with the city on drainage issues, the city has consistently treated this as a community issue, insisting that the excess water is Leucadia’s problem. E-mails from the city have stated that, by law, water cannot be diverted from one area (community) to another.
In 2003 and 2004, the city paid more than $1 million for an extensive hydrology study intended to improve the drainage in Leucadia. It clearly states in that report, and is known among city employees in the Engineering and Public Works departments, that a gate valve installed to store water in the 1,300-foot channel built at Union and Vulcan would only “be opened to expedite drainage of the stored water after the storm when the downstream facility is no longer taxed.” (Rick Engineering Co.)
And yet, the city opened the valve during a storm, the system became overtaxed, the Leucadia Park and alley flooded and the city sent out employees and pumped dirty water over the bluff. Does this need to happen? We don’t believe so … the water at Union and Vulcan can be sent south instead of being diverted north to Leucadia. And there are other solutions that have been brought to the attention to the city.
In 2004, residents suggested to install a 3-foot pipe, 5,500 feet long, to send Old Encinitas’ water to Cottonwood Creek Park. This idea was shot down by the engineering department because it was stated that it could overtax the park. In 2006, a proposed new development for 35 homes and an office building in Quail Gardens was given the go-ahead and a 96-foot diameter pipe, 1,220 feet long and additional 86 inches in diameter, 8,400 feet long was installed. (The Coast News, February 2006).
A structure already exists under Leucadia Pizzeria to connect Vulcan’s water trench/pipe to Cottonwood Creek Park to Moonlight beach, yet this system has never been utilized and it would not take many funds to allow this particular piece to function along with adding infiltration to send cleaner water out to the ocean. This system would also prevent Old Encinitas’ water from flooding Leucadia.
If Old Encinitas’ water problem is fixed and solutions are found that cost in the neighborhood of $1 million, Leucadia would no longer flood, the 101 would be far safer to drive, houses could avoid flooding and dirty water would no longer be sent over the bluff at Beacon’s Beach.
Our City Manager, Phil Cotton, and engineers have the knowledge and ability to fix this problem once and for all. I’m hoping they do.

Tim Calver and Leslie Ross are Encinitas local residents.

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