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Crews stabilized a sinkhole along Lake Drive last March in Cardiff. File photo/The Coast News
Crews stabilized a sinkhole along Lake Drive last March in Cardiff. File photo/The Coast News
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Encinitas to install emergency storm drain pipe in Lake Drive canyon

ENCINITAS — After two months of heavy rain exposed the city’s aging stormwater infrastructure in a Cardiff neighborhood, the Encinitas City Council unanimously approved the emergency installation of a temporary 48-inch storm drain bypass pipe in a canyon between Interstate 5 and Lake Drive.

In late January and early February 2024, stormwater below the newly built Lake Drive culvert flowed downstream through the canyon and overwhelmed several outdated storm drains located between Interstate 5 and Manchester Avenue. Sediment buildup in the storm drain pipes resulted in flooding and damaged private and public property in the Cardiff Cove community, according to city staff.

The city’s Public Works department first proposed an emergency declaration on Jan. 25 to remove the built-up sediment in downstream culverts and prevent additional flooding and property damage. After further inspection, workers also recommended the installation of a temporary above-ground 48-inch plastic storm drain pipe to help divert excess sediment. The work also includes gravel-bag check dams to slow runoff in the canyon and reduce erosion.

The initial project costs are estimated at $752,480,  according to Burtech Pipeline’s bid proposal, but a final accounting of the emergency repair work will be shared at a future council meeting. The city’s General Fund will cover the expenses, portions of which may be eligible for FEMA reimbursement. 

“We can’t keep deferring maintenance,” said longtime resident Scott Campbell. “How many houses were damaged in Leucadia last month? Over a dozen businesses. How many houses were damaged in Cardiff this week? What’s the expense and why don’t these people sue the city? We have to get our act together, and spend on the right things.”

In 1982, a large corrugated metal pipeline was installed at the bottom of a canyon in Encinitas, west of Lake Drive between Wales Drive and Sea Village Drive, to manage water from the surrounding developed area.

The city has maintained the corrugated metal pipeline since its incorporation in 1986. However, the discovery of several pipe failures and sinkholes forced the city to replace the metal pipe with a more durable material in December 2020.

Four years later, the work is ongoing as the city seeks the required access and environmental permits to complete the project, which is estimated at $6.5 million and involves completely replacing the outdated corrugated metal drain pipe that runs the length of the canyon.

“This is now an emergency in Lake Drive canyon,” said resident Jennifer Hewitson. “It has snowballed over the past four years, and most citizens know nothing about it.”

Last February, a large sinkhole swallowed a chunk of the earth and a portion of the sidewalk on Lake Drive between Sea Village Drive and Wales Drive.

Council members acknowledged the need to prioritize improvements to aging and often failing infrastructure across the city, evidenced by a massive sinkhole on Lake Drive and frequent flooding in Leucadia.

“This is a good example of why we need infrastructure prioritization,” said Councilmember Joy Lyndes. “A couple years ago, we really acknowledged that, as a community, we have a lot of old infrastructure in the case of this pipe. It’s over 50 years old, and the county put it in before we were a city.”

The City Council also heard from applicants looking to serve on various commissions, starting first with vacancies on the Planning Commission.

The two Cardiff vacancies for the Planning Commission include a replacement for Chairman Kevin Doyle, who was scheduled to step down next month. Since the city’s only applicant for the seat, Chris Cote, withdrew his application for the position, Doyle will continue to serve until a replacement is found.

The council unanimously supported Commissioner Stephen Dalton’s second term as vice chair of the Planning Commission.

“I want to support Steve for the Commission. I got to serve with him from when he got on the Commission, and we don’t always agree because you’re coming much more from the professional side, but I thought you always added quite a good discussion and always came prepared, which I think is paramount,” said Ehlers.

There were six applicants for three open slots on the Commission for the Arts. The nominations of Robin Fator, Katy Fox and Carla were moved forward, with the motion carried unanimously.

Seven applied for five openings on the Environmental Commission. The nominations of John Bruner, Katie Cramer, Mark O’Connor, Robert Switzler and John Wick were moved forward, with the motion carried unanimously.

A total of five people applied for two vacancies on the Mobility and Traffic Safety Commission. The nominations of Cardiff incumbent Commissioner Patricia Trauth and Olivenhain applicant Chris Duncan were moved forward unanimously.

A total of five people applied for five vacancies (three scheduled, two unscheduled) on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission. The nominations of Christopher Comerat, Kimberly Evers, Brad Hanson, Ross Ridder and George Cappiello were moved forward unanimously.

Mona Angel was nominated for one of three vacant seats on the Senior Commission and the motion was carried unanimously. Two additional positions will remain open until they are filled.

Two applied for three open seats on the Urban Forest Advisory Committee. The nominations of Mark Jenne and Richard Brocchini were moved forward unanimously. One vacancy was available for the commission.

“So we will be re-advertising for the Old Encinitas Planning Commission representative, two vacancies on the Senior Citizen Commission and then one vacancy on the Urban Forest Advisory Committee,” said Mayor Tony Kranz.

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