A plan to dredge Laguna Lake — nearly dry and long suffering from excess silt buildup — could be determined as soon as spring, under a timeline coming to San Luis Obispo leaders Tuesday.
The City Council will consider authorizing a request for proposals for the first phase of a dredging and sediment project for the lake, which has been called numerous things: a gem, a community asset and a “long-term management challenge” for the city.
The naturally occurring lake has been altered over the years, resulting in increased amounts of sediment.
With the ongoing severe drought, the lake is nearly dry, and most of its carp died last summer from lack of oxygen as the water disappeared.
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Some local residents, including members of Friends of Laguna Lake, have lobbied the city to act now, as the drought continues, to accelerate a plan to dredge the lake. In a statement Wednesday, the group said it is encouraged to see the city following through on a commitment the council has made to preserve the lake.
“Moving forward on this RFP (request for proposal) is an important step in that direction, but there is still a lot to be done before the future of the lake is secure,” according to the statement sent from Rob Davidson and John Smigelski, members of the Friends of Laguna Lake steering committee.
“We will continue to work closely with the city staff to help move the project forward up to and beyond the start of dredging in 2017.”
San Luis Obispo Natural Resources Manager Bob Hill noted in a previous interview that some of the lakebed is clay soil, which is moist and muddy under the dry surface, meaning the city might not be able to dig as deep in an excavation as it could in a wet dredging project.
The request for proposals, which could be issued Aug. 24 if approved Tuesday, would seek a consultant to provide three potential dredging projects of varying sizes and depths for council and community consideration, as well as an alternative excavation project.
The consultant would also handle environmental studies and project permitting, and host public meetings and public opinion surveys to get feedback on the options and evaluate potential financing options for a project.
Proposals would be due Sept. 24, with a contract awarded Oct. 30, according to the proposed timeline. A review of project options is tentatively scheduled to go before the council March 15, Hill said.
Once a specific project is selected, the consultant would provide complete design plans for consideration. A hearing is tentatively scheduled for May 15 for final project approval.
In addition, public hearings could be held in May through July if the council decides to move ahead with an assessment district to pay for the project.
City officials have discussed creating a community facilities district, which would annually assess individual properties.
It’s possible that the project costs could be spread across the Laguna Lake community or the entire city — depending on the level of support — though those with lakefront homes would likely still pay more.
Two-thirds of the property owners in that assessment district would have to vote to create the district.
The council has allocated $450,000 in its current financial plan toward dredging and sediment management, which can pay for updated studies, project designs and engineering, permits and a finance plan — but not the physical construction of the project.
The goal is to have a “shovel-ready” dredging project in two years, Hill said.
It is expected to be costly. In 2009, the council reviewed a plan to dredge approximately 150,000 cubic yards from the lake over the course of 10 years at a cost of $500,000 a year.