San Luis Obispo County supervisors on Tuesday rejected a challenge to a public works project intended to reduce perennial flooding problems plaguing one section of Highway 1 in Oceano.
The board unanimously denied an appeal brought by Los Osos resident Jeff Edwards, who argued the proposed work was too narrowly focused, too expensive and won’t comprehensively help to relieve the community’s chronic flooding issues.
The supervisors’ decision will allow the project to move forward. Public works project manager Jeff Lee said construction is scheduled to start in spring 2015 and finish that fall.
“I have yet to see anyone here from Oceano to argue against this,” Supervisor Frank Mecham said. “I think this is a benefit to the folks in Oceano — otherwise we’d probably be hearing from them.”
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The $2.7 million plan includes drainage improvements to reduce flooding on Highway 1 at Paso Robles and 13th streets, including a new storm drain and an underground pipe to a new concrete sediment basin in a portion of an RV storage lot on Oceano County Airport property.
Funds for the project come from the county, Caltrans and the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments.
In past years, flooding in the area has resulted in road closures and damage to nearby properties.
“Reducing the occurrence of flooding along this roadway will improve circulation in and through the community of Oceano,” Lee wrote in response to the appeal.
Edwards appealed the project after it was approved by the county planning commission March 14.
In his appeal letter, Edwards wondered whether the project would have any measurable impact on the flooding problems that plague the community. He also questioned the project’s environmental analysis and argued that some remedial work completed after flooding in 2010 had changed the problem in that area — a claim that county officials disputed.
“The project fails to address chronic flooding at Highway 1 between 17th and 19th streets,” Edwards said Tuesday. “That area is not going to be corrected through this project. Nor is Fourth Street.”
In response, county senior planner Ryan Hostetter wrote in a staff report that “the project’s goal is not to solve the entirety of the Oceano drainage problems, but rather to help alleviate the issues regarding drainage at Highway 1 and 13th Street.”
In 2006, drainage problems at that spot prompted a local nursery owner to sue the county, Caltrans and other entities, alleging floodwaters caused more than $100,000 in damage.
Bill Bookout, who closed his nursery in 2007, said his businesses flooded 12 or 13 times in the seven years he owned it. His lawsuit was dismissed in 2008.
The Highway 1 drainage issue is not directly related to flooding problems with the Oceano Lagoon (also called Meadow Creek Lagoon), Hostetter wrote.
Several dozen homes were flooded in December 2010 when water from the Oceano Lagoon was unable to empty into the rain-swollen Arroyo Grande Creek. Most of the homes were in the neighborhoods off Pier Avenue near the Oceano County Airport.