A logjam on San Simeon Creek caused by a drenching mid-January storm took center stage at Cambria’s Jan. 28 services district board meeting, where directors also tabled a proposal to ease restrictions on water use.
The logjam could pose a safety hazard — especially if the giant mound of debris is dislodged by another storm and washed farther downstream.
District engineer Bob Gresens outlined the problem in a presentation to the board, calling removal of the debris “a huge undertaking.” He estimated the volume of the logjam at 300 to 500 cubic yards.
“Our concern is that if the wood was to reflow during another major storm, (it could) go downstream and maybe hang up on a bridge,” he said. He added that damage to the Washburn campground road could be made worse “if all of that wood was to come down in one big slug” with another storm.
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On the other hand, however, it’s no simple matter to remove the logjam: The sheer volume of debris makes it a significant undertaking that could disrupt sensitive habitats, Gresens said.
“We have to be very careful in how we approach this because you can get fined, and the fines can be substantial,” he told the board. “There’s a lot of environmental sensitivity there. There’s red-legged frog habitat, for example, so it would probably take a biologist to go out there and make sure no species are present.”
We have to be very careful in how we approach this because you can get fined, and the fines can be substantial.
Bob Gresens, CCSD engineer, referring to the logjam on San Simeon Creek
The debris could be removed by hand, Gresens said, but it would take time and “an army of people.” Using equipment, on the other hand, would speed up the process but also would trigger the need for a permits from Army Corps of Engineers and, potentially, from the state Water Board if water-quality concerns arose.
Director Jim Bahringer, however, suggested that the district may not the luxury of taking its time in removing the debris, especially if another big storm hits. He urged a cooperative effort to ensure that logjam is dealt with quickly.
“I think that you should look at this as a clear and present danger,” Bahringer said. “I don’t think next month is the time we should get an update on it. By February 12th, there is a distinct possibility of an inundation. … It’s not a minor item.”
In a follow-up email interview, Gresens said the Army Corps could follow its emergency permitting procedures, which would help expedite its 404 permit.
The good news, Gresens said, is that the debris isn’t in the main channel but appears to have been pushed into a secondary channel on the north side of the creek.
How long could it take to clear the debris field.
“Best case would be withing one week of clear weather if we use machines,” Gresens said. “Worst case would be slowly pecking away at the material with manual labor during clear weather windows, possibly extending the work into several months.”
How much would this cost? Gresens said the CCSD is estimating $25,000 to $30,000 to get the material out and higher up on the well field property. Hauling and disposing of it would cost more, he said. Still to be determined is how the process would be funded.
Effect on wells
Gresens said Justin Smith, the district’s water supervisor, “shut the whole system down once he discovered it was starting to run into the area near the wells.”
General Manager Jerry Gruber said that, while the San Simeon wells were shut down, the community was running entirely off water from the district’s SR4 well on the Santa Rosa Creek aquifer.
All three wells at San Simeon were disinfected, Gresens said, and the SS2 well at San Simeon went back online after passing a bacteriological test. The SS3 well did not pass the test and remained offline until it could be disinfected and tested again.
On the issue of water-use restrictions, directors voted to table discussion until their Feb. 18 meeting.
“We’re still operating under a (water conservation) mandate from the governor,” Director Greg Sanders said. “It would probably be premature to lift the Stage 3 restriction that we’re currently operating under.”
The district’s Ad Hoc Conservation Committee has recommended that surcharges and penalties be eliminated, and that customers once again be allowed to use tap water when washing vehicles.
Now, no action on those proposals will be taken until at least Feb. 18.
The board received an update from Gruber on the Sustainable Water Facility (formerly known as the Emergency Water Supply Project).
Gruber said the SWF “exceeded all expectations” during operations from Sept. 30 to Dec. 30.
68.93 number of acre-feet of water produced by Cambria’s Sustainable Water Facility in 2015
According to a CCSD news release, the SWF producted 22.47 million gallons, or nearly 69 acre-feet of water during 2015 while operating, in general, no more than 40 hours a week.
Gruber quoted Smith, the district’s water supervisor, as saying that “without the Sustainable Water Facility, the district would have been in a situation to either stop disposal of the effluent from the wastewater treatment facility to the effluent spray field or stop production of the San Simeon well field. Either option would have a significant effect on the community of Cambria.”
In other action:
▪ Directors voted unanimously to place an item on the agenda regarding the board’s meeting time, which bylaws currently set at 12:30 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month.
Some members of the community have asked for evening meetings, which they say would be more convenient for working residents to attend.
“Four- or five-hour meetings definitely are challenging,” said audience member Christina Tobin, who suggested twice-monthly meetings from 6 to 8 p.m.
Director Mike Thompson commented that “having a varied schedule would allow more folks to participate more often.”
▪ Sheriff’s Cmdr. James Taylor told the board about two spurts of vehicle burglaries. In each case (four incidents Dec. 12 and six more Jan. 24), all the burglaries targeted unlocked cars.
“I cannot stress — and it’s not just Cambria, we’re having the same problem in Los Osos – how many crimes could be prevented if we just lock things up,” Taylor said.
▪ Steve Kniffen presented a report from the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Commission, and Thompson said the board has three “exceptional candidates” for the open position on the PROS board.
▪ Audience member Tina Dickason said her group, Cambrians for Fiscal Responsibility, had distributed 20,000 fliers in The Cambrian and The Tribune to facilitate a protest of proposed water and sewer rate increases. Under Prop. 218, rate increases approved by the board can be halted with a protest of 50 percent plus one of affected customers.
Protests can be submitted at the CCSD office (1316 Tamson St., Suite 201); by mail to CCSD, Attn: District Clerk, P.O. Box 65, Cambria CA 93428; or at the district’s Feb. 12 hearing, at which protests are to be tallied.