City leaders have taken one small step toward possibly digging out the nearly dry Laguna Lake.
The San Luis Obispo City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize a request for proposals for the first phase of a dredging and sediment project for the lake. A plan could be determined as soon as next spring.
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 empty, and some residents have been urging the city to act now.
Longtime resident Arnold Ruiz suggested the city try to excavate a canal to re-establish a fish habitat.
“Re-establishing the lake's ecosystem is what needs to be done,” he said in an email to The Tribune.
The request for proposals, which will be issued Aug. 24, will 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.
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, San Luis Obispo natural resources manager Bob Hill said in a previous interview.
The consultant will also handle environmental studies and project permitting, and host public meetings and public opinion surveys to get feedback and evaluate potential financing options for a project.
San Luis Obispo resident John Smigelski, a member of the Friends of Laguna Lake steering committee, said he was pleased to see the council support this first step. He also suggested the council consider including an advisory group in the process.
“The more the community is involved in the project, the greater the ability of success,” he said.
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. The cost is yet to be studied, but in 2009, the council reviewed a $5 million plan to dredge approximately 150,000 cubic yards from the lake over the course of 10 years.
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 to pay the project cost.
Two-thirds of the property owners in that assessment district would have to vote to create the district.
Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @CLambertSLO on Twitter.