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Laguna Lake dredging is up for vote at San Luis Obispo City Council

The San Luis Obispo City Council on Tuesday will consider a recommendation that the long-controversial dredging of Laguna Lake should be postponed indefinitely or until funding is found.

Dredging the lake could cost between $4 million and $9 million depending on a number of factors, including where the removed sediment is deposited and how much of the lake is dredged.

The project, which has been discussed for the past three decades, has long garnered support from those residents living near the lake, but lacked a consensus from the council.

Mayor Dave Romero has consistently supported the effort, saying that he has wanted to dredge the lake since the 1980s, when he worked as the city’s public works director.

Staff’s suggestion to table the project follows a December 2009 approval by the council of an environmental document that allows the city to move forward with dredging. However, the majority of the council expressed concern about the cost and asked staff to come back with additional alternatives.The findings that will be presented Tuesday include the difficulty in locating grant funding that will make the project financially feasible.

“Staff is tired of messing with it, and they are pretty much saying we should give it up until the public comes in and says they want it to be a priority,” Romero said. “But in my opinion that is not keeping faith with the public that bought houses in that neighborhood or those that have had long hopes that we would have some sort of water feature in that park.”

The man-made lake has long been brown with sediment that washes down from Prefumo Creek off the Irish Hills, and has lost its luster to public recreation. But in the early 1960s and 1970s, it was a popular place for swimming, sailing and fishing.

City Engineer Barbara Lynch said the lake is considered a nature preserve by many and that would continue even without dredging.

“Over time you might see a change in the wildlife there, but for many people that is OK,” Lynch said. “It isn’t a sports complex, it is a nature preserve.”

Romero, who expects that he will be in the minority on the council Tuesday, said he will ask the city to consider dredging a portion of the lake — spending up to $300,000.

“Let them dredge for three or four months until we run out of money or time or space or whatever,” Romero said. “At least we will be showing the neighborhood that we are really serious about wanting to preserve the lake.”

One of the most expensive factors in the project is relocating the sediment. City staff surveyed local residents who own large parcels of land nearby, and only two expressed an interest in working with the city.

Dan De Vaul, who owns property along Los Osos Valley Road, and the Twisselman family, which owns land on the south end of Foothill Boulevard, are willing to allow silt to be moved to their properties if San Luis Obispo would consider annexing their lands, according to city staff.

Romero said he had no problem with that trade.

“Someday they will develop their land, and that is a way to guarantee that it is done to city standards,” Romero said.

MEETING TUESDAY

A recommendation about dredging Laguna Lake goes before the San Luis Obispo City Council at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall, 990 Palm St.

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