Morro Creek wanders out of bounds


Emergency crews were at work Friday on the beach in Morro Bay reburying a sewer outfall line and rechanneling the mouth of Morro Creek to the south.

A beachgoer early Monday told operators at the Morro Bay sewage treatment plant that Morro Creek had meandered far to the north and uncovered the plant’s 27-inch steel discharge pipeline at Atascadero Road north of Morro Rock.

Normally, the pipe lies at least 5 feet below the sand, but the creek mouth had scoured away a 100-foot section. The pipe carries treated sewage effluent to an outfall a half-mile offshore.

The creek often meanders north during winter storms, but nobody can recall ever seeing it go this far north, said Rob Livick, Morro Bay public services director. Maps show that the creek has shifted about 1,500 feet north.

“We’ve had very high tides and large storm flows recently,” Livick said. “The tides kept the creek back up against the dunes, so it needed to flow north until it found a spot where it could flow into the ocean.”

The city contracted with local construction firm Associated Pacific to make the emergency repairs. The first job was to divert the creek mouth south on the beach away from the outfall line.

Crews could then rebury the pipe. Exposed, it posed a public safety hazard because the erosion left deep pockets in the sand. City officials do not think the pipe leaked.

The work required emergency permits from a variety of public agencies including the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Fish and Game.

A fisheries biologist was on hand to make sure that no steelhead trout or tidewater gobies, both on the endangered species list, were stranded in the creek, Livick said.

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