Flooding still a concern for Oceano

Lately, the weather in Oceano has been pleasant. “It’s overcast a lot, but really nice,” local resident Joe Schacherer said Thursday.

But the dry weather hasn’t lessened Schacherer’s and his neighbors’ worries that a rainy winter could prompt a repeat of December’s local disaster, when water from the Oceano Lagoon was unable to empty into the rain-swollen Arroyo Grande Creek and flooded several dozen homes.

Schacherer lives on Security Court, one of the hard-hit areas. His street is in a neighborhood off Pier Avenue, near the Oceano County Airport and South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District.

Residents are waiting to see what solutions the county can put in place before storms hit later this year, Schacherer said.

“We all are (concerned) because we don’t see anything being done,” he said.

Last week, public works officials said they’re making progress as quickly as possible on potential short- and long-term solutions, with about six staff members working on issues related to the Arroyo Grande Creek and the Oceano Lagoon (also called the Meadow Creek Lagoon).

Public works crews have completed elevation surveys of Oceano homes and streets, as well as evaluated the capacity of the lagoon. They’ve cleared vegetation from the Arroyo Grande Creek channel.

And public works staff has met with various state and federal agencies to explain the issue so “they understand what our need is should we call them and say we need an emergency permit” to prevent flooding, said Mark Hutchinson, the department’s environmental programs manager.

Public works staff has provided several updates to county supervisors this year on efforts to prevent future flooding and on potential projects for the area. Another update is planned for Tuesday’s board meeting.

Short-term, emergency solutions could include breaching a sandbar to allow water from the creek to flow freely to the ocean, or pumping water out of the lagoon, he said.

In August, supervisors authorized a $61,160 contract with engineering services firm Cannon to develop design plans for flood control projects along the Arroyo Grande Creek and in the Oceano Lagoon area.

But any long-term, permanent solutions are likely several years away because of the necessary environmental work and lengthy permitting process, Hutchinson said.

“That’s why there’s a lot of effort in the short-term solutions,” he said. “We may have to use them more than one year.”

If you go

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors will discuss a status report on efforts to prevent future flooding in Oceano on Tuesday during the board’s afternoon session. The meeting is held at the County Government Center, 1055 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.