Short-term Oceano flooding fixes don’t appease all

Projects are under way to reduce the likelihood that homes will be inundated with floodwaters this winter in Oceano.

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a list of short-term fixes, some of which have already been completed, for the Arroyo Grande Creek channel and the Meadow Creek lagoon, also called Oceano lagoon.

The goal is to prevent another event such as the one in December, when storms caused flooding that damaged 70 homes throughout San Luis Obispo County.

Much of that damage happened in the South County, with some of the hardest-hit homes in the neighborhood off Pier Avenue, near the Oceano County Airport and South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District.

Supervisors also approved spending $785,000 from reserve money to pay for four projects and plan to spend $890,000 overall.

The biggest-ticket item on the list — totaling an estimated $375,000 — is for a large, potentially noisy pump that could be installed along Juanita Avenue to suction water from the lagoon, push it down Juanita and across Strand Way and dump it onto the beach.

But residents in one Oceano neighborhood, some of whom watched as their homes flooded in December, say that’s not enough.

The Meadow Creek lagoon is stagnant, choked with reeds and silt, they said. Ditches haven’t been cleared, and water can’t flow from them into the lagoon. And time is running out.

“Historically speaking, the last two flooding seasons happened right before Christmas,” said Steve Ehens, whose Security Court home flooded last year. “You have roughly four weeks to clear out the bottleneck. You need to uncork Oceano.”

Another Security Court resident, Joe Schacherer, was clearly frustrated.

“Things are overgrown and maintenance isn’t being done,” he told supervisors. “If it wasn’t for the seriousness of the issue this bureaucratic process would be laughable.”

Public works officials have said they’re working as quickly as possible on potential short- and long-term solutions — and the latter could take years because of the necessary environmental work and a lengthy permitting process.

County supervisors acknowledged residents’ concerns but also noted the red tape they face.

“It’s difficult to deal with when you come from the private sector, that you can’t just go in and do it,” said Supervisor Paul Teixeira, whose district includes Oceano. “I can tell you that public works has a can-do attitude.”

Added Supervisor Frank Mecham: “I hear talk about not doing anything, but this is the first time I’ve seen a significant effort put forward with money behind it. Even though it may not accomplish everything that needs to be done, I think for the first time we’re moving in monumental steps to get it done.”

The county’s Public Works Department also proposes raising the north and south levees to prevent water spilling over the Arroyo Grande Creek channel west of 22nd Street and the railroad crossing.

The department has already completed a project to raise Delta Street to push more water from the road into the creek and thinned vegetation in the creek channel.