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County, State Parks Support Pescadero Dredging Plan

Posted on March 27, 2017

By Kaitlyn Bartley, Half Moon Bay Review

Hopes are high in Pescadero that a solution to its historic flooding may be forthcoming.

The sentiment was palpable on March 14, when local and state representatives attended a packed Pescadero Municipal Advisory Council meeting to describe the dredging work on which they’re collaborating.

Present that evening were some of the key players in the most recent effort to dredge the Pescadero Marsh. Chris Spohrer, who took on the role of superintendent for the Santa Cruz district of California State Parks in December, outlined his vision for his agency’s role in restoring Pescadero’s clogged creeks. Kellyx Nelson, of the San Mateo County Resource Conservation District, and Jim Robins, of Alnus Ecological, presented the partial dredge designs that have been submitted to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley promised to attendees that he would request his board provide $1 million to help pay for the dredging if the NOAA grant application is approved.

The meeting occurred in the wake of severe winter storms that caused damage to many local businesses and residences. PMAC and county representatives urged attendees to report storm damage to their homes or businesses to meet state and federal thresholds that may entitle the community to financial assistance.

The Pescadero residents who packed into the rear room of the Pescadero Community Church were cautious and raised multiple questions about the plan, given that efforts in past years have failed to mitigate flooding. But Spohrer’s comments and the RCD’s presentation drew rousing applause.

“It’s just really refreshing to have someone here from State Parks,” said one audience member.

Spohrer reiterated his support for the dredging project as part of an integrated solution that includes upstream floodplain restoration that will decrease the amount of sediment clogging the marsh.

He also discussed the possibility of installing a temporary dam that would help to prevent water from rushing into the lagoon and jeopardizing the health of its fish, as well as renewing his agency’s permits to breach the sandbar to allow water to flow into the ocean and restore the lagoon’s natural balance.

Some attendees wanted to know what would happen to the dredging plan should NOAA deny the RCD’s request for funding.

“We’ve already committed to the designs, so if we don’t get this grant, we’ll find the money somewhere else. We’re not giving up,” Spohrer said.

Other residents called for greater representation as dredging plans are finalized. A public comment period would be scheduled before the plans are done, said Spohrer, and he expressed willingness to consider working with an advocate who represents the community.

Nelson and Robins also outlined the dredging details as they have been designed thus far. To be eligible for the grant, designs must be 30 percent complete. The current design would dredge 8,000 feet of the Butano Creek channel, removing 45,000 cubic yards of sediment from key spots in the channel. “There are just a couple of very large slugs (of sediment),” said Robins. “It’s not so much the amount, it’s where it’s sitting.”

Nelson said the designs may change as they draw closer to being finalized. Reducing the water level would prevent the road from flooding during a two-year storm, and the current bridge from flooding during a 10-year event, according to the grant application.

“Depending on dynamic and variable climatic conditions, the reductions to frequency of flooding could last between five and 10 years,” the application said.

The entire project is expected to cost around $2.6 million, and the RCD application requests just under $1.5 million of that from NOAA. Horsley hopes that the county will approve his request for $1 million to cover part of the remainder, and State Parks would contribute around $150,000.

Source: Half Moon Bay Review

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