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Residents call for lagoon dredging in San Mateo

Posted on January 16, 2023

San Mateo Marina Lagoon residents are calling for a renewed push to dredge the lagoon to reduce flooding during storms, citing the recent rains as reasons to devote city funds.

Rick Sakuda is a member of the Marina Lagoon Action Committee, a neighborhood association representing homeowners, residents and businesses around Marina Lagoon. He said by email that the resident’s primary concern is for the city to approve funding to dredge the lagoon to reduce flooding. The lagoon is a remnant of a tidal slough that was dredged to help protect the city from flooding. Sakuda noted when the water rises above the level of the city storm drain system, the water in the lagoon hinders the efficient flow of stormwater from the network of creeks and tributaries as well as Highway 101. Sakuda said heavy silting from the tributaries over the past 60 years had caused the loss of more than 25% of the lagoon’s original volume when last measured in 2017. He believes the city needs to improve safety margins in lagoon depth to help prevent flooding.

“It’s everybody’s rain, and the Marina Lagoon community is hoping that our city’s leadership and our neighbors will act in concert to dredge this vital flood prevention asset,” Sakuda said by email.

Officials said the city is working on a Clean Creeks and Flood Protection Initiative to improve stormwater infrastructure and is considering a stormwater fee to fund it. The city estimates it will cost $10 to $16 per month for the average homeowner with a stormwater system annual costs of $8.4 million. The city said property owners must approve funding through a mailed ballot process. City staff has tentative plans to return to the council in the spring to discuss the next steps, with the item a council priority.

Councilmember Rich Hedges said the lack of dredging remains a problem, and the most recent storms have revived the urgency for the city.

“I think it has received the institutional memory of the people who live on the west side of Highway 101 of the importance of the lagoon to their safety as well,” Hedges said.

Rich Kranz lives on the lagoon across from Parkside Aquatic Park on Seal Street and got around 3 feet of water in his home on New Year’s Eve. Kranz wants to see more lagoon dredging and better communication from the Public Works Department during flood emergencies so residents can alert the city about dangers during storms. He hopes the rest of the city’s residents recognize that even though the lagoon is not in their area, rainwater from throughout the city comes down and runs through it, requiring everyone to help with dredging and flood control solutions. Another resident living near the lagoon, Mareva Godfrey, saw a significant lagoon overflow while walking on New Year’s Eve. She said sedimentation accumulation had been a problem for a very long time from Laurel Creek, while culverts that bring in rainwater from Highway 101 reduce capacity and increase the likelihood of flooding.

“The banks have been filled by silt,” Godfrey said. “The shore is impacted.”

The city said it has brought on a third-party expert consultant to help evaluate exactly what occurred during the New Year’s Eve storm and will be sharing the results publicly. The city said it has also been communicating more closely with lagoon residents as it seeks to make improvements and move forward with the Clean Creeks and Flood Protection Initiative. It noted New Year’s Eve saw significantly more rain than forecast and did the best with the information it had. The city is working to evaluate how it can address potential for increased extreme storms due to climate change.


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