Project to Control Flooding Advances

Times Staff Writer

Orange County took a major step Wednesday toward constructing a $44.8-million system of channels and basins to control floods in the Talbert Valley section of Huntington Beach, which was deluged by heavy rains in 1983.

The Board of Supervisors approved an environmental impact report for the project, which is designed to protect the area from a flood so fierce that experts estimate that it will occur only once every 100 years. The project is expected to take at least 10 years to complete.

“Those of us who experienced the flooding in 1983 still lie awake at night when it rains hard,” fearing that houses will again be submerged, Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Finley told the supervisors. Approval of the environmental impact report is “a vital step in moving the project forward,” she said.

The supervisors’ action clears the way for the county to apply for permits to improve the Huntington Beach and Talbert channels--replacing earth with concrete--and to build basins to hold water in the event of a major rain or tidal surge. County officials said work on one flood control basin could begin next March.


Main Question

The main question before the supervisors was whether to have the flood control system’s outlet to the ocean located at Brookhurst Street or next to the Santa Ana River outlet.

County planners said city, state and federal agencies involved in the project opposed the Brookhurst Street outlet, in part because it would cut Huntington Beach State Park in two.

As a result, the supervisors chose the outlet next to the Santa Ana River outlet. The work, however, will require moving some nesting grounds of the least tern bird, which is on federal and state lists of endangered species.


County officials said choosing the Santa Ana River outlet will also let the county apply the costs of the project toward its portion of the bill for the proposed $1.1-billion Santa Ana River flood control project, which is awaiting congressional approval.

Unhappy With Action

One person unhappy with the supervisors’ action was Tad Nakase, who operates a nursery along with his brother on land leased from Southern California Edison Co. The land will be taken over for use as a retarding basin.

Nakase said he agreed with the objective of flood control but contended that the nursery could be forced out of business, at a cost of more than 100 jobs.


Supervisors Roger Stanton and Harriett Wieder, however, said the project could not be delayed. Referring to the 1983 flood, Stanton said: “That was no ‘get-your-tootsies-wet’ kind of thing. People were sloshing around in water up to their waists.”

Wieder said “the important thing today is to get this project going.” She added that she hoped county officials could find some way to help Nakase.

During the 1983 flood, described by county officials as the worst in decades, levees were topped in 11 places along the Huntington Beach and Talbert channels, prompting evacuation notices to more than 1,000 homes in the area between Beach Boulevard and the Santa Ana River and from Garfield Avenue to the ocean.

The Huntington Beach and Talbert channels were part of a flood control system that was largely built in the early 1950s. They were designed to handle 65% of the water generated by flooding so fierce it could be expected to occur only once in 25 years.


Other parts of the county’s flood control network have been upgraded in subsequent years to provide protection from an even stronger flood that is expected to occur once every 100 years.