Toll Road Agency Sued for Flood Damage

The city has filed a lawsuit against the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency demanding $675,000 for damage that occurred during the January floods.

The damage, the suit maintains, resulted from soil erosion caused by the agency's grading near Laguna Canyon Road in preparation for a toll road.

The erosion "was significant," said Philip D. Kohn, a Costa Mesa attorney who filed the lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court on Wednesday. "We had to go in there and clean it all out."

Transportation agency officials could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

According to Kohn, the damage occurred Jan. 4 and Jan. 10 of this year when heavy rains washed large amounts of soil from the agency's toll road construction site in the canyon all the way to Main Beach. In addition to wreaking havoc itself, he said, the soil clogged some of the city's storm drains, resulting in increased flooding that damaged the city's streets, sidewalks, animal shelter and beach.

"They had a responsibility to maintain their property in a way not to allow the soil to wash away," Kohn said. "They should have installed more effective erosion control basins."

The situation was exacerbated by the fact that agency workers had removed vegetation from the site that could have helped root the soil, the lawyer said.

Kohn said he hopes to settle the matter out of court.

"The city's hope is that we will be able to informally and cooperatively resolve this claim," he said.

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