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County solicits public input on Westminster Watershed flood risks

County solicits public input on Westminster Watershed flood risks
Justin Golliher, of the Engineering Division of the Orange County Public Works Deparment, discusses the Westminster/East Garden Grove Flood Risk Management Study during a joint public meeting with the Corps and Orange County Public Works. (Courtesy of Dena O'Dell)

The Orange County Public Works Department wants residents’ input for a study that could help reduce flood risks in certain areas.

The Westminster/East Garden Grove Flood Risk Management Study calls for modifying about 25 miles of drainage channels within the Westminster Watershed, which spans about 87 square miles on a flat, coastal plan that includes Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach and other communities.

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County officials, members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others presented an overview of the estimated $1.5-billion proposed project at a community meeting Thursday at the Meadowlark Golf Club in Huntington Beach.

About 40,000 structures are at-risk of flooding during a 100-year storm event, though Project Manager Mike Padilla said widespread flooding could occur during more moderate events as well.

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The study proposes:

  • Modifying 25 miles of drainage channels to improve flow efficiency and capacity;

  • Widening an existing bottleneck at Warner Avenue and Huntington Harbour;

  • Replacing the tide gates on the East Garden Grove/Wintersburg Channel;

  • Constructing a floodwall along a portion of Pacific Coast Highway at Outer Bolsa Bay.

The existing channels’ breakwater, which was constructed in the 1950s and 1960s, is made with earthen materials and loose stone.

Replacing those materials with concrete or steel could make it easier to help push water along, Padilla said.

The study considers a minimal and a maximum approach to the pending project. Minimal channel modifications would include improving the materials. A maximum approach could change a channel’s lining and geometry.

County officials are advocating the maximum approach.

The project would harm two special marine conservation areas, the Bolsa Bay and Bolsa Chica Basin, though county officials are trying to mitigate the potential negative impacts.

Noise and vibrations, however, would be significant and unavoidable during construction, Padilla said.

Orange County Coastkeeper’s Ray Heimstra used the public comment period to urge residents to “get more than floodwater protection.”

Heimstra suggested officials look into storm water capture and ways to positively impact the habitat.

Huntington Beach resident Tom Androusky said he was looking forward to seeing progress.

After reviewing public input, officials hope to determine how the project will proceed by early next year.

To learn more about the study, visit bit.ly/2SYy3cB.

Residents can mail comments to Justin Golliher at the Orange County Public Works Department, 300 N. Flower Street, Santa Ana, CA 92703,or email Westminster_comments@usace.army.mil.

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