Council hears Flood Mitigation Task Force ideas

The Laguna Canyon Flood Mitigation Task Force has recommended working with the California Department of Transportation and the county to reduce flooding in the canyon and downtown and to warn folks when it is coming.

Councilwoman Verna Rollinger reported three recommendations that include connecting the city to the county's automated flood warning system, increasing the capacity of the flood control channel under Coast Highway and improving drainage along Laguna Canyon Road.

"The task force is looking at improvements — some of which are simple and some not so simple," Rollinger said.

Rollinger was appointed with Councilman Kelly Boyd to work with Planning Commissioner Norm Grossman and the eight-member, council-appointed task force: landscape architect Bob Borthwick; Laguna Canyon businesswoman and resident Susan Hamil; retired county official Eric Jessen; former Temple City Manager Karl Koski; retired engineer William E. Lawson; sculptor and canyon resident Louis Longi; retired civil engineer Carl R. Nelson; and retired U. S. Marine Corps Col. Charles Quilter II.

The first order of business for the task force members was to educate themselves, beginning with a tour of the channel from the ocean to tromping in the weeds along El Toro Road, Rollinger said.

The field work combined with findings by four subcommittees led to the recommendations presented to the council:

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Early Warning System

•Authorize the staff to work with the county to connect the city to the county's alert system, which provides automated, radio-reported information about rain density and water levels when a high-intensity rainstorm is forecast.

•Develop a reverse 911 program to transmit flood advisories to residents and businesses in the canyon and downtown.

•Establish a neighborhood flood watch committee to work with city emergency departments and annually distribute safety information to residents and businesses in the canyon and downtown.

•Install permanent signposts at each street or driveway bridge from Coast Highway to El Toro Road that show water levels estimated in a 100-year flood for that location.

Mayor Pro Tem Jane Egly suggested not posting 100-year levels.

"People will say we had that last year, and we won't have another one for 100 years," she said.

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Coast Highway Channel Capacity

Capacity in the Laguna Canyon flood channel drops from 1,100 cubic feet per second to 800 under Coast Highway at Broadway. The task force recommended city officials meet with the Caltrans District 12 director to talk about increasing the flow.

"I expect Caltrans will see the benefit to everyone who uses the highway by improving the conduit when the city repairs the channel from the ocean to Beach Street, which now calls for skipping the highway," Grossman said.

The city project is scheduled to begin this fall.

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Laguna Canyon Road Improvements

"Our recommendation is to meet with the Caltrans District 12 director and the county's director of public works regarding deficiencies in capacity of the drainage culverts crossing Laguna Canyon Road from Big Bend to the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor," Rollinger said. "Not to mention the one filled with shrubs."

All three recommendations were supported by the city manager.

"We discussed the recommendations in the context of projects or efforts already underway," said City Manager John Pietig. "I think they are reasonable and should be pursued."

Grossman said he believes the first two recommendations are doable.

"I am optimistic that we can get Caltrans to move," Grossman said. "But improvements to Laguna Canyon Road are a long-term project."

The Disaster Committee will probably lead the charge on the early warning system, Grossman said. The committee has already suggested organizing neighborhoods.

"These are ideas whose time has come," said Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson, council liaison to the Disaster Preparedness Committee.

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