Early flood warning system approved

Laguna Beach will spend $38,400 to develop a monitoring system that would evaluate flooding conditions in Laguna Canyon and advise residents of potential danger and when to evacuate.

The City Council on Aug. 16 unanimously approved the recommendation of the Laguna Canyon Flood Mitigation Task Force to hire Dr. Frank Weirich to design and supervise the installation of the system, as well as develop the notification and evacuation thresholds.

"At the time the task force was formed, we envisioned meeting for six months and then bringing recommendations to the council," said Councilwoman Verna Rollinger, task force co-chairwoman. "But this is the second time we have brought recommendations forward early. We want the early warning system in place before the rainy season."

The council also approved the distribution to canyon residents of educational material about the potential for flooding and the measures they can take to be better prepared. City staff was directed to work with property owners on clearing significant debris that could dam drainage from the upper portion of the Laguna Canyon Channel.

Weirich will be paid $15,000 for his services. Components of the system, including stream-monitoring remote cameras, gauges that send real-time data, and saturation monitors are estimated to cost $18,400. A $5,000 contingency fund was approved.

The system will include networking with existing Orange County Public Works rain gauges, stream monitors and identify and display National Weather Service products.

Monitoring equipment is expected to last between 10 and 15 years, at which time its usefulness will be evaluated.

Staff will do the monitoring. Repairs likely will be paid for out of operating budgets.

The system will be paid for by the city's General Fund, which covers day to expenses.

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