Emergency evacuation route still not finalized

By Karen Brainard

It’s been nearly a year since the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to pursue an emergency evacuation route for Ramona, but negotiations to use a portion of Ramona Municipal Water District property for the route are not yet ironed out, said a water board member.

“The issue is access through the Ramona Municipal Water District’s spray field,” said Director Rex Schildhouse as he presented the Emergency Evacuation Ad Hoc Committee report at the water board’s Sept. 24 meeting.

Sentinel file photo

Schildhouse serves on the committee with Darrell Beck, board president. They attended a meeting on Sept. 12 at the proposed site with county staff, RMWD General Manager David Barnum, and sheriff’s Lt. James Bovet from the Ramona station.

Schildhouse reviewed legal and health concerns that could impact the district and residents if the water district property was used for an evacuation route.

Many Ramonans called for an emergency evacuation route after traffic gridlock occurred on State Route 67 during the 2007 Witch fire as residents tried to flee town.

The proposed evacuation route, created through coordinated efforts of the Ramona Community Planning Group, county staff, Supervisor Dianne Jacob, and other agencies, would start by the old rodeo arena on Montecito Way and cut through a portion of the Ramona Grassland Preserve on a dirt ranch road that ends at the RMWD property line. That property is used as a spray field for effluent from the Santa Maria sewer plant.

To connect the route to Rangeland Road, access is needed through the RMWD spray field. From Rangeland Road, evacuees could head south to Highland Valley Road, and either take Highland Valley Road north to the 15 freeway or access State Route 67. They could also take Highland Valley Road to Archie Moore Road to Route 67.

Last year on Nov. 1, the planning group held an open house so the public could drive the route’s portion on county property. Most who attended were supportive.

Schildhouse said that no road exists on the spray fields and the ground could be moist.

“The spray fields have water cannons to operate without warning at high pressure and what they’re spraying is effluent water,” he said. “The effluent water by health code and by common sense says it should not come in contact with human beings because it’s not good for us.”

He also noted that the public water district cannot turn over property without fair compensation, so the county would have to work out an exchange or compensation package.

RMWD needs to protect its assets, he said, and if an evacuee left the designated route on district property and something went wrong, the district could be identified in a lawsuit.

Schildhouse said those and other issues require continued evaluation.

“On a personal concern, stepping away from the board, this evacuation route accomplishes nothing,” Schildhouse said.

The route from Montecito Way to Rangeland “doesn’t get you out of the valley of Ramona,” he said, adding that it covers three or four times the distance at 20 percent of the speed of driving on a paved road.

Barnum called the Sept. 12 meeting productive and said the county, after hearing discussion about the issues, indicated it will respond with a letter.

Once that letter is received, the ad hoc committee will review it and it will be brought to the board, the general manager said.

Related posts:

  1. Groups agree on emergency evacuation route
  2. Utility poles stall emergency evacuation route
  3. Supervisors approve emergency evacuation route for Ramona
  4. County, planning group invite public to tour emergency evacuation route
  5. Residents view county portion of proposed emergency evacuation route

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Oct 9 2013. Filed under Country Living, Featured Story, News, Ramona, Sheriff/Fire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “Emergency evacuation route still not finalized”

  1. Not surprised

    Frankly, I’m not surprised that RMWD is the road block here, or that Darryl Beck’s name is associated with it. Maybe if a further subsidy for the San Diego Country Estates reduced water cost deal were made a part of it, Mr. Beck would be all over it. I’d love to make a statement about it as a water board property tax contributor (and yet someone who doesn’t use water board services) but alas, I can’t make it at 2pm; I’ve been excluded as the class of people that have a job.

    Speaking of which, what exactly IS this sweetheart deal where the SDCE gets to use my tax money to offset their shortfall because they get a lower rate than everyone else in Ramona? It affects as many as 25% of all ramona residents who don’t have sewer or water services from RMWD at all, but our tax contribution is seized anyway. Maybe the Sentinel could do a little investigative journalism?

    Regarding Schildhouse’s comment that the emergency road does nothing, when 67 is closed at say Hope Street and 78 has no access either because it’s on fire, consider the lives lost because you chose not to push through because of your personal differences with the road. I don’t feel our best interests are served when you’re on the committee to make it happen. Resign. Give it to someone else that can make it happen.

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