By Karen Brainard
The turnout was light at the Ramona Community Planning Group’s (RCPG) flood workshop last Thursday, but the few who attended had the full attention of San Diego County flood control staff.
Jerry Berman said that when it rains, Kelly Street badly floods Letton and Hunter Streets and the Denny’s Restaurant parking lot.
“The county puts signs out every time it rains more than 10 minutes,” Berman said.
“Our trees are falling over in our yard because the roots are getting saturated,” said Mike Eckhart, a Kelly Street resident.
“What we’d like to do is get all your comments down so we can make sure your areas are specifically addressed,” said Dennis Bowling, a principal with Rick Engineering Company, hired by the county to develop a master drainage plan for Ramona.
The workshop was scheduled after planning group members learned that such a drainage plan was created without any input from residents or the Ramona planning group. That discovery was made when planners approached the county about the flooding problems in the Kelly, Letton, Raymond and Hunter Streets area every time there is heavy rain.
RCPG Chair Jim Piva said County Supervisor Dianne Jacob had pushed for the workshop and requested flood control staff be present.
Only nine residents showed up to hear the presentation by Bowling and Cid Tesoro, county flood control district manager. Nine of the 15 planning group members also attended.
Bowling explained the method by which areas were prioritized for the master drainage plan for Ramona. The method, he said, was developed by the flood control commission and adopted over 15 years ago.
Each area received points, depending on how it ranked in seven categories: public safety, environmental impacts, cost/capacity benefit index, compatibility with county plans, multiple use, ease of implementation, and funding/financing. The higher the total points, the higher the area appeared on the priority list.
First on the list was 11th Street, followed by Seventh and D streets. Kelly Avenue ranked 42nd on the priority list. Repairs in some of the areas called for replacing corrugated metal pipes with larger reinforced concrete pipes.
According to Tesoro, the flood control department doesn’t necessarily start with the first project on the priority list.
“We start from number one and work our way down,” Tesoro said. He explained that they check to see if they have the resources to design and build number one and if not, they move on down the list.
Planning group members asked about funding for the project. Tesoro said there is $500,000 earmarked for Ramona flood projects. Planners commented that amount would not go far in remedying flooding.
Piva asked how that money accumulates.
“The monies in that particular pot grow as more development is done in Ramona,” replied Tesoro, adding that the bigger the development the more money it generates.
“Right now things are kind of stagnant so the pot is stagnant. It doesn’t grow any more each year. Part of the greatest trouble we have in flood control is to look for those opportunities elsewhere, to find other sources,” he said.
Tesoro added that the county applies for grants to look for additional funding.
After the presentation, residents began asking questions, focusing on the Kelly Avenue area.
Eckhart said he has lived on Kelly Avenue for over 20 years. He said a pond used to exist where Denny’s Restaurant now stands and he talked about additional building in the area, including the CVS pharmacy, that has made the flooding worse.
“The damage to our yard, to everybody’s yard in that area…making those pipes bigger isn’t going to take care of the flooding,” Eckhart said. “It’s too much water coming through there. Too much water, too much velocity.”
Jerry Berman asked if the county staff had been up in Ramona when it is raining to which Tesoro said “yes.”
The Bermans and Eckhart talked about the flow of the water, lack of drainage, the impact it has caused, and the need for solutions.
“Unless you change the flow, just putting in a bigger pipe is not going to do anything,” said Linda Berman.
The county staff brought large maps of Ramona for residents to mark their areas, describe the problems, and write down their names, contact information and any other comments.
Tesoro said that after hearing the concerns, they will be changing the rankings of the projects accordingly.
Matthew Schmid, a civil engineer with the county flood control department said anyone experiencing flooding on their property can call the county’s stormwater hotline at 888-846-0800. A caller’s information will be logged and someone will be assigned to the issue and return the call, said Schmid.