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Atascadero sets out to repair storm-damaged creek bed

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The storm systems that hit SLO County on Jan. 9 and 10 altered the course of Atascadero Creek, shifting it 30 to 40 feet in some places, according to Atascadero Public Works Director Nick DeBar.

City officials held a special emergency meeting on Feb. 1, authorizing more than $260,000 to repair a portion of the creek behind Colony Park. DeBar said that the storms eroded 20 feet of the creek bank there.

STORM DAMAGE The storms that devastated SLO County in January caused erosion in the Atascadero creek that will cost the city $263,037 in emergency repairs. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BRIAN BROOME
  • Photo Courtesy Of Brian Broome
  • STORM DAMAGE The storms that devastated SLO County in January caused erosion in the Atascadero creek that will cost the city $263,037 in emergency repairs.

"With the loss of the creek bank section and the new alignment of this portion of Atascadero Creek, it was expected that if slope stabilization measures were not undertaken immediately, wastewater facilities were likely to be damaged during the next significant rain event," DeBar told New Times via email after the meeting.

While construction began on Jan. 30, DeBar explained that the state requires any emergency action to be approved by the City Council within 14 days. Following the meeting, Atascadero entered a contract with Michael Frederick Paving Company, Earth Systems Pacific, and Terra Verde Environmental Consulting to stabilize the area.

"Work is still ongoing," DeBar wrote. "Rock slope protection (RSP) in Atascadero Creek is complete, but the contractor is continuing to rebuild the embankment behind and above the RSP and reinstall facilities required to be moved during construction."

For residents who live in the vicinity of the creek, work in the creek bed is long overdue. Resident Brian Broome told New Times that he hoped the city would do more to clear out the garbage left by homeless encampments in the creek bed.

"I hope they decide to make an effort to manage the land better," Broome said. "Yes there is plenty of garbage in the creek due to the storm and homeless living there, but the creek is full of dead trees and lacks root structures that would curb erosion. The city could do more to make the creek a healthy ecosystem."

DeBar explained that the city is allowed to perform limited maintenance of the creek, but regular cleanup efforts are difficult.

"Removal of vegetation, including fallen trees, within the creek is only allowable under permits granted by state and federal regulatory agencies," DeBar said. "Additionally, this section in particular is very difficult to access, being bordered by private residential properties and heavily vegetated."

But that doesn't mean that trash will stay in the creek. DeBar explained that the city is assessing what it would take to clean up the creek and is planning to consult with a biologist to determine how to proceed with cleanup efforts.

Dana Holland, a lifelong resident of Atascadero, told New Times that the city shouldn't approach cleanup and erosion mitigation in a piecemeal way.

"As the banks erode, you need to come through and do it all at once," Holland said. "And then make it a clean waterway and the people upstream wouldn't get flooded as much, ... but the whole thing is just cluttered up with debris, trees, bushes." Δ

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