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A sponge for Oceano's flooding?

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DRYING OUT? :  After decades of flooding on Highway 1 in Oceano, SLO County officials believe they might bring various government agencies together to fix the problem. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • DRYING OUT? : After decades of flooding on Highway 1 in Oceano, SLO County officials believe they might bring various government agencies together to fix the problem.

Could it be? Might someone finally take responsibility and fix the flooding on Highway 1 in Oceano?

Maybe.

Given the long history of annual flooding without action, “maybe” is about as strong a statement as anyone can hope for.

“It’s a little bit early to get excited,” said Oceano Community Services District General Manager Raffaele Montemurro, “but we’re very enthusiastic.”

Flooding in the area has long turned a small portion of Highway 1 into a pond that chokes off traffic during nearly every substantial rain. Given that the flood area encompasses land under control of about six government entities, no one has ever volunteered to take responsibility for the standing water. In fact, former Oceano Nursery owner Bill Bookout is prepared to take a lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court (he recently lost an appeal to the California Supreme Court) because he claims the flooding can be easily blamed on Caltrans crews clogging a drainage channel with debris.

Recently, however, San Luis Obispo County Public Works officials have come to believe they can get folks from Caltrans and the SLO County Council of Governments (SLOCOG) to help with funding, so long as the county takes the lead.

“At this point we’re just trying to work with the various agencies to see if there is some kind of funding and initiative to move forward,” Deputy Director of Public Works Dave Flynn said.

But such a move won’t come cheap. According to Flynn, the project is estimated to cost $2.2 million. At the moment, the idea is to drill a new drainage pipe under Union Pacific’s railroad tracks and divert water to open space areas near the Oceano Airport.

Flynn said Caltrans officials have indicated they might help with about a third of the funding if the county leads the project, and SLOCOG officials are leaning the same way, with a meeting scheduled in the next few weeks. Public Works officials plan to place the project on a list to receive money from the county’s Community Development Block Grant program, but that might only provide a few hundred thousand dollars, Flynn said.

“It’s a chronic issue that has been this thing of whose headache is it?” Flynn said.

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