On Monday, February 11, city crews are expected to begin dredging sediment and garbage from the drainage channel that originates at Smuggler’s Gulch and runs north, into the heart of the Tijuana River Valley. The inundations often flood Monument Road, about a mile from the end of the city road.
The river channel at the Hollister Street bridge will also be dredged; many acres south and east of the bridge are among the flood plain's lower spots. The narrow and fragile old bridge traverses the river and is one of two key entry points into the valley. The area flooded in 2008 and 2010, trapping horses and livestock on the ranches located there. Before the 2008 flood was over, the San Diego Fire Department's Swift Water Rescue Team had rescued a half dozen people.
The dredging project comes after the city and lawyer Cory Briggs waged court battles over the permit process. Residents and ranchers pushed hard for the dredging.
"We're just grateful they're going ahead with it, and we hope they get it done before we have any flooding," said John Gabaldon, president of the Tijuana River Valley Equestrian Association and a valley rancher. "My perception is that the viable businesses there provide a lot of value and deserve to be protected. We think the city has an obligation to keep the channels clear."
Briggs had sued the city over how it issued itself a permit to dredge without what he calls “a properly done environmental review." Briggs said the superior court agreed there were problems with the permit and told the city to start over last fall. But all parties worked out an agreement in October to let the city dredge the two critical spots.
"The [Tijuana River Valley Equestrian Association] people who were there applauded," Briggs said. "And then the city did nothing for three and a half months."
The dredging has to be finished by February 15, when the light-footed clapper rail (a bird) mating season begins.