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On Friday, October 9, in order to minimize the risk of a repeat of last mid-December's devastating flooding in the Tijuana River Valley, the City of San Diego Stormwater Management Department began removing tons of sediment, trash, and debris that were clogging the valley's flood-control channels.

The project focuses on the pilot channel, which drains floodwaters directly to the ocean. It also includes the clearing of the area known as Smuggler's Gulch channel and the northern channel near Dairy Mart Road. These areas have not been cleared since 2003.

Work will also be done to rebuild portions of a 400-foot-long flood-control berm just east of the Hollister Bridge. The city is worried that a possible El Niño weather pattern could bring heavy winter rains. Last year, even without an El Niño, ranches, stables, and farms in this area were flooded. No human lives were lost, but four horses and a dozen goats were swept away and drowned by fast-moving floodwaters. Illegal immigrants caught up in the deluge had to be pulled to safety.

Mayor Jerry Sanders and council president Ben Hueso were able to cut through red tape to get emergency permits from the Army Corps of Engineers to get the work expedited.

"For many San Diegans, an El Niño winter may just be a winter and a welcome relief from the brutal drought,” said Mayor Sanders at the press conference. “But folks who live in this beautiful estuary know that a downpour means something else, the potential for dangerous flooding.”

Civil engineers point to the federal government’s new berm across Smuggler's Gulch and the southern slopes of the valley that had undergone extensive earthworks to install secondary border fencing as a major contributor to the flooding. Homeland Security officials had waived the environmental regulations to expedite construction of the fencing.

For this project, the city can spend up to $4.4 million to clear the clogged flood channels in the area. Barring any major rainstorms, the work is scheduled to be completed in the next 70 days under an emergency declaration issued by the city council last month. However, all work has to stop by February, when endangered bird species such as the light-footed clapper rail begin their nesting and hatching season.

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