Ian Anderson 4 p.m., Oct. 17
Council faced with decision on dredging in Tijuana River Valley
Five months after a Superior Court Judge ruled that the City of San Diego failed to conduct proper environmental review for dredging in the Tijuana River Valley, the City continues to drag its feet to settle the case.
Meanwhile ranchers, residents, and livestock living in the valley remain unprotected against flooding. Flooding in Tijuana River Valley has been issue for a number of years, especially since natural flood plains were diverted during the construction of a border fence. In 2008, more than a dozen goats and horses drowned after high waters breached the levee.
Tomorrow, during a closed session meeting, city councilmembers and the City Attorney will decide whether put it behind them and accept a settlement agreement from San Diegans for Open Government, the group that filed the lawsuit in November 2011.
The group filed its lawsuit after city councilmembers ordered for the removal of 30,000 cubic yards of trash and sediment from the valley without proper environmental review.
The judge ruled that the City had "abused its discretion by moving forward with channel clearing work in 2010 under a permit that was issued under invalid premises."
"Here, the law is clear: if there is substantial evidence, in light of the whole record, that the Project may have a significant effect on the environment, then an [environmental impact report] is required even if there is evidence on the other side of the equation," read Judge Timothy Taylor's May 4 decision.
And now, as the trash and sediment accumulates in the Tijuana Valley, city councilmembers have the chance to put the lawsuit behind them once and for all and accept the settlement offer.
The agreement will force the City to complete short-term maintenance activities, including the restoration of the surrounding habitat, by February 13. In addition, the City must obtain all environmental permits before proceeding on any long-term maintenance plans for the Smuggler's Gulch flood-control channel.
On top of that, the City will agree to pay $317,529 in lawyer's fees to Brigg's Law Corporation. Once that is received, San Diegans for Open Government would then donate $75,000 to the City to begin work in the valley.
Ian Trowbridge, co-chair of San Diegans for Open Government, however, isn't convinced the City will accept those terms.
"The City doesn't seem to realize what a risk it will be if they reject it. [San Diegans for Open Government] gave them every opportunity to meet with us but they never responded," said Trowbridge during an October 7 phone interview.
"And, unfortunately the residents of the Tijuana River Valley will be subject to any flooding that might occur. If it does occur, it will not only have an affect on property values but could result in loss of livestock; hopefully not a loss of human life."
The city council will announce their decision at a hearing tomorrow at 9am.