County, City Struggle With Storm Inlet, Drain Maintenance Amid El Nino

Homeowners concerned ahead of El Nino storms

During the January storms, the McGuire family watched as a mung-hued sludge bubbled onto their property, slowly turning their tennis court into a lake.

It’s a problem homeowner Don McGuire says he’s noticed for years.

“It comes down through the valley. It comes right here in front of my property, and then starts filling up at the corner of my tennis court,” McGuire described. “It starts overflowing onto my property.”

Residents near the clogged storm water culvert at El Camino Real and Rancho del Madison say the storm inlet hasn’t been cleared in years. Data obtained by NBC 7 from San Diego County appears to confirm their observation.

With more heavy winter rains on the way, homeowners in the area are concerned.

“Nobody comes to clean it up, so it’s really a problem and it’s going to be an even bigger problem when it starts flooding,” said neighbor Pam Farb.

NBC 7 reviewed data provided by the County of San Diego of some 2,500 culverts and found hundreds of inlets listed as needing repair and cleaning. Many of those storm pipes in the Rancho Santa Fe area have been listed as needing service for years.

Meantime, the City of San Diego has more than 20 storm inlets and pipes red flagged as urgently in need of repair or cleaning or both, an effort city consultants estimate will cost more than $500,000. Almost all of those drains are corrugated metal piping like the one that badly damaged several homes in Cabaret block of San Carlos last fall.

A city spokesman said thanks to concerns about El Nino, the Storm Water Department has been able to get more work done in the last few months than in perhaps the past decade.

In response to NBC 7 questions about the inlet at El Camino Real and Rancho del Madison near Rancho Santa Fe, a county crew went out and inspected the area. A county spokeswoman said the inlet would be cleaned up by Friday.

“While our crews maintain nearly 19,000 inlets every year, it is possible for growth or debris to block those facilities in between scheduled maintenance,” Alex Bell, a county communications officer, wrote in an email to NBC 7.

Bell said the county wants to encourage the public to contact the county and report blocked storm drain channels and culverts.

“The sooner we are made aware of an issue, the sooner we can get out there to fix it,” she wrote.

Residents can call (877) 684-8000 during business hours or (858) 565-5262 any time to report issues in the unincorporated county. There is also an online form available.

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