Creek Side

The creek on the county side, north of Russell Road, where neighbors say maintenance lags. Across the street, within city limits, the creek is wider and its banks are lined with rocks.

Dozens of sandbags, like a small barricade, are outside of several homes and garages on the low side of Paul Avenue in Bolsa Knolls in North Salinas. By Monday afternoon, Jan. 9, there is almost no trace of the flooding that covered several streets in the vicinity with murky water just a few hours earlier.

Lisa Wise, who has lived on Paul Avenue since 1992, says the flooding came after 8am and receded after noon. Wise knew about the evacuation order Monterey County officials issued only after the water was receding, but neither she nor her neighbors left. Instead, they stayed to clean out storm drains. “All of our neighbors are in their slickers out here, putting up sandbags and cleaning out the culverts and protecting each other’s property because no one else is doing it for us,” she says.

In December, water got into Wise’s garage and also flooded her backyard, moving playground equipment and a sandbox for the daycare she runs.

Neighbors say flooding in the area could be prevented with more cleaning and maintenance of Little Bear Creek.

The creek goes by different names on the county and city sides of Russell Road. It is Santa Rita Creek on the Salinas side and Little Bear Creek upriver to the north, on the county side. And it looks completely different in each jurisdiction: In Salinas, it looks wider and clearer; one side is covered with large rocks. On the county side, the creek is narrower and grass and vegetation grow on its banks. “You come on this side and it’s like a big jungle,” Wise says.

Francisco Maciel, who lives two doors down from Wise and is a teacher in Salinas, requested the day off to stay home and make sure his property was OK; his home is 4 feet below the street level, and he doesn’t have flood insurance. “I can’t afford $5,000; I have two kids in college,” he says.

Maciel and Wise say they are frustrated because no one is taking responsibility to maintain the creek. “We call the county, they tell us to call the city; then they tell us to call Public Works; then we get an answering machine,” Maciel says.

At a press conference about flooding preparation the day before, on Jan. 8, Monterey County Public Works Director Randell Ishii noted crews were out clearing ditches and culverts across the county.

“The county cleared culverts and drainage ditches that are under our maintenance both before and during this crisis,” says Monterey County Communications Coordinator Maia Carroll. “The creek runs through both private property and county property so it’s a complex issue.”

Both Wise and Maciel remember a time the creek was better maintained – trash removal, clearing of culverts – but they say that work stopped over 10 years ago. They are hoping newly sworn in County Supervisor Glenn Church, whose district includes North Salinas, will address the issue. Church was in the area helping residents prepare for the upcoming storm.

“It has made a difference [in the past],” Maciel says. “So if somebody cleans out the creek I guarantee we will have less flooding.”

(2) comments

Marc Del Piero

The run-off into Littler Bear Creek was increased by the development of the subdivision on the southeast corner of the intsection of San Juan Grade and Rogge Roads. Even with the stormwater improvements, the runoff from the impervious surfaces has permanently increased the surface flows into the creek. When that increase in urban runoff is coupled with the failure (over the past 20 years) to clean out the creek, the flooding of innocent down-stream homeowners is guaranteed. The true price of new subdivisions, allowed to be developed without adequate infrastructure and without adequate fees being charged to developers, is paid for by

unsuspecting neighbors or the county's taxpayers.

Robin Lee

Much of the flooding in Bolsa Knolls is caused by runoff from up stream strawberry fields and bare fields without cover crops. The strawberry fields are full of plastic which causes the rain to flash off. The farmers are not using best management practices to help alleviate this. The small project byFerassi Park brought back a very small portion of the flood plain which spreads and slows the high flows. Several similar projects are needed as up stream. Cover crops also help to infiltrate the rain helping ro slow the runoff.

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