City Plans Creek Erosion Project

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By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent

Laguna Beach is scheduled to break ground in March on a $797,000 construction project intended to prevent further erosion along a stretch of the Laguna Canyon Channel that runs in front of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) and Laguna Beach Animal Shelter.

Additionally, Riverside-based contractor James McMinn, Inc. will build a retaining wall, install landscaping, and reconstruct the pedestrian bridge used to access the animal shelter. The city expects the work to be completed within six months, Shohreh Dupuis, assistant city manager and director of public works, wrote in a prepared statement.

“City staff has been aware of erosion issues at this location for several years during each rainy season and has made temporary repairs to this section of the creek each time it has sustained storm-related damage,” Dupuis wrote. “The proposed improvements will now provide permanent repairs needed to prevent future damage to the creek.”

City engineers decided to rebuild the Animal Shelter’s pedestrian bridge because the existing structure is not long enough to span the future creek width, Dupuis said.

Animal Shelter employee Kathleen Sherwood on the pedestrian bridge rebuilt after the December 2010 flood. Photo by Mitch Ridder.

A consulting biologist will monitor the construction of the erosion control project and instruct the contractor on how to proceed if sensitive wildlife species are identified.

The Laguna Beach City Council approved city staffers’ request to transfer about $78,000 from the Summit Drive Storm Drain Improvements account to help pay for construction, inspections, engineering, biological monitoring, and other costs related to the Laguna Canyon Channel erosion project.

PMMC was inundated during a Dec. 22, 2010 flood when Laguna Creek overflowed following six days of precipitation. Three marine mammals—a sea lion and two elephant seals—were rescued after about 4 feet of water penetrated the center’s barn.

Former TV game show host and animal rights activist Bob Barker donated $250,000 to help rebuild the facility in 2011.

“We’re supportive of a project that would prevent that from happening again,” said Jeff Meberg, chairman of PMMC’s Board of Directors.

The project will be essential for protecting PMMC’s planned water treatment plant, three new animal rehabilitation pools, and a 2,150-square-foot, two-story building it plans to share with the Animal Shelter. Based on the construction plans that the city has shared so far, PMMC is confident the project will be successful, Meberg said.

The channel in front of PMMC appears to have held up well during the storms that soaked Orange County last month, Meberg said.

The Animal Shelter also had to undergo a $669,000 renovation following the December 2010 flood. Those repairs were possible because of $587,000 in private donations, along with a $100,000 insurance payment.

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