Henderson, Project GREEN take a walk on the wash

In the 105-degree heat, Henderson city officials and members of Project Green Valley Ecology, Environment and Nature treaded along Pittman Wash Trail , discussing the current problems and potential solutions.

The Aug. 4 walk was the third time in a week that the entities had connected to try to find common ground about how to treat the erosion problem at the bottom of the wash.

“The city of Henderson staff is out here in long sleeves and shirts,” said Mark Van Der Puy, a former hydrologist who has worked alongside Project GREEN. “That tells me it wasn’t a done deal. They actually are open to getting public input. I couldn’t be more pleased.”

Members of Project GREEN, backed by a petition signed by more than 700 residents , had been arguing against the city’s proposal to put a 40-foot-wide, 10-foot deep concrete channel at the bottom of the wash to prevent erosion.

The city is using a technique called riprap lining, which places large rocks at the bottom of the channel, as a temporary solution.

Bud Cranor, a spokesman with the city , said minor storms have washed the large rocks away, forcing city employees to reset them.

Cranor said erosion also has exposed a sewer and gas line .

“We had a situation many years a go where a sewer line ruptured and there was discharge into the wash,” Cranor said. “We want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

The concrete channel, if chosen, would be the city’s long-term solution.

The Public Works Department made presentations on alternative solutions to Project GREEN on Aug. 1 and the City Council on Aug. 2 .

Evelyn Gajowski, the educational outreach coordinator for Project GREEN, said the organization gave the city two options to study: adding a gabion structure that would carry seasonal flows and allow maintenance access; or an articulated concrete block, which is a mat installed on the banks and bottom of the channel that would work with vegetation to slow water velocity and prevent erosion.

“I stress looking for a balanced solution,” Gajowski said, “a solution that balances hard engineering with the environmental perspective. I think we are moving in that direction.”

Robert Murnane, director of public works with the city, said he is optimistic about the interactions he has had with Project GREEN.

“We need to take a very serious look at all the options,” Murnane said

The $4.5 million project, which would run 1,800 feet between the Union Pacific Railroad and Santiago Drive, would be funded by the Regional Flood Control District as long as the project meets criteria such as handling a 100-year flood.

“The riprap solution will not hold it up, so they would not fund something like that,” Murnane said.

The decision to move forward has been placed on hold until all solutions from both sides are considered .

“Flood C ontrol said as long as we are working toward a solution, they will keep the funding in place for us,” Murnane said.

During the walk, Robert Herr, assistant director of public works, said a permanent solution is cost-effective over time because it costs the public works department money to repair damage every time a storm happens.

By the time the groups reached the end of the walk near Arroyo Grande Boulevard, both sides had a better understanding of the other .

“I think they understood the system we are working with,” Van Der Puy said. “We might call it a spring, we might call it ground water. Either way, avoiding the semantics, we all agree there is a water flow, and the city committed to keep as much of that water flow down there as possible.”

Project GREEN members also were concerned about the future of the ecosystem at the bottom of the wash.

“This alternative will result in a lot of disturbance of the vegetation, and the city seems committed to providing opportunity to re-vegetate,” Van Der Puy said. “The impact is we lose half the stream we enjoy now, but the benefit is we get to keep some of it. What’s left won’t be subjected to constant construction work by the city trying to make repairs to the wash. We could wind up with an area undisturbed. It might be a smaller area, but at least it is undisturbed.”

Gajowski said members of Project GREEN were supposed to meet after the walk to discuss the new options .

An update on the project is scheduled for 7 p.m. today at the City Council meeting at City Hall, 240 S. Water St.

Contact Henderson and Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 387-5201.

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