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River dredging project gets approval

Posted: October 9th, 2015 | News, Top Stories | No Comments

By Ken Williams | Editor

The City Council has approved a new dredging project to remove 3,000 cubic yards of sediment from the San Diego River just east of the state Route 163 overpass in Mission Valley.

“The purpose of the dredging project is to remove sediment discharged into the river from the four drainage culverts on the north side of the river in order to restore capacity,” said Jeff Powell, communications director for Councilmember Scott Sherman.

The Mission Valley dredging site is marked in red. (Courtesy of San Diego River Park Foundation)

The Mission Valley dredging site is marked in red. (Courtesy of San Diego River Park Foundation)

The council executed a second amendment to a long-standing contract with Dudek & Associates to provide environmental services associated with the First San Diego River Improvement Project (FSDRIP). Dudek will be paid $95,960 for this portion of the contract.

“We are currently working on mitigation issues and do not have a set start date,” a Public Works official said. “The work will take approximately two months to complete.”

The west end of Hazard Center Road (Photo by Ken Williams)

The west end of Hazard Center Road
(Photo by Ken Williams)

Access to the project site provides a small challenge, as the dredge will be craned into the river from the crossing on Mission Center Road. Access will be from Hazard Center Drive, where it dead-ends just before the SR163.

During a recent hike on the concreted north trail near the project site, weeds, thick brush and trees blocked clear views of the river. The elevated trolley track looms overhead. Hal Simons, a senior citizen who lives in Mission Valley, was one of only two people seen hiking along the trail during lunchtime. He said he walks about 5 miles round-trip on the trail almost every day, and welcomes the cleanup project.

According to city officials, no additional environmental impacts outside of the dredging operations are expected. The sediment will be hauled away and properly disposed of at an approved facility, the Public Works official said.

Rob Hutsel, executive director of the San Diego River Park Foundation, said the nonprofit would monitor the situation.

Dregdging will take place along the San Diego River (Photo by Ken Williams)

Dregdging will take place along the San Diego River (Photo by Ken Williams)

“We will follow this project and look for any impacts from a watchdog role,” he said. “That is, if something doesn’t look right, we will ask questions. Our river monitoring program — RiverWatch — is available to conduct water quality monitoring to further investigate any concerns that might arise.”

Hutsel said the foundation is not expecting the project to set off any alarms, though.

“My understanding is that when doing some analysis of the depth of the river in FSDRIP, they found a shallow spot,” he said. “Therefore, its removal will increase the capacity of that portion of the river to carry higher flow.

“We don’t expect any problems with the removal. Of course, if there is significant rain and associated river flow during the dredging, it could lead to issues. However, any are likely to be short in duration. Dredging could improve water quality by removing decomposed matter in the dredging area, it could also stir this up, which could impact water quality,” Hutsel said.

Dudek and the city entered into an agreement on May 19, 2006 to provide environmental services involving the FSDRIP. The original contract was for $70,450 and the first amendment approved on May 5, 2010 was for $39,305.

The FSDRIP covers a 7,000-foot section of the San Diego River from Qualcomm Way west to SR 163. This is the mitigation site for a 100-year flood control project in 1988 and funding through an agreement with property owners who stand to benefit from flood control.

“The mitigation required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, under the Federal Clean Water Act, included replanting and permanently preserving natural riparian and upland habitat values impacted during construction of flood control improvements. Specifically, 26.8 acres of riparian woodland, 9.7 acres of freshwater marsh, and 8.7 acres of open water are required to be maintained in perpetuity with the limits of the FSDRIP,” according to a city document.

To learn more about the FSDRIP online, visit

Ken Williams is editor of Mission Valley News and San Diego Uptown News and can be reached at or at 619-961-1952. Follow him on Twitter at @KenSanDiego, Instagram at @KenSD or Facebook at KenWilliamsSanDiego.

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