Stormwater Project FAQ

Stormwater Project FAQ

The County of Santa Cruz ("County") has secured grant funding for the construction of a pump station with the goal of alleviating issues resulting from frequent flooding and rainfall ponding in the Rio Del Mar Flats area. In order to obtain the funding, the County must provide a funding solution for the ongoing operation and maintenance services for the pump station. The County is considering forming an assessment district as an ongoing source of funding for operation and maintenance. In an effort to adequately inform the residents of Santa Cruz about this process, CivicMic provides answers to the most commonly asked questions through the Stormwater Project FAQ below.

 

Stormwater Project FAQ

 

A: The area floods due to the development occurring on a historic floodplain and the current drainage system's inability to drain to Aptos Creek when the river levels are high.

Additionally, the existing gravity flow stormwater drainage system has inadequate conveyance, due to the neighborhood’s topography (gentle sloping) which results in low flow velocities.

The drainage from the Rio Del Mar Flats releases into Aptos Creek near the western edge of the Esplanade parking lot through two pipes. These two pipes are at different elevations, and when water levels in Aptos Creek are higher than these pipes (which is most often the case during and after rainfall events for the lower pipe), the streets in the area do not drain. Additionally, the limited conveyance is also made worse from sediment and vegetative debris accumulation in the pipes.

A: Breaching the sandbar will not solve the flooding issues. The majority of the flooding occurs in response to rainfall events when creek levels are above the drainage outlet pipe described in the answer to the previous question. High tides and ocean storm surge can also cause the area to flood.

The beach, creek channel, and sandbar are the responsibility of State Parks. Due to environmental reasons and associated permitting issues, State Parks are not able to breach the mouth of Aptos Creek.

A: The proposed project will significantly increase the conveyance capacity of the stormwater drainage system by disconnecting releases to Aptos Creek during anticipated flooding events up to the approximate 10-year event. Stormwater will be pumped to an underground outlet located near the beach in a small vegetated area, which is approximately 100 feet east of the beach bathrooms.

The project will also reduce emergency response during flooding events and reduce pollution discharges to the creek where the fish habitat and water quality are a concern.

A: It is not possible to gravity drain into the creek with traditional drainage pipes reliably. It would be possible to pump and force discharge (or pump over) into the creek, although, for various reasons, it is less advantageous. There are hydraulic conditions that occur where water discharged to the creek could return to the neighborhood. This project reconfigures those conditions to work less problematically and with greater reliability. A new outfall away from the creek channel was preferred for additional reasons, such as jurisdictional land ownership, permitting hurdles, environmental restrictions, pollutant loads, failing infrastructure, history, and risk of repetitive damages, among others.

A: Flood insurance is based on several factors such as flood risk, the number of claims filed on a particular property, the age of a structure, and the design of the structure. The proposed project only addresses flooding up the 10-year event, and flood insurance is typically required for properties in the 100-year floodplain. So the requirement for flood insurance will not be eliminated by the project. However, a reduction in the frequency of flooding may have an effect on insurance rates and may also reduce the chance of cancellation of flood insurance policies. Since individual policies differ, it’s recommended that property owners contact their insurance company about their particular situation.

A: FEMA and other State agencies have awarded approximately $4.2M for the construction of the project. The remaining construction funds will come from development impact fees that have already been collected and some limited roadway funding.

A: Although Public Works staff have been able to secure funding for the construction from Federal and State sources, there is not a funding source to pay for the ongoing yearly maintenance and operations of the pump system and associated facilities. The project will provide new protections to the community of the Rio Del Mar Flats area. Therefore, the community is being asked to pay for the ongoing maintenance and operations costs.

A: The community will have a chance to vote on the assessment. If the community votes against the assessment, the project will not be constructed and the construction grant money will be declined.

A: The assessments will be applied to each property’s annual tax bill starting in 2022/2023. If the assessment is approved, design documents will be completed and the project will be put out to competitive bid. Construction would start in early 2022.

A: The current estimated cost is approximately $121,000.

A: Property owners can click on their specific parcel on the map shown on https://www.civicmic.com/county-of-santa-cruz/#RioDelMarFlatsWebMap to determine their specific assessment amount.

In general, for residential properties which do not flood, but will have access benefits the assessment is $125/year. For single-family residential properties with property flooding and access benefits, the range is ~$250-$375/year. For non-single-family residential properties with property flooding and access benefits, the range is ~$295-$1,125/year.

A: The maximum cost escalation would be the lesser of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or a 2.5% per year cap. This allows adjustment for inflation and keeps the assessment close to a constant value over time, helping assure that adequate maintenance can continue to be achieved to deliver the benefits.

A: A new paid parking program in the area would have to be approved by the California Coastal Commission, and they are not in favor of new paid parking programs. Additionally, parking programs have costs to operate and barely fund themselves. Smaller parking programs such as the size of the Esplanade parking area would be difficult to operate and break-even financially.

A: The County does have a responsibility for the area, however, the County would opt not to build the project since there is not a funding source for the ongoing maintenance. Creating new infrastructure without proper funding creates new liabilities and can worsen existing problems.

A: The varying flood benefit was assigned to the three lowest even-numbered elevations (tiers, 14’, 16’, 18’) and is based on the existing available topography data set. If your parcel of land (not the structure) exceeded a minimum of 15% coverage by that specific lower elevation, then a corresponding flood benefit is assessed. This parcel method was chosen because it relates directly to land damages and avoids the difficulty of obtaining and maintaining data on private structure elevations.

A: Although surrounding neighbors may be contributors to a problem, the voter-approved Proposition 218 law only allows those receiving special benefits to be assessed. While that may seem disproportionate to some, keep in mind that the construction of the project ($4.8M) is paid for by development impacts fees as well as Federal and State grants which include taxes and fees collected from those well beyond the special assessment area. 

A: The flooding that does occur impedes safe access (in and/or out) to quite a few properties that do not flood. When considering access availability, the established legal patterns of access along paved routes was the criteria evaluated. If you are assessed access benefits, that access is affected by flooding. The access issue applies to property users and to various services provided to those properties, including emergency services.

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