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Public Policy Newsletter Article

San Diego City Council Committee Considers Future Funding for Storm Water Infrastructure

  • 2021-01-28T16:00:00.000+0000
  • Author: Melanie Cohn

At Thursday’s Environment Committee meeting of the San Diego City Council, staff presented a bleak outlook for the city’s storm water infrastructure. A 2018 audit identified this infrastructure as the largest deferred maintenance backlog of any asset type in the city. At the time, the audit found that $891 million was needed to keep up with infrastructure needs and water quality standards over the next five years. Only $433 million in funding had been identified, however, leaving a gap of about $458 million, which has only grown in the last three years. The audit recommended that the city develop a long-term funding strategy for storm water, which became due this month.

City staff shared the various challenges currently faced by storm water budget shortfalls – potential flooding and sink holes, damage to waterways and the ocean, claims and litigation, and road closures to name a few. Current funding options are limited; storm water is currently supported by general fund and allocations have decreased while funding needs have increased. City staff concluded by proposing that the city pursue development of a long-term, dedicated funding mechanism via ballot measure.

Biocom California staff shared the challenges our members in Sorrento Valley face as a result of lagging storm channel maintenance. We have been engaged on this issue for many years – anytime there is so much as a minor rain event, our member companies, particularly along Roselle Street, are threatened with major water intrusion. Businesses in this area have invested millions in flood prevention measures, and all the same they continue to monitor rain levels that can overtake flood barriers and threaten electrical systems.

The city has a plan to address flooding through restoration of the Los Peñasquitos Lagoon, which will require major funding and multiple permitting efforts. This funding could be allocated through a potential ballot measure. Committee members agreed on a path forward – the city will develop an expenditure plan and funding mechanism for a potential ballot measure and conduct stakeholder outreach and public surveys around the measure, with those findings to be presented at city council in July. The committee members voted 3-1 to advance this path forward to city council for its meeting on February 9th.

While Biocom California does not have a position on this proposed measure yet (and wouldn’t take a position until ballot language is finalized), we are encouraged by the prospect of additional funding to address chronic flooding issues faced by our members in Sorrento Valley and will continue to monitor this issue and provide input as it moves forward this year.