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Alternative proposed for controlling Pittman Wash erosion

Pittman Wash

Christopher DeVargas

Many signs are posted throughout the Pittman Wash to teach community members about the different plant and animal species that can be seen in the area.

Pittman Wash

Evelyn Gajowski of Project GREEN shows the path of the three mile wash on a city map. Launch slideshow »

Pittman Wash

The tug of war over the fate of the Pittman Wash in Henderson is nearing a resolution.

After more than a month of back-and-forth discussions between city officials and residents, meetings and walks through the wash, new ideas have emerged on how to deal with erosion problems.

At issue is a half-mile stretch of the natural flood channel from Arroyo Grande Boulevard west toward Valle Verde Drive. Run-off from storms has caused serious erosion, carrying sediments and large rocks downstream, threatening a sewer line and a railroad trestle along the wash.

The city initially planned to build a 40-foot wide by 10-foot deep concrete channel through the wash to control the erosion and protect nearby homes from floods.

But residents spoke out, collecting signatures and voicing concerns at City Council meetings about a project they worry will drastically alter the wash’s natural state.

“People in the neighborhood have a deep appreciation of the wash,” said Curt Chandler, president of Project Green. The local, non-profit group is charged with overseeing a three-mile stretch of Pittman Wash and has served as a liaison between the city and residents.

“People are concerned with what happens there. When the channel [issue] came up, it really upset some people,” Chandler said.

The $4.5 million channel project was supposed to be put out to bid in July, but resident opposition led the city back to the drawing board to find a more agreeable solution for erosion control.

The city has proposed two alternatives, and Project Green has several of its own. The City Council is expected to make a final decision Sept. 20.

“We’re very pleased that the city has been working so hard to come up with a viable solution that serves both of our interests,” Chandler said.

City officials and Project Green leaders met Wednesday night to discuss the alternatives. During the meeting, officials shared the results of independent engineering analyses of two options presented by Project Green.

The plans called for slowing water flow through the wash either by creating a series of elevation drops or putting in a gravel substrate topped by perforated concrete blocks.

Neither passed engineering muster, and city officials said they couldn’t recommend the plans.

Instead, a plan for what’s called an arch culvert has emerged as a leading possibility for compromise. The arch culvert functions much like the concrete channel originally proposed, but it would be built into the wash’s north bank and covered with dirt, rocks and natural vegetation.

The culvert would preserve the natural aesthetics and avoid disrupting a gurgling natural spring that would have been covered by the channel. The culvert will, however, cost about $700,000 more than the original project, which will be funded by the Regional Flood Control District.

Project Green will meet next week with its members and residents to discuss the options further and develop a strategy for going forward.

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