$500 million wastewater project planned in Lakeside

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While Lakesiders have been wrestling with the El Monte San Mining Project and, to a lesser extent, the Food-Scraps-to-Energy Project set for Moreno Valley, a third major project planned for the community is quietly winding its way through the process.

The East County Advanced Water Purification Project is currently in the midst of its required 30-day public comment period for their Draft Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration. The deadline for public input is Oct. 15, a date fast approaching for a major plan that could impact Lakeside for years to come.

While Lakesiders have been wrestling with the El Monte San Mining Project and, to a lesser extent, the Food-Scraps-to-Energy Project set for Moreno Valley, a third major project planned for the community is quietly winding its way through the process.

The East County Advanced Water Purification Project is currently in the midst of its required 30-day public comment period for their Draft Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration. The deadline for public input is Oct. 15, a date fast approaching for a major plan that could impact Lakeside for years to come.

The project is a partnership between the Padre Dam Municipal Water District (the lead agency), the Helix Water District, the County of San Diego and the City of El Cajon. The purpose is to create “a new local, sustainable, and drought-proof water supply using state-of-the-art technology.”

In plain words, the idea is to recycle our wastewater to supplement local reserves and reduce our dependence on imported water. The plan sounds simple enough: a new plant would be built near Santee Lakes and recycled water “conveyed” through Lakeside (and part of the El Monte Valley) to be deposited into Lake Jennings for storage until needed.

The Padre Dam District has been busy sending out letters to jurisdictional agencies, interested organizations and individuals, and holding public meetings throughout the affected communities.

A team from Padre Dam, led by Project Engineer Mark Niemiec, made its most recent stop at the monthly meeting of the Lakeside Community Planning Group on Oct. 3.

The purpose was purely to share information; no vote was necessary or taken by the board members. And while no one at the Planning Board was noticeably against this project, some attendees were stinging at the feeling that Lakeside was being unfairly targeted for large land use projects and taken advantage of once again.

There seemed little concern at the meeting about the technology of recycling and making the water safe to use, which was the major sticking point years ago when the City of San Diego tried to push out their “Toilet-to-Tap” project.

That plan failed.

The concern of the day was more how the construction of the pipeline would impact Lakeside and Lake Jennings.

The Advanced Water Purification Project proposes to upgrade and expand certain existing sites, then build a number of new plants to deal with cleansing the water and moving it to Lake Jennings. A new underground pipeline is to be installed, 24 inches in diameter and almost 11 miles long. The proposed path would take it through Santee (down Mast Boulevard), then under Riverside Drive once it enters Lakeside. It will have to cross the San Diego River at some point, under Highway 67 to Vine (west of El Capitan High School) and then on to Mapleview Street. The line will continue east to the end of Mapleview (it will not be built under Lake Jennings Park Road), past Hanson’s Pond and trail, to El Monte Road. There, it will continue on to conclude at the old El Monte Pump Station (which is to be demolished). After pausing at a new dechlorination station to be built there, the water will be piped over the hill (possibly using a historic flume tunnel and its original facade) and into Lake Jennings. A new cascading water feature is planned for the lake inlet at Half Moon Cove.

The initial study has already identified a dozen potential negative environmental impacts for the project, from air quality to excessive noise to accidental exposure to hazardous materials. Other significant effects could include adverse impacts to “special status” species, historic and archeological resources, tribal cultural resources and potential conflicts with land use and habitat conservation plans.

However, Padre Dam feels that, with their planned mitigation measures, “the project will not have a significant effect on the environment that cannot be mitigated to a level of insignificance.”

The two-year project will cost about $500 million.

There is no set timeline, but the target start date is planned for 2022.

Several concerns were raised by the community members in attendance at the Planning Group meeting.

Janis Shackelford of the Lindo Lake Subcommittee wanted to know if any of the purified water coming through town could be used for Lindo Lake (the answer was no).

Betty McMillen of the Lakeside Historical Society was against the proposed demo of the El Monte Pump Station. She argued the historic building from the 1930s could be adaptively reused, with any new facility built on a different part of the property. In fact, the Helix Water District recently met with the Historical Society to discuss possibilities with the old pump house. Nothing has been yet decided.

Another concern mentioned was the conflict that would arise between the Water Purification Project and the El Monte San Mining Project. Were both to be approved, work on both would be simultaneous. Sand transport trucks in and out of the valley would drive through heavy road construction on both El Monte Road and Mapleview Street. The impact could be dangerous and nightmarish for the community.

Several members of the Planning Group expressed concern for the safety of the public at Jennings and the impact on the fish stocked in the lake. Niemiec and his team pointed out that Lake Jennings was a water storage reservoir first, but that the purified water would not impact fish.

The comment period is closing soon. Letters must be postmarked by Oct. 15, 2018. Emails must be in on the same date, by 5:00 p.m.

Responses should be sent to:

ADDRESS:

Mark Niemiec, P.E.

Padre Dam Municipal Water District

9300 Fanita Parkway

P.O. Box 719003

Santee, CA 92072-9003

EMAIL: mniemiec@padre.org

More information, including maps, diagrams and photographs, can be found online at: www.padredam.org/99/Public-Notices. Hard copies of the project can be reviewed at the following public libraries: Lakeside, El Cajon, Fletcher Hills, and Santee.

The next step in the process will be the Final Mitigated Negative Declaration, which will incorporate any public input received during this open period. That document will be considered at a future public meeting.

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