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Planners approve work on sewer tunnel repair

South Coast Water District made changes to the project after residents raised concerns about potential noise and traffic.

December 19, 2013|By Bryce Alderton

Laguna Beach planning commissioners approved a portion of the South Coast Water District's project to repair a deteriorating 2-mile-long underground tunnel that houses a sewer pipe in South Laguna.

The commission voted unanimously at its Dec. 11 meeting to approve the conditional use permit and coastal development permit for the portion of the project that is within Laguna Beach's local coastal zone.

A portion of the project under Three Arch Bay (4,140 feet) still needs Coastal Commission approval, though the district can proceed with the rest of the project while awaiting the commission's response, district spokesman Steve Greyshock said.

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The nearly 60-year-old tunnel runs parallel to South Coast Highway from Three Arch Bay north to Aliso Beach Park and handles 1 million gallons of sewage daily from Dana Point and South Laguna, according to the district.

Commissioners affirmed the district's changes, made in response to residents' concerms raised at the last public meeting in October regarding potential noise, dust and traffic.

"I'm glad the water district has addressed the noise and they are working with the contractors on emission controls," Commissioner Linda Dietrich said. "I'm very impressed with the efforts the district has taken to work with the neighbors and protect them as much as possible in a really challenging situation."

The district will erect sound walls surrounding a staging area at Fourth Avenue and South Coast Highway. The walls will be 12-feet-tall in some spots, while a small part of a side facing Virginia Way will have 12-foot beams with a 10-foot wall.

The district, has also requested that construction vehicles enter the staging area from Fourth Avenue or South Coast Highway, not Virginia Way.

Caltrans must still approve the revised traffic pattern, a city staff report said.

Commissioners agreed with the district's proposal to align a portion of the pipeline under the oceanside bluffs at Three Arch Bay and not add to a portion scheduled to go under South La Senda Drive.

Bud Smull, a resident on South La Senda Drive, suggested in the fall the district align a greater portion of the pipeline under the street rather than under the ocean bluffs at Three Arch Bay, as the district desires.

Smull, who hired a geotechnical engineer to study bluff stability, claimed moving more of the pipeline under South La Senda Drive would make it less likely a sewage spill would reach the ocean.

Planning Commissioner Ken Sadler supported the district's proposal.

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