Yesterday, the Helix Water District held the second in its series of stakeholder meetings for the El Monte Valley Project at 6:30pm at the Lakeside Christian Church on El Monte Road. The project seeks to recharge the District’s aquifer beneath the valley using treated wastewater purified with the Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) process–the same process that will be used in San Diego’s Water Purification Demonstration Project. The project will produce enough water to serve approximately 15% of the District’s total water demand.
The District introduced the project plan to valley residents and stakeholders last July 21 and promised to consult with them regularly. In addition, presentations have been made to a variety of groups throughout the county.
In addition to groundwater recharge with IPR water, the Helix plan envisions extensive riverbed restoration with native plants, public recreational space for hiking and equestrian use, and wildlife habitat. A portion of the valley previously zoned for mining will be tapped for sand and gravel which will be sold to help defray project expenses and to help re-contour the riverbed for the restoration.
Yesterday’s stakeholders meeting was to get feedback on the recreational space envisioned for the valley, in particular on design parameters for multi-use trails.
Principal Engineer Tim Smith discussing trail design
Attendees were seated at round tables with 3-7 persons per table. A large map of of the valley showing project components was provided for each table. Everybody was given a copy of initial trail design parameters based on the San Diego County Community Trails Master Plan specifications for rural trails, and they were asked to spend about 25 minutes discussing them and listing issues and concerns. Afterwards, a “captain” selected at each table gave a report on the table’s discussions.
The trail design handout called for multi-use trails on the north and south side of the valley, 6-10 ft. wide, with 2-5 river channel crossings. Trail material would be native soil. The trail would be fenced on the river side, with a slope less than 15%, and would be kept well away from project facilities.
Residents study map with District General Manager Mark Weston (second from the right).
Some issues came up repeatedly: potential conflict between equestrian and biking was a concern; many felt the trail should be wider so that two horses could pass in opposite directions comfortably; restroom facilities, staging areas, and security patrols were other common themes.
One person noted that many equestrian users come to the valley from other locations and they should be considered stakeholders as well. Another worried that planting near the river with riparian vegetation would create spots that could attract transients. Several people wondered who will maintain the trails?
A number of people began raising issues related to the project as a whole. A few people wanted the project to just go away and leave the valley alone. Concern about dust, noise, and traffic during construction was expressed. Someone worried that their property value would decrease because of the project. Many are unhappy that they will no longer be able to use their existing wells for drinking water (due to state regulations) and feel that it’s unfair they will have to purchase water from the District.
The valley is under attack from two sides and we can’t do anything about it, another person complained, saying that the Helix water project reconfigures the valley and riverbed on one hand, and on the other hand the Sunrise Powerlink electrical transmission lines planned for the valley will bring fire danger and visual blight.
In closing remarks, General Manager Mark Weston encouraged people to visit the District website for more details. He also announced that a November field trip is being planned to visit the Orange County advanced water treatment facility that will be the model for the plant to be used for this project. The trip may need to be deferred until early next year, though, unless enough people sign up for the tour.
For more information about the project, here’s the El Monte Valley Project website.
Also here’s my report describing the project and stakeholders meeting in July.