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Drain plans finally move ahead

Published 8/20/2009 on Press-Telegram

LONG BEACH: Residents view the long-awaited final design for a system to alleviate flooding.

LONG BEACH – After nearly 20 years of haggling,
disputes, a court case, designs, redesigns and Environmental Impact
Reports, the long-awaited Termino Avenue Drain Project is nearing the
finish line. Or, more accurately, the start line. 

On Wednesday, a couple of dozen community
members from Belmont Heights, Alamitos Heights, Recreation Park and
neighborhoods around Wilson High and to the north and west got a chance
to look at the latest and final plans for the project that will
alleviate flooding in the area and decrease the flow of polluted runoff
water into Colorado Lagoon.

The project is slated to begin in October near Marine
Stadium and will take two or more years to complete, with occasional
street closures and other traffic effects.

But for the residents at Wednesday's meeting, the changes can't come soon enough.

was Anne Bielucke, who lives in the 1200 block of Termino. She has
dealt with flood waters at her house that have ruined her cars and

Or her daughter Maryanne Gibbons, who keeps newspaper
clippings and a large framed photo of the deadly effects of a flood in
1995 that contributed to the death of a former Long Beach fire chief
whom rescuers had trouble reaching while he was dying.

Or Yolanda Verrecchia of the Recreation Park Neighborhood
Coalition, who says she was part of the group that started the drive
for the drainage system at its inception.

"This has been 20 years in the making,"

4th District Councilman Patrick O'Donnell, who represents neighborhoods
along the north portions of the project, which will run in roughly a Y
shape from Redondo Avenue and Termino Avenue and Anaheim Street joining
at the old Pacific Gas and Electric right-of-way and continuing to
Marine Stadium.

"I have a lot of frustrated residents who have been waiting.
They've been promised this will happen next year by every every
politician who has come through the door without a shovel ever being
put in the dirt," O'Donnell said.

"Well, I'm confident we'll have a shovel in the dirt very soon."

District Councilman Gary DeLong, who represents the neighborhoods
adjacent to the lagoon, is a big supporter of the redesigned project.

DeLong said the latest proposal for the drain meets the
goals of handling major storms and doing it in an environmentally
responsible way that will protect the sensitive lagoon.

He gave glowing praise to the Friends of the Colorado
Lagoon, a group formed in 2001 to address pollution issues in the body
of water at the terminus of Marine Stadium. In 2002, the group was at
the forefront of preventing an earlier incarnation of the drain project
from moving forward.

At the time, the drain system was designed to empty runoff
into the sensitive ecosystem. The new system will bypass the lagoon and
contain filtration systems and catch basins to cleanse water before it
is released into Marine Stadium.

Verrecchia, who has pushed for the system all along and
clashed with the Friends of Colorado Lagoon when they stopped the
earlier project, says she is happy with the outcome.

Some residents worried about the future of the Wild Oats
Community garden, which will have to be dug up in 2011 along with the
nearby Greenbelt. But otherwise, support was nearly unanimous from
those in attendance.

And as Gibbons says, if it can prevent deaths in the future, that's what it's all about.

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