The El Horno Creek Flood of 2010

City spin is all wet...
Orrie Brown

On Wednesday, December 22, we awoke to a portion of our home under standing water, our garage flooded and about 16” to 20” of water running through our property. El Horno Creek had overflowed its banks. We had no warning from anyone that this might occur, meaning we did not receive a reverse 911 call, as other residents in potential danger, did receive.

We began the cleanup process and placed multiple calls to the City’s main phone and also to the Public Works department. We were never able to speak to a live person nor did anyone return our calls. We did not know if anyone at City Hall even knew that Horno Creek had spilled, as all attention seemed to be focused on Trabuco Creek, which was also damaged. Yes, there were many homes in danger from a POTENTIAL breach, but Mission Flats neighborhood was actually FLOODED and received zero attention.

No word of the devastation in Mission Flats is even mentioned in the City email releases of 12-22 or 12-23.

The next few days come and go and we and neighbors are cleaning up their homes and even the streets. We want to thank Michael Palmer and Ed Nunez, who physically cleared the blocked drains on Acjachema street on Wednesday, which helped the water flow out of our area. And thanks also to the Palmer boys, Jake and Joe, who shoveled mud off of Acjachema street.

It was not until December 29 that we knew the City was even aware of our predicament. In a San Juan Capistrano Patch posting on that day, Cindy Russell is quoted as saying the city hadn’t received any messages or calls from the Mission Flats residents. She continues “we have nothing on that; we know it flooded just like the whole town”. That is just not true--the whole town was not under two to three feet of water. It was a callous, flippant, and most importantly, completely inaccurate statement.

Then, that same day, City Manager Joe Tait states, in a release from the City, “We know people in Mission Flats and off Ortega Highway still have water and mud-related problems and we want to assure residents throughout town that if you haven’t talked to a staff member yet that you’ve not been forgotten. It will simply take time to respond to all the calls and requests we’ve received.”

So one official states there are no calls and another states there are so many calls that staff can’t return them all. They just can’t seem to get their stories straight. Oh, and on that same day, December 29, we actually received an email with a 24 hour emergency number that we can call, only we received it one week after we needed it.

We walked our neighborhood on December 30 and saw much damage to many different homes and not one resident we spoke with had received any communication from the City. To my knowledge, that is still the case as of this writing. Some of our neighbors lost literally everything! As I’m sure you know, we favor limited government, but public safety is one of the main actions of government and they failed. It is obvious by the quotes we have referred to and the current manner of City Officials that they are now in CYA mode.

The City has not properly maintained the storm drains on Acjachema Street. Whether it is the City, the County, CUSD, or the Army Corps of Engineers that is responsible for El Horno Creek and maintenance.... all agencies failed and, once again, we citizens are paying for it.

No one seems to be paying any attention to those of us in the Mission Flats neighborhood, San Juan’s second oldest historic area. Who is leading here? What is the maintenance record? There are 20 foot tall trees growing in the Creek. We have been monitoring the Creek the last few weeks and haven’t seen any work crews from any agencies performing any maintenance or cleanup.

We are very concerned that this flooding will occur again, unless someone takes care of the debris in the creek--there are trees, fencing material, metal posts, and other debris that must be removed in order for the water to be able to flow through that channel and not overflow again.

We have also learned, through our own research, that El Horno Creek is where all of the water from Ladera Ranch flows. No downstream mitigation was required when that area was developed. This is a creek with dirt sides--no concrete, no boulders or other support on the banks. Because our government failed to use “Best Management Practices” in the maintenance of the storm drains on Acjachema St. and El Horno Creek, we had a flood that has caused a lot of damage to the nearby homes, schools and other buildings.

Who is in charge and what are they doing to ensure this does not happen again?

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