Anger rises with flood waters

The Boardwalk on Seal Way was flooded by last week’s rains. The berm held, but the berm could not stop the water falling from the sky. Photo by Michael Bronfenbrenner

Twenty citizens, speaking before a packed council Chamber, made it clear they were unhappy with city management’s response to the flooding caused by last week’s winter storms.

The worst of last week’s three winter storms struck on Sunday, which caused flooding so severe that a man was photographed kayaking across Corsair. There was flooding in Seal Beach Shores for the second time in two weeks. No one was injured. No evacuations were required. The only traffic accident took place Monday, when a car spun out on the wet roadway near Leisure World. The car struck the Naval Weapons Station fence. No one was injured and the motorist drove away. Lifeguards went door to door in Seal Beach Shores to ask if anyone needed assistance. No one did.

Citizens and council members had only praise for city workers. But citizens were dissatisfied with city management and unhappy that they had not received advance notice weeks ago that there were problems with the West End Pump Station.

According to Associate Engineer David Spitz, an alarm indicated there was a problem with one of the two pumps at the West End Pump Station on Dec. 22.

He said staff switched to the second pump, which staff learned was having problems in early January. The public didn’t know about the pump problems until last week.

Councilwoman Ellery Deaton compared the pump alarms to the engine light on a car, one that usually indicates a minor problem but sometimes indicates a serious problem. Spitz said that was a good analogy.

Spitz had initially described the problems with the pumps as a “failure,” but later clarified his positon after most of the audience had gone home following a mid-meeting break.

Spitz said the storm was a 100-to 120 year storm. Resident Robert Goldberg, who chaired the Citizens Ad Hoc Storm Drain Committee in 2004, argued it was closer to a 40-year flood. Several residents said having working pumps would have provided some relief.

Paul Yost, a former council member, said the council left the community with less than 20 percent of flood control capacity. “You gambled with our property and our lives,” he said. “And lost.”

He encouraged residents to file claims for damages with the city.

According to local activist Seth Eaker, there was a loss of trust between citizens and the city government.

“I feel like we’re orphans,” said Nancey Kredell of Seal Way. She said last year residents of Seal Way had a large pump to control flooding, this year there was none. Her husband Chi Kredell said that if the berm had been breached, a lot of homes on Seal Way would have been lost.

Nancey Kredell said she thought they paid enough taxes to get something permanent hooked up.

Paul Jeffers of Seal Beach Shores said the two water pumps at the West End Pump Station cost the city a lot of money. He wanted to know their maintenance schedule.

Community Development Director/Interim Public Works Director Jim Basham, who has been running two departments for almost two years, said the pumps were checked every week.

Basham has been paid about $16,800 a year extra to run Public Works, according to City Treasurer/Finance Department Director Victoria Beatley. He will no longer be paid that money starting on Jan. 31, when Signal Hill City Engineer Steve Myter takes over as head of Seal Beach Public Works. According to the State Controller’s Office, Basham made more than $168,000 in 2015.

Jeffers asked if the schedule was followed. Deaton said the city didn’t know why the pumps had failed.

Both malfunctioning pumps were removed from the West End Pump Station Tuesday, Jan. 24, and sent to the manufacturer for repairs.

Spitz told the council that staff had looked at renting a larger pump to substitute for the malfunctioning station, but staff was concerned about the cost and whether it could fit into the pump station area.

Deaton proposed taking another look at flood control infrastructure in town.