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Atascadero Lake sediment removal begins Oct. 6 

Dry Atascadero Lake

Photo of the dry Atascadero Lake by Heather Young

The City of Atascadero announced that work will begin on Phase II of the Atascadero Lake Sediment Removal Project on Monday, Oct. 6. Residents will notice increased truck traffic, flagmen and intermittent road closures on Lakeview Drive and on Templeton Road during the project, and are asked to use caution.

As a result of the ongoing drought, Atascadero Lake has completely dried up, and sediment that has been building up for decades is now exposed. The sediment build-up has, in recent years, made the lake shallower, warmer and nitrogen rich, which has resulted in severely degraded water quality, along with periodic fish die-offs caused by algae blooms which consume oxygen.

One benefit of the drought is that it provides the city with an opportunity to have the sediment and buildup of organic material removed, which will result in improved water quality once the lake fills again. Another is that it allowed for the relocation of domestic ducks and geese by local citizens and the city, which will result in a future reduction of nutrients going into the lake, thereby improving water quality.

Phase I of the sediment removal project was completed in November of 2013, which resulted in the removal of approximately 7,000 cubic yards of lake sediment and lowered the project area two to three feet. Phase II of the project is designed to remove an additional 15,000 cubic yards of sediment.

All of the excavated sediment will be transported out of the dry lake bed and loaded into dump trucks staged in the circular drive area off of Lakeview Drive. The sediment will be removed and trucked to property owned by Atascadero Mutual Water Company on Templeton Road for re-use on farmland. The AMWC is not charging the city to accept the lake sediment, which results in a savings to the City of approximately $30,000.

“We are thankful for our community pulling together once again to take on a local challenge,” says Mayor Tom O’Malley. “The Friends of Atascadero Lake, the Mutual Water Company and the city make a great team. We will work to ensure that our lake and Lake Park are better than ever”.

The Atascadero City Council authorized spending for sediment removal and lake fill line repairs at their September 23, 2014 meeting. A contract in the amount of $287,000 with ABI General Engineering, Inc. was executed for Phase II of the removal of sediment from the dry lake bed. If time and weather allow for it, $114,800 more may be authorized by the city to remove an additional 8,000 cubic yards of sediment.

The sediment removal area in Phase II will span the middle portion of the lake, starting where Phase I near the south end of the lake left off. The work will progress towards the dam and will stop near the front of the Pavilion on the lake. In the event that the dry weather holds, work goes smoothly and the contractor is able to complete the initial sediment removal prior to the permit expiration date of October 31, additional sediment removal may be authorized by the city.

Any projects within the lake fall under the jurisdiction of three agencies: the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, the Central Coast Water Board and the Army Corps of Engineers. The city has obtained permissions for the sediment removal from all three agencies. The city has also retained the services of Althouse & Meade, a local biological consultant, to do endangered species surveys, excavation monitoring and best management practices for environmental protection as the work proceeds.

The city advertised and received seven bids for the Phase II project. The low bid received from ABI General Engineering fell within the city’s expectation of costs, and is in compliance with the city’s purchasing policy and procedures. Upon staff’s recommendation, the council awarded the project to ABI General Engineering.

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About the author: Publisher Scott Brennan

Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or follow his blog.