A 126-inch diameter corrugated metal storm drainpipe near the entrance to Balboa Naval Medical Center failed in late January, causing sinkholes along Florida Drive. Recent rains have caused more water than usual to flow in the stream that runs through Florida Canyon, former site of a Kumeyaay village. The city Public Works Department said that the sinkholes have compromised the adjacent sidewalk and roadway. One lane of westbound traffic and the sidewalk that runs from 26th Street to Zoo Drive, a popular place for joggers and the only paved pedestrian route in the canyon, have been closed for several weeks.
Immediate repair of the storm drain is necessary to prevent expansion of the sinkholes, the city said. The urgent nature of the project allowed city engineers to make an environmental determination to skip the regular review process that can take months or years. California Environmental Quality Act guidelines do allow statutory exemptions when the repairs are required to protect public health, safety, and property. Emergency replacement of 550 linear feet of deteriorated pipe has been approved and a timetable for repairs is in the works. Records show the pipe was installed in 1986.
The sinkholes are visible along a vegetated slope that is part of Florida Canyon Native Plant Preserve and adjacent to government property occupied by the Naval Hospital. The Public Works Department “Notice of Right to Appeal Environmental Determination” said a biological and archaeological monitor will be present during work to ensure impacts to environmental resources are avoided. Any areas disturbed will be revegetated within 90 days of project completion.
Residents have until February 27 to file an application with the city clerk to appeal the environmental determination.