This month, the City of San Luis Obispo will conduct a two-week-long flood prevention project.
The city watches over 14 different locations that might pose a flood threat, maintaining the overgrowth. While it's not common, the creek near Vista Lago Park has come close to flooding a few times, most recently in 2021.
"Fifteen inches of rain fell in three days and this is the conveyance where that 15 inches came through. We didn’t get any flooding then but I did get phone calls from neighbors saying the water is 10 inches from my backdoor," said Freddy Otte, City of San Luis Obispo Biologist.
The area under the Los Osos Valley Road bridge at Highway 101 and in the nearby wooded areas where San Luis Creek and Prefumo Creek converge is an area sandwiched in between homes and a spot the city clears out every year. In the coming weeks, there will be heavy machinery digging out excess sediment to maintain capacity in the creek should there be a catastrophic rain event.
The other areas are watched over and cleared out only when overgrowth demands it.
Another spot of concern is Rob Rossi’s property at The Promontory. It is where Stenner Creek and San Luis Creek join together. He has had an easement with the city since the 1980s in order to give them better access to his property if they need to intervene during a flood event or even before that.
"One of the problems with floods, and that’s why they call them typically 100-year floods, they happen presumably every 100 years, I've had the good fortune of being here 50 years and I’ve seen three 100-year floods," Rossi said.
He also recalled a time in college when he says he lassoed a VW that was floating down Grand Ave. And in 2005, a kayaker needed to be rescued after heavy rain trapped him under a bridge downtown. Crews worked to save him as rushing water kept him huddled in a corner for safety.
“More extreme weather and floods are occurring around the world because of a changing climate and we expect to see more extreme weather here in SLO as well,” Otte said. “The City is doing necessary work now to prevent flooding, keep creeks flowing, and ensure water is contained in our waterways in preparation for more intense storms and extreme weather events.”