TEMECULA, Calif. – Elected officials and agency representatives gathered Dec. 15 at the Temecula Community Center for a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of the next phase of the Murrieta Creek Flood Protection and Environmental Restoration Project.
The project is seven miles long and will provide 100-year flood protection. The existing channel will be widened over the entire length of the project and other features will include a wildlife habitat corridor, a 270-acre detention basin with 163 acres of wetland restoration, a 49-acre recreation park, and pedestrian and biking trails. The Corps is now moving forward to construct the next segment of the project from just downstream of the First Street bridge upstream to about the Rancho California Road bridge.
The project is designed to prevent a flooding incident similar to one that occurred two decades ago.
“I am one of the few here to witness the horrific disaster in 1993, when we had the banks of Temecula Creek overflow, and our beautiful Old Town area was underwater and under mud,” said State Senator Jeff Stone. “It was then we recognized how important it was that we maintain a significant resource in our bank account in the city, when we took a million-and-a-half dollars and spent it in one weekend unearthing Old Town.”
“It’s been rewarding working together with Riverside County and the cities of Temecula and Murrieta to put into action an innovative approach to tap into local funding to give this important project some momentum to move it forward,” said Paul Underwood, Corps project manager.
“We have a lot of great projects we’re trying to push through,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Toy, the former Los Angeles District and current South Pacific Division commander. “The challenge with these projects is the funding, especially during these resource-constrained times. But what we’re looking for is projects that have multiple benefits, that are multi-purpose. And when you look at the Murrieta Creek project, that’s what you get. It’s more than just flood risk reduction. It’s ecosystem restoration, it’s enhanced recreation. It’s one of the signature projects that we want to be able to support.”
Congressional support was a topic of focus for the two representatives in attendance.
“The entire region worked hard to keep this thing on track,” said Rep. Ken Calvert. “It’s a great project. It’s great for economic development, will put a lot people to work and will protect the region. That’s what it’s all about.”
But being a beneficial project does not guarantee its completion.
“The way we get things done is we have specific projects listed in federal legislation,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter. “Ken (Calvert) is on Appropriations. I’m on the Transportation Committee, and hopefully we can get those two things together, and we’re going to try to bring funding in here.”
Toy tied those themes together in his closing comment.
“If you look at what (Los Angeles District Commander Colonel) Kim (Colloton) has done, her motto for her very own district is Building Strong Together,” Toy said. “Together being the operative word. You need an incredible team of people to actually make this work.”