Greg Fischer is worried about the pump to keep water out of the elevator shaft at Sandpiper Condominiums on Seacoast Drive. If the pump is overwhelmed or too much water gets into the elevator shaft, it could cause expensive damage.
As a member of the homeowners association at Sandpiper Condominiums, Fischer took a look under the elevator with an elevator contractor.
“This is the first time in the 20 years we’ve lived here that there was water that made the sump pump work,” he said. “There’s only going to be damage if the sump pump fails. Then were in trouble.”
Also of concern is a sea wall at condos next door. If the wall is compromised, he said, it could harm neighboring properties.
“That effects us too. Sooner or later, if the water floods in his area, that may impact us too,” he said.
Like other Seacoast Drive residents IB Patch spoke with last month, Fischer is concerned about sea water that has intruded on their properties since about 450,000 cubic yards of sand was placed on the beach south of the pier last fall.
At about 7 feet, Imperial Beach is expected to receive its biggest high tide of the year around 8 a.m. Friday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Balfour. These also are known as king tides.
Since sand replenishment concluded in October, during high tide or heavy surf, water has pooled in uneven areas or flowed away from the ocean, flooding garages, seeping through planters and concrete and possibly impacting building foundations.
In response, SANDAG brought bulldozers back to the beach in November and last month to even out the sand, pushing some sand to the edge of rock barriers and forming a riverlike area between the ocean and homes.
This week, city of Imperial Beach and SANDAG crews hit the beach to dig trenches in areas to allow pooled water to flow back to the ocean, said Assistant City Manager Greg Wade.
Crews will be back on the beach Friday and Saturday to dig more trenches, a SANDAG spokeswoman said.
King tides, also known as spring tides, are created by gravitational pull during a full or new moon cycle at the start or end of the year when the sun, moon and Earth are aligned, Balfour said.
The same gravitational pull that causes the strongest tides at the end and beginning of the year produced higher than average high tides over the past couple months.
Historically, storm surges and high tide have caused flooding at street ends, but flooding of this kind has never happened before, he said. Not to minimize the concerns of residents, but thus far the sand replenishment project has fulfilled its primary objective to protect the shore from storm events, Wade said.
“This ponding that’s happened is an unanticipated occurrence as a result of the project, but over time, the beach will level out. It’s already migrated quite a bit south and north,” he said.
Long-term options like moving some of the sand north of the pier or more regrading may be considered if the river and trenches don’t have the desired result, Wade said.
Recent efforts to stop the water has not worked, said David Van de Water, who lives in condos next to Fischer.
“We have just as much water on Jan. 1 as we did on Dec. 1,” he said. “It’s a stupid way to do it. Why have the lake to begin with? Why not grade it properly so you wouldn’t even have a lake?”
Following complaints by residents and reporting by IB Patch and later KUSI’s Turko Files in December, SANDAG started taking claims for damages. No claims have been filed yet, said spokeswoman Helen Gao.
Van de Water said he’s waiting to file to “see what happens” before filing any claims.
“You can’t have that much salt in there going up through the rebar in your concrete structure, I don’t know how you don’t have damage,” he said.
Patsy Swaim lives between El Cajon and her condo in the 1300 block of Seacoast Drive. In her experience, she has seen no improvement in the amount of water that inundates her property since grading took place last month.
All December actions by SANDAG bulldozers did was move the lake a bit further from her property, she said. Sometimes it’s worse, she said, and something has to be done.
“They totally did the opposite of what they should have. Now that we have everybody involved, now that all of us are making waves, they have to do something because they totally did this incorrectly,” she said.
Swaim does not believe sand replenishment protects her property from erosion.
“No, because over 26 years we’ve never had any problems the way the beach was sloped,” she said.
Like Van de Water, Swaim also plans to file a claim for current expenses, but some of the ramifications but “evidence of other damage has yet to be seen.”
“We plan on having a professional check out the foundation of the building when the water dries up, until then no one can really access the end results of this disaster that SANDAG has created,” she said.
A lifelong resident of Imperial Beach, Joe Ellis has worked as a coastal engineer for more than three decades, at times working on sand replenishment projects for the Army Corps of Engineers in areas across Southern California.
Friends like Robin Clegg and Dave Recker called him when the water began to seep into their properties.
From what he has seen thus far, he understands why residents would be concerned but he believes things are getting better.
“Mother Nature is making the problem less and less but it’s still kind of there,” he said.
Other than damage to planters at some homes, at the two homes he has seen thus far on Seacoast Drive, the biggest damage over time may be potholes in the street since asphalt doesn’t adapt well to consistent water.
At present, Imperial Beach has no plans to file claims with SANDAG for possible damage to streets, Wade said.
“Long story short, I think it’s a net benefit to get the sand but I think some of the homeowners were worried and rightfully so,” he said.
If home foundations were experiencing damage, there may be new cracks or sand may come from underground, but thus far he has only seen clear water come out of the ground.
“I don’t know for a fact they’re not going to get any damages but it doesn’t look like there’s been any settlement,” he said.