By Collin Breaux | Email: cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com | Twitter: @collin_breaux

By Collin Breaux 

The San Juan Capistrano City Council approved a resolution related to proposed drainage improvements at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park during a regular meeting on Tuesday, March 17.

The resolution adopted a mitigated negative declaration and mitigation monitoring program, which essentially addressed potential environmental effects of the proposed improvements and restoration measures.

“The proposed improvements include the removal of an existing Arizona Crossing, streambank restoration within San Juan Creek, and the installation of a stormwater capture and treatment system,” a meeting agenda report said. “Prior to construction of the proposed improvements at the Riding Park, the City must secure state and federal permits, since a portion of the improvements are within a water body that is within state and federal jurisdiction.”

The San Juan Capistrano Planning Commission will review project plans prior to final plan approvals. The city-owned park is at 30753 Avenida La Pata. Equestrian activities and other events are popular at the park.

“The draft mitigated negative declaration was released for its 30-day public review in September 2019,” the agenda report said. “At that time, the MND was also provided to state and federal resource agencies, along with the respective permit applications, so that the lengthy permit-review process could begin.”

The city is undertaking the project to restore the natural conditions of San Juan Creek, protect the creek from potential incidental discharge of stormwater pollutants, and convey annual flood events at the park, according to the mitigated negative declaration study. Additional goals include restoring wetland habitat functions and surface water features.

The park originally was part of Rancho Mission Viejo’s Ranch Plan, but it was subsequently purchased by the City of San Juan Capistrano as part of open space acquisition in January 2010. The Arizona Crossing has been periodically destroyed by severe winter storm events, and while the crossing is not currently functional, structural materials and culverts remain in San Juan Creek, the mitigated negative declaration study said.

As for stormwater discharge, the study said there is now a potential for equestrian waste, equestrian-related products( such as bedding material, feed, and other materials such as trash) to be carried via stormwater runoff and indirectly discharged into San Juan Creek following the development and operation of the park.

“Temporary construction and staging areas associated with these proposed Project elements would be located on-site within developed or previously disturbed areas of the Riding Park, immediately north of the stables and south of Ortega Highway,” the report said. “Construction activities would occur intermittently (i.e., during the dry season) over an estimated 3-year period from July 1, 2020 through July 1, 2023. Construction activities associated with the Arizona Crossing removal and streambank restoration would occur over a 4-month period and would be completed by no later than 18 months following the acquisition of all required permits.”

Construction associated with the stormwater treatment system would be completed in approximately 24 months, following completion of the Arizona Crossing removal and streambank restoration activities. Construction would generally be scheduled between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays, and would only occur on Saturdays if necessary to shorten the project timespan and avoid going into the “wet” season. Construction would not occur on Sundays or federal holidays.

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