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San Diego Storm Water Spending Not Nearly Enough, Says City Auditor

Sprinklers water grass in El Cerrito in this undated photo.

Photo by Claire Trageser

Above: Sprinklers water grass in El Cerrito in this undated photo.

Projected infrastructure spending for the city of San Diego's Storm Water Division isn't even halfway sufficient to meet future needs, a deficiency that could increase the deferred maintenance backlog and affect the city's ability to meet water quality requirements, according to an audit released Thursday.

City Auditor Eduardo Luna said the division needs roughly $891 million to spend on water infrastructure over the next five years, but there's only $433 million in funds identified over that span.

"Although this severe and growing stormwater funding shortage has been well-documented, city officials have not taken sufficient action to inform the public or increase stormwater revenues in over 20 years," Luna wrote.

Though staff can cut costs by increasing maintenance efficiencies, that won't be nearly enough, according to the audit.

The Storm Water Division is responsible for managing urban runoff to minimize flood risk and protect receiving waters, which include the San Diego Bay, Mission Bay and San Diego River. All told, staff manage roughly 900 miles of storm drain pipes and 14 pump stations.

Luna found that inadequate maintenance of the storm drain system has resulted in a large infrastructure backlog, along with associated costly emergency repairs and increased public liability costs.

The division implemented an in-house crew to conduct repairs instead of contractors, but a lack of analysis regarding the optimal size of the team could result in continued over-reliance on contracted repairs, the audit found.

Luna also wrote that the division's current code enforcement tracking system doesn't sufficiently facilitate case management, monitoring or reporting.

The division also doesn't issue re-inspection fees to recover inspection costs and compel quicker compliance with code violations.

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