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Groundwater water recharge project brings learning opportunities to Oceano Elementary School 

The Oceano Community Services District (OCSD) and Lucia Mar Unified School District teamed up for a construction project that aims to help recharge the Santa Maria Valley Groundwater Basin and reduce flooding.

click to enlarge CONSTRUCTION BEGINS A stormwater capture and groundwater recharge project at Oceano Elementary School comes with triple benefits: reducing flooding in Oceano, recharging the Santa Maria Valley Groundwater Basin, and educating elementary school students. - COURTESY PHOTO BY WILL CLEMENS
  • Courtesy Photo By Will Clemens
  • CONSTRUCTION BEGINS A stormwater capture and groundwater recharge project at Oceano Elementary School comes with triple benefits: reducing flooding in Oceano, recharging the Santa Maria Valley Groundwater Basin, and educating elementary school students.

Will Clemens, OCSD general manager, said that the stormwater capture and groundwater recharge project is crucial for environmental and safety reasons because once the project is completed, flooding won't overwhelm Oceano's streets and residents.

"This [project] will capture drainage from about 11 1/2 acres that flows down 19th Street next to the school," Clemens said. "It'll then be diverted into an infiltration basin, which will then allow the water to recharge the groundwater basin rather than running down the street and eventually into the creek and ocean."

Clemens said that construction for the project located beneath Oceano Elementary School's field began on Nov. 13.

"[Lucia Mar] is providing us the property, and then we're paying for all the improvements," he said. "The overall project with design, construction, management, and administration comes to about $2 million."

OCSD received a $1.2 million grant from the state Water Resources Control Board and is receiving a 5 percent match to help cover the cost of the project, Clemens said.

"We will be providing a match from our water fund of $100,000, while also putting in some trees along 19th Street and Paso Robles Street," he said. "So there will also be 12 new street trees added as part of the project."

While construction will take place during school hours, Andy Stenson, executive director of facilities, maintenance, and operations for the Lucia Mar School District, said some regulations will be in place.

"[Construction workers] are going to have separate access, by cutting a new entrance into the fence so their construction zone is completely cut off from student access," Stenson said. "They're not walking across campus, they're not using campus restrooms, and they've created their own little space of operation so there's good separation between the workers and the students and staff."

Stenson said that construction is estimated to be done by February, hoping that winter storms don't push the completion date back.

"Anytime you get significant rains, it can create some construction delays, and sometimes crews have to pull off the site for a little while until things dry out, especially projects like this one where there's a lot of earthwork," he said. "Hopefully, with a little bit of luck, they'll get most of the critical path elements done before we get any big rains."

Clemens said an exciting part of this project is that Oceano Elementary students will get the opportunity to learn about the benefits of the project while it's getting built.

"There's a portion of the grant, maybe around $5,000 to $10,000, that will be used to prepare an educational curriculum where students at the school will learn about stormwater and stormwater pollution," Clemens said. "It's a nice partnership where the students get to actually see what's being constructed at their school and how it benefits the environment."

The learning experience, Stenson said, gives students an opportunity to get hands-on education about environmental changes that will benefit their community for years.

"There's multiple benefits, one being reducing runoff onto Highway 1 but also just recharging the aquifer and decreasing the amount of water that actually runs off into the ocean," Stenson said. "Pulling it back and putting it into the groundwater is always a good thing." Δ

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