San Vicente re-opening continues to be held up by dock cables

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Elevated steel cables have prevented San Diego's most popular reservoir from opening for several months already

Elevated steel cables have prevented San Diego’s most popular reservoir from opening for several months already

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  • The highly anticipated and overdue re-opening of San Vicente Reservoir – San Diego County’s most popular recreational reservoir – continues to be held up for the same unresolved issue; cables that attach the marina’s two docks to land.

    Shocking, isn’t it? A project that involved raising the dam 117 vertical feet (the tallest dam raise of its type in the entire world), construction of an entire new marina and parking lot, a 900 foot long launch ramp that is 114 feet wide, new concession building, office buildings, restrooms, pump stations and more…and they still can’t get the docks tied to land correctly.

    What is the actual problem?

    Currently, the two sets of steel land-side cables which run from each of the two docks on either side of the launch ramp sit well above the ground, creating issues with both safety and function. The city of San Diego is concerned, and correctly so, that the cables present both a tripping hazard for people walking around the camp, and for tow vehicles who may get the cables caught in their vehicle’s wheels while launching and loading boats on the ramp.

    The height of the cables varies due to conditions; sitting anywhere from shin high to over the knees.

    In addition to safety, the angle of the cables is not as steep as the angle of the ramp. The docks are supposed to “self adjust” with changing water levels, and the difference in angle between the cables and the ramp prevents this. The cables actually cause the dock ramps to dig into the concrete of the ramp and get stuck, rather than slide up the slope of the ramp.

    The city of San Diego provided us a set of photos (shown below) which illustrate the issue with the cables.

    This single issue has essentially held up the opening of the lake for months already, as two previous attempts to fix the dock cables have failed to resolve it.

    What’s going on to resolve the issue?

    The San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), which oversaw the entire San Vicente Dam Raise Project has hired Trinity Construction Company of Arrowhead, CA to attempt to fix the issue. Trinity is currently working on the repair, and have estimated a completion date of mid-September. If all goes according to plan, and their work fixes the issue to the point that the city of San Diego, and their Risk Management Department signs off on the dock, it’ll set the wheels in motion to get the lake opened to the public again for both fishing and boating. It is likely there will be a 3-5 week period between the time the cables are fixed, and the lake officially opens.

    Who’s fault is it?

    Pulice Construction Inc. of Phoenix, AZ, who served as the contractor for the San Vicente Marina, has already been awarded the 2016 APWA (American Public Works Association) San Diego/Imperial Chapter Project of the Year for their work on the marina facility, despite them not completing the project in a manner at which it could be utilized by the public.

    The marina’s docks were designed by Simon Wong Engineering of San Diego, an engineering firm which specializes in construction management and engineering services related to water markets in California.

    The SDCWA maintains that the issue with the docks is “minor” and that the project is essentially already complete, leaving the ball solely in the court of the city of San Diego.

    James Palen, Public Affairs Representative for the San Diego County Water Authority confirmed as much, “the [San Diego County] Water Authority turned the San Vicente project over to the city of San Diego in July, and the city of San Diego has sole discretion in determining when the facility is ready to open to the public. The marina is currently operational, though the Water Authority is performing some minor work on the docks and that is expected to be completed by mid-September.”

    Photos provided by the city of San Diego showing the dock cables

    Is this a real problem? Or is the city using it as an excuse not to open?

    It’s a fairly popular opinion among fishermen right now that the city is intentionally using this is as an excuse not to open the reservoir, insinuating that the city would rather keep the lake closed and serving as a water tank rather than a recreational park. I do not believe this to be the case. I’ve heard from separate sources within several layers of the city, from those in the Lakes and Recreation Department, on up the ladder to the Public Utilities Department. Each have expressed a seemingly genuine interest in getting the lake re-opened as fast as possible.

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  • Brent Eidson, the Deputy Director of External Affairs with the City of San Diego Public Utilities echoed those sentiments, “I am working closely with our staff to get San Vicente open to the public as soon as possible. Once completed and the facility is safe for operation, the reservoir will be reopened to the public. City staff is monitoring the construction work and is eager to open the reservoir when it is complete.”

    While the SDCWA is adamant that the marina is operational, others who have encountered it first hand tend to disagree. California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff conducting surveys at San Vicente recently had to avoid the cables with their vehicles while launching and walking near the docks.

    When it does finally open, who is going to be able to fish and how?

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    Kellen Ellis

    The owner, editor and administrator of sdfish.com.

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