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San Diego to re-evaluate La Jolla’s water needs before proceeding with reservoir replacement project

The La Jolla View Reservoir in La Jolla Heights Natural Park is planned to be replaced with an underground reservoir.
The La Jolla View Reservoir, located off Encelia Drive in La Jolla Heights Natural Park, is planned to be demolished and replaced with an underground reservoir.
(File)

After a series of meetings, the La Jolla View Reservoir project is taking a brief hiatus so the scope of what will be needed from La Jolla’s next reservoir can be determined. New findings are expected to be released in mid- to late April.

The project would replace the 720,000-gallon, above-ground La Jolla View Reservoir water storage tank and the 990,000-gallon, partially above ground Exchange Place Reservoir with one new 3.1-million-gallon underground reservoir in La Jolla Heights Natural Park above the La Jolla Country Club area. The existing reservoirs and the Exchange Place Pump Station would be demolished and their sites would be returned to historical contours with native vegetation.

However, members of La Jolla planning groups found the project’s draft environmental impact report to be lacking in terms of traffic mitigation, park access, preservation of natural resources and impacts to neighbors during construction.

After nearly two hours of presentations, questions, discussion and debate, the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee determined that the draft environmental impact report for the La Jolla View Reservoir replacement project is incomplete and voted at its Jan. 19 meeting that findings could not be made to support the development.

A working group with members of different planning groups was formed to meet with the city, make suggested improvements to the EIR and discuss alternatives.

The city extended the public review period for the EIR until April 1 to allow the group to form a recommendation. However, in that time, city engineers performed technical studies to help determine La Jolla’s water needs.

“Apparently, the ... criteria for the reservoir was old in terms of how big the reservoir needed to be,” said working group member and La Jolla Community Planning Association President Diane Kane. “What the [city has] determined, since the initial criteria were laid out 10 years ago, there have been upgrades to the system that provide water to the reservoirs … and our water usage has changed in California. So they are revisiting the criteria for the need of the reservoir, and those studies are not yet done.”

Working group member Patrick Ahern said in a letter to supporters that “the city is still working hard on finalizing the hydraulic modeling findings for the La Jolla area. The rationale is based in lowered usage of fresh water in the county, including the La Jolla area. This is a direct result of changing behaviors and usage like low-flow toilets, coupled with the overall awareness to conserve water.”

Suggestions have included moving the reservoir to another location. In March, city spokesman Scott Robinson told the La Jolla Light that the city “is considering all its options and working with the community.”

The city could not confirm to the working group whether the alternative of a smaller reservoir in the same location, or a new location, is feasible. City representatives did not respond to the Light’s request for additional comment.

“The city has been very open and willing to work with the La Jolla working groups and our ability to work through a difficult but necessary project,” Ahern said. “The city is committed to continue collaborating with the working groups and provide updates as this develops so that we can all make the best long-term decision for our community and ... the city.” ◆