The Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District has vacated two flood control easements and declared the land to be surplus.
The Riverside County Board of Supervisors is also the board of the Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, and Nov. 14, the board voted 5-0 twice to approve the easement vacations and declarations of surplus. One vote covered the land along the San Jacinto River, while the other vote was for the George Avenue Storm Drain area in Wildomar.
The San Jacinto easement encompasses approximately 136 acres. It was granted to the county of Riverside in 1944 for river channel, drainage and bank protection works. The easement dedication was made to what was called Drainage District No. 2, and after the Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District was established in 1945, Drainage District No. 2 was disbanded and the easement rights were conveyed to the Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District.
The easement area contains dirt channel and spoil berms which were created by farmers in the early 20th century to direct very low flows from the San Jacinto River away from farmland. The berms were not intended to handle moderate or high flows.
The easement is also located within an area which has been identified for inclusion in an extension of the Western Riverside Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan, and it is within a reach of the San Jacinto River for which no flood control improvements are proposed and for which a Federal Emergency Management Agency floodplain and floodway have been established.
Hillcrest Homes holds options to purchase the property and plans to convert approximately 600 acres into a mitigation bank, which would allow developers of property elsewhere to purchase mitigation credits to fulfill those projects’ off-site mitigation requirements. The establishment of a mitigation bank will restrict future development on that land, but the easement must be vacated to prepare the property for a mitigation bank. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must also issue a Banking Enabling Instrument which approves the area as a mitigation bank. Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District staff determined that the use of the easement within the floodway in the proposed manner is acceptable to protect the watercourse without the district’s maintenance.
The George Avenue Storm Drain was constructed in 2007 as part of a development. The Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District was granted an easement in 2012 to operate and maintain the facility which is east of George Avenue between Varian Way and Doheny Circle. The easement is off site from the subdivision. In 2016, a separate tract map was conditioned to construct flood control improvements extending the existing storm drain facility through the subdivision. The Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District and the city of Wildomar approved the plans, and the facility has been constructed and accepted by the city of Wildomar for operation and maintenance. The district right of way is now entirely within the street right of way, so the easement is no longer needed.