A stormwater capture project in East Long Beach that would help protect local waterways, boost the city’s water supply and create a usable recreational area is expected to be completed by late 2026, city officials announced this week.

Construction on the El Dorado Regional Stormwater Capture Project is expected to begin in 2025 near the Long Beach Water Reclamation Plant along Willow Street, across from the El Dorado Nature Center, according to a plan presented by the Public Works Department at a community meeting Wednesday.

The project, which is still in the design phase, would require the construction of three vegetated ponds capable of storing more than 3.3 million gallons of rainwater captured from a drainage area that spans 2,874 acres and includes Long Beach, Cerritos, Hawaiian Gardens, Artesia, Norwalk and Lakewood.

A slide from a city presentation shows the location of the proposed stormwater capture project.

“It’s a collaborative effort by the cities with Long Beach leading this effort,” said Oliver Galang, an engineer with Craft Water, a design consultant that was contracted for the project.

The identified drainage area generates around 1,200-acre-feet of runoff every year that comes from homes, streets and freeways during the rainy season.

“We’ve seen the storms that we recently experienced and you can see there was a lot of water coming down the rivers and channels, and this is an opportunity to catch that,” Galang said.

The pools would capture and treat that stormwater before it reaches Coyote Creek, which filters into the San Gabriel River before traveling to the Pacific Ocean.

“It really comes down to the need to reduce pollutants that are entering our rivers and beaches,” Galang said, adding,  “… We’re creating this opportunity to develop an area and create a usable open space for the city of Long Beach and its residents.”

The site where a future stormwater capture project could be built south of Willow Street near the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach on Friday June 23, 2023. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

The city will also have the option to divert flow to existing sewer lines, which underlay the site, and send water to the nearby reclamation plant to be treated and used as recycled water within the city.

In addition to water treatment and bolstering water supply, officials aim to foster a natural habitat element within the site.

“At this time, no specifics can be given on what animals will use that habitat, but it is the goal of the project to have a positive impact on the natural habitat within the site,” according to Lan Pham-Jenkins, an administrative analyst for Public Works.

The site will also offer some sort of recreational use for residents, but it is unlikely that the space will be open for casual public use. More likely, the nature site will be accessible through guided tours and educational programming.

According to early project plans, one option would have been to access the site from the El Dorado Nature Center by entering through a tunnel beneath Willow Street, but that idea has been nixed. Instead, the only way to access the site will be through a service road, which is used by the city maintenance workers, Southern California Edison, the Long Beach Fire Department and other contractors, according to Meaghan O’Neill, a community services supervisor for Public Works.

“So, opening this area up for regular public use on just like a walking basis is probably not going to be feasible, which is why guided tours and things that are staff-led by our park naturalists would probably be the most optimal to get the public out to explore this site,” O’Neill said.

An estimated cost for the construction of the site is still being developed and will be part of the city’s application for Measure W funding, which will be submitted at the end of July, Pham-Jenkins said. The countywide tax dollars are reserved for clean-water infrastructure projects.

City officials hope to finalize the design within the next year, but before they do, another public meeting will likely be announced. More information about Wednesday’s meeting can be found here.