Valley News -

By Jeff Pack
Writer 

Temecula man's attempts to rectify flooding damage continues

 

Last updated 4/26/2019 at 3:36am

Jeff Pack photo

Eric Kincheloe points toward the culvert that he said was engineered badly and caused flood damage on his property.

Eric Kincheloe hasn't given up on working with Riverside County agencies to repair the significant flood damage to his property caused Feb. 14 during heavy rains and to protect his property from future flooding.

But recent interactions he has had with county representatives aren't filling him with hope.

His experience throughout the process, however, provided him with partnerships and help from the community.

It has also inspired Valley News readers experiencing similar issues with the county to come forward with their stories.

Kincheloe first told the Valley News in March that roughly 2.5 million cubic feet of soil was displaced from his property on Monte Verde Road in unincorporated Temecula during the heavy rains on Valentine's Day due to what he said was the poor engineering of a culvert that leads into his property.

The nearby Lennar Corporation developments, Terracina and Atherton, Kincheloe said, have compounded the problems, doing significant damage to Kincheloe's property and adjacent, privately owned properties.

Kincheloe said the stream is impaired and the issues began on Lennar property, which he insists were designed improperly and caused the stream to go out of channel.

In subsequent articles, Lennar Corporation denied Kincheloe's allegations and offered their theory on what caused the damage and county officials weighed in with their perspectives. Those stories can be read on http://www.myvalleynews.com.

In an interview with Kincheloe this week, he said he has had some discussions with county officials on and off the record, including a phone call that troubled him.

"I got a call from the county, and it was a deputy from the Department of Transportation, and he wanted to talk about what was going on and what I thought," Kincheloe said. "I told him I found a couple of county people out in the creek and that I had a conversation with them, saying I was interested in finding a solution to the problem, but that I couldn't discuss certain details that I am working on with my engineer with them in case I was forced to file a lawsuit."

Kincheloe said the deputy responded negatively in the phone call and told him that if he intended to sue the county, the cooperation would end.

"All he heard was sue, sue, sue," Kincheloe said. "I have a time limit on whether or not I am going to sue the county – that's not dictated by me. I have to go forward, or I am not doing my due diligence to protect me and my family."

Kincheloe said he found it offensive that the county wants to reserve the right to legal representation but would seek to deny homeowners the same right.

"That duality is just kind of messed up," he said.

Kincheloe said Riverside County has reached out to set up a meeting with him, going so far to offer dates and locations, but they have backed out of those proposed meetings.

"I am hoping there will be a meeting sometime soon," he said. "I am looking at everything trying to get a plan together through the Department of Agriculture Resource Conservation Service because I can't just let it go; otherwise next year, there will be even more destruction."

As a result of the series of stories that have been written, Kincheloe said he has an engineer that he is working with to rectify the issues in the creek and that there's a possibility of a donation of 50 to 100 tons of rock.

His story has generated a lot of interest in the region, and Kincheloe said many people have reached out to him directly.

Others have contacted the Valley News to express their concerns over similar developments planned for their rural neighborhoods and what they believe is negligence on the part of the county to do their due diligence in mitigating possibly damaging affects those developments would have in the area.

Cecelia Webster lives at the east end of Los Alamos Road in unincorporated Murrieta, and she said she has a similar issue to Kincheloe's.

Webster said flooding in the area is mitigated by a four-acre floodplain north of Los Alamos Road and that floodplain takes in the run-off from the nearby 2.5 square mile watershed, "half of which has been urbanized over the past 15 years."

She said the county's planning commission recently approved a housing tract by Newbridge Homes to build on 25% of the current flood plain, and the plan will come up for approval by the county, May 7.

Webster has spent considerable time pleading with the county to reconsider the development, citing what she considers to be dangerous conditions that will be exacerbated if the project is allowed to go further without protective conditions.

She said that without proper guidelines being followed to mitigate the risk of even more dangerous flooding in the future, the county could be putting its residents at risk.

"The problem goes back to the 1993 floods, when our neighbor, living with wife and young children on the project site, drowned in floodwaters downstream from the project site when driving on county maintained roads," Webster said. "Since then, the traffic on these death-traps has gotten much heavier, and the flooding worse/more frequent."

Webster said she wants to ensure that the county follows the General Plan guidelines pertaining to the avoidance of tract homes in flood plains and wanted to make it clear that her concerns have been presented in the public hearing process.

Kincheloe said he now realizes that the issue is bigger than just the one that exists on his property.

"There's a point where I shift from being a victim to being a proactive part of the solution and I may have to go into politics," he said, laughing. "I think this is the future. Problems of the county are going to be focused a lot on erosion, failure to provide adequate solutions and protections for its residents and homeowners, and the environment is going to suffer as well.

Jeff Pack photo

Eric Kincheloe is attempting to work with county, regional and federal agencies to fix flood damage on his property that he said was caused by a badly planned and engineered culvert.

He said he thinks there may be an unofficial policy with the county that pushes people to want to sue the county, and he thinks that is a bad way to do business as "It's not really logical for the good of the county."

"If I was angry enough, I think I could make a case for breach of duty by a public employee," Kincheloe said. "Because they're ignoring their mandate and they continue to compromise their position by letting the developers rewrite the rules. They aren't assessing or enforcing violations.

"But if a homeowner does it, they do enforce it, they always hold us accountable," he said.

Editor's note: This story is part of an ongoing series of stories relating to Kincheloe's progress in rectifying issues he has experienced while attempting to work with country and regional agencies.

Jeff Pack can be contacted at [email protected]

 

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