ANTIOCH -- Soggy stories in northwest Antioch are all too familiar this time of year for local residents, schools and businesses at risk of flooding.
Two years from now, they may dry up.
After being awarded a nearly $3 million grant from the state Department of Water Resources in January, Antioch is working to complete design work for additional culverts to open up a water channel that clogs and causes seasonal flooding around the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds area. The other half of the nearly $6 million project is being funded by local drainage and assessment funds.
"We're still running with it. We're making good progress," Public Works Director Ron Bernal said.
That's music to the ears of Jeff Warrenburg, who felt the toll of recent storms.
The owner of Antioch's Paradise Skate recently installed a new wood floor to attract more customers. As forecasts worsened, Warrenburg stayed at the rink overnight, braced with quick-hardening liquid foam and boards for the doors and a Shop-Vac to suck out water that got in.
"I wanted to be there in case the creek went over," he said.
Sure enough, West Antioch Creek crested around 9 a.m. Dec. 2, flooding the area with about 6 inches of water.
"We had to put our barriers up. It was perfect timing. Luckily, no water got in, and we were able to open by 3," Warrenburg said.
The flooding wasn't as bad as in 2008, he said, when the business was surround by 18
The culvert project has encountered some procedural delays, in part because of a lack of city staffing and the wait to receive the state money, Bernal said.
Antioch leaders agreed last month to into enter into contracts with Rocklin-based ECORP Consulting to prepare environmental documents and Walnut Creek-based RMC Water & Environment for engineering design and to obtain proper permits for the work.
Bernal said he expects construction to begin in spring 2014. Work cannot be done on the creek between October and April, he said.
The project will improve water flow through a 650-foot stretch of West Antioch Creek between Eighth and 10th streets near O Street. The county's flood control district made improvements to the stormwater system in 1993, but a gap was left near the area because of a lack of funding.
Work includes removing silt from the drainage channel from Eighth Street north to where the creek flows into New York Slough.
The extra culverts will help keep nearby Little League Baseball fields open, building floors dry and quickly move standing water to the Delta before it can collect pollutants.
Tenants at the 52-unit Marina Creek Apartments, some of whom place sandbags around the complex whenever it looks stormy, and teachers and staff at Antioch Charter Academy II can't wait for the flooding fears to recede.
"It's encouraging that things are moving forward; however, it's too bad things weren't done years ago," said Tim Rubin, a teacher at the school. "It takes away from the kids learning to have teachers constantly monitoring the creek."
Adds Warrenburg: "It will be nice to have relief, both physically and financially. It does take a toll."
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.