Neighbors battle runoff in Wofford Heights, hope for help

A trench funnels water away from properties in Wofford Heights, Calif., April 24, 2017, where residents say the runoff from the recent wet winter is causing trouble nearby. (KBAK/KBFX photo/Carol Ferguson)

Winter runoff is pooling up behind Marge Chernick's house in Wofford Heights, and she's worried about possible damage and mosquitoes that could breed there.

She's right behind the Elks Lodge, and their park is also flooded. Neighbors estimate the water's about 3 feet deep in ponds in the Elks park. They have called various officials, but say they still aren't getting any help.

Chernick's friend Jacqueline Sacks did help, though. Sacks dug a trench to move the water safely through Chernick's yard.

"I just keep it clean every day where it can flow through here to get it out of my yard instead of going through," Chernick said. "Because it was headed to my trailer. This whole thing was flooded."

On Monday there was a pretty fast stream of water in the small trench. But, it did keep the water away from Chernick's trailer, a truck, her propane tank, and steered the water around a neighbor's yard, too.

It's an area just below Wofford Boulevard, and the neighbors think some of this runoff is going under that road, and into their properties. Sacks lives above the Boulevard and she's been trying to help, and get answers.

"This water is actually a natural channel that goes through my back yard," Sacks told Eyewitness News on Monday. "You can't see it, because it's underground." She's pretty sure some of the water comes out in a field near the Elks Lodge, after it goes under Wofford Blvd. A soggy stream then makes its way to the Elks Lodge park.

"We've got three areas in the park that I can see feeding through from underground," Elks Treasurer Ron Keele said. "There's no damage other than the fact that we're not going to be able to use our park."

On Monday, he got into the area, checking on how much water was pooled up, and where it was going. Keele said there was a pretty good stream along the fence, and they'd have to dig a trench, and try to move it away, hoping it would then flow down toward Isabella Lake.

Keele knows people who live above the boulevard and are pumping water out of their yards and patios. He also figures this is coming from natural springs.

Sacks said she's contacted Kern County Road Department officials, Caltrans, and county Code Compliance. No one had answers. She was finally directed back to county roads, and was told the water is from a "natural drain."

In one email she got, a county official said now that the water's running down Chernick's small street, that's what it's supposed to do for now.

But, Sacks hoped the water could be diverted farther along Wofford Boulevard to avoid Chernick's area.

Kern County Public Works Operations and Maintenance Manager Mark Evans tells Eyewitness News that's just not practical. Evans said his crews have looked at the area.

Evans also said with this winter's heavy snow and rain, soils in the area are completely saturated. Evans also said his crews will continue to monitor the situation by the Elks Lodge and Chernick's house, and if there is an emergency, county crews will look for some options.

Still, Chernick thinks the water shouldn't reach her property in the first place, "They need to reroute it," she insisted.

And her friend, Sacks, worries that no officials have come to personally look at how the runoff is impacting private property.

And, from the Elks Lodge, Ron Keele also hopes for more answers.

"Just saying it's a natural spring doesn't help us at all," he said. "At least give the people up here some direction. They say there's nothing you can do about spring water? Well, you have to do something."

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