The city of San Diego worries some of its dams “may be nearing the end of their useful service life.”

So, the city is paying an engineer up to $5 million to check out each of those nine dams. If repairs must be made, those can be expensive. The city is already planning to spend nearly $23 million to make repairs at the city’s oldest dam, the Morena Dam near Campo.

The city has also imposed restrictions that prevent it from filling the region’s second-largest reservoir all the way to the top. Nobody knows for sure if the dam that creates that reservoir, the El Capitan Dam, is a safety issue yet. Engineers are planning several different tests.

It’s unlikely engineers would call for El Capitan to be taken out of service, said Rania Amen, an assistant director of the water department.

“They’re not going to tell us the dam is no good,” she told me during a recent interview. “Those dams are built to last forever – kind of.”

Mayor Endorses SoccerCity Plan

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer on Friday backed a plan to demolish Qualcomm Stadium and replace the 230 acres under and around it with a soccer stadium, housing and an entertainment district. Faulconer exacted some concessions and made an agreement with the developers about how it will protect taxpayers.

Here’s that letter, if you want to parse it and send along any observations. On the hot-button topic of how much the developers will pay for the land, it says this: “An independent third party appraiser will conduct the appraisal per the Brown Field process, with the goal of making the appraisal publicly available prior to the election date, and will also reflect the Brown Field development agreement precedent.”

In response, San Diego State University, which pulled out of negotiations with the project’s developer, said the deal is “not in the best interests” of the city or the university. (Times of San Diego)

Plan Coming on Tax Hike for Homeless

The mayor also is putting together a tax hike to go on the November ballot alongside SoccerCity. The money would fund an expansion of the Convention Center and pay for street repair and homeless services. Faulconer considered it a feature, not a bug, that he didn’t have a plan for how to spend that money for the homeless.

Now, the city’s independent budget analyst has a new report out on the tax hike. The report concludes that the City Council will have to do a plan on how to spend the money for homeless every five years.

Sacramento Report: #AppropsHell

Our state Capitol — like our nation’s Capitol — has its own language. In Sacramento, you’d hear talk of “trailer bills,” “spot bills” and “gut and amend.” In this week’s update on statehouse goings-on, our Sara Libby checks in on a new term popping up on Twitter: “#AppropsHell.”

San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher’s is chairwoman of the powerful Assembly Appropriations Committee, a financial gatekeeper through which any bill that comes with a price tag of $150,000 or more must pass. This year, the committee has to go through nearly 1,000 bills. Thus, #AppropsHell is the place where the reading and vetting of all those bills takes place. “I’ve learned there’s just no way of making everybody happy,” Gonzalez Fletcher said.

Podcast: Better Government Through Casual Conversation

In this week’s podcast, Serge Dedina, the laid-back mayor of Imperial Beach, said politicians could learn a thing or two from the casual community conversations that happen among surfers and other folks at the beach. In this week’s podcast, Dedina talked about the importance of “bro-ing out.” This could make for more inviting and welcoming city council meetings. (And maybe a lot of bro-hugging?)

The show’s co-hosts, Libby and Scott Lewis, also name this week’s hero and goat, discuss how easy it is to cheat on San Diego Unified School District’s online courses and the conflict over SoccerCity.

• One of Mayor Dedina’s big issues is the sewage that spills into Imperial Beach from Mexico. This doesn’t just affect the city’s residents but also federal border patrol agents who are getting rashes from coming into contact with water in the cross-border Tijuana River Valley. (Union-Tribune)

In Other News

• We have some news of our own: We’re spinning off a new organization that will support good journalism everywhere.

Speaking of Mission Valley, the city is working to alleviate the valley’s traffic congestion — something that is always supposed to happen but rarely does in Southern California. The city is planning to spend $41 million to upgrade the Friars Road/state Route 163 interchange and $13 million to add a lane to part of Interstate 8. (Union-Tribune)

The University of California’s governing board voted to cap out-of-state student enrollment, something that Californians have been demanding for years. That’s because several of the universities, including UCSD, are turning away top notch in-state students to admit out-of-state students. Why? One reason that colleges admit out-of-state students is because those students pay more money. (Associated Press)

The federal government wants to collect information on the number of non-U.S. citizens in local jails around the country. Meanwhile, federal investigators are “using a cellphone snooping device designed for counter-terrorism to hunt undocumented immigrants,” according to the Detroit News. (Union-Tribune, Detroit News)

In April, the unemployment rate in San Diego fell to its lowest since the recession, 3.8 percent. (City News Service)

The Week’s Top Stories

These were the 5 most popular Voice of San Diego stories for the week of May 13-May 19. Click here to see the full top 10.

1. Lincoln High Parents Exasperated as Hunt for a Principal Drags On
San Diego Unified School District announced it was going to keep searching for a new principal for the school that has long faced leadership turmoil. (Mario Koran)

2. San Diego Unified Found Lead at a School – and Told One Parent
Last fall, months before San Diego Unified School District began testing all schools’ drinking water for lead, it did a special round of tests a Sunset View Elementary in Point Loma. The district found lead but didn’t tell parents. Rather, it told one parent – the one who’d requested a lead test. (Ry Rivard)

3. It Is Shockingly Easy to Cheat San Diego Unified’s Online Courses
Across the district, online courses are enabling thousands of students to get caught up on classes they previously failed. But students also have access to the web as they take quizzes and tests, making it possible to find answers to the exact questions that appear on tests. (Mario Koran)

4. SDSU Reveals it Doesn’t Need Qualcomm Stadium Land … Yet
We finally got the clearest view yet of what San Diego State University leaders really want out of the Qualcomm Stadium site. (Scott Lewis)

5. County Workers Union Wants Raises, Benefits and … Sweeping Public Policy Changes
The union that represents 11,000 San Diego County government employees is using labor negotiations to push a broad set of policy goals: It wants to vastly expand the county’s welfare program, reform the criminal justice system and create a countywide “sanctuary” policy for immigrants. (Ry Rivard)

Ry Rivard was formerly a reporter for Voice of San Diego. He wrote about water and power.

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