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Officials vow to build Cathedral City dam after major flash flooding; neighbors still on edge

County and Cathedral City leaders pledge to begin building Eagle Canyon Dam within a year

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. - Joe Di Rienzo recently finished remodeling his home at the Tramview Mobile Home Park in Cathderal City. It's an investment he's spent the past few years molding. However, in the past week it's taken almost as much time and money just to spray away the remains of a muddy mess.

"It's kind of a pile of rubble. Basically everything installed and invested is now trash," he said.

Neighbors, like his mother-in-law Kami Sawatzki, say it's a flood zone and they've had enough.

"I just want it fixed. I just want this problem fixed," she said.

The problem: A break in a temporary dam in Eagle Canyon that sent a wall of water rushing down East Palm Canyon Drive and into their homes on Thursday.

"Every day I get a flash flood alert and I'm like, ‘Do I go and sandbag the house?" said Di Rienzo.

Now, both the city and county say they're taking action to help. Riverside County Supervisor John J. Benoit says it'll take two projects: First, building a permanent dam. And second, building an underground storm drain that will serve as an outlet for runoff water.

"It's a complicated process. I think the county and city are doing a good job and the purpose for meeting this week was to make sure there are no roadblocks," said Benoit.

Those are words Sawaski says are too familiar to her family.

"I hope they do it. We've been hearing it for years and nothing's been done," she said.

The county says construction on the $10 million project is planned to start in 2013 and will take about one year to complete. That money will come from the city, the county's flood control fund, and Benoit hopes construction proposal bids as well.

"The goal is to make sure it is in place as soon as possible, to the extent we can say it will never happen again," said Benoit.

However, while Di Rienzo stares at the damage, he says he'll believe it when he sees it.

"If they can really build this dam and they can alleviate this problem, I'm 100 percent behind them. Until then, I just have to sit on this. It can happen again any day," he said.

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