BIG SUR — As crews continued working to assess the scope of the Highway 1 slideout south of Big Sur while starting clean-up and repair work, this week’s anticipated storm could make those efforts more difficult.
According to Caltrans spokesman Jim Shivers, additional rain and runoff in the wake of last week’s atmospheric river storm that drenched the Big Sur coast could delay progress being made on the 150-foot section of washed-out highway at Rat Creek about 30 miles north of the San Luis Obispo County line.
“Any additional runoff or rain could create a scenario of more time to clean up, (and) more slide activity,” Shivers said. “Water is pooling in areas above the highway and we need to deal with that. Dryer conditions allow for more steady progress.”
A storm is expected to arrive Tuesday night and continue through Wednesday morning, bringing a quarter to a half-inch of rain, a relative drizzle compared to the downpour that dumped up to 16 inches of rain in some areas of Big Sur.
Caltrans officials have said the roadway slideout was impacted by the Dolan Fire burn scar in the hills above the site, which helped create unstable conditions. The Dolan Fire started Aug. 18 in the Monterey Ranger District of the Los Padres National Forest and burned 124,924 acres.
Working with Arroyo Grande-based Papich Construction which was hired under a $5 million emergency contract last week, Caltrans crews continued working on a full assessment of the damage and potential cost of the slideout along with clearing debris and repair on Monday, Shivers said. There is no timetable for completion of the work, he said.
A Caltrans representative said Friday a report was expected later that afternoon but it wasn’t clear what caused the delay.
Shivers said the Rat Creek slideout is smaller than the Mud Creek slide, which dumped about 6 million cubic yards of debris on Highway 1 in May 2017. It took more than a year to rebuild the roadway on top of the slide at the time.
On Monday afternoon, Caltrans officials reduced the Highway 1 road closure associated with the Rat Creek slideout by moving the northern closure site to the South Coast Center about 34 miles north of the San Luis Obispo County line and were set to move the southern closure site to Willow Creek Road about 11 miles north of the San Luis Obispo County line.
A 24-hour traffic control site will be set up at the road closure sites to allow only local residents to return and assess damage to their homes.
The roadway had been closed since last week for a 45-mile stretch between Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn in Monterey County and Ragged Point in San Luis Obispo County, though Big Sur Village remained open and accessible.
At the same time, crews worked on Monday to clear piles of debris, remove accumulated water, repair drainage systems, and strengthen damaged roadway sections at 60 different sites along Highway 1 on the Big Sur Coast, according to Shivers. The work sites still need to stabilize and dry out before final cleanup and repair can begin, he said.
An evacuation order on the Dolan Fire burn scar area was lifted Monday afternoon by the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office as county public works crews continued emergency debris removal on Nacimiento-Fergusson Road to provide emergency access to residents impacted by slides.
Meanwhile, county crews continued work on emergency debris removal and culvert repairs in the River Fire burn scar areas, according to county spokeswoman Maia Carroll, including “extensive” work on River Road and culvert replacement work in the Pine Canyon area.
River Road has been clear between Monterey Salinas Highway and Gonzales River Road for local traffic since Friday, although debris from the slides is too wet to be transported and will need need to stabilize before it can be taken away.
Clearing work on River Road around Fairview and Foothill roads continues, and emergency culvert repair is needed at Fairview.
Minor debris removal continued on Cachagua Road in the Carmel Fire burn scar area, Carroll said.
County Public Works, Facilities and Parks Director Randy Ishii said damage assessments are ongoing with debris removal, which must be done to allow crews to identify damages and provide cost repair estimates.
“From the costs we have already gathered, this event has left substantial damage (with) more to be quantified,” Ishii said.
A county Office of Emergency Services estimate placed the cost of damages to exceed $2 million.
The county continues to make sand stockpiles available for public use.
Contributed by local news sources