Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, Feb. 9 @ 2:18 p.m. / Emergencies, Infrastructure, Local Government
Last Week's Storm Worsened Pebble Beach Drive Landslide, Crescent City Manager Says; Emergency Fix May Lead To Cash Flow Challenges
Winter weather and wave action continue to eat away at the bluff along Pebble Beach Drive, causing more of the scenic thoroughfare to be compromised.
After public works crews removed the unsupported portion of curb and gutter, last week’s winter storm caused more of the bluff to give way, City Manager Eric Wier told councilors on Monday.
The latest slide has undermined about an estimated 15 feet of land underneath Pebble Beach Drive between 7th and 8th streets, according to Wier.
“The road is going to go as well,” he told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Friday. “It is a dangerous situation. I can’t stress it enough, we need the public to stay away.”
On Monday, Wier showed councilors drone footage of the undermined embankment. Sand bags staff had set up following the initial slide on Jan. 14 had toppled down the slope. On the ocean side of the neon orange barricades set up to keep people away, there was a massive crack in the roadway itself. The asphalt was beginning to buckle.
At a City Council meeting on Jan. 22, Wier had estimated that the initial landslide compromised about 150 feet of Pebble Beach Drive. On Monday, he said about 250 feet of road needed repairs for the area to reopen to the public.
Councilors unanimously declared an emergency following Wier’s presentation. According to the city manager, the declaration is necessary for Caltrans to kick in funding through its emergency opening process for a temporary fix to the road. But those dollars would be reimbursed to the city and the project would have to be completed within 270 days from the declared disaster.
The current estimated cost for those repairs is roughly $3 million to $5 million, Wier told the Outpost on Friday.
“It would be quite the outlay of funding for a temporary solution,” he told Councilors on Monday.
The emergency declaration preceded a Del Norte Local Transportation Commission meeting on Tuesday. At that meeting, commissioners contributed $15,000 to Crescent City in transportation development act dollars.
According to Public Works Director David Yeager, those dollars will be used for public outreach especially as the city creates detours around the impacted area.
Yeager said Crescent City may also hire an outside consultant to help the city seek further assistance for the Pebble Beach Drive Bank Stabilization project as a whole.
Yeager also met with Tidewater Contractors, Stover Engineering and the geology firm GRI on Wednesday.
“They’re looking at the overall design recommendations for the temporary fix or emergency fix portion of it, which we’ll submit to Caltrans,” Wier told the Outpost.
Yeager also met with representatives from COWI North American Inc., which has been contracted since 2020 for the wider Pebble Beach Drive Bank Stabilization Project, according to Wier.
Stemming from a December 2016 storm, this project encompasses the current slide area, Brother Jonathan Lookout and a pocket beach between 9th Street and Preston Island to the north.
Staff continue to work with the California Coastal Commission to complete the permitting process. But once that permanent solution is ready to move forward, Crescent City would likely have to foot the bill, about $30 million to $60 million, and then apply for reimbursement through the Federal Highway Administration’s Advanced Construction program.
If approved, the federal government would pay 88 percent of the project cost and Caltrans would fund about 75 percent of the difference, according to Wier. Crescent City would then be responsible for the remaining 3 percent, about $1 million, he said.
“We wouldn’t get reimbursed until after that project is completed. It’s not working on that standpoint at all,” Wier reminded councilors on Monday. “This emergency funding could [work for us], but even that would mean a significant investment from the city to get the work done and then it would be reimbursed.”
According to Wier, the landslide occurred in a culturally sensitive area, so the city is working with the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation and Elk Valley Rancheria. The design phase for the emergency fix could take several weeks with construction potentially taking two to three months to complete.
Wier said the clock is already ticking on that 270-day timeframe for the city to finish the emergency project.