Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, Jan. 17 @ 3:53 p.m.
Pebble Beach Landslide Highlights City's Funding, Permitting Dilemma For Long-Term Fix
Video courtesy of Mike Cuthbertson, aka GasquetMike.
Though the weather-driven landslide on Pebble Beach Drive over the weekend fueled “positive conversations” with state officials, funding for a long-term solution remains out of the Crescent City’s reach, according to City Manager Eric Wier.
Speaking before City Councilors on Tuesday, Wier said that while the Pebble Beach Drive Bank Stabilization Project is 20 to 30 percent designed, the California Coastal Commission considers Crescent City’s application for a coastal development permit incomplete.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s landslide has completely undermined the scenic coastal drive, which will remain closed to pedestrians and vehicles between 7th and 8th streets for the foreseeable future, Wier said. He estimated the slide to be 50-70 feet wide and 30 feet deep, stating that the whole bank gave way.
“Public Works Director Dave Yeager had [staff] setting up barricades,” Wier said. “On Sunday morning, they found people standing on the curb and gutter looking over the edge trying to see the erosion. There’s nothing stopping that from crumbling at any moment. I’m asking, begging, the community please don’t stand in this area that is undermined there. It is unsafe. The barricades are up for a reason.”
Crescent City’s work to halt bluff erosion on the scenic thoroughfare stems from a December 2016 storm. The areas of concern include a “pocket beach” between 9th Street and Preston Island, the area around the Brother Jonathan Lookout and a stretch of beach alongside Taylor Street in the south, Wier said.
The city manager pointed to a home over looking the bluff at Taylor Street and South Pebble Beach Drive, saying that by 2075 studies predict that the entire bank will continue to give way.
“That house is in danger if we do nothing,” Wier told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Sunday. “This current slide just accentuates that. It’s not just a study, that is a reality we’re dealing with.”
In June 2020, councilors approved a $651,738 loan from the water fund to the general fund and entered into a $1.1 million contract with COWI North American Inc. for the engineering phase of the stabilization project.
On Tuesday, Wier said 20 to 30 percent of the design has been completed on the project — “enough to have a solution in place that we know will work.”
One concept for the beach alongside Taylor Street and the area between 9th Street and Preston Island incorporates a cobble berm to provide defense against waves, a planted berm and a low profile wall. According to Wier, the project involves using soldier piles and backfilling the area with riprap so the area will look like a vegetated bank.
The beach, bluff toe and an existing wetland will remain intact as much as possible, Wier said.
Along Brother Jonathan Lookout, the stabilization project includes a planted berm and a rock slope with large boulders at the foot of the bluff. Wier said it’s a much larger footprint than the other two areas.
Once the project receives the necessary permit to move forward, Crescent City will have to foot the bill, approximately $30 million to $60 million, and then apply for reimbursement through the Federal Highways Administration’s Advanced Construction program, Wier said.
If approved, the federal government would pay for 88 percent of the project and Caltrans through its emergency relief program will fund 75 percent of the difference, Wier said. Crescent City would be on the hook for the remaining 3 percent of the project cost, he said.
“How the city as a small rural city, or even the county, comes up with $30 to $60 million to complete this, it’s just not feasible,” Wier said. “It’s not like we can get a loan for those kinds of dollars and put it to Congress and say OK our project’s done when they allocate money, if they allocate the money. It’s not a feasible funding scenario.”
Wier told City Councilors that city staff would be working with COWI to come up with solutions. Until then, the road will be closed for the foreseeable future, he said.
Saturday’s storm broke a record from 2023, dumping about 2.81 inches of rain on Crescent City. The region received roughly 8 to 10 inches of precipitation over 72 hours, National Weather Service meteorologist Doug Boushey told the Outpost on Tuesday.
In addition to the landslide on Pebble Beach, the rain brought flooding to the Smith River and Lake Earl areas prompting Del Norte County to breach the lagoon on Tuesday. According to county engineer Jon Olson, Lake Earl had reached over 11 feet Tuesday afternoon and was encroaching on Lower Lake Road.