Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Thursday, Jan. 25 @ 4:47 p.m.
Reopening Pebble Beach Drive Would Cost Crescent City At Least $1 Million ; City Manager Says; Councilors Issue Emergency Declaration
Video courtesy of Mike Cuthbertson, aka GasquetMike.
Crescent City councilors on Monday issued the emergency declaration staff say is the first step toward seeking state help to repair Pebble Beach Drive.
About a week after record-breaking rains caused about 75 feet of bluff to give way, Councilors also approved a budget amendment of $31,000 to cover immediate costs. This includes erecting permanent barricades to keep people away from the undermined stretch of road as well as removing the hazardous curb, gutter and asphalt.
The city is also installing erosion control measures, including sand bags to divert standing water around the slide area, according to City Manager Eric Wier.
However, Wier estimated that the landslide on Jan. 14 compromised about 150 feet of Pebble Beach Drive between 7th and 8th streets. With the cheapest fix estimated to cost about $1 million, Wier said he’s been on the phone with Caltrans and the California Coastal Commission to try to find a feasible short-term solution.
“Right now the street is blocked at 7th and 8th streets, so it’s just one block,” Wier told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Thursday. “Pebble Beach Drive is completely closed. In the future we might expand that out once we have more robust signage so instead of turning onto Pebble Beach at 6th Street you’ll continue along Taylor Street to 9th and then up 9th to Pebble Beach.”
Cars can still access Brother Jonathan Lookout, Wier said. He added that the $31,000 councilors approved on Monday will also help pay for the initial geotechnical work needed to reopen Pebble Beach Drive.
“The real crux of this is the Pebble Beach Drive area and the closure of a main collector street for our community,” Wier said. “We can have a detour that goes around this particular portion for now, but the part we need to concentrate on is maintaining that iconic drive and that collector street for our community.”
Public Works Director Dave Yeager also told councilors on Monday that the landslide is still active.
“It is still a risk to traffic and it’s also a risk to the public and we are assuming we will need geotechnical engineering to get to the next phase,” he said.
According to Wier, Caltrans is assessing the damage caused by the Jan. 14 storm in multiple parts of the state, including Humboldt County, for submission to the Federal Highways Administration for emergency funding. This includes cost estimates to repair the compromised portion of Pebble Beach Drive.
Wier noted that Del Norte County issued an emergency declaration on Jan. 9, ahead of the storm, so its Road Division could breach Lake Earl.
On Monday, Crescent City Councilor Kelly Schellong asked Wier and city staff to approach the Measure S Oversight Committee to see if funding from that 1 percent voter-approved sales tax could be used to help fix Pebble Beach Drive.
In response to Crescent City Mayor Blake Inscore, who asked if the most recent slide changed the scope of the existing Pebble Beach Drive Bank Stabilization Project, Yeager said no.
That project aims to halt bluff erosion on the scenic thoroughfare between Preston Island and 6th Street and stems from a December 2016 storm. The areas of concern include a pocket beach between 9th Street and Preston Island in the north, Brother Jonathan Lookout, and a stretch of beach alongside Pebble Beach Drive to about 6th Street in the south.
Twenty-to-thirty percent of that project’s design has been completed. 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 the waves, a planted berm and a low profile wall.
It also involves using soldier piles and backfilling the area with riprap keeping the beach, bluff toe and an existing wetland as much as possible, according to Wier.
At Brother Jonathan — a key area of scrutiny from the Coastal Commission’s perspective, Wier told the Outpost — it may be possible to pull the road back a bit to account for solutions needed to stabilize the bluff there. Wier said the city doesn’t the space needed to adjust the road alignment between Brother Jonathan and 6th Street because of houses in the area.
However, while a December 2016 storm contributed to the bluff erosion the city aims to halt, Crescent City would have to foot the bill, roughly $30 million, and then apply for reimbursement through the Federal Highways Administration’s Advanced Construction program, according to Wier.
There’s no guarantee that the FHWA will grant that reimbursement, Wier said.
On Monday, though Mayor Pro Tem Ray Altman tried to get his colleagues to focus on the immediate budget allocation of $31,000 for the most recent slide repairs, Inscore and Schellong, and Councilor Jason Greenough addressed the bigger picture.
Greenough suggested lobbying state representatives for assistance.
“Maybe there’s an opportunity for a new program where the state has a revolving fund for smaller communities that have these kinds of issues,” he said. “Where they take on the burden and it’s paid back through the feds as the project progresses.”
Inscore said it’s likely the city will have to commit to spending at least $1 million to keep Pebble Beach Drive open. Crescent City is responsible for a 3 percent contribution if the bank stabilization project is deemed eligible for FHWA Advanced Construction Reimbursement, the mayor pointed out. The City Council may have to figure out how to float a $30 million loan and commit $1 million, he said.
“That’s what we’re talking about is $1 million that’s going to take for us to get this project done,” Inscore said. “I know we don’t have $1 million laying around, but we can’t afford to lose Pebble Beach either.”