2017-02-09 / Front Page

Roads, bridges crumble in downpours

Officials are now seeking disaster declaration after heavy flooding
By GREG LITTLE Editor


This was the scene Tuesday morning at High Country Health Foods & Cafe in Mariposa. Heavy rains caused water to rise throughout the County. 
Photo by Matt Johnson This was the scene Tuesday morning at High Country Health Foods & Cafe in Mariposa. Heavy rains caused water to rise throughout the County. Photo by Matt Johnson Even the cats and dogs were hiding last week when a deluge of water pummeled parts of Mariposa County.

It was Friday afternoon when a major storm cell moved through the County, the worst of which appeared to hit the areas around Woodland and Bootjack.

“We are in triage mode,” said Mariposa County Department of Public Works Director Tony Stobbe on Monday.

After the storm, officials from public works began assessing the damage — the worst of which was a roadway which washed out on Indian Peak Road.

The washed out asphalt spanned a bridge on the roadway, just west of Hirsch Road.

“That one is going to be a challenge,” said Stobbe.

Stobbe said the bridge “is fine,” but about 15 to 20 feet of road was washed away during the flash flood.


This was the scene last Friday afternoon on Ben Hur Road south of Mariposa. A deluge of rain forced streams out of their banks and onto the roadways and other areas. Local officials are seeking state and federal disaster declarations in an effort to get funding to fix damage to roads and bridges. 
Photo by Shantel Sojka This was the scene last Friday afternoon on Ben Hur Road south of Mariposa. A deluge of rain forced streams out of their banks and onto the roadways and other areas. Local officials are seeking state and federal disaster declarations in an effort to get funding to fix damage to roads and bridges. Photo by Shantel Sojka Though the National Weather Service does not have an official measurement for that specific area, some residents in the area reported around six inches of rain during the deluge.

Water ran under the bridge toward Italian Creek, which drains into the West Fork of the Chowchilla River.

How the bridge will be fixed remains in question, said Stobbe.

“Mother Nature just proved the size of that bridge for the water is not sufficient,” he said. “We may look at a temporary fix and a bridge replacement project.”

When it will be fixed is another question.


This is the library at Mariposa County High School following heavy rains last Friday. School workers worked quickly to clear the water from the building. 
Submitted photo This is the library at Mariposa County High School following heavy rains last Friday. School workers worked quickly to clear the water from the building. Submitted photo “In a best case it will be a couple of weeks because of the volume of material,” said Stobbe.

He said they will have to rebuild the subgrade before replacing the road.

“We can’t do that while it continues to rain,” he said.

In addition, there “are a lot of other things we are trying to cleanup.”

One of those is the Bauer Crossing, which is located in another area of Indian Peak Road.

Again, Stobbe said the “bridge is fine,” but the road is another situation.

He said the water went under (and over) the bridge and “curled around,” washing out the shoulder on the approaches of the bridge area.

“The slope is gone,” said Stobbe.


This was the scene last Friday afternoon when part of Indian Peak Road washed out near Hirsch Road. Fixing the road could take some time, according to local officials. 
Submitted photo by Mariposa County Public Works This was the scene last Friday afternoon when part of Indian Peak Road washed out near Hirsch Road. Fixing the road could take some time, according to local officials. Submitted photo by Mariposa County Public Works Because of the location of that bridge, he said it is a top priority.

“That one we need to get fixed,” said Stobbe.

The bridge is located in a critical area and is the only route in and out for some residents.

The other bridge on Indian Peak Road, though crucial, is not the only way in or out for residents. Buses from the Mariposa County Unified School District are being rerouted in that area.

Stobbe did say traffic is being allowed on the Bauer Crossing because the bridge itself appears to have withstood the rush of water.

Two other bridges were also damaged during the storm, said Stobbe.

One is on Brooks Road, near Woodland Elementary School.

In that incident, the railing was torn away from the bridge.

“It was a very stoutly built bridge and it appears to be fine,” said Stobbe.

It will remain closed until the railing and other damage can be fixed, he said.

When that happens is not known, he said, because it is not as a high of a priority as there are other ways to get around that area. Brooks Road is a short connector from Highway 49 South to the Woodland area.

Another bridge was also damaged south of Cathey’s Valley on White Rock Road, he said.

The damage there is similar to the Bauer Crossing area, he said.

Officials are also assessing that situation, he said, including how to make repairs and in what time frame.

Stobbe said in all there were “six or seven wash outs” on roads in Mariposa County.

Stobbe said the County engineer is traveling throughout the area to assess the damage.

“We will document everything we do before we do restorative work,” said Stobbe.

Emergency declaration sought

The reason, he said, is because the County is seeking a disaster declaration from the state of California.

Interim Mariposa County Chief Administrative Officer Dallin Kimble said the County is seeking emergency funds from the state.

The Mariposa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a proclamation of a local emergency asking the state for funding.

According to the agenda item that was amended over the weekend, County officials are asking for both a state and federal disaster declaration.

It asks for the governor to proclaim a state of emergency and for the President to declare an emergency. That would likely mean federal funding would be attached to the request, should it gain the approval of the President.

Kimble said if the proclamation is approved by the governor’s office, then the County would be eligible for emergency funds.

The state would provide 75 percent of the funding to repair damage from the flooding and the County would have to provide the other 25 percent.

Kimble said the County has yet to determine a “solid amount” of the damages, though he believes it will easily exceed the minimum threshold of $65,000 required for state funding.

The County has to have the proclamation to the state within 10 days.

It was sent to the state immediately after being approved by the board.

Kimble said he was not sure how long it might take for the governor to make a determination.

School district impacted

The Mariposa County Unified School District had some minor issues related to flooding.

“We’re in the process of looking at what happened and what we need to do,” said Charlotte Kelsey, maintenance, operations, transportation, facilities and warehouse manager for the district. “We are working with our insurance company on this.”

The biggest issues were at Mariposa County High School and Woodland Elementary. At MCHS, water got into the media center/library building.

“We were able to get a crew over and get the water all cleaned out and dry,” Kelsey said.

The carpet is dry but stained and may need replacing. Scott’s Cleaning Service will be coming to complete a moisture test before removing the heaters, Kelsey said.

Because the drains by the media center/library are not draining quickly, district maintenance personnel will look into whether there is “some sort of blockage” in the drain, Kelsey noted.

“The drains by the library, with that much water at once, it was just crazy,” Kelsey said.

She said with more rain in the forecast, the district will have sandbags available on location this week to prevent further flooding.

Also at the high school, the culvert on the road behind the district’s warehouse to fire science is compromised and the road has been closed to staff vehicles and student foot traffic as officials work to assess damages and a plan for repairs.

At Woodland, two classrooms had “minimal” flooding, but are “dry and usable now,” Kelsey said.

In addition, the old school office, which now serves as a staff room and custodial office, was flooded.

“The carpet is pretty thrashed,” Kelsey said. “I think it is probably going to need new flooring but we’ll have to look into it and see.”

Kelsey said the ball fields next to Woodland Elementary were heavily affected by the rainfall. The fields are owned by Mariposa County Parks and Recreation, but Kelsey said the school district’s middle school athletics program utilizes the fields.

“I don’t know how soon those fields are going to be able to be used,” Kelsey said. “There are lots and lots of issues with the fields across from us.”

In addition to MCHS and Woodland, Kelsey said there have been a few roof leaks in buildings across the district that are also being dealt with. She said the leaks are not occurring at any locations which have new roofing.

Kelsey also praised the maintenance department workers, saying they were “on it right away” on Friday in dealing with the flooding issues.

“For all intents and purposes it wasn’t too bad, considering how much rain we had,” Kelsey said.

Staff writer Matt Johnson contributed to this story.

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