Help for Highway 101

Approval for emergency repairs took six years — soon they begin

In December 2009 and January 2010, winter storms tore at the underpinnings of Highway 101 at the south end of Encinitas, causing erosion that threatened to compromise the highway. The city's Public Works department subsequently set out to do an emergency repair.

On Wednesday (February 10), after getting approvals from four state and federal agencies, the city council gave its final approval and funded the $735,000 repair.

"We had to get approval from the Army Corps of Engineers, the California Coastal Commission, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Regional Water Quality Control Board," said city associate engineer Kipp Hefner. "We've been lucky that we've had dry winters since then."

After the storms, city staff did stop-gap emergency repairs to keep the damaged road — from in the lows to the slopes where before the 101 rises up into Solana Beach — from collapsing. But the repair work disturbed sensitive habitat, and finishing the repair meant habitat restoration. The plans were relatively easy. The approvals were a whole different story.

City engineers engaged Dudek in 2011 to draft plans for the vegetation replacement and restoration. The engineering department, meanwhile, put together plans for storm drainage on the hillsides to make them more stable.

In October 2013, the Regional Water Quality Control Board finished its review and certified the project. It then went to the California Coastal Commission for review. The commission issued a permit on Jan. 10, 2014.

From there, it went to the Army Corps of Engineers, where it sat until the end of June 2015, before it was okayed for construction.

Meanwhile, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reviewed the plan and decided that the project didn't need a “streambed alteration” permit.

Caltrans also got in, requesting that the city set up five years of environmental monitoring after the “emergency” project is completed. (Unlike the other agencies, Caltrans will pay for what it asked for, just over $30,000 of the $35,000 total cost.)

By then, the coming El Niño winter was on the minds of city engineers. The heart of the project is replacing failed storm drains and infrastructure that will prevent erosion, according to city documents. Four companies turned in bids of between $578,00 and $1.2 million for the work.

On February 10, six years after the last storm damage, the city council unanimously approved the repair and funded it. Council members didn't make any comment and didn't return requests for comment afterward.

"We're just glad it hasn't rained as much as has been predicted," Hefner said. "That would have been an emergency for all of us."

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After six years I wouldn't be calling it Emergency Repairs.

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