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MONTEREY – It has been more than two years since the winter storms of 2017 ravaged Palo Colorado, among other areas, causing infrastructure damage and closing access to remote areas of the Ventana Wilderness via roads and trails.

Regaining full access to areas such as Bottcher’s Gap and beyond are on the horizon, but still far off.

A recent announcement that almost $1.7 million had been awarded to Monterey County for reimbursement of Palo Colorado road repairs turns out to be a drop in the bucket.

The grant reimbursed 75% of the total of a little more than $2.2 million, the maximum the county could receive, or any Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement can receive. That’s under Section 406 of the Robert T. Stafford Act which authorizes the funding. That leaves about $550,000 in unpaid bills.

According to the county, the obligation for the funds is for repair work on upper Palo Colorado.

“Regarding the difference between the $2.2 million and the $1.66 million, the typical convention is that the state (California Office of Emergency Services) will participate in up to 75% of that difference …and the local agency needs to fund the balance and any overages that FEMA and the state believe is non-eligible,” said Maia Carroll, Monterey County spokeswoman.

Map of Palo Colorado Road from Highway 1 to Camp Pico Blanco. (Google maps) 

But the damage to Palo Colorado that runs roughly from Highway 1 to Bottcher’s Gap – or milepost 1.0 to milepost 7.4 – and will cost an estimated $19 million to repair.

There is another 3.5 miles of Palo Colorado Road from Bottcher’s Gap to Camp Pico Blanco at the end of the road, but according to Carroll, the stretch of road past milepost 7.4 is beyond the county-maintained portion.

That portion of road comes under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies, according to USFS documents.

Lower Palo Colorado repair work from mile marker 1.0 to mile marker 3.2 – with an estimated cost of $400,000, of which $335,600 is obligated for reimbursement – is tentatively scheduled to begin after upper Palo Colorado repair work is complete.

According to the county, there is no work between milepost 3.2 and post 4.0 that FEMA/CalOES will reimburse or fund.

“Rocky Creek Bridge repairs were estimated to be about $7 million, and its cost to date has been $5.2 million,” said Randell Ishii, Monterey County chief of public works. “(Monterey) County has received $61,911 for this project so far and is in the process of preparing reimbursement requests.”

General debris removal and construction of a temporary access road at the site cost $854,065.

Work was completed on Palo Colorado at milepost 3.3 at Rocky Creek Bridge and reopened for use by the public on Oct. 26, 2018, but permit requirements are still being addressed to date.

Monterey County has been working on three project worksheets including the Rocky Creek area and the cost to date has been $6,421.782. The total reimbursement for the three is expected to be $4,028,051.

Palo Colorado had multiple areas damaged and Monterey County has filed project worksheets with FEMA, including four worksheets just for the upper Palo Colorado area – from milepost 4.0 to 7.4, or “the hoist” to Bottcher’s Gap.

Upper Palo Colorado repair work is estimated to cost about $11 million for all four project worksheets. FEMA and the state have only obligated $3,376,800 as reimbursable of which the county has received $159,094 for these projects, according to Ishii.

The total cost for all of Palo Colorado repairs along its length from milepost 1.0 to 7.4 is about $20 million. The total obligated for reimbursement to date, without the most recent obligation, is $5.2 million. Monterey County has spent $6,421,781 to date on Palo Colorado repairs and been reimbursed $662,607, not counting the most recent reimbursement.

The combined total effort of all four project worksheets’ scopes of work need to be completed on upper Palo Colorado and includes various embankment and slope repairs, construction of soldier pile walls or soil nail walls, flushing multiple culverts, and replacing several culverts.

Before work starts, environmental review and permit acquisition from the resource agencies needs to be conducted, as well as the design of those repairs and publicly bidding for a contractor.

“The $1.66 (million) recently announced as a reimbursement was for one of the four (project worksheets) for the upper Palo Colorado area. FEMA and (the) state obligated $2.1 (million), but we are receiving only $41,592 upfront for the project for now,” said Ishii. “This project is considered a large project by FEMA and reimbursements can be drawn after expenses are incurred. However, (a) project needs to be approved by the Board of Supervisors before proceeding as funding for county share and the funding gap needs to be identified and approved.”

The time it takes to get reimbursed depends on the type of project. Payments for small projects get reimbursed upfront while reimbursements for large projects can be requested periodically as the project proceeds, explained Ishii.

The Monterey County Board of Supervisors approval is required to make up the cost difference. There is a plan to take a report to the budget committee and board of supervisors before the end of the year to consider the next phase of 2017 storm damage repairs.


Source: East Bay Palo Colorado’s long road to repair

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