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Slides continue to drain county

By John Estridge, Editor

Spring rains and being a county commissioner or just a resident living off a rural road can be very frustrating.

At the Franklin County Commissioners' Tuesday, May 7 meeting, commission vice president Tom Linkel talked about the expensive mitigating efforts on at least two creeks paralleling county roads in the county were for naught.

Linkel said the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) efforts and $120,000 were washed down the creek during Friday, May 3's storm. More damage was done on a slide on Blue Creek Road. That slide mitigation had been completed two days before the storm on Wednesday, May 1.

And they are not the only two slides in the county. There are seemingly more and more every time it rains.

“We're down to one lane at the location where we just spent all the grant money at (Big Cedar),” Linkel said. “It failed and washed into the road. We've got 13 active slides in our county right now. That's not counting the areas where the creeks are washing into the roads. There's no slides; it's just a wash.

At the time Linkel was talking about the slides and washouts, engineer Doug Graf, project manager USI Consultants, Inc. was at the podium. Graf is acting as the county engineer until the county can hire another county highway department engineer.

“Is there any other money, (Army) Corps (Engineers) money?” Linkel asked. “Is there any other money out there?”

“I don't know of anything available,” Graf said.

He mentioned in emergency situations, the state and federal governments make money available for road repair and stream mitigation; however, he said what is going on with the county regarding slides and washouts would not be considered an emergency situation by the state and national officials.

To fix the slides and washouts over and over is draining the county's highway department coffers, Linkel said.

“What is happening is every district, we're burning up our asphalt money and our stone money on slides,” Linkel said. “We're going to end up running out of money before we get to asphalt season (working on the county's roads). That's our problem.”

Graf said he would research funding sources and see if he could find anything for the county to access.

Commission president Tom Wilson reiterated $120,000 was wasted with the Big Cedar project.

“Big Cedar, that's $120,000 going down the creek,” Wilson said. “It'll probably (cost) more this time.”

Linkel said at the very least, the highway department will have to dump shot rock or rip rap at the site as a stop-gap measure. He said the highway department needs to get a berm built up so they can open the road.

“That's minimal,” Linkel said. “Blue Creek … I don't know. I don't know what the answer is there. We keep (putting in) asphalt, and it keeps going down.”

Graf asked if the commissioners wanted to get more parties involved in the situation.

Wilson asked if the county should drill down on the Wolf Creek Road and Blue Creek Road slides to see what is going on beneath ground.

“I don't know exactly what it is,” Graf said.

“It's got to be water underneath there somewhere,” Wilson said.

Linkel said he is not an engineer but through his experience, he has decided two factors cause the majority of Franklin County slides: “erosion from a creek undermines and makes it slide, and the other is we have blue clay, blue limestone. It'll get water on it, and it will just slide out from under the roads.”

Graf said those are typical causes for slides. But he said every situation is unique. He said rip rap or shot rock is a way to mitigate a slide, but it is not a permanent fix. And while it is inexpensive up front, it can get pricey when the county has to use more and more rip rap.

It will be more pricey for the county, but getting a handle on what is causing each separate slide is important, Graf said.

“To get the geo tech done and have them tell you exactly what is causing the issue, and give you a recommendation, and really permanently take care of it,” Graf said.

So, Linkel asked Graf to study the main slides and then Graf and the commissioners can talk about it from there.

Commissioner Gerald Wendel asked if the county could use concrete. Linkel and Wilson said that worked well in the past. The state just asked for the county to not allow exposed rebar in the concrete before putting it in place, but now the state does not allow concrete without exposed rebar to be placed at a site.