If you were at the BSMAAC meeting, you heard me speak briefly to this, giving everyone my opinion that we are in it for the long haul, as in it is possible it may take a year. I base this opinion on several other decades-long residents’s opinions and observation. We also have seen the top of the slide, from a position up Willow Creek on San Martin Top. We have been watching it for months, and the whole mountain is giving way. I will try to make time to post some of the earlier photos and latest photos of this phenomena. Today, Cal Trans sent me Sara’s (she was at the meeting) evaluation of the situation. This will not be an easy fix. It is complex. It follows:
“The Mud Creek area is a volatile location with the conditions and expressions of landslide movement changing on a regular basis. We have been actively managing and maintaining a single lane through this location for 4 months. The conditions at this site have actually increased in activity over the last few weeks as is evident from the debris that is continuing to come down these slopes. The landmass is clearly moving in different ways at different times along this 0.4 miles stretch of the highway. The slopes above the roadway have been saturated and are slumping due to the extensive springs and seeps that have developed this winter. Fine grained material is being eroded and leaving large blocks of rock (greater than 10 feet in diameter) exposed which eventually become undermined and come hurtling down the mountain. We have worked below this active slope to remove the debris which lands on the roadbed and have been trying to maintain the existing roadbed width while it has been too unsafe to put equipment up on the slide.
Even though the rains have essentially stopped, activity on this slope has increased and more debris and large blocks of rock are moving down the mountain. With the increase in slope failure activity we have been forced to reduce the exposure of the public and the workers to these conditions. With all the erosion, there is currently overhanging debris and towers of rock exposed high above the roadway. It is actually not uncommon for slope activity to increase well into May. Large catastrophic landslides are definitely known to occur in the month of May well after the rain has stopped. For this reason we are not able to work the slope as we would like. Losing this access point on the coast has very large impacts to all stakeholders. We are currently in the process of setting up a large scale monitoring system that will help determine slope movement as well as working with USGS to review the movement that is occurring hundreds of feet above the roadway. With an understanding of whether the slope movement is slowing, dilating, increasing, or bulging, we will be in a better place to determine the safety at the site for people working on the slopes as well as people traveling along the roadbed.
Long-term solutions are being developed at this site but we have not been able to mobilize the drill rigs for the geotechnical investigation due the exposure to rock fall to the workers and large-scale landslide movement. Mud Creek is a series of landslides adjacent to each other with differing slide planes and rates of motion. As such, this complex of slides is the largest and most difficult situation that Caltrans has had to manage along the Big Sur Coast. Caltrans will continue to keep the public informed as solutions are explored both internally and with our partners at the USGS.”
One can see that the existing roadbed is fast disappearing. Trust me, Cal Trans is being pressured on all sides to get this open, and they are doing everything in their power to do so. It is not possible at the moment. The damage has been done and is only getting worse. Mistakes have been made, but blame doesn’t solve the problem. This is where we are, and this is where we must start to find solutions which will work. It will take significant further study, when it is safe. Not much can be done while the water continues to flow out of the mountain and it continues to fall.
This has been an historical summer (Soberanes Fire) and an unprecedented winter – one for the history books. It is a story our grandchildren will know and tell. We will sur-vive and we will become stronger as a community. We already have. We have witnessed amazing acts of kindness and community acting together in creative problem-solving ways. There are so many heroes it is hard to list them all. It is not over, but I have faith in who were are and what we can do. I am proud of us.