Rains change East Valley into mud bog

The propane truck made it just in time on Tuesday for an East Valley couple who was down to a couple of rooms and space heaters as they tried to conserve gas.

A Douglas County road crew met the truck which was able to resupply Barbara and Richard Sorken because the muddy soup that is usually their portion of East Valley Road had frozen over.

"The propane guy was able to get in there on his own," said County Manager Dan Holler. "We have a county crew out there this morning trying to drain part of the lake."

Richard Sorken said it has been a month since the couple has seen a garbage truck.

The problem is East Valley Road, which has turned to liquid in the recent wet weather and is blocking both services from their Quail Valley Lane home.

"Some of my neighbors are over the edge," Richard said Monday. "I saw this coming, so we shut down most of the house and bought some space heaters. We're turning everything way down."

Sorken estimates that the couple's propane use has dropped from 20 gallons a day to 5.

"It's not much fun when you have to wear sweaters and coats and are living in only two rooms," he said.

The Sorkens have lived off East Valley Road for six years and are among eight families who live off the unmaintained portion of the road.

"They only got the last piece of right of way in the last few months," Sorken said. "But the 400 yards that leads to our road had been the county responsibility for years."

Sorken said that if it was only the handful of families that live off the unmaintained portion, then he could see the county's reluctance to maintain the road, but East Valley Road often provides an eastside alternative to Highway 395.

"It is amazing how many people use it for an alternative route," he said. "Johnson Lane people who go south to work use it. Last summer when there was a big accident onHighway 395, people were using it to get to Gardnerville. You could tell the people who didn't know the road from those who did, because they were the ones who stopped and watched the others go ahead before getting back in line. It was bumper-to-bumper for three hours."

Sorken said East Valley Road is actually worse than it was last year.

"They tried to do something as a friendly gesture last year and sent the graders to the unmaintained portion," he said.

Sorken said that until the recent rains, the road was fine. But the graders had dug up the hard pan surface and when the rains came, the road turned into a mire.

"It was a hard road," Sorken said. "I don't think anybody realized at the time what would happen. We need some drainage. We need to put the road up a little and have ditches on the side."

Holler said the county is doing the engineering work to figure out the road's drainage.

"We have to get the engineering work on the drainage done before we can extend the grindings work to Eldon, then we'll go up to Fremont," he said. "If we build up East Valley before we've figured out the drainage, then the water will back up and blow through the grindings, making it a bigger safety issue."

Ground-up pavement from Nevada Department of Transportation road projects are the source for the grindings and they are not always available.

"Longer term will be a funding issue," he said. "We could see the road improved to the grindings level in the next 12-18 months."

n Reach Kurt Hildebrand at khildebrand@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 215


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