Walker Canyon on road to recovery
Caltrans is getting its feet wet in river bed construction with the reconstruction of Highway 395.
Randy Iwasaki, district director for Caltrans, hired a consultant to help re-design the river channel to protect the road.
He said he realized that the river and the road co-exist.
Hiring the consultant “demonstrates the fact that we are trying do the job right the first time,” he said.
During the New Year’s flood the river diverted from its channel in the Walker Canyon destroying the much of the recreation area including homes, a business and a span of about nine miles of highway.
He said the U.S. Forest Service, which owns the land in the canyon, and California Fish and Game support Caltrans’ efforts in the river.
The cooperation will provide for better habitat and a good fishery, Carl Haack, Caltrans resident engineer added.
With the new design, “the river is going to meander now,” Haack said, “because that’s what the river wants to do.”
About 100 people are working on the road and some are working at night, he said.
“It gets a little cold at night,” said Haack, who has been working 12 to 16 hours a day.
He projected the road will open by early summer.
“There are too many variables involved to give an exact date,” he said.
Yeager Construction of Riverside was awarded a $19 million contract, about three weeks ago to do the main road repairs.
Other contractors were set to work about two weeks after the flood. Terchart Construction of Sacramento was given a contract for $4.7 million, to work on the river channel, and Carlson Construction of Gardnerville and Mittry & Sons of Sonora, Calif. have a combined contract for $2.5 million to reconstruct the canyon. Granite Construction of Reno built an access road on a contract for $30,000.
Material deposite by floodwaters in the canyon is being used to rebuild, Haack said.
Iwasaki said Caltrans moved quickly to make repairs to the highway because “it is an important north-south link to Nevada. (It) stimulates the economies of Walker and Coleville and our detour goes around those communities.”
Walker businesses, cut off from a main source of revenue – the tourists using the highway – are staying afloat with business from construction workers.
One motel lowered rates to accommodate the out-of-town workers and is booked until June 1.
Joe Timpone, manager of the 12-room Andruss Motel in Coleville, said rates were lowered so that the workers could afford food and lodging on their daily allowances.
“We don’t want them to have to pay out-of-pocket,” Timpone said. “It’s not the idea to jack rates up just because there is no other place to stay.
“That’s just not right. We need (the workers) up here. We are happy to see them.”
Sandy Marshall, owner of the Sierra Retreat in Walker, said even though their six cabins are full with construction workers, the food and gift shop businesses are still down because they rely on tourists.
Marshall said she has had to delay reservations made by vacationers.
“Until the construction guys leave,” she said, “there won’t be any fishing business.”
The Shingle Mill campground, five miles south of Walker, was wiped out by the floodwaters in the canyon, according Kathy Lucich, district ranger for the Bridgeport Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests.
She said that the campground, which had 15,000 visitors annually, was equipped with restrooms, picnic tables and barbecues. It will not be rebuilt.
She said the district is considering a new location for a campground depending on finances.
Bootleg and Chris Flat campgrounds, also in the Walker canyon, were not harmed in the flood but will be closed until Highway 395 opens.