Board clears flood, mud prevention projects to continue

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The Riverside County Board of Supervisors authorized the county Flood Control and Water Conservation District to continue a series of projects intended to protect communities around Lake Elsinore and the Temescal Valley at risk of flooding, mud and debris flows because of last summer’s massive wildfire in the Cleveland National Forest during its June 4 meeting.

District Manager Jason Uhley has been submitting requests to continue the emergency projects every month, utilizing the services of Murrieta-based construction firm KIP Inc. and Corona-based KEC Engineering and San Bernardino-based Sukut Construction.

Despite the onset of summer and no damaging storms in the western county area since the end of winter, Uhley said in documents posted to the board’s agenda that the contractors’ work needs to go on.

He said “critical public infrastructure” remains vulnerable, with some flood control facilities still “loaded with mud and debris which must be cleared” before another large-scale storm series pounds the region, whenever that may be.

KIP and the other firms are working on stabilizing and reinforcing the Horsethief Canyon Storm Drain, the Leach Canyon Dam and the McVicker Debris Basin. Peripheral projects are also underway to fortify channels and canals where residential and commercial properties may be exposed.

The estimated aggregate cost of the contracts is $6.75 million, according to agency documents.

The Valentine’s Day storm series caused upward of $100 million in damage countywide.

The impact prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom Feb. 21, to issue an emergency proclamation for Riverside County, and President Donald Trump signed a Major Disaster Declaration, May 1, that included Riverside County. Thanks to recognition of the county’s condition, local agencies can apply for federal and state disaster aid to cover some of the cleanup and repair costs.

The 23,000-acre Holy Fire, allegedly ignited by 51-year-old Forrest Gordon Clark of Holy Jim Canyon Aug. 6, denuded steep terrain below Santiago Peak, permitting stormwater to flow unchecked onto lower slopes where subdivisions are situated, mainly in north Lake Elsinore and the Temescal Valley.

Mud and debris flows caused property damage and submerged streets on multiple occasions at the foot of the Cleveland National Forest during winter rains. Mandatory evacuation orders were also issued for public safety.

There was extensive damage to state Routes 74, 111 and 243 near Idyllwild, Mountain Center and Palm Springs.

Highway 111 was repaired within a couple of weeks. However, major repair work continues on Routes 74 and 243.

Clark is in custody in Orange County, awaiting trial.