McKinstry Street Flood Gates

A car approaches the northern flood gates on McKinstry Street on Monday morning. Some problems have arisen with the gates, prompting the Napa County flood control district to ask the Army Corps of Engineers for a fix.

J.L. Sousa, Register

Massive metal gates that seal off the Napa River bypass at McKinstry Street during flood stage will receive a minor makeover to benefit motorists and cyclists.

These gates close at two locations across the road to keep floodwaters inside the bypass and people out. Rubber at the base of the two-ton gates is supposed to form a seal against metal bars embedded within the concrete surface of the street.

The two-ton flood gates are almost always open because bypass flooding is rare. The metal bar at the northern McKinstry Street bypass entrance became loose. People driving along the street over the bar received a jolt.

“Cars would go over it and you’d hear it really go over the bump,” said Richard Thomasser of the Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District. “It would really rattle.”

Plus, the metal bar proved to be an annoyance for cyclists riding over it.

The loose metal bar has since been removed and asphalt put down over the gap in the street. That means the gates can no longer seal when shut.

“We can still close the gates,” Thomasser said. “That particular gate we would just have to sandbag.”

The metal bar remains at the southern entrance, where it causes its own problem. It protrudes a couple of inches from the pavement to form the seal with the gate, which can be an annoyance to cyclists.

The city of Napa decided the section of bar in the sidewalk didn’t meet Americans with Disabilities Act rules because it posed a tripping hazard, Thomasser said.

Placing a small amount of asphalt near the protruding part of the bar on the sidewalk smoothed out the problem. But flood officials would have to chip away the asphalt to close the gates.

All of this is some minor jerry rigging for the two-and-a-half-year-old flood control bypass. Flood officials said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that oversaw bypass construction, will make the permanent fix.

The idea is to have removable bars. When floods threaten, local flood officials would bolt them down to the street at the bypass entrances and shut the gates. Then they’d take out the bars after opening the gates.

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“During the dry season, there won’t be anything at all there for cars or bicycles,” county Deputy Public Works Director Phillip Miller said at a recent county meeting.

“Wonderful,” biking enthusiast and county Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht responded.

Miller said he’s heard cost estimates of a couple hundred thousand dollars for the project, though he’s uncertain of the final price. The Army Corps of Engineers must go through certain steps to secure the money and could do the work in summer 2019 — or maybe sooner.

“We would like it done this year,” Miller said. “We’d like to have it in place for the next rainy season coming up.”

Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Tyler Stalker on Monday was gathering information on the project at the request of the Napa Valley Register. That information will be added to the online version of the article when available.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He was worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield. He is a graduate of UC Sa