Mount Veeder Road Closure

Napa County Public Works crews worked on repairing a complete blockage at 3361 Mount Veeder Road that occurred in February.

J.L. Sousa, EAGLE file photo

Big winter storms that triggered mudslides took an estimated $30 million to $40 million toll on Napa County rural roads damaged at more than 40 locations.

Public Works Director Steven Lederer recently released this estimate following one of the wettest winters on record, with the precise number to emerge as each repair project is further defined. Finishing up the bulk of the repair work could take two to three years, he said.

Actually, the total estimate on a county repair projects list adds up to more than $50 million. But Lederer said that several projects have already seen the initial estimated cost drop, so he sees $30 million to $40 million as being accurate.

“I expect most of those numbers to go down rather than up,” Lederer said.

The county expects to receive money for the storm damage repairs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state Department of Transportation. The reimbursements are not yet a sure thing, Lederer said.

“The good news is, if FEMA pays its share and Caltrans pay its share, effectively the county’s exposure is 10 percent,” Lederer said.

Whatever the winter storm damage figure ends up being—$30 million, $40 million or $50 million—it won’t top the hit taken by Napa County government for the South Napa earthquake.

The Aug. 24, 2014 South Napa earthquake caused $49 million in damage and expenses for county government, which tends to rural roads and county buildings. But left out of that calculation is the yet-to-be-finalized cost of repairing the old county courthouse, so the amount is likely to be closer to $65 million.

Napa County was hit with a fire hose of rain at times during January and February and a soggy landscape started moving. Mud, trees and rocks tumbled down hills and covered roads. In other cases, roads slid down hillsides.

This summer, the county plans to do six repair projects on storm-damaged roads costing about $11 million. Lederer called these “emergency projects.”

“They need to be done this year whether FEMA pays for them or not,” he said.

Some summer repairs are targeted for the roads less traveled. Lederer said these problem areas are considered emergencies because they are likely to grow worse unless something is done soon.

An example is a slide along a remote section of Redwood Road in the Mayacamas Mountains west of The Hess Collection winery. Lederer estimated only about a dozen homes are beyond the slide and residents can still use one open lane.

Yet 200 feet of collapsed hillside at this location is an immediate problem. Lederer said the $3.8 million repair job needs to be done before the winter rains.

“If you happen to live in one of those houses, it’s very important,” Lederer said.

Another remote site on the summer repair list is a location along the Berryessa Knoxville Road in the northern Lake Berryessa area. Lederer said an unstable hillside, unless tended to for an estimated $2.3 million, will be more expensive to fix later on and could cause a lengthy road closure.

A Howell Mountain Road location is sinking and this road is used by emergency responders, Assistant County Executive Officer Alice Hughey told the Board of Supervisors on April 18. It is targeted for a $1.2 million repair this summer.

Also, two emergency repairs at $1 million apiece are scheduled this summer for Wooden Valley Road and a $1.6 million repair for another Redwood Road location.

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What the final costs are remain to be seen. In a particularly dramatic estimate of how repair estimates can go down, Lederer pointed to the huge mudslide that buried a key, frequently traveled section of Redwood Road a mile northwest of the city of Napa in early February.

The county initially estimated it would cost $1.5 million to set things right. Instead, the county road crew scooped up the muck and trucked it off for $100,000. As it turned out, the road itself was virtually undamaged.

“If the problem is below the road and the road slides, that’s expensive,” Lederer said. “If something just lands on the road and all you have to do is clean it up, it’s cheaper.”

The county is still investigating whether a private landowner’s activity might have helped cause this big Redwood Road slide, Lederer said. If so, the county might be able to seek reimbursement from the landowner.

All of these storm-related repairs shouldn’t wash away other summer road projects. Lederer said non-storm related road projects totaling about $1 million are planned over the next two years.

“As much as possible, we’re trying to continue with regular business,” Lederer said.

Among this year’s scheduled projects are paving Silverado Trail from Howell Mountain Road to Zinfandel Lane, doing paving in Berryessa Highlands, rebuilding a section of Milton Road in the south county and doing chip seals at various locations.

Winter storms also did $1.4 million in damage to county sewer and water systems at two Lake Berryessa communities. The systems are run by the Lake Berryessa Resort Improvement District and Napa Berryessa Resort Improvement District, each of which has its own budget largely funded by ratepayers.

The hope is that FEMA and the state Office of Emergency Services will reimburse the districts for the storm-related repairs, county Deputy Public Works Director Phillip Miller said.

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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