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Mendocino County Road Damages In The Millions

Getting Orr Springs Road reopened is a priority for Mendocino County Transportation Director Howard Dashiell, but he warns that making sure the solution will be safe is paramount.

Orr Springs Road, oddly enough, is part of the Federal Highway System, as it connects major thoroughfares in the county. That means Dashiell can appeal for special federal funds for repairs. But that doesn’t mean the process will be any faster.

While Dashiell could not predict when the road might reopen, he estimates the cost of fixing it will be in the $1.5 million range, based on work done in 2006 in a similar situation on Eel River Road which cost around $1 million.

The solution will likely be a temporary bridge of some kind (you could Google “Bailey Bridge” for an idea). Dashiell said the trick will be assessing the stability of what’s underneath the pavement.

“I can’t see under the ground any farther than you can,” Dashiell said. Once the ground under the Orr Springs Road pavement stabilizes somewhat, (and the washout hole got even bigger overnight, encompassing all of one lane and most of the other) crews will need to poke around, “sneak up on it,” and drill into the soil to see what’s underneath and if it can hold heavy equipment.

He said he is working “as fast as I can,” not only on coming up with engineering for a solution, but also crossing all the t’s and dotting all the ‘i’s on emergency and environmental documents needed. And that’s not even all the paperwork that goes with trying to get funding for it.

“The money is the least of my worries right now,” he said.

He said he knows people who live on the other side of the washout are terribly inconvenienced but he can’t do anything that won’t be safe.

“I’m not going to open that road until I feel safe to let my wife and daughter go across,” he said.

Dashiell said other federal system county roads with severe damage are Mountain View Road and the Branscomb Road. Other county roads closed right now due to storm damage include Peachland Road at milepost .95 in Boonville, the Laytonville-Dos Rios Road at milepost 4.19 and Mallard Street between Hawk Road and Poppy Drive in Brooktrails. There are no estimates for reopening for any of those either.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration and Caltrans staff were in the county Tuesday and Wednesday looking at damage. They are assessing damage for January storms, much of which got worse with more storms this month, including the latest weekend storms.

Among the damage they’re looking at is severe damage at the Point Arena Cove, where the parking lot washed out and one-ton boulders washed up.

Dashiell estimates road damages just in the month of January are between $5 million and $7 million. The Orr Springs problem is a separate February event. The way funding works, usually about 75% of funds are provided through federal monies and the local jurisdiction pays 25%, although sometimes the state will help with that portion.

The vast majority of the damage thus far in January and February is to County roads. There’s also some debris removal costs, and the city of Ukiah has asked for emergency funds for some equipment damage and damage to sports fields.

The basic idea of how the process works is the local government sends its damage information to the state, then the state sends it on to federal agencies. Disaster declarations must be made at each level.

Part of the complication of getting things assessed and paid for, is that each storm is a new event with new paperwork.

Rick Ehlert, county Emergency Services Coordinator, explained that often a storm will damage a road, but then the next storm makes it worse and the next worse still. But as you get funding for the first storm, you need to figure out how to get paid for all the subsequent damage as well.

He said FEMA is usually pretty good at allowing the funding stream to continue as estimates change over time with subsequent storms. FEMA funding has been announced for the storms of Jan. 3-12. FEMA is now in the county looking at damage from storms between Jan. 18-23, and more emergency declarations are likely for February storms as well.

(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)

One Comment

  1. John Sakowicz March 2, 2017

    To the Editor,

    The Orr Springs Road closure is having a huge impact on reservations and revenues at Orr Hot Springs Resort, which is located at 13201 Orr Springs Road, several miles beyond the sinkhole at milepost 39.20. The road closure impacts local employment and will soon impact on County taxes. I’ll explain.

    Although I am a weekend employee of Orr Hot Springs Resort — and love Orr Hot Springs and would work here for nothing (I love the place that much!) — as a disclaimer, I must be crystal clear that I am not writing on behalf of anyone at the Orr Hot Springs Resort. I am writing this letter as a private citizen only.

    In short, and as might be expected, the road closure is very bad news for Orr Hot Springs What was formerly a 25-minute trip by car from Route 101, North State Street exit to Orr Hot Springs Resort, is now easily a two-hour trip for local residents on alternative, often difficult, routes.

    For Bay Area guests, the news is even worse. THe principal route is now a long and arduous trip. Guests from the Bay Area must take the Rt. 128 exit on Rt. 101 in Cloverdale, drive through Yorkville, then Boonville, drive past Navarro, take Flynn Creek Road, drive to Comptche-Ukiah Road, and finally drive to Orr Hot Springs Resort.

    The current Comptche-Ukiah Road conditions remind me of those road conditions on Orr Springs Road — only worse.

    The Comptche-Ukiah Road is well off the beaten path, and road conditions are dangerous in places, with huge potholes and rock slides, due to the recent flooding. Pothole damage to tires and vehicles is not uncommon. Folks not familiar with the Comptche-Ukiah Road, and driving too fast, have complained of tire damage, wheel rim damage, wear to shocks and struts, suspension damage (including broken components), and steering system misalignment.

    Bottom line? Alternative routes to Orr are long and slow.

    Hence, as you might expect, Orr Hot Springs Resort has experienced a drop in reservations, especially during the week, and that translates as a loss of revenue to Orr. Ultimately the loss of revenue means a loss of tax revenue for Mendocino County. I’ll explain.

    Orr Hot Springs Resort had approximately $2.1 million in revenue in 2016.

    In 2016, Orr paid something like $65,869 in Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), and $6,624 in Business Improvement District (BID), which doesn’t seem like much, however Orr only pays tax on the “motel” portion of the room rent, which is $90.00 per room/yurt, or $160.00 per Cottage. It does not pay TOT or BID on the soaking fee portion of its rates.

    The big thing to keep in mind is that Orr grossed $2.1 million, which is money flowing into the county from primarily outside sources (tourism).

    Then, there are Orr’s property taxes.

    According to the County Tax Assessor’s website at , the Orr property is valued at $2.4 million, which I think is about $24,000 in property taxes. I’m not sure what the business is valued at, and what the taxes for that are.

    Also very importantly, Orr Hot Springs Resort is an employer. Orr provides about 1,100 hours of work every 2 weeks (28,600 hours/year), for residents of Mendocino County, with a minimum starting wage of $15.00/hr. The average hourly wage is higher — easily over $20.00/hr.

    A drop in reservations means that Orr must cut hours for some workers.

    Finally, the owner of Orr Hot Springs Resort gives generously to local charities. In 2016, Orr made $20,000 in cash donations. My own public affairs show at the Mendocino Environmental Center and KMEC Radio received a $1,000 gift. At the recent gala on Valentine’s Day weekend to benefit the Mendocino County AIDS/Viral Hepatitis Network (MCAVHN), Orr Hot Springs Resort bought three tables. Orr Hot Springs Resort also makes $10,000 to $20,000 in in-kind donations in Mendocino County annually.

    Orr Hot Springs Resorts a good neighbor. Now is the time to help Orr Hot Springs Resort. The Bailey bridge must be deployed as soon as possible.

    I am encouraged by efforts made by Director of Transpiration, Howard Dashiell. On February 22, he issued an RFP for assistance in deploying the County’s 150-foot Bailey bridge. The RFP was subject to Caltran’s Emergency Repair System and their Emergency Bid Procedures. On February 24, Director Dashiell held a bidders conference.

    I, along with many other County residents, look forward to a progress report on the Bailey bridge deployment.

    Again, I emphasize that I write this letter as a private citizen only. I love Orr Hot Springs Resort. They are good neighbors. And they are responsible stewards of a sacred, environmentally fragile place which local Pomo Indians starting visiting hundreds of years ago, if not longer.

    Pomo Native Americans regularly passed through this vibrant spot on trading expeditions and on annual treks to the Mendocino coast. Unfriendly tribes agreed to co-exist peacefully while stopping at the hot springs.

    In the late 1800s, “Orr Hot Sulphur Springs” became a resting spot on the Ukiah-Mendocino stagecoach line. It developed into a popular resort for city-dwellers who came seeking health and wellness. The mineral waters were heralded as bringing great relief to arthritis and rheumatism, and to blood, kidney and liver disorders.

    Visitors come today for the deep peace they find at Orr Hot Springs. I tell my friends that at Orr you can “hear the silence”.

    Thank you.

    John Sakowicz

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