Massive Storm Debris Field Clogging Tuolumne River

TURLOCK (CBS SF) – It has been weeks since any significant rain has fallen, but a massive debris field left over from the winter storms is still clogging the mouth of the Tuolumne River.

Calvin Curtin, of the Turlock Irrigation District, said crews are working to clean up the mess left over from the storms before the fallen trees, limbs and other debris become a problem for boaters and the Don Pedro Reservoir.

“It’s estimated that the debris field is between 35 and 40 acres – all combined,” he said. “This is a lot of work. They’ve been working on this since January.”

Years of drought followed by record rainfall created a debris field four times larger than normal. Some of the debris was likely washed into the river from the charred remains of the 2013 Rim Fire.

Elsewhere, the storms damage is also visible in the Stanislaus National Forest.

“This is an epic event, probably exceeding the ’97 storms,” said Tim Hughes, an engineer on the National Forest staff. “Multiple slides, we had culverts plugged up with debris.”

Hughes pointed out the roadway at Board’s Crossing – just one of 500 such sites in Northern California where the roads were simply no match for the storms. He said the damage estimates were still being added up.

“We’re still trying to even finish our assessment,” he said. “We have the high country, the snow. We know we have damage up there we can’t even get to it.”

In Ebbetts Pass, local fire chief Mike Johnson pointed to a makeshift structure protecting the town’s water supply next to a washed out road.

“We have a temporary mitigation, as you can see behind us, with the I-beam that’s supporting that vital piece of water supply to our town,” he said.

The story is much the same across Calaveras County.

“We’ve got about 40 incidences of wash outs, road wash outs,” Calaveras County Supervisor Michael Oliveira told KPIX 5. “We’re looking at about $5.8 million in damages. Our road repair budget for this year was $700,000. We went through that in the first 3 days.”

After surveying much of the damage, Hughes says cleanup will not be completed for quite some time.

“This clean-up effort will go on for years,” he said,

More from Wilson Walker
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