MORAGA (KPIX 5) — It’s an East Bay sinkhole so famous that on Thursday, the city of Moraga threw a party to celebrate the long overdue fix.
But soon the massive hole at Rheem Boulevard and Center street in the middle of town will be just a memory.
The sinkhole has been more than just an eyesore.
Perhaps it was fitting that Thursday’s ceremony should happen in a driving rain since that’s what caused the problem in the first place.
“It started off as a small hole, but it continued to grow and grow and grow,” said Moraga Public Works Director Edric Kwan.
On a rainy Sunday in March of 2016, a storm drain collapsed and a sinkhole opened up on Rheem Blvd in downtown Moraga.
It grew larger and eventually broke a gas main, leaving PG&E scrambling door-to-door to shut off service. The main intersection into Moraga was blocked off and that’s how it sat for over a year and a half as the town searched for the money to fix it.
“It’s been a real challenge. Unfortunately, as a small town, we don’t have that much funding,” Kwan.
Moraga asked the federal government for help but was denied because storm drains are not technically considered an emergency utility.
But then the city lucked out. Because El Nino rains caused the damage, the repairs eventually qualified for disaster funding.
On Thursday, 18 months after the hole opened up, Moraga had a “ground filling” ceremony. Fixing the street cost more than $3 million and has all but depleted the town’s reserve fund.
The feds say they will reimburse the money but no one seems to know when that will happen. Town leaders say they’ve learned they need to raise the cash to upgrade their 70-year-old storm drains.
“Unless this happens during an emergency, a nationally or state declared emergency, you’re going to have to be self-reliant when it comes to storm drains,” said Moraga Town Councilmember David Trotter.
The situation also taught Moraga Mayor Teresa Onoda a lesson about politics.
“What I’ve learned from this is everything is complicated,” said Onoda.