Highway 89 repairs could take a month

Kurt Hildebrand / Record Courier
A Caltrans worker talks to people who pulled up to the barricade at the northwestern entrance to Markleeville on Saturday.
Kurt Hildebrand/Record Courier

It could be more than a month before Highway 89 reopens, Markleeville residents heard on Saturday morning.

“That lane is undermined to the point where we have another event … it’s just not safe,” CalTrans representative Bob Highfill told a town hall meeting in Markleeville.

State workers will install a larger box culvert on Highway 89 at the entrance to the historic town. That process could take 4-5 weeks.

Highfill said it will be days before crews start working on the actual project that would open the highway.

Very nearly the entire town turned out at the town hall.

Crews were working on an alternative route into town in hopes of having emergency access by Wednesday.

Highfill said a temporary bridge brought to help improve access ended up being short of the 55 feet required for the span. He said bringing in a new temporary bridge would take as long as installing the culvert.

Alpine County Water System Manager Buck McClellan said there was a significant amount of sediment in the treatment plant which reduces the amount of water available to the town to its two wells. He said he hoped the issues would be corrected by Monday.

McClellan raised the issue of fire protection while the road is out.

“We are still in fire season,” he said. “You need to understand the burden you’ve put on the residents,” he said. You need to get multiple contractors to get a temporary road to go now, because the Forest Service station and the Woodfords station are on the other side and we’re still in fire season. You need to look a little deeper at what the coffers of CalTrans have. I don’t think the answers I’ve heard today are acceptable.”

Concerns about mud clogging the sewer plant were raised on Saturday. A contractor was expected to make the run over Monitor Pass on Saturday to pump the five feet of sediment out. Alpine officials confirmed that the plumber would be able to make it there with a truck.

Besides water and sewer, residents are also facing challenges to get mail, groceries, and in several instances help clearing the mud and debris from their homes.

Businesses are also struggling and the county recently issued a call to action asking for support.

Due to the closure of Highway 89 from Turtle Rock Park to Markleeville, businesses in Markleeville need help more than ever. Alpine County is asking the local community to come out and support our local Markleeville businesses during this time of need.

“Our businesses are the backbone of our community. Their resilience in the face of adversity should be recognized,” said JT Chevalier, economic development director. “Please consider spending your money where it counts the most. Support for our businesses is the best vector for recovery as we once again begin the recovery process. Please consider taking a beautiful drive through the Eastern Sierra and support the Markleeville community.”

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