Officials discuss next steps after Lake Tahoe road resurfacing failure |

Officials discuss next steps after Lake Tahoe road resurfacing failure

Ed Miller, president of Meeks Bay Fire Protection District board of directors, listens to El Dorado County District 5 Supervisor Sue Novasel speak at the April 13 meeting.
Margaret Moran / Sierra Sun |

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Visit to download a claim form, which is located under the “Liability Insurance” section.

Call 775-424-3200 to order a cleaning product for emulsion, making reference to the Tahoma area chip seal project.

Visit, where an FAQ section is anticipated to be posted in the near future.

TAHOMA, Calif. —

El Dorado County officials still aren’t sure of a specific solution to remedy the failed West Shore resurfacing project, which is resulting in road material being tracked onto private property.

“It’s an emulsion problem, and an emulsion problem only,” said Don Spear, deputy director for El Dorado County’s Community Development Agency Transportation Division, Maintenance and Operations; he recently spoke at a well-attended April 13 meeting at West Shore Pizza in Tahoma. “The emulsion acts like the glue to hold the rock. You will have residual rock lost on any chip seal job — that’s normal.

“What we’ve had happen this year is not normal, and you folks know that.”

However, the exact reason for why the chip seal project failed — performed last summer on roughly 21 miles of roads in El Dorado County, within the communities of Tahoma and Rubicon — remains under investigation.

The county is consulting with pavement experts to determine what went wrong, and until that is figured out, the best solution cannot be sorted.

While a slurry seal project was initially favored (estimated to cost between $600,000 to $700,000), Spear said the county has since taken a step back from that idea.

“What happens if we put something over this, and it comes apart?” Spear posed at the community meeting. “That is why we are bringing in the outside experts. … Let them design a fix — how to do the fix — so we don’t have that problem.”

“One way or another, we’re going to design a fix, and we’re going to do the fix as soon as possible,” he added in a follow-up interview, although there is no set timeframe for when it will occur.

‘In our homes’

In the meantime, the county will continue to sweep up loose chips on the roads, and will soon begin cleaning up materials that have been tracked onto people’s private property.

The last portion of that announcement garnered clapping and whoops for the roughly 60-member crowd at the meeting where Spear, other county road officials and District 5 Supervisor Sue Novasel, whose region includes the West Shore, were in attendance.

“With that said, there needs to be an understanding in this room that it’s not going to happen overnight,” Spear said. “It’s going to take several months … We won’t be able to get to everybody right away. All I’m asking is for you to be patient; but I will guarantee you, we will clean up all the loose material.”

The material has also become stuck to pets and tracked into people’s residences — and meeting attendees last week voiced their frustrations.

“This stuff is in our homes. It’s literally in my daughter’s bed,” said Tahoma resident Robert Kennedy. “ … This is so much further than a bad resurfacing project. Western Emulsions (the emulsion supplier company) blew it.”

Those with perceived property damage can submit a claim to the county. According to the law, there is a deadline to submit claims based on the date of occurrence and the type of damage sustained.

Therefore, Jon Hendrickson, a third-party liability claims administrator for the county, advises those who intend to submit a claim do so as soon as possible. As of Monday, April 18, he said three claims have been received.

“A claim form is not to be construed as a commitment by the county to pay for any services or honor any claim,” Hendrickson wrote in an April 6 email to residents.

Also mentioned in the email is the availability of a cleaning agent for the chip seal emulsion, and that Belfor Property Restoration labs can assist in cleaning if requested.

“This information is provided for the convenience of affected residents to use as they may see fit in mitigating their own damages,” Hendrickson wrote. “The county cannot recommend nor guarantee the performance of any vendor or its services.”

‘You have to fix this’

The chip seal resurfacing project initially cost El Dorado County roughly $800,000, with funding coming from gasoline taxes. Work occurred late last August and into September.

Initially, it appeared the project was a success. However, when snow removal operations began this winter, swaths of chips started detaching from roads and going elsewhere, exposing the sticky emulsion below, according to a previous report.

Cost estimates to correct the issue remain unknown, considering the ongoing investigation, Spear said. A funding source also still needs to be identified.

“I don’t want my taxes paying for the cleanup and to redo it when there is obviously a problem with the emulsion,” Tahoma resident Arik Wilson said. “…The emulsion supplier’s insurance company and (an existing county) performance bond (should cover it).”

In a follow-up interview, Novasel called the incident “an unfortunate mistake that somehow occurred, and we’re trying to correct that.

“It’s certainly not something that the county anticipated, but we are planning to take care of it,” she said. “It’s very, very important to us that we address the concerns of our constituents by making sure that we get this cleanup done sooner than later and that it’s done properly.”

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