The Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved the ongoing use of two contractors hired by the Riverside County Flood Control & Water Conservation District to perform work intended to mitigate mud and debris flow risks around areas impacted by the Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest.
Corona-based KEC Engineering and Murrieta-based KIP Inc. were retained in mid-October to handle the implementation of hazard mitigation measures and be on call for post-storm cleanups in Lake Elsinore and the Temescal Valley.
The firms were placed under contract on an emergency basis at an estimated cost of $1.5 million, soon after Hurricane Rosa off the Baja coast generated disturbances throughout the region.
Flood Control & Water Conservation District General Manager Jason Uhley selected the contractors without seeking competitive bids, requiring the board to regularly re-affirm retention of the firms.
According to county officials, the contractors’ crews have been deployed to install inlet and spillway protection structures, establish interim diversions to prevent damage to district facilities and public rights-of-way, and to clear mud, rocks and debris from public spaces under the county’s jurisdiction, including El Cariso, Glen Ivy Hot Springs and Horsethief Canyon.
Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, whose First District encompasses the area, said the county, the city of Lake Elsinore and even homeowners’ associations have so far done a standout job “stepping in” to ensure that mud piles and flooded roads are cleaned up in a timely way after a storm, such as the intense system that hit Southern California last week.
Neighborhoods in the Temescal Valley and around Lake Elsinore were placed under a mandatory evacuation order from Wednesday afternoon to Friday morning because of flooding and mudslide threats triggered by the region’s first major storm of the rainy season.
Some property damage occurred, and multiple roads were temporarily closed due to flooding, but no lives or homes were lost.
County Emergency Management Director Bruce Barton told the board that with several mandatory and voluntary evacuations called since October, “people are getting tired” of constantly being on edge every time inclement weather is predicted. But he emphasized that public safety is paramount, and residents should be prepared to receive additional evacuation orders for the duration of winter.
“Those (emergency) notifications go out early, sometimes too early,” Jeffries said in response. “You walk outside, and there’s not a cloud in the sky. Then it’s hard for people to take all this seriously. But fast forward 24 hours, and you see those black mud flows coming out of the canyons, then you fully appreciate why those warnings went out.”
The Holy Fire, allegedly the work of an arsonist, scorched roughly 23,000 acres in August and early September. The burn scar, stretching from Santiago Peak in Orange County to the lower slopes in Riverside County, has created a vast denuded space over which water and mud can flow downhill in high volume.
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