Wild storm blows out bridge pipe

100-foot-long diversion stretch swept downstream
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Sunday’s storm turned the North Ravine Creek into a torrent, blowing out a 100-foot-long diversion pipe at the Wise Road bridge construction project. The creek, swollen by heavy rain Sunday, swept five sections of 20-foot-long, 48-inch diameter pipe downstream from underneath the bridge. Three sections of the pipe moved a quarter-mile downstream sometime Sunday afternoon, damming part of the creek and temporarily pooling the water in a field. Justin Riggs, a Wise Road resident, said the water level was five feet higher than normal when floodwaters crested. The first inkling that the pipe had been swept downstream from the bridge was the sound of the giant tubes hitting each other. Tracie Riggs, Justin’s mother, said that the pipes hit up against a tree partially growing in the stream and the pressure broke it off. “It sounded like an airplane crashing,” Tracie Riggs said. Justin Riggs said he’s been told by the contractor to expect pipe-removal operations from the streambed by Wednesday. Jack Sanchez, president of Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead, said he was concerned about any possible negative impacts the pipe blowout and potential erosion would have on attempts to restore the creek, which runs into Auburn Ravine. “It’s another in a long line of incidents that have not treated the Auburn Ravine gently,” Sanchez said. Placer County Public Works Director Ken Grehm said the pipe was slated to be taken up later this month as general contractor Teichert Construction moves into the final stages of the bridge replacement project. “The site stood up well because it was nearing the end of construction,” Grehm said. “But we’re checking out any damage downstream on private land. From everything we’ve heard, there wasn’t an erosion problem.” A special agent for the National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Law Enforcement’s Sacramento branch made a site visit to the project but declined to comment on the incident. Grehm said that with the amount of rain, he’s happy that the damage is not worse than it could have been on a project costing just less than $1 million. Drew Peterson, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento, said the storm that started Saturday and continued through Sunday dropped 6.31 inches of rain on Auburn, according to a gauge at Regional Park. Closer to Downtown Auburn, the reading was 5.6 inches. Winds also packed a punch, with gusts of up to 44 mph lashed areas of Placer County, Peterson said.