Right now rocks the size of watermelons are releasing from above the road, but the unstable house-sized rocks have so far stayed put. Road crews are clearing rockfall, putting up signage, repairing culverts, felling "widowmaker" trees, and soon will be rebuilding much of the damaged guard rail. Approximately 90% of the existing rail will be able to be reused, which will speed rebuilding and save a bunch of money.
USFS District Ranger Josh Nicholes has assembled an advisory committee of interested locals, including representatives from Elko County, the snowmobiling community, cabin owners, the Lion's Club, and non-motorized recreational users. It's a diverse group, and it's coming to the table with some good suggestions for ways of managing user safety, communications, community resources, and more.
USGS engineers have completed a slope stability study that purports to show the impacts of anticipated winter weather on the burn area above the road. That study will be pretty critical in being able to anticipate slope stability above the road through this first post-burn winter.
Here's one of the USGS runoff maps showing risks of debris flows in the burn area from a "design storm" (the storm size used in the study... the USGS modelled seven different storm intensities). This particular map shows anticipated debris flows should we get one of the "pineapple express" rain-on-snow events that we get every five years or so, or a very heavy rainfall of about 1/2" in 15 minutes.
It's a damned sobering map. Click on the image to look more closely.
Here's a map from another model, this time looking at what would happen after a typical monsoonal fall rain, like the kind we get every two years or so:
Keep in mind that this is an inexact science, and that the effects of precipitation are cumulative. A few days of precipitation may accumulate to trigger the same effects as the shorter, more intense design storms in the models.
Pretty obviously, the biggest risk from debris flows is on the canyon's northeast aspect, across the creek from the road. However, there could be moderate to significant risk of debris flow from sources uphill of the road, depending on the storm... and any debris flow that originates there can be anticipated to run across the road, possibly damaging it even further.
The committee is working under the premise that, once the road is reopened, it will remain open until conditions warrant closing it for safety reasons. To that end, the USFS is installing a temporary gate at the canyon mouth, above the Powerhouse Picnic Area, so that the road can be opened (and closed, if necessary) more easily that it can with the current physical barriers. USFS and community monitors will tour the road after significant storms, assessing safety hazards and considering any potential need for a road closure. One of the ideas is to use a "green light, yellow light, red light" system, similar to the one avalanche forecast centers use to communicate avalanche danger, to rate potentially dangerous road conditions. It's all still a work in progress, but progress is indeed happening, even if it doesn't look like it from behind the Jersey barricades.
Today, Nicholes stated that he anticipates opening the road to snowmobiles, if not automobiles, should road crews be unable to finish before winter. Subject to change and subject to conditions, of course.
Progress on raising money to rebuild the ravaged Lion's Camp is encouraging, as well. So far the club has raised $40,000 of the $1,000,000 they're trying to raise to rebuild the camp. They are one of the beneficiaries of this year's Festival of Trees, so that number can be anticipated to go up.
There are a few other options for donating right now, as well:
- The Elko Host Lion's Club has a GoFundMe page specifically for rebuilding the lodge and camp. Click here to donate. All proceeds go directly to the project... GoFundMe is NOT collecting a service fee.
- The Club is receiving donations for the rebuild through Elko Federal Credit Union. Contributors can also mail a check to the club at PO Box 19, Elko, NV 89803
- The club is doing its annual See's Candy sales, at the old Spoon Me location across from JoAnn's Fabrics.
- The club is selling raffle tickets for a special edition Elko Centennial rifle. Tickets are limited to only 250 sold, for $100 each. Pick up raffle tickets at the club's Festival of Trees booth, or at their See's Candy sales location.
And then, there's the reseeding. More than 140 volunteers turned out to help collect and plant mahogany seeds in the Canyon a couple of weeks ago, and volunteers will have another chance to help with reseeding this weekend. The Nevada Department of Wildlife is hosting a sagebrush seed collection event on Saturday, 1 December, at the Spring Creek Campground. Call 777-2391 on Friday, or check NDOW's Facebook page if the weather's not great to find out if the event is going on or has been postponed.