Palo Colorado Road Still Recovering From Storms Of February 2017

Jun 18, 2018

NEW Update: This closure on Palo Colorado Road has been moved  again.  It's now Tuesday, June 26th at 7:00am.  This will not change the project completion date.

Rural parts of Monterey County are still grappling with damage from last year’s storms.  Palo Colorado Road was one of the hardest it.

The road begins at the coast on Highway 1 and stretches eight miles deep into the Big Sur wilderness.  Starting today, a part of it will close for about four months of repairs. 

The culvert that lets water pass under Palo Colorado Road at Rocky Creek is crushed to a fraction of its former size.  Back in February 2017, heavy rains swept down logs and debris from the Soberanes Fire and clogged it up. 

Monterey County Public Works Project Manager Juan Mesa says that’s when the flooding began.

“When Rocky Creek came, it just blew [out] this section right here. This section of road that you see over here, all this was gone,” says Mesa, pointing to the now temporary road that stands in its place.

This happened up and down Palo Colorado Road at seventeen different culverts.  The county has spent the past 16 months fixing the road.  Starting today, crews will begin culvert repairs at Brandon Creek and Rocky Creek.

The largest repair is building a new culvert at Rocky Creek.  Mesa says crews will begin removing 8,000 tons of dirt that sit above the culvert and then build a new, much larger one.  After that, they’ll return the dirt and build a new road.

This means Palo Colorado is now closed to car traffic at the three mile post.  This cuts off about 50 homes.  People who live on the other side will be able to get by on a residents-only pedestrian and ATV trail.  Residents can also keep cars at either side of the closure.

Douglas George and his wife Donna live just past the cutoff.  “We stocked up with most of the heavy things. For instance, we have a beautiful golden retriever. He eats about 40 pounds of food a month. So we've got a six month supply of that,” he says.

That should be just enough to get them through.  The repairs will be complete by mid to late October.   

Still, work on Palo Colorado Road won’t be complete. The road remains closed from the four mile post to the dead end at the Boy Scout Camp.

“There are 12 to 13 locations where the road just got blown out.  It’s very unsafe to drive.  That road used to be 18 to 20 feet wide. Now, there are some sections where the road is 10 feet wide with big cliffs,” says Mesa.   

There’s no timeline yet for those repairs.  The county is still securing financing.  Mesa expects the storms of February 2017 to keep his department busy for another two to three years.