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Sun, Aug. 18

Perkinsville Road drivers battle flooding

Justin Parra approached the crossing of the normally dry Granite Creek at Perkinsville Road in his mud-caked truck Friday afternoon.

Parra, who lives east of the wide creek crossing in the Haystack Ranch subdivision, said the recent flooding stranded him for a week at a time.

"I pulled some people out of the creek," Parra said. "I had not been able to cross for five days."

Parra chatted with Larry Wright, project manager for the Town of Chino Valley Public Works Department. Parra and public works officials acknowledged that nearby residents have no easy secondary route.

"They could avoid the crossing by taking County Highway 71 to Williams," Wright said, adding the trip is about 55 miles.

"In the meantime, we can do some remedial work" on the flood-damaged, unpaved stretch of Perkinsville Road, Wright told Parra. He added that engineers are doing design work for a crossing to handle a 25-year flood.

Meanwhile, Parra and other residents of this sparsely populated rangeland continue to cross Granite Creek – which Wright estimated at 1,000 feet wide on Friday – at their own risk.

The town, which maintains a six-mile stretch of Perkinsville from Highway 89 eastward, closed the flooded stretch in early January. Signs also advise motorists against crossing the creek, which has snared several vehicles.

The creek changed its course during the week of Jan. 11 after bursting a levee at a nearby quarry, Wright said. The creek also formed a lake as much as 50 feet deep at the quarry pit, Public Works Director Ken Winckler said.

While Winckler and Wright watched several trucks slog through the creek Friday afternoon, Wright said, "Technically, the road is still closed." He added that motorists who get stuck risk incurring rescue expenses under the state's so-called "stupid motorist" law.

However, Sgt. Mark Garcia of the Chino Valley Police Department said his department has not invoked the law since officers have responded to three stuck vehicles so far this year.

"We have not conducted any swift-water rescues," Garcia said. "We have not issued any citations."

However, Garcia explained that officers have called local towing companies, with the motorists bearing any costs for retrieving their vehicles from the creek.

Custom Towing & Recovering of Chino Valley has retrieved three or four vehicles at the creek crossing since the flooding started, and charges a minimum of $50, owner Tom Cutlip said.

However, Cutlip said he did not charge a woman who requested a tow vehicle to follow her as she drove her Volvo across the creek Feb. 23.

"We followed her out there and just watched her and told her which way to drive," Cutlip said.

The woman made it across, as did Parra and other motorists on Friday afternoon.

The creek crossing is treacherous now because water is a few feet deep and the current is flowing at the rate of 500 to 600 cubic feet per second, according to Wright. He said it has the worst flooding he has noticed at the location since he started on the job about five years ago.

Meanwhile, Wright and Winckler talked about temporary and permanent fixes.

After the water level drops, town crews will rebuild the stretch of road with rock and other materials, possibly from the quarry, Winckler said.

"The immediate solution is just to let people come back and forth," Winckler said.

The temporary fix would cost an estimated $10,000, including man-hours, and take two to three days, Wright said.

Both the short- and long-term projects would require permits from government agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Winckler said. The Army Corps has jurisdiction over federal waterways.

Winckler said the town would go out to bid for the permanent project, which would entail building a crossing that all vehicles could maneuver and prevent future road closures with water conveyances such as culverts. He estimated that the all-vehicle crossing would cost more than $100,000.

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