When you work in Hydro, heavy storms can be a blessing and a curse.
While the big rain and snow storms that walloped California last year seemed like a welcome reprieve from the state’s lengthy drought, those storms also resulted in a number of landslides, including a hefty one near Panther Creek that took out the only access road to PG&E’s Salt Springs Hydroelectric Powerhouse.
“It started out as a small mudslide on the roadway, but by the time we got up here, the whole thing had just let loose,” explained PG&E GC Hydro Working Foreman Shawn Genereux. “The road and everything went down the hill, so we had to start making repairs down at Tiger Creek [powerhouse], and then work our way up to this point.”
The Utility Reporter caught up with Genereux and his crew at the Panther Grade slide, nestled deep in the woods, about 35 minutes from the small mountain town of Pioneer, CA, in Amador County. The crew had been on that job for about nine weeks, aiming to complete the work and ensure access to Salt Springs would be available before the snows hit again.
“Last year, they had to put in a bypass road — which was about 3.5 to four miles longer – and they got that put in, but it’s still not really usable if it snows,” explained Genereux. “They ended up using a helicopter a couple times to fly in there last year. So this is a very critical road to get into Salt Springs.”
The first part of the repair project involved large-scale excavation just to get to the bottom of the slide. Then, the crew had to dig out a bench before they could move in an estimated 9,000 tons of rock to fill the hole.
“At this point, we have a total of three benches, with a French drain at each bench that connects to a main line, which drains completely out to the dissipater at the bottom of the hill, and then that drains out to the creek,” said Genereux. “Now all we have left are the fine details. We have a rock wall to finish putting in on the bank side, we have a culvert to put in uphill of the slide, and we have some blocks to put alongside the downhill side to keep vehicles from going over the edge.”
–Rebecca Band, IBEW 1245 Communications Director
Photos by John Storey