January storms caused $67M in damage to Alameda County’s public infrastructure

The recent storms caused extensive damage to some county roadways, such as Redwood Road (photographed), which may take a while to reopen. (Credit: Alameda County Public Works Agency)

Stretches of Redwood Road slid into the forest. Erosion led to a portion of A Street in Castro Valley falling into San Lorenzo Creek. Mudslides and sinkholes have rendered other roadways impassable.

All in all, Pace Stokes, captain of Alameda County Office of Emergency Services, told the county Board of Supervisors on Jan. 24 that the county’s public infrastructure, including the cities and special districts, weathered $67 million worth of storm-related damage during the month of January. Daniel Woldesenbet, director of the Alameda County Public Works Agency, said about $20 million of that damage occurred in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County, requiring the closure of more than 20 county roads, some of which are still closed and likely to remain that way for a while.

“We’re getting a lot of demand right now for these closed roadways to be opened up,” Woldesenbet said. “We’re getting calls daily, almost hourly.”

County agencies will have a better idea of the true cost of the repairs once estimates are received from the contractors who will do the work, but so far, Pace said the county has not been prioritized for reimbursement at the state or federal level.

When Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed an emergency Jan. 4, he ordered state agencies to assist local agencies in the storm response, but did not provide funding for local agencies.

Two days later, Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez declared a local emergency and requested reimbursement for the storm response.

When President Joe Biden declared an emergency at the federal level, his proclamation included neither reimbursement nor Alameda County in the list of impacted counties, but Pace said he was confident the funding would materialize based on tours given to state and federal emergency response officials on Jan. 20.

Based on past history, Pace said, “We are significantly beyond any thresholds to receive any reimbursement.”

Damage to public infrastructure wasn’t all that occurred. Erosion of the creek banks began to threaten some homes along San Lorenzo Creek and San Leandro Creek. A tree fell into one home in Castro Valley, injuring a man and sending him to the hospital.

Emergency services staff is expected to tour the private property impacted by the floods tomorrow, Pace said.

The region can expect more events like this in the future. The climate crisis, driven by the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels, is increasing the risk of a megaflood in the state that could cause nearly $1 trillion in overall economic losses, along with displacing millions of people and shutting down critical transportation corridors, according to a study released in August.

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