County gives update on Sierra Way


Recent storms caused locals to question the progress on Sierra Way, a thoroughfare between Weldon and Kernville, which has been closed since last year, because of storm damage. 

Alejandro Bedolla, Engineering Manager for Road Maintenance at the transportation division of the Department of Public Works at County of Kern, gave an update on Sierra Way to the Kern Valley Sun, Thursday, March 7.   

In recollection, Bedolla visited with his associate Salvador Gomez, at a Kernville Chamber of Commerce meeting, in which many irate Kern Valley locals packed the chamber meeting hall looking for answers. Residents have been fed up with the long drive detour they’ve had to face between the areas of Weldon and Kernville. 

“Since we had that chamber of commerce meeting there in Kernville we did send a contract out to the (County) Board (of Supervisors.) They went to open bid and we already have a contractor for it.  I’m not certain where we are in the whole process of awarding that bid yet. But I know that we did do an open bid and we’ve already determined who the contractor is.” Bedolla said, “The Board of Supervisors still has to

formally accept their bid for us to actually begin work with a new licensed contractor.” 

Bedolla brought up the fact that since the Kernville Chamber of Commerce meeting there were storms occurring, more specifically, in February. 

“I was looking at the California Nevada River Forecast website,” he said. Looking at the South Fork forecast location one could see that the flows at the South Fork were recently about 150 cubic feet per second. 

Bedolla said, “Back in February there was a very large inflow of water that came in along the South Fork that increased it above 400 cubic feet, which actually damaged our construction crossing that we had developed for ourselves to get soil across the river. So that’s been damaged to the point where you can no longer cross it, not even by foot,” he said.

His department still plans on making a very permanent temporary crossing until they can get fully funded a full permanent repair at that location.  Bedolla explained that the county brings up the idea of a temporary solution because a permanent solution could take up to two years, possibly even five years, for a full permanent restoration, which would entail designing and other agencies and entities to move forward. 

“We do have permits with California Water Board and the Army Corps of Engineers to construct a temporary crossing.” He said, “Ideally that’s going to end up being an essentially permanent temporary solution that would be open to the public and residents and emergency personnel.”

The county has looked at procuring materials such as extra rocks for protection, and has been considering how many culvert pipes their department wants to install at the location.  

“I say culvert pipes mainly because to construct a box culvert or bridge at that location would take a tremendous amount of time and design and engineering for us to do all of that,” he said.

The culverts within his division’s Job Order Contract (JOC) would include at minimum at least two – 48 inch diameter culverts at the location of the failure. However they’re hoping to install up to four – 48 inch culverts at the temporary crossing.  These are not the same as a box culvert, which would be a more ideal permanent solution.

Bedolla’s division doesn’t foresee any setbacks. “I will say I’m concerned with the amount of snow that’s happening north of us,” he said. He has been keeping tabs on the water above the valley for this reason.

His department is also impacted by the drive to the valley and having to go around Sierra Way because even Kern County workers are not supposed to use Sierra Way.  

Using concrete rather than slurry, because slurry was unsuccessful, would end in a fee the county would have to pay to the US Army Corps of Engineers or the California Water Board.  

His division is hoping the cost would not be over $500,000 for the overall temporary project.  The county has other projects and repairs from storms they are paying for within its budget. However Sierra Way repairs have priority over a couple other areas needing work.

Bedolla said he truly appreciates the help their division has had from locals who care and wanted to assist the repair team.  “We’ve been working with adjacent property owners,” he said.  “I really do appreciate all that help.”