Rain-damaged Mills Canyon repairs to wrap up next week

City has poured more than $200,000 into project

BURLINGAME — The Mills Canyon repair project should be finished in a week, just in time for the pending rainy season, which could once again wreak havoc on the popular hiking area.

Mills Canyon was hit with a mudslide last winter that damaged a portion of the two-mile Ed Taylor Trail, blocked the flow of storm water in Mills Creek — resulting in flooding — and dumped debris into private property. The slide was only part of extensive damage caused by heavy spring and winter rains that prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare an official state of emergency in San Mateo County.

The City Council last month approved a $270,609 contract with Hillside Drilling in Point Richmond to repair the weather-beaten area before the rainy season kicked up again. Work started Oct. 2.

The city worked with geologists and Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives for most of the year to design a 90-foot-long, 25-foot-tall retaining wall at the bottom of the slide to protect the creek and the properties adjacent to the canyon. Senior engineer Doug Bell said the work, which also included restoring the creek bed and landscaping in the area, is now 90 percent complete.

“I think it’s gone pretty well,” Bell said. “It should stabilize us through the next rainy season.”

City Manager Jim Nantell said FEMA has fairly specific criteria for what projects are eligible for reimbursement, so he is unsure how much, if anything, the city stands to get back. While the retaining wall might not meet the agency’s reimbursement criteria, he said the city might be eligible for funds to cover work done on the south side of the creek, where there was more weather-related damage to a nearby maintenance road.

The city has never done a count of how many people use the canyon recreationally, but officials have said many of the users probably come from the roughly 60 properties adjacent to it.

Friends of Mills Canyon Chair Bobbi Benson, whose nonprofit group runs education and clean-up days in the canyon, said the group is still waiting on 501(c)3 status, which will hopefully come through by the end of the year. They will then focus efforts on securing grant funding to maintain the canyon’s trees, flowers and wildlife.

tramroop@examiner.com

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