Bay Tree Spring is still flowing. It’s water had to be diverted in order to allow the reconstruction to proceed. Here tarpaulin is used to protect the embankment in front of the spring.
Photo by JP Crumrine

On Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting a declaration of major disaster for California as a result of the “two atmospheric river storm systems that struck California in February 2019.”

On Monday, Representative Dr. Raul Ruiz (CA-36) also wrote the President, supporting the Governor’s request. 

“The major weather event that occurred in mid-February brought heavy winds and rains that caused intense flooding, mudslides, and damaged critical infrastructure including sewage systems and roadways,” he wrote in the letter to the President. 

Highway 243 at Bay Tree Spring, looking north, one can see the massive loss of road surface.
Photo by JP Crumrine

“State Routes 243 and 74, near the town of Idyllwild in the San Jacinto Mountains, were so severely damaged that repairs are estimated to take up to two months to complete, stranding businesses and residents in the area … I have heard from my constituents about the personal and economic toll these damages have taken on our communities,” Ruiz wrote in the letter.

A declaration will help support state and local recovery efforts following those severe storms, which caused widespread flooding, mudslides and damage to critical infrastructure across the state.

Newsom has already proclaimed a state of emergency for 33 California counties, including Riverside and four other Southern California counties.

In his letter, Newsom reported that damage to state roads has exceeded $100 million. Further, “California has suffered multiple major disasters in the past several years.” He then described the recent devastating wildfires, including the Camp and Thomas fires.

“I have determined these atmospheric river storm systems are of such severity and magnitude that continued effective response is beyond the capability of the State and affected local governments, and supplemental federal assistance is necessary,” Newsom wrote.

Reconstruction of Highway 243 continues. Here the excavator is used to begin rebuilding the base of the road. The work is about 75 feet below the former road surface.
Photo by JP Crumrine

He then requested federal assistance for 28 counties, including Riverside, pursuant to the Stafford Act, for disaster relief and emergency assistance.

If granted, a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration would help state, tribal and local governments with recovery projects including the repair and replacement of disaster-damaged facilities and infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and utilities, according to the press release.

In the press release, with his letter to Trump, Ruiz said, “We must support the people who, due to road damage, endure long drives to medical appointments, loss of customers to their small business, and longer commutes to work. I will continue to track progress and advocate to bring home federal resources to fix our roads and businesses.”

Areal footage of the current construction on Highway 243 at Bay Tree Springs can be seen below. Video courtesy Pine Cove Water District

Route 243 repair from Captain Woody on Vimeo.