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Long, costly process to rebuild damaged Livermore trail starts

LIVERMORE — A 150-foot section of the Arroyo Mocho creekside trail in Robertson Park completely washed out this winter when the stream bed widened it’s meandering path by 30 feet. Part of what’s left of the trail is broken up and floating in the stream bed.
It’s one of the more pressing issues Livermore city and parks officials are facing as they start to tackle more than $4 million in damage caused to the trail by winter’s unrelenting rain. The rushing torrent of water ripped out asphalt pathways in the trail, which is maintained by the city and the Livermore Parks and Recreation Department.
“What used to be there isn’t there anymore, and you can’t put a trail in a stream bed,” said John Lawrence, the park department’s assistant general manager, in describing the dilemma to repair the trail.
Complicating matters is the fact that behind the widened stream along the side where the trail used to be sit two softball fields near Concannon Boulevard. This limits the space available for rebuilding the damaged section.
A temporary replacement trail that engineers are working on now would cost $200,000. A permanent replacement runs $500,000. Another spot along the trail that needs attention is further west on park land near the horseshoe pit across from the rodeo parking lot.
About 30 feet long, this part of the trail is not completely washed out but only widened a couple of feet. LARPD wants to rebuild it in place by moving it a foot or two. Lawrence said this repair, costing $200,000, could be completed in six months. Darren Greenwood, Livermore’s public works director, said he is optimistic the trail can be rebuilt.
“If there’s a way we can do it we will,” he said.
A big factor in that effort is money. Getting funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency requires jumping through quite a few hoops. City officials say it could take until 2018 or 2019 for the FEMA funds to roll in. But that’s not stopping locals.
“We’re not waiting for them to approve funding because we’re not going to wait that long,” said Lawrence. “We met with them, and they want to get it done. As we follow all the procedural steps we can get it done.”
Lawrence said the city plans to follow through on plans for some of the fixes within six months. They’ll do this while getting approval from FEMA and other agencies such as the California Office of Emergency Services, the California Department of Water Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers. Then they’ll apply to FEMA for reimbursement.
What makes getting the federal money so time-consuming is that FEMA requires documentation that the funds be used only to fix damage caused by an event such as last winter’s storms — something city officials must prove on applications.
“We have to count the beans and do it all their way,” said Greenwood.
In addition to storm damage repairs, the city has cut back weeds and other vegetation along the stream bed. They’ve also cleaned up litter and homeless encampments near Granada High School and a nearby convenience store along a secluded portion of the trail. City officials say this portion of the trail “is more prone to littering, graffiti and homeless issues than many” and encouraged residents to report encampments to the Livermore police.
Another issue the city is dealing with is the reseeding of the turf at Mocho Park. They have their fingers crossed that a recent third attempt at reseeding the turf will be the charm that brings it back to its green glory. Further slowing things down is that the other regulatory agencies involved also have special rules for working in creek beds. One of these is that work can only be done from April until October.
“Whenever you do anything near an arroyo,” it gets complicated dealing with government agencies, said Lawrence. “It makes your head spin.”

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