Dahles, officials survey damage from Mud Creek debris threatening McCloud water supply

Shareen Strauss
Special to the Mount Shasta Herald
McCloud Community Service District General Manager Amos McAbier explains the complications of the flooding of Mud Creek and how it threatens the town's water source to Assemblywoman Megan Dahle and Sen. Brian Dahle during their tour on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021 of the damage the mud flow has caused.

A group of state and federal officials, including the Republican husband and wife team of Sen. Brian Dahle and Assemblywoman Megan Dahle, came to McCloud on Nov. 29 to see the damage from the Mud Creek mud flows that have been endangering the town's water supply.

The Dahles were joined by Siskiyou County Supervisor Brandon Criss, U.S. Forest Service Regional District Ranger Carolyn Napper, a representative from Hancock Forest Management and other dignitaries. 

“This situation is very concerning, and I hope to work with all stakeholders to ensure McCloud’s water reliability is maintained. The district is doing some creative short-term shoring-up and I applaud them for those efforts, but it needs a long-term solution,” Sen. Brian Dahle of Bieber said.

A cloud of dust seen rising from Mt. Shasta last Saturday brought another scare for McCloud residents, sending them to make calls to officials whether this was related to activity on Mud Creek.

Investigating officials reported there was no further damage, mud flows or changes in the water coming through the channels that were previously dug out to prevent flooding damage to the water pipeline and Lower Elk Spring House.

Nonetheless, the emphasis of the Nov. 29 tour by McCloud Community Service District General Manager Amos McAbier was to show the infrastructure that is in danger of being damaged or wiped out by future mud flows, including the spring house, the 70-year-old aerial pipeline that crosses the Mud Creek channel and the work the service district has done. They also spoke of what still needs to be completed to better protect and save the town's water source.  

A cloud of snow dust is seen rising from Mt. Shasta on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.

"We discussed how disheartening it is that there is not much available in the form of emergency grant funding that could be immediately available for situations like this, and the typical grants that are out there take months or years for approval if you can find one that matches the certain required criteria of our current mud flow situation," McAbier said.

"We have a real time emergency situation and everyone agrees that something needs to be done, but there aren’t many real time funding sources that are well known to help cover them," he continued.

McAbier said the $510,000 the town received from Proposition 1 in the first round of grant funding, which is for the Lower Elk Spring House's replacement project, could be used to cover the cost of digging out the channel of Mud Creek to help hold future mud flows.

Workers have been using bulldozers, excavators and other heavy equipment to dig out a channel to redirect water away from the pump house and spring.

McCloud made its request with the California Department of Water Resources to amend the budget scope and schedule for the project and is waiting for the state agency's decision.

"We have also submitted a grant to address the upper Elk Springs pipeline that crosses Mud Creek, as well as the pipeline from upper Elk to Lower Elk springs, where the two combine into one pipeline," he said.

He noted how that area is of great concern because the springs provide two-thirds of the town's needed water supply.

More:Mud buildup from melting Mt. Shasta glacier threatens McCloud water source

McAbier also said Brian Dahle understood the need the town has and made suggestions, such as having a "backup plan of drilling wells and installing electricity for pumps."

"But if we abandon our springs to get water from drilling large deep wells, we would risk losing our water rights that we have had since the late 1800's and also incurring additional ongoing costs to our community with wells and pumps costs and maintenance," he said. "Right now, our water collection and distribution systems are all gravity flow and do not require pumps or electricity."

Brian Dahle said that his office will follow up with the different agencies that MCSD has submitted grants applications.

Said Criss, who represent District 1, which includes McCloud, "My hats off to the district for doing all that they have done so far in this emergency. We are trying to bring in state and federal agencies to help because it is too big of a problem to leave in the McCloud Community Service District's lap."

The Forest Service is providing support. Forest Service Regional Ranger Carolyn Napper said that her office is working with remote sensor labs to gauge how much material is coming down from the mountain to help figure out a long term solution. The Forest Service has assisted the MCSD with an excavator and operator to help move the massive load of debris that built up from the mud flow over a mile above the pipeline.

As for the weekend scare, Napper said there was no seismic movement from the sensors on the mountain. And, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Administration (NOAA), there were high winds on the mountain at 50 mph blowing dust up from all the dry soil along the Mud Creek canyon.