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New video released on sinkhole on Highway 101

The stretch of Highway 101 closed due to a massive sinkhole in Harbor might open to two lanes within a week, but complete repairs aren’t expected until at least March, Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Jared Castle said.

ODOT released a new video, shot via drone by Kyle Rice, of the massive sinkhole. Traffic is moving smoothly, ODOT reported this morning, with through-travelers experiencing only 5- to 10-minute delays in Harbor. 

Detour signs lead southbound drivers to Lower Harbor Road from the ramp at the south end of Chetco River Bridge. Northbound drivers are being diverted west onto Benham Lane, then to Oceanview and Lower Harbor Road to skirt the local disaster.

Local businesses can still be accessed from the north end of Shopping Center Road from Harbor Road, but getting to the South Coast Center requires a bit of maneuvering through the Chevron gas station lot and across the open stretch of Highway 101.

Weather will play a factor in repairs, but officials are also keeping in mind the volume of water that is still held in the saturated hills above the highway, Castle said.

“It’s just part of the battle of having the Oregon Coast Highway where it’s at,” he said. “Mother Nature never intended to for there to be a road here.”

According to old-timers scoping out the mess Thursday, the area used to be wetlands.

Businesses

The first business to be affected was the diner, which even staged a party with music, food specials and a costume competition to bring people to its doors and boost sagging business. Access to its parking lot now is non-existent. ODOT plans to work out a solution with them through financial programs available

Dutch Brothers Coffee had a typical long line of traffic waiting for morning beverages, but that wasn’t going to last long, according to employee Jake Vaughn.

“We shutting this lane down,” he said of the one facing the highway. “We almost didn’t open today.”

When asked if he was scared, Vaughn said, “a little.”

The sinkhole isn’t near the little drive-up kiosk, and Castle said they don’t have to worry, but cracks in the area have baristas erring on the side of caution.

Dave Zuch, owner of the property on which Hearing Health Care sits on Shopping Center Road said he is frustrated that officials aren’t keeping gawkers away from the perimeter fence. Just beyond it, the sidewalk and road hangs precariously over the edge, with no soil underneath to support it.

The Rice Bowl on the southern side of the slide — along with homes perched on the ravine to its west — experienced soil and trees falling down through the night, bringing the slide closer to its walls. Its propane tank is perched on the edge of the ravine.

Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative has two cranes holding electrical poles in place, one of which has a transformer atop it.

History

The first sinkhole opened up Dec. 13 in the parking lot of the Fireside Diner, then grew to about 40- by 50 feet in area. ODOT crews then began pumping water from the hole in an attempt to reach the broken culvert below. It has yet to be found.

But the water they pumped out might be part of the reason the slide developed on Shopping Center Avenue, as water pouring from a pipe into the ravine below eroded soil from beneath that road.

That road fell away Thursday afternoon.

Almost simultaneously, a volleyball-sized hole developed in the slow lane of northbound traffic. ODOT filled it in with debris and cordoned off the area to two lanes of traffic until that night, when they shut the highway down.

Rainfall Thursday night wasn’t as heavy as forecast, but water has again filled the original sinkhole. ODOT was accepting bids on the project that will require draining the water from the hole, then snaking cameras up the broken culverts to see where the damage begins.

Work from the outlet of the 1920s culvert that leads to the port continues to try to figure out where a blockage originates.

In the meantime, water from the wall of the sinkhole on Shopping Center Avenue continues to seep, taking with it chunks of soil beneath pavement hanging over the abyss.

Water is lightly flowing through Port Side RV mobile home park below; that issue was raised decades ago with residents who opposed having the wetlands developed above. A small sinkhole has developed at the rear of that property, as well, and workers are busy clearing trees and debris from the area.

And now?

Castle said he is aware of criticism as to why ODOT didn’t fix the first sinkhole a month ago. 

“Because it was in a parking lot, we were trying to get a sense if we could just go in and fill it in and clear out the outlet,” he said. As long as it was contained, it wasn’t necessarily going to an emergency status.”

ODOT was kept busy in December, too, as heavy back-to-back storms washed a section of Carpenterville Road out, and a more massive slide along Highway 38 between Roseburg and Reedsport closed that road.

Federal highway funds will likely be available to make the repairs.

Curry County Commissioner David Brock Smith certainly hopes so, as Shopping Center Avenue was turned over to the county when Highway 101 was built in its current location.

“The roadmaster (Doug Robbins) and I are working with ODOT to have them cover all the costs possible,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “Their problem, essential caused our problem. The county is working with ODOT, and ODOT is working with the feds.”

Castle said ODOT will be responsible for all the costs associated with the repairs.

This Thursday photo shows a massive sinkhole that has opened up on a road near Highway 101 in Harbor, next to Brookings. Signs have been placed along the highway directing traffic to a detour. Oregon Department of Transportation