Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

F looding over Kellogg Road was one of the indicators that the sandbar keeping Lakes Earl and Tolowa from flowing into the ocean needed to be breached. The bar is breached yearly, when rain causes flooding concerns for the surrounding homes and roads. Along with Kellogg Road, several roads inside Pacific Shores were underwater Thursday.

County Community Development Director Heidi Kunstal said the county will typically apply for an emergency Coastal Commission permit when one of the gauges on the lake reaches 8 feet. As of Thursday, the gauge measured 9.5 feet, with more rain in the forecast.

County Public Roads personnel, along with California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff, went to the 1,000-foot-wide sandbar with a large bulldozer.

Frank Kemp, an environmental scientist with Fish and Wildlife, went out first, carefully examining the area with a spotting scope for signs of plover nests. Asked where the tiny birds might go once the shoreline recedes, Kemp said they will typically stay on the shore, as they are not known to inhabit grassy areas of the beach. Kemp monitored bird activity in the area during the breaching process.

Dozer operator Tristen Smith spent more than an hour creating a trench across the sandbar before releasing the flooded lakes into the ocean.

In past years, the breach area quickly grew as the flowing water carried sand and gravel into the ocean. This year, the channel grew only slightly by the following morning.

“They went back out to check this morning, and it was only down to 9.3 feet, and there’s still water on Kellogg (Road),” Kunstal said. “It usually drops in about 6 to 8 hours.”

Along with other permit requirements, the county must monitor the breach area monthly until the bar closes again.

The permit mandates the county monitor lagoon elevation, the location of the lagoon mouth, and its depth relative to the surrounding sand bar.

While the county has been breaching the bar yearly, an unknown person or persons breached the bar by hand in 2017. Last year, flooding reached 10.57 feet by late January.