PARC’s campaign to remove the steel and concrete bridge wreckage from the North Fork of the American River below Auburn has achieved a huge victory. On June 30, 2022 California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a budget bill that includes $8 million to Placer County to complete the debris removal project.
The appropriation of funds for this project is the culmination of a years-long effort spearheaded by PARC board members Gary Estes and Tim Woodall. Our interest in pursuing this project was sparked by concerns for the safety of swimmers and boaters using the increasingly popular stretch of river where the debris field is located, as well as by our belief that it was finally time to remove the visual blight that for more than fifty years has marred an otherwise beautiful part of the canyon.
The debris removal campaign took an important step forward in October 2020, when PARC paid for an underwater survey of the debris field, and utilized the resulting video and written report to gather local support for the removal plan. Placer County District 5 Supervisor Cindy Gustafson was a key early supporter of the plan, and with her help we were able to engage our region’s representative in the state Senate, Brian Dahle, in an effort to win state funding for removal of the debris. Senator Dahle and his staff then worked closely with Placer County to gain support for the proposal in the state Legislature, culminating with the passage of the funding measure as part of California’s 2022-23 budget bill.
Placer County’s Department of Public Works will oversee development and implementation of the debris removal project. Safely removing the massive and heavy bridge remnants will be a difficult and complicated undertaking. It will take time to fully plan and design the removal process, and to conduct the necessary environmental review and obtain the required permits. We are hopeful, however, that the actual removal work will be able to be completed in the fall of 2024, when the river’s flow will be at a lower level than at any other time of the year.
We are gratified that this project will further PARC’s ongoing efforts to protect the American River watershed and to enhance the recreational experience of canyon visitors. Thanks to Senator Dahle and Supervisor Gustafson, and to all those who got behind this proposal and helped make it a success!
For more background information on the debris removal project, please click here:
North Fork American River Bridge Debris Removal Project
Advanced Marine Services
North Fork American River
State Route 49 Bridge Debris Assessment
CBS 13 News coverage of State Route 49 Bridge Debris Removal Project
Letters of Support for Bridge Debris Removal Project
City of Auburn
Placer County Board of Supervisors
El Dorado County Board of Supervisors
Placer County Water Agency
Auburn Recreation District
United Auburn Indian Community
Auburn State Recreation Area Canyon Keepers
Sierra Nevada Conservancy
Auburn Journal article
February 18, 2021:
The failure of the partially constructed Hell Hole Dam on December 23, 1964, caused by an atmospheric river, sent a wall of water downstream to the area now known as the Confluence of the American River below Auburn.
Water soon crested and destroyed the Georgetown Bridge (State Route 49) which was built in 1948. (Left & center photos courtesy of California Dept. of Transportation)
750 tons of steel and concrete were sent into the river. (Auburn Journal Photo)
PARC North Fork American River Bridge Debris Survey (Long Version 30 Minutes)