Roads reinforced after 6 weeks of Marine work on Catalina Island – Orange County Register
A narrow, windy road tracing high cliffs and steep drops to Catalina Island has now been shored up and no longer at risk of being washed away during rainstorms thanks to recent work by the Marines.
Over the past six weeks, a group from Marine Wing Support Squadron 373 of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar has dug, smoothed and compacted the island’s roads as part of live training for the Marines and savings for the inhabitants. that will keep the island’s commerce, its people and tourism in motion.
The project was a collaboration between the Catalina Island Conservancy, one of the state’s oldest land trusts, and the Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training program, which pairs the military with civilian communities for the common good.
The project was the second for the squadron on Catalina. In 2019, a 3,000-foot runway was reconstructed at the island’s airport. Plans for more collaborations are underway, officials said, and could include bridges, hangars and other facility construction projects.
While the Road Repair Project has helped the Marines practice the scenarios they might encounter during future deployments to remote islands, Catalina Island and the town of Avalon now have better access along of several essential routes for locals – one connecting the two sides of the island and the other leading to Catalina’s Airport in the sky.
The Marines rebuilt a mile and a half of causeway along three road segments and added five new culverts to keep water out of the road. One of the roads we worked on, which leads to a campground and other important island infrastructure, has been cut off from Avalon for days or sometimes weeks in the past by even minor rains.
“The interior pavement improvements were long overdue,” said Avalon Mayor Anni Marshall. “For visitors who take tours, employees who live or work inside, it is now a more comfortable and safer ride.”
The island’s remote location meant the Marines could practice their logistics, transportation, and staging. Personnel and equipment were moved in a military convoy that traveled more than 160 kilometers to San Pedro. Then their vehicles and equipment had to be loaded for a barge trip to the island. They lived in tents at the top of the island’s mountain and settled on eight construction sites.
“For us that was great,” said 1st Lt. Bailey Sheppard, who leads the squadron and its aviation ground support mission. “It gave us a chance to do realistic training and forced us to consider things that we wouldn’t have encountered otherwise. Conservation gets a project for the cost of materials.
Conservancy officials estimated that repairing the road would have cost around $ 1.5 million if they had done so by hiring civilian contractors.
“During some of these big weather events, we lose sections of road that become impassable,” said Tim Kielpinski, conservation operations manager. “Some are the only way to cross the island.”
The Marines brought all of their own heavy equipment, such as trucks, portable mixers, and other concrete working tools.
“A lot of the problems were due to the terrain,” said Sgt. Jake Hartley, Heavy Equipment Team Leader. “The roads were in poor condition. There were a lot of bumps that slowed down traffic. The fog also caused visibility problems. Some roads ran along the cliffs. We had to make sure the Marines weren’t too close to the edge, especially with the shovel.
To put the network of roads back into service, the Marines reshaped them. When they started, the slope of the road sloped towards the cliffs. So the Marines reshaped it the other way around. This way the rains would not be as erosive.
To stabilize the road, they mixed concrete-like sediment into the old road surface. The water bound him together. Then they used a grader to reshape the road and a compactor to level it.
“It’s still a natural looking road that conservation wants,” Sheppard said. “The big problem they worried about was that it wouldn’t fade away in a 100-year storm.”
Cpl. Joseph Mudd, a chief combat engineer, led the culvert project. The idea was to keep water off the roads.
“We redid most of them and added bigger pipes,” Mudd said. “The pipes they had weren’t big enough and there was erosion.”
But, the engineers encountered challenges, just as they would in a real mission.
“We had a plan, but when we got out we hit bedrock or trees that we couldn’t remove,” Mudd said. “We had to adapt.
Kielpinski and other members of the conservation learned about the project and said they were impressed with the way the Marines were working.
“It was really amazing to see the improvement in their skills,” Kielpinski said, recalling a Marine who was navigating an excavator along a narrow ledge where he had to balance the vehicle using the spade-over excavator. the road. “They worked between cliffs, mountainsides and traffic. “
There were a few hiccups – once there was no detour for motorists, people had to walk three-quarters of a mile to their vehicle to get out.
Despite this, Kielpinski said he was impressed by the reaction of the islanders. Typically, he said, when conservation has a road project, there are always complaints.
“We had a longtime local who told our CEO that we should always use the Marines for projects,” Kielpinski said. “No one complained because the Marines were there. It was as if they thought it was their patriotic duty.
Now that the roads are repaired, the island’s trade, which relies on transit to and from the airport, will once again run smoothly. Delivery services such as UPS, FedEx and others run the routes daily.
But, the project will also help the island cope with its expected influx of summer visitors. Over Memorial Day weekend, more than 13,000 people were booked on the Catalina Express, Kielpinski said.
“This will help any eco-tours that go out to see bison, fox and flora and fauna or those who go inside to camp,” he said.
The Marines didn’t have to go sightseeing to see the island’s biggest animals.
“We were in the middle of the second segment of the road, halfway there and a buffalo decided to cross,” Hartley said. “He just stood there and sniffed. We had to wait for him to leave. “