LAFAYETTE -- City leaders have declared a local emergency after a gaping sinkhole swallowed a portion of a residential road following a weekend storm.

On Tuesday, the City Council also decided to set aside up to $1 million from the general fund reserve to repair the 80-by-40 foot chunk of Mountain View Drive that collapsed Sunday.

The city is working with state and county officials and other jurisdictions that experienced storm damage to determine whether the area is eligible for FEMA or other emergency funding, said City Manager Steven Falk.

Staffers have also determined that trash and other objects loosened by storm-churned Lafayette Creek waters led to the partial road collapse.

"We are certain that the cause was excessive debris that flowed down the creek and plugged up the storm drain," Falk said.

When the water had nowhere to go, it eroded the soil underneath Mountain View Drive. The collapse also ruptured a water line owned by the East Bay Municipal Utility District.

Crews have removed the damaged storm drain and created a temporary pathway for the water. They are now working on a permanent fix.

"For the time being, the creek can handle any water flow without the risk of overflowing," Falk said.

This isn't the first time the area has had problems. During a 1997 storm, the creek spilled over Mountain View Drive, prompting the city to install a fork-like series of metal pipes in front of the storm drain to prevent debris from accumulating inside.


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Debris found in the creek after Sunday's storm included large branches and logs as well as trash and a full-size chest of drawers. The city had cleaned up public creek areas ahead of the storm, Falk said, but property owners are responsible for cleaning their sections of pipe as Lafayette's creeks are privately owned.

"We're very conscious of debris in the creek and we do clean the creek out regularly," Falk said.

Residents have been complaining about excessive trash in city creeks since this summer, when debris from a fire was dumped by a staffer into Las Trampas Creek. The city removed the debris but was found in violation of a state water quality control act for discharging waste. The city has since reviewed its policies and educated staffers about proper waste removal.

The recent storms have caused problems elsewhere in Lamorinda.

In Orinda, a failed storm drain caused a 15-by-20 foot sinkhole on Tarabrook Drive that has affected one lane of the residential road, said Chuck Swanson, public works and engineering director.

A sewer line near the sinkhole has also failed and Central San crews are working to replace it. A portion of embankment has also been damaged on Lavenida Drive and city crews have been cleaning out inlets, pipes and other drainage areas affected by the storm, Swanson said.

Some damage was also reported in Moraga at the town-owned Hacienda de las Flores recreation facility where a small pedestrian bridge washed away. Minor mud and flooding were also reported.

Jennifer Modenessi covers Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda. Contact her at jmodenessi@bayareanewsgroup.com or at 925-943-8378.