Grass Valley and Nevada City: A tale of two sinkholes |

Grass Valley and Nevada City: A tale of two sinkholes

An access road built at the former site of a 100-foot-deep sinkhole off Freeman Lane may soon become a trailhead for a proposed walkway along Little Wolf Creek, if all goes according to plan, Grass Valley officials say.
Elias Funez/ |

Grass Valley hopes to purchase just over a half-acre of land at the former site of a 100-foot-deep sinkhole that opened up off Freeman Lane when storms in January 2017 caused a pinched culvert to fail.

The area, which Tripp’s Auto Body currently owns, may become the future site of a trailhead leading to a walkway along Little Wolf Creek, according to City Manager Tim Kiser.

Grass Valley hopes to settle with Tripp’s — which is negotiating with the city over potential losses from the now-unusable portion of its property — this spring, Kiser said.

Kiser hopes both parties can come to an agreement and Grass Valley can walk away with a new piece of public land, he said.

Purchasing the site could significantly increase the price tag of the sinkhole repair project, which has cost the city $2.7 million so far, according to Bjorn Jones, Grass Valley’s senior civil engineer.

According to Kiser, Grass Valley is hoping the Federal Highway Administration will reimburse the city for some of the costs, but the entire cleanup process, including the property negotiation, must be complete first.

“We can’t even finish the paperwork (for Highway Administration reimbursement) until everything’s done,” he said.

Grass Valley’s insurance may also provide some reimbursement, Kiser said.


In Nevada City, a 10-foot-deep sinkhole that opened up along Little Deer Creek in January 2017 is still in need of repair work, according to city officials.

City Engineer Bryan McAllister told The Union in December Nevada City sought government assistance to pay for repairs, but was denied any financial help because the sinkhole is on private property.

For that same reason, the city itself won’t pay for the work, McAllister said, pointing the responsibility at Jonathan Rowe, who purchased the property in Feb. 2016 and opened the Stone House restaurant.

Rowe, however, told The Union at the time he felt it was Nevada City’s responsibility to fund the repair work.

“I’m in limbo as to what to do next,” he said in December. “I can’t afford to fix it myself and I feel a little bit like the city is putting it in my lap when it’s not necessarily my responsibility.”


When asked why Grass Valley paid for repairs on private property, Kiser said the city has an easement at the site which it uses to access the culvert that failed.

The culvert itself, Kiser said, is city property.

But in Nevada City, a failed culvert along Little Deer Creek that caused the sinkhole next to the Stone House was installed by previous owners of that property, according to Assistant City Engineer Bill Falconi.

“It’s not city property,” Falconi told The Union in December. “It has nothing to do with the city.”

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email or call 530-477-4231.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.