Hillside project in Talent meant to create buttress

TALENT — A Talent homeowner is paying the bill to shore up a steep, sliding, hillside ravine that threatens the backyards of her two properties.

"You've got to look at life as learning experiences. It's just one of those things. I'm just trying to get the property fixed for my best interest," said Krista Peterson, whose houses at 1865 and 1879 Summer Place sit more than 40 feet above a boggy area adjacent to Highway 99 south of Creel Road.

About a dozen large trees have been removed from the site that is visible from Highway 99. Work began last week, and new trees will be planted when the job, which includes installing a 36-inch culvert and adding 6,000 cubic yards of fill dirt at the base of the hill, is finished.

"The idea is to create a buttress fill. It covers about the bottom half of the hillside," said Bill Galli, the engineer who created plans for the reinforcement. "Right now the land creeps a little, about four to five inches in the winter."

Galli said fill material may have been added to the lots at an earlier time, adding to problems created by the steepness of the ravine. When work is completed, the bottom of the ravine will be about five feet below the level of Highway 99. It is now about 18 feet below the highway.

"It's taken close to a year to get approval from (the Oregon Department of Transportation), and I had to hire wetlands specialists," said Peterson. ODOT has a right of way over part of Peterson's property.

ODOT will take over culvert maintenance when the project is done

City permits were needed for removal of the trees. City review of plans also was required. Peterson is supervising the project and hiring contractors for each task. Agencies involved will monitor each phase of the work. The completion date is uncertain.

The property owner had put 18- to 25-foot-deep pilings and tie-backs under the two houses in 2005, after cracks appeared in one of the houses, which was built in 2004. The houses have remained stable since that work. She declined to divulge how much she spent on that project or the estimated costs for the current effort.

"I thought we had the problem solved. After the winter of 2005-06 ... I noticed movement in the actual hillside," said Peterson. "The whole hillside was moving away from the house."

Peterson bought the two lots in the Lithia View subdivision from Chris Galpin, Gregg Adams and Andy Cochrane in 2004. Talent officials gave approval for the development.

"There was a soils test for the whole subdivision and there were no red flags at that time," said City Planner John Adam.

A neighbor who lives just south of Peterson's homes reported that his property has no problems. No other nearby property owners have reported problems to the city.

"I have to put my faith in the engineers. They know a lot more about this than I do," said Peterson. "Also, all the techs at ODOT have looked at this."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboom8929@charter.net.

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