Novato landslide could threaten Highway 101 and major water main

Even before the next rains fall, crews are keeping a close eye on a Novato hillside that is in danger of sliding again and destroying three major pieces of infrastructure.

Nonetheless, an enormous amount of work has been done on the hillside where five days ago a landslide occurred.

Because the slide was still moving, over the weekend, Pacific Gas & Electric reduced pressure on one of the two 16-inch-gas lines and took the other out of service. Natural gas for some 95,000 customers is at stake.

"We knew that we needed another solution given the continued land movement and also due to the incoming storm," said Jason King, PG&E spokesperson.

Engineers and public agencies decided to build a temporary bypass with a single 8-inch pipe placed under Highway 101. It will be in place for six months until a permanent workaround is built.

"That is common practice for us. We have lines that run under freeways throughout our service area," said King.

Past this go around, there is another back-up to inject additional gas into the system should the eight-inch pipe be insufficient, especially in a cold snap. All in place over the weekend to be online by 7 p.m. Monday evening.

"Our engineering team, working with our construction crews did an amazing job," said King.

If the slide keeps moving, Highway 101 could be its next stop. "The big thing is Highway 101 could be impacted and shut down and all the work they've done on the gas line could possibly be infringed upon," said Jeff Whittet, spokesperson for the Novato Fire Department.

There is also a threatened 30-inch water main. "This is in the impact area if that hillside continues to move and with an expected and-and-a-half to two inches of rain coming," said Whittet.

SEE ALSO: Landslide and mudslide dangers increasing throughout Bay Area

That rain and wind could cause many more trees to fall with tree service companies already stretched. Jackson Hardware in San Rafael rents power saws. "Sales have been good. We really don't rent big saws. We figure if you're going to do something big, you're going to get a professional for that," said Jackson's Hardware rental manager Michael Musil.

But using power saws requires skill or, at least training in how to saw and have proper safety gear, plus some proof the customer can do it safely. "We take them outside and start it for them, show them the operation. The biggest indicator is I say, ‘OK, now you start it,' If they can't get it started then we have to say, ‘Well, get someone else to do this work for you,’" said Musil.

MORE: Get ready: Bay Area faces more stormy weather