Scotty’s gets $5.3m for recovery effort

Scotty’s gets $5.3m for recovery effortScotty’s Castle, a key attraction of Death Valley National Park, is being restored after devastating flood damage in 2015. — News Review file photo

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DEATH VALLEY — The National Park Service has received funding and permits to move ahead with several major projects to repair Scotty’s Castle.

A flash flood on Oct. 18, 2015, severely damaged the road, utilities and historic buildings at Scotty’s Castle. The NPS has temporarily closed the area to public access until repairs are substantially complete, probably in 2020.

“People ask why it’s taking so long,” said Abby Wines, management assistant for Death Valley National Park. “I don’t think they understand how much damage happened in the flood. We had many decisions to make about how to do the repairs. Scotty’s Castle is such a special historic place. It’s better to do this right than to do this fast.”

NPS brought in historic specialists, architects and engineers to provide designs. For larger projects, the consultants provided several alternatives. Staff then chose the preferred alternative by comparing the projects’ advantages.

At that point, the park incorporated the preferred designs into documents called Environmental Assessments that were available for review by the public, the State Historic Preservation Office and others. This consultation is required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

The NPS regional director gave the green light for several projects that have cleared the review process. Contractors might start working on Bonnie Clare Road as soon as September. Work on Scotty’s Castle’s water, sewer and electrical systems should start later this fall.

The park has had recent good news about funding. Death Valley National Park received confirmation of $5,394,000 in funding to repair flood damage to Scotty’s Castle Visitor Center.

“The president is a builder, he loves to build and he loves our National Parks, so it is a natural fit that the administration is dedicating so much attention to rebuilding our aging parks infrastructure,” said Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, upon announcement of funding for several national parks.

“These approved projects are more than just line items on an Excel spreadsheet. They have a tangible effect on a person’s experience when visiting our nation’s parks.”

The Visitor Center project highlights why flood repairs are not as straightforward as they might sound. The NPS proposes to widen a historic opening from three feet to 14 feet, a width that will allow future flooding to pass through the L-shaped building without backing up into the interior of the historic building.

However, it would involve a significant change in the appearance of the historic building.

The California State Historic Preservation Office has not issued a final determination yet.

Story First Published: 2018-07-20