Selma works to address urgent storm drain repairs

Storm drain lines are compromised throughout the city and could lead to major infrastructure failures, Selma public works department says

(Serena Bettis)
(Serena Bettis)
Serena Bettis
Published March 21, 2024  • 
11:00 am

SELMA – A sinkhole that appeared just south of Selma last month revealed vital maintenance needs within the city’s storm drain infrastructure. 

At the March 18 council meeting, Public Works Director Michael Honn briefed the Selma City Council on the steps the city took to address the sinkhole. Honn said that while the city promptly repaired the section of storm drain pipe that led to the sinkhole, the city has hundreds of feet of compromised pipe that must be attended to as soon as possible. 

“Long story short, council members, is we have a storm drain line that needs to be addressed immediately,” Honn said. “We have done a repair — that’s a good repair — in the location that we have the sinkhole, but this is going to be a continuing issue on this section of line as we continue to get rain.” 

The sinkhole occurred on the west side of Golden State Boulevard, approximately a half mile south of Mountain View Avenue within the Kingsburg city limits, on the property of G&L Enterprises. It was more than 13 feet deep, 15 feet across and 20 feet wide, Honn said. 

“This sinkhole was determined to be caused by the severe rain events that we had been experiencing, and by a compromised storm drain line that we have running in that vicinity,” Honn said.

Honn said he believes that cracks in the pipe, combined with the major rain from the past few years, resulted in water finding its way to the opening of the pipe, creating a vacuum and allowing material to sift into the pipe, leading to the sinkhole. Honn showed pictures of the pipe during the council presentation to demonstrate the amount of debris let into the storm drain line. 

Honn was alerted to the sinkhole by Kingsburg Public Works Director Daniel Galvez on Feb. 21. He said Selma city staff met with Clovis-based contractor Floyd Johnston Construction on Feb. 22 to discuss fixing the pipe, and a crew was mobilized on Feb. 27, with work beginning Feb. 28 and ending on March 5.

To repair the pipe, the contractor replaced 12 feet of the concrete line. The original plan was to replace 8 feet of the pipe, but when the crew went to make a clean cut in the pipe to join the new section, they found the bottom of the pipe “completely broken, compromised and shattered,” and had to extend the replaced section, Honn said.  

The compromised storm drain line in question is a 36-inch concrete pipe that is not reinforced and was likely installed in 1963, Honn said. It runs along the Union Pacific railroad tracks and Golden State Boulevard, south to the pond at the Selma-Kingsburg-Fowler County Sanitation District (SKF).

Although one section of the pipe was repaired, it is largely compromised, Honn said. The line has large cracks running through the top that extend approximately 860 feet. 

“I’ve been out there and walked this line with people from the city, … and we’ve identified places on the property that this line has the storm drain easement running through that are starting to sink,” Honn said. “It’s an assumption, but from the cracks that are there and from my experience, those sinkholes are the beginning of another large sinkhole.” 

Honn said he is working with the assistant city manager to identify areas of that line that could be intercepted and diverted to eliminate the section that continues through Kingsburg. 

Additionally, the public works department is working to clean out storm drain lines so that Honn and City Engineer David Horn can identify where other compromised pipes are and develop a capital improvement plan for pipe replacement and maintenance.

It is “absolutely mandated” that the city address these issues immediately, otherwise there will be continued failure of this infrastructure, Honn said. 

“It’s a pretty sad presentation to say the least,” Councilmember Sarah Guerra said. “Unfortunately, it’s something that has to be brought to our attention, and we definitely need to look at this and bring this to the budget and see what we’re going to have to do to get this repaired, and what it’s going to cost.” 

Honn assured the council that he is working hard with the assistant city manager and other agencies involved to find a resolution, which will be brought to the city council when it is ready.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter