Off the Shelf Culvert Restores Storm Stricken Community

Oak Glen, California

When Tropical Storm Hillary slowly climbed up California in August 2023, it left a wake of a devastation in its path. Flooding agricultural fields, refilling ancient lake beds, damaging essential infrastructure, overwhelming stormwater systems, and even claiming lives, the storm particularly hit hard Oak Glen, a small town nestled in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains.

A deluge of more than 10″ of rain fell on a recent burn scar bringing the San Gorgonio mountainside barreling toward the community famous for its apple orchards. As the violent wall of water, mud, and debris made its way down Birch Creek toward Oak Glen Road, the town’s main artery, a giant boulder smashed and destroyed an old culvert built in the 1930s.

“The community was severely impacted,” says David Drake, Division Chief of Flood Control Design for San Bernadino County. “Mud flow went everywhere after it jumped over the old bridge. It was a total mess.”

Emergency Repairs 

With a restaurant damaged, homes inundated, and residents shaken, San Bernadino County flood officials knew they had to act fast to restore Oak Glen’s main thoroughfare. Luckily, federal emergency funds expedited the typically tedious process. 

“I can’t even describe to you how hard it is to get something out,” Drake says. “So, when I was allowed to do this under an emergency, it gave me a chance to show off and use tricks that agencies don’t typically use.” 

For Jensen Precast’s Fontana, California, facility, which happens to reside in San Bernadino County, this meant an opportunity to get creative for the community where many of the employees reside. 

“We looked into our engineering and found a design that was similar to what they were looking for, something we’ve done in the past,” says Tom Morales, General Manager of Jensen Precast’s Southern California Operations. “So, we were able to use that existing design, we submitted it to them, and they turned it around in a couple of days.” 

With engineering ready to go, production had to act fast to keep up with the breakneck speed of this project. 

“We manufactured the parts we needed in house,” Morales says. “We manufactured the steel cage here so we could jump right into production within a week from getting approval on the submittals.”

Off the Shelf Culvert 

For San Bernadino Flood Control, an expedited process with preengineered designs and virtually no red tape was exactly what the doctor ordered.

“There are two advantages with choosing Jensen,” Drake says. “Not only the timing, but also the engineering is included in Jensen’s service. I go to Jensen. I want an engineered box. You guys do it. I don’t have to hire a structural engineer. You guys are turnkey.” 

And the design perfectly aligned with Drake’s engineering philosophy. 

“Keep it simple, keep it easy,” he says. “It’s my motto.” 

In this instance, simple and easy looked like 12 pieces of 10’W x 10’H precast concrete monolithic box culvert with headwalls and wingwalls spanning a 48′ long for a total of 96′ for the double structure run. 

“When the old culvert was built in the 1930s, it was just a little too small to handle the Q100 flow of approximately 3,000 cubic feet per second,” Drake explains. “So I needed 200 square feet of area to pass that amount of flow, and that was two 10’W x 10’H culvert structures.”

Engineering Home Depot 

Going forward, Drake wants to use this project as a model for future emergency responses. 

“This a great template,” he says. “Not just for me, but for other engineers and agencies on how you can get something done really quick with minimum manpower. I don’t have to go out to consultants. I’m not going out to public bid. We used our on-call services. You can do this all at your desk.” 

From the time San Bernadino County first contacted Jensen Precast Fontana to the time the road was completed was a total of two months. A testament to close communication and partnership.  

“We’re more than just a manufacturer and producer,” Morales says. “We’re a partner with the contractors here. We live in the communities that we serve. So, were going to do what we need to do to make sure the roads are safe. We build quality products for all the infrastructure needs around us.” 

In the end, for the San Bernadino Flood Department, working with Jensen Precast was as easy as shopping at a big box retailer.

For communities with infrastructure needs like Oak Glen, use our contact form to expedite your emergency response. If you know what you need to get going on your project, request a quote.

Make your career more concrete. Apply now at Jensen Precast.
See jobs