Last Chance Grade, a narrow sliver of Highway 101 near Crescent City, is falling into the ocean. This wet winter has taken a toll, with half the roadway falling down the hillside. The question is not if the road will fail, but when and how badly.
Caltrans and EPIC don’t often see eye to eye. But we agree that something needs to be done about Last Chance Grade, and fast. To that end, EPIC is working with other stakeholders to find funds to begin planning for an environmentally responsible replacement.
EPIC is a member of the Last Chance Grade Stakeholder Group, convened by Congressman Jared Huffman, to help Caltrans in the development of a replacement project. Caltrans has developed a number of potential alternatives, which can be viewed here. These alternatives range from a long bypass, largely through Green Diamond Resource Company land, to a shorter tunnel through Redwood National Park.
Before Caltrans can do work, it needs money to start environmental analysis. EPIC and other stakeholders are requesting immediate funding from the California Transportation Commission to begin geotechnical evaluation of potential new alignments. Caltrans is also looking for “emergency” funding from the Federal Highway Administration for work on the project. Under normal circumstances, this money would not be available to create a new alignment—that is, moving a road to a different location. However, Congressman Huffman and Caltrans have been hard at work to secure an exemption to this usual rule as replacing the road in its current alignment is impossible. Both Congressman Huffman and Caltrans deserve immense credit and kudos for their quick work and resolve in seeking funding.
The worst case scenario—for both the community and our forests—is a catastrophic failure of Last Chance Grade. Under this “emergency,” Caltrans may be able to bypass environmental review laws to punch in a road as quickly as possible—with the quickest and shortest route through old-growth forest in Redwood National Park. However, Caltrans has maintained that avoiding old-growth redwoods is a chief priority. EPIC believes in Caltrans position to safeguard old-growth redwoods throughout the new alignments, and is committed to seeing this project through to the end to ensure Caltrans holds true to their word.
As a voice for the conservation community on the project, EPIC will continue to push to minimize any environmental impacts from road construction and to mitigate all impacts to the fullest degree feasible. EPIC will keep you updated when more information becomes available.
Last Chance Grade Alternatives Map