The Lost Coast Outpost was not able to cover yesterday’s meeting of the California Coastal Commission in Eureka — here are some reports from the Times-Standard and the North Coast Journal — but the commission’s decision on Caltrans’ proposals for new construction on the safety corridor between Eureka and Arcata was pretty monumental. In one swoop, the commission puts a ton of juice into two longstanding and somewhat controversial proposals: To build a pedestrian trail between Eureka and Arcata, and to remove billboards along the bay.
All that in addition to the actual safety corridor project itself.
When we talked to Eureka Mayor Frank Jager this morning to talk about departing city manager Bill Panos, he was ecstatic. “I have a lot of contempt for the Coastal Commission,” Jager said. “They have really hurt us with their overreaching. I was really sure they were going to turn us down. But they surprised me.”
Jager said his first order of business today would be to write a thank-you letter to each commissioner.
The environmental community is also well pleased, as this press release from the Northcoast Environmental Center demonstrates:
September 13, 2013 – The Northcoast Environmental Center and Humboldt Baykeeper declare today’s Coastal Commission decision on the Highway 101 Corridor Project a victory for our community. After a lengthy hearing with public testimony covering very broad opinions on the project – for, against, and everywhere in between – the Coastal Commission voted to approve the Highway 101 Corridor Project with the following conditions: construction of a separated Humboldt Bay Trail, removal of all billboards along the 101 corridor, address sea level rise in project design, and further study of wetland mitigation areas.
Along with these conditions, the project will still consist of the proposed interchange at Indianola Cutoff, a half-signal at Airport Boulevard, and closure of the other medians within the safety corridor.
In response to the decision, Jessica Hall, Executive Director of Humboldt Baykeeper stated, “While we were disappointed that the Commission approved the interchange without addressing the increase in speeds that will result from the project, we are very pleased that the Coastal Commission incorporated four conditions of approval that we have fought hard for over the years.”
Hall concluded by expressing her gratitude, “Thanks to the Coastal Commission and staff for their efforts on this project and for their work to uphold one of California’s greatest environmental laws – the Coastal Act.”
Dan Ehresman, Executive Director of the Northcoast Environmental Center weighed in on the hearing outcome, “We think that the Commission’s decision today is a win/win for North Coast residents. Although we question whether the interchange is the best solution to address traffic safety concerns, we believe that the conditions Caltrans will have to meet are a huge victory that will benefit generations to come.”
Ehresman went on to urge members of the public to stay involved, “Even though there is cause for celebration right now, we have a lot of work ahead. The Coastal Commission’s decision is an opportunity to work together towards a completed 101 Corridor project that ensures the Bay Trail gets funded and built, all billboards are removed along the Bay, and appropriate measures are taken to address sea level rise and wetland fill.”
While this decision green-lights the Caltrans proposal, details of the design and progress on the conditions will be reviewed by the Coastal Commission again during the Coastal Development Permit phase of the project.