If you care about the health of the Smith River and remaining redwood forest. If you feel all that can be done to protect the salmon and deer should be done. And if you have concerns for personal safety as you drive, bike, and walk the lanes and shoulders of Highways 199 and 197, you need to know about the efforts of the Environmental Protection Information Center and the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities. These two groups are at the center of a longstanding, occasionally contentious and often mired in bureaucracy, debate regarding the state of California’s plan to widen portions of the above two highways.
Yesterday in Gasquet, representatives of both organizations (Natalynne DeLapp of EPIC and Colin Fiske of CRTP) presented to a small group of concerned residents. Yes, there was something of a “preaching to the choir” subtext, but the choir needs updating too.
On one side of the debate is EPIC and CRTP (among other groups) which seek to block the widening efforts and are hopeful the state will choose to redeploy funds, to other needy roadway and bridge projects. On the other side of the conversation is the state of California which continues to set its sights on widening the two highways — at seven locations, on both the 101 to 199 leg of Hwy 197, and the Hiouchi to O’Brien leg of Hwy 199.
The state wants to widen the roadway so it is compatible with larger, oversize trucks as long as 80 feet in length.
Of course, widening means digging into rock, cutting trees, creating years-long delays on the highways, and destroying the delicate ecology of the rivers and forest (which are already engaged in a balancing act between gravel, asphalt, gasoline fumes, motor oil, litter, vibration and noise and the other world of plants and animals that occupy the same space).
If you are part of the choir, or otherwise, have a look at the EPIC and CRTP web sites for information concerning the proposed widening and the current state of the project. Caltrans also has information posted. Links are below.
Here in the hollows of Hiouchi we like things the way they are. Guests do too. There’s a happy medium between private and public, we have just enough access to the river, the forest, the bogs and the coast using the exiting highways. The existing roads get us just about anywhere we need to go (even to our local Super Wal-Mart; see, we’re not completely pure). The rule-prone and lawless places within our reach net out to a pretty nice balance. Commercial and mercantile options exist alongside many still-pristine stretches of river and land. It’s a mix of use that engages and entertains many thousands of locals and tourists alike.
Locals have worked hard to reduce the impact we all have on the Smith River watershed and salmon and other animal populations in particular. But now the battle has moved on to the pavement.
Your education on the widening project, the science (and even the bluster), starts here.
Caltrans page on efforts to widen highways 197/199.