By Samuel Strait, Reporter at Large – June 24, 2021

If you happen to live south of Last Chance Grade, the road closures are
a big problem.  If you are a visitor wishing to experience our stretch
of the North Coast, you might be thinking of giving it a pass this
year.  If you think that the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors is
making almost no effort to change anything about the road closure or
even the options available in the future to correct the problems that
have existed since the road was constructed, you appear to be right
about all three.  If anyone happens to tune into the continuing round of
endless “zoom” meetings where Supervisors continue to hide from public
scrutiny, you would have noticed that Last Chance Grade did become a
topic of conversation during the supervisor’s meeting of June 22nd.  As
per usual, nothing of any value occurred despite a plea by Supervisor
Berkowitz, District Five, for supervisors to become more active and
expressing displeasure with the two options considered to be the only
options.

After a brisk round of back patting for CalTrans and the road’s current
contractor, the conversation quickly turned to “this state of road
closures” is likely to continue through the summer months and into the
fall month of October.  How delightful, except of course if you live in
Klamath or have to drive south to Eureka, or maybe even wish to spend
some tourist dollars in Del Norte County north of Last Chance Grade. 
None of this concerned our fearless leaders, as they seemed dismissive
of any issue this might present.  Naturally, if the road closure was on
a major access to Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Sacramento the problem
would have been addressed completely in February.  Our “leadership”
moans about the inability to solve the problem while CalTrans calls the
shots.

 From the Board’s conversation at the meeting, there was a notable
acquiescence to the idea that the current alignment of Highway 101 is to
be the default choice.  It is likely that the current delay in opening
up the traffic to normal two way passage is predicated on doing the prep
work for cutting back the hillside above the grade and preparing for the
“de watering” process for the eventual announcement that the current
alignment has become the primary option.  Wouldn’t want the current work
and expense to go to waste.  In the mean time everyone is kept in limbo,
thinking what’s the hold up?

The current Board members, Gerry Hemmingsen and Valerie Starkey prattle
on about “new” information that excludes the seven other options,
although acknowledge that no one thinks using the current alignment is a
path to success.  One thing in its favor, is that it is the cheapest
that the State can get away with.  What did come to light in the Board’s
insincere concern was the fact that another route on the ridge above the
current alignment was deemed unstable in studies which led to removal
from consideration.  Now CalTrans wishes to restructure the current
alignment below that dismissed alternative.   Does anyone out there
think that is a bit odd?

Much of the remaining discussion centered around Supervisor Short’s
brilliant observation that environmental obstruction was a major concern
and the County’s “leadership” were uncomfortable with taking that on. 
Somehow a bypass around Prairie Creek managed to escape the wrath of
enviroextremism and the “Old Growth Redwoods” do not extend endlessly
East.  Just a thought.

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