By Samuel Strait, Report at Large – February 19, 2021
Unless someone has blown out your pilot light, most folks in the County
are aware of the fact that Last Chance Grade has had yet another slide
blocking the traffic North and South. Due to some rather heavy rains,
it should have come as no surprise, yet it seems like an annual event.
Naturally it will be a few hours before Cal Trans will be able to open
at least one lane, with the warning that delays are expected to be up to
an hour, and weather condition may require the road to be closed going
forward. A couple of hours delay, frustrating but survivable. A day
or two not real great, but better than if the roadway would slide into
the ocean and become impassable.
Last Chance Grade has been an issue for Del Norte County for over sixty
years, and likely will remain so long after 2039. When then Supervisor
Lori Cowan became point person regarding Last Chance Grade, we were
assured that a solution would be only a matter of twenty years or so.
These pronouncements were dutifully echoed by our State Senator Mark
McGuire and Assemblyman Jim Woods. And then the flood gates of
“studies” were opened costing millions of dollars and likely to be
objected to by our local environazies leading to years of court room
litigation. Of course, since it will be some time before a route is
even settled and the state has billions of dollars of unfunded road
repair and construction for which they only have less than half of that
amount, chances are it will be well into the next century before
something concrete is done. Not to worry, the road way has a better
chance of falling into the ocean before Last Chance Grade is bypassed.
In the mean time our local Board of Supervisors and City Council
continues to sit on their hands, thinking the State will honor that
pledge and if the roadway holds up for the next twenty years everything
will be golden. Besides, most of the current Board and Council are
unlikely to be around to take the fall. So where does that leave us,
the people who live here. Clearly without so much as a paddle, as the
federal government is the only real option to get something done in a
timely manner. A suggestion authored by Bob Berkowitz and former
Supervisor Roger Gitlin that has been roundly dismissed when it was
brought up previously, by current sitting board members Chris Howard and
Gerry Hemmingsen. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the only
immediate solution has lain fallow since.
A few more rain filled winters and this current problem of short delays
has the distinct possibility of a very long delay. Perhaps in light of
serious movement of the hill above the Grade, the clock is ticking.
Further delay at finding a real solution to the problem will only make
the problem grow not only in difficulty but cost as well. Time for
better local government without delay. Time to speed up the fix at Last