Samuel Strait, Reporter at Large – March 27, 2021

 I don’t know how many viewers caught the tail end of a recent Board of
Supervisor’s meeting, March 23, 2021, most likely not many.  In any
event, in a discussion between Board members and our lobbyist, Greg
Burns, the topic of renewed interest by Congress to reintroduce
“Earmarks”, now referred to as Public Community funded projects,
apparently will go forward.  Congress will allow for our local
Congressman, Jared Huffman, to place requests for funding on current
appropriations bills, that reflect local needs.  CAO, Jay Sarina, in a
report to the Board has suggested the following projects as priorities
for Del Norte County:

  • Jail renovation
  • a dedicated emergency center, and
  • infrastructure projects surrounding our sewer system.

What?  No mention of doing something about Last Chance Grade? Actually,
Supervisor Hemmingsen raised just that question.  It seems that both our
Congressman and the Board are comfortable with allowing the current path
to move forward at its current glacial pace.  It seems that its a
CalTrans project and therefore;  they should take the lead even if
federal funding were to be on the table.  Or perhaps Oregon Senator
DeFazio, who serves on the Senate Transportation Committee would be a
better avenue. Certainly not our own Jared Huffman, as he does not
appear to be very interested in the federal funding of Last Chance Grade.

While it is somewhat disappointing that the Board Of Supervisors would
so easily dismiss potential funding, it probably is understandable in
light of the over sixty years of kicking the can down the road.  What is
potentially troubling is that the cost to keep the current right-of-way
open seems to swallow millions of dollars each and every year as the
cost for the future bypass increases in that same time frame by hundreds
of million dollars. In what was almost an after thought it was mentioned
that the current State budget which would ultimately pay for the bypass
is seriously meager.   How realistic is it that the State will
ultimately be willing to pay for the bypass when the time comes and it
is shovel ready nearly twenty years in the future?

Seems that states like California, New York, and New Jersey to name a
few, are being favorably treated when it comes to funding with this new
administration.  Should conditions change in the future, it would seem
to be the ideal time to tap into the federal funding to address our most
challenging need.  The fact that “earmarks” have become so recently
available it would seem a good time to draw up plans should future
federal dollars become available rather than trust the State to “pony
up” when the time comes.  Becoming funding orphans to Sacramento and
Washington DC appears to be Del Norte County’s lot in life.  With every
new funding source there comes almost as many obstacles in receiving
them for our most important need as there are hours in a day. While
we can all appreciate renovation of our County’s Jail, a dedicated Emergency
Center, and Sewer projects if the “earmarks” make it into this years
spending bill, it would be nice to see a Last Chance Grade bypass
actually become a priority now and not twenty years from now.

5 thoughts on “Let’s play Devil’s Advocate about Federal Funding for Last Chance Grade”
  1. I’m just trying to understand if the hold up is money, politics, environmental studies or what? How many more people need to be hurt or killed before this becomes priority for the powers that be?

    1. All of the above. Lack of real leadership in this County. Complacent people who trust the State to follow through and are willing to wait for 2039 to come and go without any change in the situation. Unwillingness to become that squeaky wheel that drives Sacramento or Washington to do something soon just to stop the squeak. General government malaise and indifference with environmental nazis waiting to pounce. Quite a combination for ignoring the problem.

  2. Time to start a pool where we can bet which project is completed first: Last Chance Grade bypass or California High Speed Rail.

  3. Sam, you have to understand that we are very small fish in the ocean that is
    California. There are, “last chance grades” all over California, many with larger populations and way more political clout. Anyone who thinks electeds really care about our area are very naive, indeed.
    It’s time for folks to get used to the idea of bulldozing and bushwhacking. No matter the local importance and critical path, it will not get done in our lifetime.

    1. Please do not miss understand that I think that Last Chance Grade will be fixed any time in the near future or by 2039 for that matter. I am well aware of just how unimportant we are in the scheme of things in California or to the federal government. It was kind of nice when the question of “earmarks” came up that LCG was even considered. So, I was not terribly surprised when the waffling began and our number one priority sank in relevance faster than the Titanic.

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