Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Commentary By Samuel Strait – Reporter at Large – May 3, 2022

Unless you just happen to be living under a rock, most in this County
will have heard in one form or another that the spill of asphalt binder
mix on Highway 199 occurred on this past Thursday between Hiouchi and
Gasquet, some of it finding its way into the Smith River.   Highway 199
was closed to through traffic for five hours.  There are on going
efforts to clean up the tarry substance from the river and else where. 
Almost before the incident occurred, the mouth piece for Friends of Del
Norte was running said mouth piece bemoaning the epic nature of the
incident, calling for the “protection” of drinking water from any and
all transport of harmful chemicals down the Smith River Canyon. Classic
case of inserting foot in mouth before engaging brain.

Clearly the mouth piece, “Don Gillespie”, is clueless as to how nearly
everything gets transported into Del Norte County to allow said mouth
piece his cushy life style.  Granted not all items trucked into Del
Norte County are considered “toxic”, yet a great many relatively
harmless items upon finding themselves pitched into the Smith River
would likely be considered by, oh wise one, Don Gillespie inappropriate
to be mixing with drinking water in the Smith River.  Fortunately, for
the rest of us that do not immediately lapse into hysteria, not many of
the drivers that ply the Smith River Canyon in trucks are inebriated. 
Likely there are far more of that kind of individual that drive a
regular passenger vehicle making that journey, and were their vehicle to
find its way into the river, of which there have been a few, are also
unlikely to be viewed by Mr. Gillespie as beneficial.

Needless to say, Highway 199 is a vital transportation route into Del
Norte County, no matter what is being transported.  It would behoove Mr.
Gillespie to examine his past actions which have prevented a fair number
of safety improvements to Highway 199 which even if longer trucks were
allowed to utilize that route would become a much safer roadway. 
Clearly Mr. Gillespie’s zeal for the environment of the Smith River
Canyon has clouded his good judgement and ignores the fact that daily
hundreds of trucks make the journey south on 199 with no adverse effect
on the Canyon’s environment.  By doing so this highly reliable form of
transporting goods to out of the way places makes living in those places
far more comfortable for those that live there.  Please Mr. Gillespie,
do not fail to include yourself in that group who benefits.

It regularly becomes tiresome to hear the ignorance of those that place
themselves on pedestals of virtue while ignoring the great benefit we
receive from truckers who earn a livelyhood in a very responsible manner
get lumped into the very few that abuse that livelyhood by driving while
impaired.  Clearly a vast majority of the truck traffic should not be
included into that very small exclusive category of the negligent and be
thankful that without the safety improvements that Mr. Gillespie’s
group, Friends of Del Norte, have held up are not marginally worse.  
Instead of whining about chemical spills as if they were a regular
occurrence, it would make more sense for Gillespie to eliminate the road
blocks to highway safety his group is responsible for, yet clearly we
are not talking about anyone that bothers with anything remotely related
to common sense.

Over the past two years while most of California’s population was mired
in pandemic fears, truckers did not have the luxury of sitting at home. 
Their importance to society as a whole is immeasurable and too often
taken for granted.  Everything from the food you eat to the clothes you
wear comes to Del Norte County by truck.  If anyone paused to think
about all the products that are considered “toxic” and wish for Mr.
Gillespie’s version of protecting the Smith River Canyon, be prepared
for a lot of walking….And a lot of doing without.

2 thoughts on “The Big Spill”
  1. The last I had heard they were going to re-align bridges, take out some hairpin curves and add more passing lanes. What ever happened to that project? Seems like Last Chance Grade gets all the attention and 199 is ignored.

    1. Ask the “Friends of Del Norte” and Don Gillespie about their legal chicanery and you will have the answer to that question.

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