Mon. Dec 4th, 2023

By Samuel Strait – Reporter at Large – June 29, 2022

Not many of us in Del Norte County have continued to follow the “Last
Chance Grade” follies, as the “State” continues to assure us that things
are well in hand.  Since the landslide which removed a substantial
portion of Highway 101 south of Crescent City in February 2021 we are
being informed that just maybe, the road would be reestablished to two
way traffic “sometime” in the fall of 2022, “barring unforeseen
circumstances”.  After nearly two years of sometimes one way traffic,
lengthy delays up to four hours, and now three stoplights for
construction, the roadway “could return” to what passes for a highway
that most other Californians have enjoyed without a lengthy interruption
through out the state.  Guess that tells us here in the County what to
expect from Sacramento, our fine representatives there and the one
looking after us at the Federal level.

Appearing in most mailboxes recently was “the Progress Update” of the
work currently in progress on the “Grade” featuring ground anchors,
walers, and steel piles meant to assure us that the roadway would be
“safe” to return to use in the near future. Coupled with a massive
financial investment, the slope above the “grade” was being stabilized
with an anchored cable net drapery system, yet no mention of an actual
“solution” for the problem currently beyond the interminable round of
talking the issue to death.  Clearly environmental impacts will be on
the forefront of any solution, at least that is the over all impression

As we have known for some time there are but two alternatives that
continue to be “studied” into likely oblivion.  Alternative “F”  with a
hefty price tag is a tunnel “deep underground”, which seeks to avoid
environmental impacts, side step landslides, and enhance “safety”.  The
idea that powerless Del Norte County is even on the radar of those in
Sacramento make this option the proverbial “Hail Mary” kind of solution.

Alternative “X”, the odds on favorite, is merely to continue to flail
away at the current right of way with ” improvements far beyond the
scope of emergency repairs”.  We seemed to have heard that one before. 
Lots of “word salad” in the flyer to cover the fact that any solution
will be a long time coming and more likely to be a bigger, better, band
aide which will do nothing about the well known fact that the mountain
of which “Last Chance Grade” is affixed to will eventually find itself
in the Pacific Ocean.

Of course there is the usual palliative of “work behind the scenes”,
“value analysis completed”, “moving from map to project description”,
“minimizing impacts”, and finally “staying on schedule” with appropriate
graphics and no firm commitment to any “begin construction phase”.  How
completely reassuring.  Not sure what anyone is to make of this recent
and likely expensive effort except it will be awhile before anything
gets beyond the paperwork stage.  There is one thing that is notable, in
that neither the City’s Council or the County Board of Supervisors has
taken note of the direction nor dilatory fashion that this project is
set to proceed. There continues to be a sense of glacial speed with
which this project is moving forward.  As the City continues to be
fascinated by dreams of a Disney like park at Beachfront and the County
is hiring and expanding like there is no tomorrow, perhaps “Climate
Change” will make the problem moot.

5 thoughts on “The Continuing “Last Chance Grade” Saga”
  1. So is it really that difficult to re route a highway inland a couple miles for a poorly placed section ? If it was built in the 1950s why can’t it be done in the 2020s ?

  2. I expect this money hustle to be abandoned shortly after the budget for “Studies” and publishing slick full-color notifications to County residents is exhausted. We have all seen the path that California’s solution to homelessness has gone. The lion’s share of billions in homeless relief goes to the same bullshit studies and propaganda that we have been watching with the Last Chance Grade Project. Then, they use the scant remaining cash to either pay a select group of Good-Ole-Boy real estate developers over $100,000 a pop for $5,000 dog houses; or they provide $300,000 luxury apartments “with a view,” built by the same group of crony contractors, to house a very lucky 1% of 1% of 1% of those living on the street.

    Our “Last Chance Grade Project” will be a fraction of what these grand ambitious plans represent. I find it hard to believe that anybody actually believes these grifters. Do the residents of Del Norte County believe that the world revolves around them? From all the hype; you would think that this corrupt little shit-hole of Del Norte County actually matters! We provide NOTHING to the outside world that cannot be transported by boat or by road toward Oregon. As for our “Commuters,” it would be cheaper in the long-run just to hire folks who live in Humboldt County and spare the expense of keeping Highway 101 open.

    By the time they actually begin work on this Last Chance Grade Project, we will be in the middle of a shooting war with Russia, gasoline will be $25 or more a gallon, and long commutes will have long been abandoned. We will be lucky to have bus service to the North and South end of the Grade, with a meandering foot path between the two. Of course, our local Road Mafia will still make out like bandits. The foot path will have plenty of park benches, restrooms, water fountains, viewpoints, and a price-tag to prove that it was paved with gold.

    Think I am kidding? Wait and see; but don’t hold your breath!

    1. I guess that I am not as pessimistic as are you. My projection is that the “Grade” will fall off the side of the mountain before the State does anything more than they have done for the past fifty or sixty years. Then, perhaps the feds might step in, but maybe that might just be too optimistic.

    2. True. For a dose of reality one should read James Kunstler’s thought provoking book “The Long Emergency”.

  3. Forgive the broken record, Sam, but it ain’t happening. We will all have to be content with the wall and anchor improvements. This is very small fish when considering major cities and roads. It is what it is, and the price we pay for living in a geographically remote area.

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