Public invited to open meeting to discuss plans

The public is invited to a meeting Thursday to discuss the state’s Gleason Beach project, a Highway 1 realignment that would shift the roadway inland and away from ocean erosion of cliffs about five miles north of Bodega Bay.

The meeting will be at the Bodega Bay Marine Lab lecture hall, 2099 Westshore Road in Bodega Bay from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Attendees will be able to view and provide input on the latest roadway and bridge project designs.

The purpose of the project is to provide a safe coastside transportation that avoids erosion undermining the coastal highway. Late last year, Caltrans issued an emergency work order to temporarily stabilize Highway 1 near Gleason Beach after damage from multiple erosive forces made the roadway vulnerable, especially in storms and extreme weather. According to Caltrans, at the current rate of coastal retreat, the roadway at Gleason Beach abutting the coastal bluffs is expected to be undermined within the five years.

The project would construct a 3,700-foot, two-lane roadway and 850-foot long bridge span over Scotty Creek, shifting the entire roadway to the east, away from the eroding cliff side. The road and bridge would be 49 feet wide and include 6-to-8-foot shoulders and a 6-foot wide sidewalk in the southbound direction for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The project also includes improving three access roads to Highway 1, plus additional improvements to vehicle turnouts and adding a dedicated parking area.

The realignment project has already conducted and received a certified Final Environmental Impact/Environmental Assessment under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The EIR states that no significant impact is expected from the project, though Caltrans states the bridge structure will change the visual character of the coastal landscaping looking inland from Gleason Beach. Caltrans has plans to help mitigate impacts to coastal wetlands, the Scotty Creek floodplain, water quality, federally listed threatened and endangered species, including the Myrtle’s silverspot butterfly, and the rural character of the coastal Sonoma County landscape.  Caltrans expects the project will improve the environmental baseline of the Scotty Creek floodplain because the bridge will span the floodplain and remove a culvert currently spanning the creek that creates a potential barrier to migrating salmonids.

Caltrans plans to submit permit applications to the Regional Water Quality Control Board, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and California Coastal Commission and Sonoma County for coastal development permits and local coastal plan amendments. Caltrans hopes for approval by early next year.

Along with the approvals needed by various agencies, Caltrans also needs to obtain several property acquisitions.

The project will replace Caltrans’ emergency project, which began last June. On June 15, Caltrans installed concrete barriers and traffic signals on the roadway, creating one-way, reversible traffic for drivers. According to Caltrans, the lane reduction was necessary due to erosion. Since the late 1990’s, the roadway near Gleason Beach has become increasingly more eroded and dangerous to drivers. In 1998, nearly two dozen houses in the area were condemned and labeled uninhabitable by the county after heavy El Nino rains destabilized the structures. Since then, three houses have been completely demolished and another six have been tagged by the county as unsafe.

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