The Latest Caltrans Shell Game

For Immediate Release
Contact: Annemarie Weibel or 937-5575
Albion, February 2, 2018

Will the California Coastal Commission – which Caltrans has been partly funding to the tune of millions of dollars – require Caltrans to follow the same coastal resource protection rules that appropriately apply to everyone else in the coastal zone?

w12-2-2018-report pg 2 – 3

The next test comes on February 7, when the Coastal Commission meets in Cambria, San Luis Obispo County, to consider its Executive Director’s waiver of the coastal permit requirement for the Caltrans proposal to superficially, incompletely, and unsustainably “restore” the 1,250 square foot area, in the berm and dune between Albion Cove Beach and the landmark Albion River Bridge’s foundation. Caltrans removed stabilizing vegetation and graded that area on October 31, 2017, without the required Coastal Commission and County grading permits. (Photos 1 and 2)

Under the guise of an “archeological investigation”, Caltrans’ archeological consultants dug a trench much larger than originally proposed. By driving with a backhoe over the dune/berm, by destroying the dune/berm structure consisting of sand, saw dust, rocks and old logs, and by removing the protective covering (the ice plants) Caltrans and their consultants exposed the dune/berm to wave run-up and erosion. (Photos 3 and 4)

The Albion River Bridge in Northern California is the last remaining wooden trestle highway bridge in California and perhaps in the United States. Will local residents be able to save this historic bridge from destruction?

Last week, Caltrans presented Coastal Commission staff with an ambiguous, incomplete, and internally inconsistent application for a coastal permit, along with a request that Commission staff waive the coastal permit requirement. That application describes a project consisting of nine workers with shovels and rakes to move some sand around to “create a uniform surface” and dump on top of it some “ice plants” from the Albion River Campground and Marina property. In sharp contrast, the Caltrans “Notice of Pending Permit” states that it will “restore the beach dune to pre-excavation conditions that occurred on October 31, 2017”.

Caltrans is misleading both the public and the Coastal Commission. The project for which Coastal Commission staff is ready to waive the coastal permit requirement is not the project that Caltrans describes, and does not repair – much less restore – the damage that Caltrans has done. Caltrans simply has not met the Coastal Commission prerequisite for a complete and accurate application, a basic requirement before a coastal permit or waiver can even be processed. Neither Caltrans nor Coastal Commission staff has analyzed, or demonstrated, that the project is consistent with all of the Coastal Act Chapter 3 standards, or that the project will not have any direct or cumulative adverse effects on coastal resources.

To the coastal community, who are intent on protecting the landmark Albion River Bridge, Coastal Commission staff’s proposed waiver is disturbing on several fronts. For example, the waiver makes no provision for Caltrans to protect the damaged dune/berm from further erosional forces while the “ice plants” attempt to reestablish themselves. To make matters worse, the waiver provides no backup plans if this attempt by Caltrans fails to remediate the damage caused by its unpermitted trenching.

The public and the coastal resources deserve better. The coastal community requests that a complete Coastal Development Permit application will be heard as a regular permit item at the Coastal Commission’s March meeting. Caltrans must follow the same coastal protection rules and procedures that everyone else is subject to. Anyone who agrees can express their concern to Bob Merrill, Coastal Commission District Manager at 707-826-8950 or <> and Alison Dettmer, Coastal Commission District Director at 415-904-5240 or <>

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