Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, TransportationTags , ,

Op-Ed: The Sonoma Coast’s ‘bridge to nowhere’


Peaceful little Gleason Beach is nestled midway between Bodega Bay and Jenner, hidden in a pastoral valley just north of the small communities of Carmet and Sereno del Mar, where Highway 1 crosses tiny Scotty Creek.

Its fate will come before the California Coastal Commission on Thursday, shortly after 9 a.m. in the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chambers.

Decades of unfortunate policy decisions and a few poorly sited crumbling homes once built atop unstable cliffs have led Caltrans to propose a 3,700-foot highway bypass with an 850-foot-long concrete bridge, all just to cross over seasonal Scotty Creek, a rivulet only a few feet wide most of the year.

The early history of the Sonoma Coast was one of small tribal villages until the Spanish and Russians sought riches here. Thus the sheltered coves along the coast gradually became transportation hubs for coastal sailing vessels. As early agricultural families decided to improve ancient game trails along the shoreline by building the first gravel wagon roads, they pursued a level path hugging the seaside along the clifftops. World War II brought the tangible fear of an enemy invasion of our county by sea, so urgent highway improvements enabled rapid access for a coastal defense that, fortunately, was never needed.

As the coast became a desirable second-home destination, large landowners near Gleason Beach apparently decided to subdivide cliffside lots into a skinny development between Highway 1 and the ocean.


Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sonoma CoastTags , , ,

Sonoma County’s coastal cliffs no match for rising seas


Sonoma County’s coastal cliffs, softened by rain and pounded by ocean waves, are receding by as much as a foot a year and will surrender an area the size of Sebastopol by the end of the century, experts say, as climate change prompts sea levels to continue rising.

The scenic cliffs, made of soft rock formed millions of years ago on the ocean floor, are no match for nature’s ceaseless forces. Related property loss in the county over that period could total as much as $700 million.

Statewide, eroding coastal cliffs threaten billions of dollars worth of homes, highways, railways, businesses, military bases, universities, power plants and parks, and the North Bay has already seen the destructive and deadly consequences of the diminishing coastline.

At Gleason Beach, 4 miles north of Bodega Bay on Highway 1, the rapidly eroding cliff irreparably damaged 10 blufftop homes that were demolished by the owners, the last one in November.

One other home was relocated, and two of the 10 remaining homes are uninhabitable or unstable.

“Gleason Beach is a bellwether of things to come,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose district covers the county’s entire coast. “It’s one of the fastest eroding places in California.”

Caltrans is currently planning a $26 million realignment of the coastal highway at Gleason Beach, moving nearly a mile of the roadway, and building a new 850-foot bridge, about 400 feet farther away from the restive ocean. Construction is expected to start in 2019.

Read more at: Sonoma County’s coastal cliffs no match for rising seas

Posted on Categories Transportation, WildlifeTags ,

Cliff swallows resume nesting on Petaluma River bridge


As avian aficionados know, cliff swallows are tenacious creatures, birds that return to their preferred nesting locations decade after decade.

And so they’ve returned again to the Highway 101 bridge over the Petaluma River, after causing disruption to the four-year highway widening project and endangering their nesting rituals.

A coalition of environmental groups and animal activists sued Caltrans in 2013 after more than five dozen birds died in netting the agency erected to try to prevent the birds from building their conical mud abodes in the safety of the concrete bridge supports.

About 800 of the birds — which are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act — have returned to the bridge area this year, Caltrans spokesman Allyn Amsk said.

They are being allowed to freely nest on the underside of the newly constructed center lanes of the bridge and portions of the old southbound lanes of the bridge. But Caltrans is trying to prevent them from nesting in active construction zones by erecting plastic sheeting and hand-scraping or pressure- washing to remove the beginnings of nests.

Bird lovers are keeping an eagle eye on the work, which was signed off on by both sides in a three-year settlement agreement.

“We’re concerned that they’re not being proactive enough,” said Veronica Bowers, director of Native Songbird Care and Conservation, one of the groups that has pressured Caltrans to protect the birds. “It requires daily action on their part. We’re concerned that it’s not happening and we’ve seen some evidence to support that.”

Read more at: Swallows resume nesting on Petaluma River Bridge | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Transportation, WildlifeTags ,

Wildlife advocates protest bird deaths in Petaluma highway netting


Wildlife lovers gathered in the shadow of the Highway 101 bridge over the Petaluma River Friday evening to protest slow action by state and federal agencies in preventing birds from dying in construction netting.

“Caltrans is NOT above the law,” stated one sign. “Stop killing birds” was another.

Cliff swallows that build their mud nests each spring in the concrete bridge supports are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

via Wildlife advocates protest bird deaths in Petaluma highway netting | | Petaluma Argus-Courier | Petaluma, CA.

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Eucalyptus Trees Cut Down Along South Petaluma Boulevard


Work crews cut down an old eucalyptus grove on Petaluma Boulevard South on Sunday evening, much to the disappointment of environmentalists who told Caltrans the trees are used for nesting for egrets and herons and had asked for alternatives.

Caltrans is set to begin work on an interchange project in the area and said that removing the 15 or so trees was needed so that construction was not delayed. Egrets and heron are federally protected, meaning that the trees could not be cut down once the birds started nesting there later this spring.

via Eucalyptus Trees Cut Down Along South Petaluma Boulevard – Petaluma, CA Patch.