After more than two years since winter storms wiped out portions of Lompico Road, repairs are slated to begin as early as the first week in October on a section of roadway heavily damaged by a washout. Simultaneously, the County of Santa Cruz is working to identify alternative resources for Lompico in the event of wildfire or other emergency.
Since early 2017, Lompico Road has been down to one lane at PM 0.2, making life a challenge for Lompico residents and heightening fears about how a safe evacuation might take place. I heard from many concerned Lompico residents after a report was published in the Mercury-News in late August that placed Lompico at No. 1 on a list of San Francisco Bay Area communities at high risk due to limited evacuation routes.
So, what are we doing about these problems?
First, the County of Santa Cruz’s Department of Public Works has contracted with Cal West, Inc. for nearly $550,000 to repair the main slip-out on Lompico Road, for which the Federal Highway Administration recently approved reimbursement. The contract is for three months, but Public Works hopes construction will be completed in a much shorter time frame, as the contractor knows the project is a high priority for the County. During construction times, there will continue to be a one-way temporary traffic signal in effect.
Lompico is one of many roads in District 5 and throughout Santa Cruz County that suffered severe storm damage. In fact, about half of the damage statewide from the 2016-2017 storms occurred in Santa Cruz County. While the County recently completed priority repairs on Bear Creek Road, East Zayante Road and Glenwood Drive, there are 82 other projects worth $42 million that will require time extensions because design and environmental work will likely not be completed ahead of newly enforced federal reimbursement deadlines.
Second, the County’s Office Emergency Services and local fire agencies are looking into evacuation resources for Lompico. While there are many details to work out, a main objective is to identify an alternative to Lompico Road that would be used only in emergencies.
Lompico is also not the only local community that faces evacuation challenges. I am particularly concerned about the entire San Lorenzo Valley. The County is in the process of finishing up a Wildfire Egress Study for the Valley conducted by KLD Engineering, the results of which we can share once they are closely evaluated by first-responders and other stakeholders. If you live in the Valley and have not taken the KLD survey, you can access it at this web address: tinyurl.com/y26z9hyg.
The County Office of Emergency Services doesn’t publish evacuation routes ahead of emergencies because we need to be nimble enough to direct residents based on real-time information. In the meantime, folks living in the Valley need to continue paying special attention to wildfire preparedness and resiliency, a great resource for which is the Fire Safe Santa Cruz County website at firesafesantacruz.org.
Also, I encourage you to join me and representatives from Emergency Services and Public Works for a community meeting 6:30-8 p.m. October 23 at the Boulder Creek Fire Station, 13230 Central Avenue (Highway 9), on the topics of road repairs and emergency preparedness. This was a very well attended presentation in 2018.
Another topic of concern in the Valley, and throughout the County really, is the state of recycling and the loss of California Redemption Value (CRV) services, both in terms of the difficulties with public subsidy and private enterprise. Because the collapse of the national recycling market poses a huge problem for all of California, in August the Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to request that state leaders come up with a solution. I acknowledge it is unfair to charge consumers a tax on cans and bottles that cannot realistically be redeemed at most local stores, whose owners don’t have the capacity to provide the redemption service or cannot afford state fines. As a member of the Executive Committee of the California State Association of Counties, I will also be asking that organization to seek a legislative fix.
While we work on these challenges in District 5, I want to end this month’s column on a positive note by giving a big shout-out to the Mountain Parks Foundation for all the hard work they have put into reinvigorating the historic Nature Museum and Research Center at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. With the building renovations done and museum exhibit design in final stages, the target completion is October 2020 for the $1.4 million project in partnership with California State Parks and Save the Redwoods League. Congratulations to the Foundation, and I want to say thank you to all its donors and supporters.
Please join me October 12 for the Foundation’s 25th annual Lobster Feed Fundraiser at Henry Cowell Park in Picnic Area 1. Lobster will be served from 4:30-8 p.m. Tickets are available at mountainparks.org, by calling 831-335-3174, or by visiting the Foundation’s office adjacent to the Nature Store in Henry Cowell.
Happy autumn to all!