By Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writer
Business owners losing money because of roadwork and long delays on Highway 199 demanded yesterday that Caltrans do something to end the backup.
I am having to tell my employees not to come to work today, said Bill Weir of Patrick Creek Lodge. Business has dropped off 30 percent, he said.
Weir and others made the comments at a special meeting of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors, which was called to decide whether or not to petition California to declare a local state of emergency.
The reduction of traffic and the difficulty travelling between Oregon and California will significantly affect this community, said County Administrative Officer Ben Angove. This can cost us millions of dollars across the private sector.
Caltrans officials at the meeting said they understood the hillside stabilization project on Highway 199 is inconvenient, but said something must be done to prevent possible rockslides.
It could come down tomorrow, it could come down today, or it could come down a year from now, said Caltrans engineer Gordon Johnson. But it is going to come down and wed like to bring it down in a controlled fashion.
The possible threat of a slide closing the road also makes delaying the project until after the summer impossible, Johnson said.
When asked if the work and road closures could be done after dark by using work lights, Johnson said this couldnt be done because necessary light wouldnt reach the 300-foot high level where the blasting is being done. Also, the falling rock would crush the work lights.
One suggestion Caltrans said it would consider came from Del Norte County Supervisor Martha McClure that the blasting be done during late daylight hours and the cleanup be done at night.
Peter Spratt of the Brookings Chamber of Commerce asked for a joint session with Del Norte officials to seek some short-term solutions for a long-term problem.
There has been a lot of advertising money spent in Rogue Valley, he said. That money will be wasted if valley residents started looking for someplace else to go, Spratt said.
Wed like to be a player in this, said Curry County Commissioner Marilyn Schafer. This is a much bigger problem than just California. Id be open to having another session on this to find other ways to go forward.
Leonard Brick, who sits on the transportation board for Jackson and Josephine counties in Oregon, said his counties want to get involved as well.
The Cave Junction City Council is offering their full support on this resolution, he said. We already have an energy problem and the gasoline problem, so we certainly dont need this.
Clyde Radke of the California Highway Patrol said that although delays have been diminishing somewhat, emergencies are still happening on Highway 199; not on a financial level but on a personal one.
We have a motoring public experiencing these 1-to-2 hour delays which they werent expecting, he said. They can be sitting out there in 100 degree temperatures, without public services, in a car that is overheating and will no longer run, and with a sick child in the backseat. Now that is an emergency.
The supervisors approved recommending that an emergency be declared. If granted by the governor, local businesses would be eligible for low-interest, long-term loans.
Although the supervisors passed the resolution, they said the loans would be difficult to pay back and were not the answer.
If the whole mountain came down, that would be an emergency. But this is a self-imposed trickle emergency, said Supervisor David Finigan. What is not acceptable is to decimate the economies of a couple counties in a couple states.