By Thea Skinner
Triplicate staff writer
The Del Norte Local Transportation Commission reversed a previous decision and approved over $1 million in funding for an environmental document to assess Thursday.
The document is the first step toward Hwy. 199 improvements, which were urged by key senators and almost all public representatives. The total amount requested was more than $6.3 million, according to Tamera Buchanan, commission director.
Several different facets of the community were represented at the meeting, including local business owners, a representative from the Easter Lily Foundation, Chamber President Chris Howard, Elk Valley Rancheria representatives, and a representative of the Council of Economic Advisors.
The move will revise the 2006 State Transportation Improvement Program and Del Norte's 2006 Regional Transportation Improvement Program, even though the deadline for the decision has past.
The safety and mobility upgrades on Hwy. 197 and Hwy. 199 "is not only important to Del Norte; the mobility of larger trucks is economically vital for our entire region," Assemblywoman Patty Berg stated in a letter to the commission.
Senator Mike Thompson also sent the commission a letter urging the approval of the project.
Connie Stewart, represented Berg at the meeting. "The assembly member has been working very hard to get funds to rural areas," she said. "We signed a resolution that everyone signed including local schools. This is an opportunity for you to show that you support your priorities.
Almost every conversation she has with the community is about this project.
Stewart indicated that Berg needs everyone to be focused to uphold the resolution.
Kim Krokodilos, secretary of the Elk Valley Tribal Council voiced similar concerns.
"I plea to you as leaders. The EIS (environmental document) is the most expensive document and also the most important," said Krokodilos referring to her experience with a similar document required for the pending tribe resort.
"We (the tribal council) try to look out past the hills toward our future," she said, urging the commission to become focused.
City Manager Eli Naffah said, "We have to look at the big picture. It is going to be millions of dollars and once you commit yourself to multiple millions you can not go back."
Buchanan indicated that more than $400,000 would be distributed to Del Norte County at a later time for local roads under Proposition 1B. These funds are awaiting stipulation legalities at the moment.
Buchanan will go to the California Transportation Commission to put the project into a state document.