Laura Jo Welter, The Triplicate

Gov. Jerry Brown declared an emergency on Tuesday for weather-torn roads in 11 Northern and Central California counties, including Del Norte.

The declaration will allow the state to apply for federal Emergency Relief money to make repairs.

State highway infrastructure took a beating during a series of storms that hit the coast beginning March 5. Flash flooding, erosion and landslides that followed on the coast were exasperated by extreme drought conditions, according to the proclamation.

"With this declaration we've been asked by the Governor to formally

request immediate assistance through the Federal Highway

Administration's Emergency Relief Program to obtain federal assistance

for repairs. Because we just got word of the declaration, we are now in

the process of assessing which projects to highlight in our area,"

Caltrans spokesperson Myles Cochrane wrote in an email.

By telephone, Cochrane noted the declaration is for roads in three of

District 1's four counties, Humboldt, Mendocino and Del Norte, "which

helps" when it comes to addressing the damages caused by a wet winter.

"I thank Gov. Brown for understanding the North Coast's dire need for

immediate assistance to restore this critical transportation artery and

for taking the first step today by signing an emergency proclamation,"

said U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman. "I will continue to work tirelessly with

Caltrans and the federal government until our roads are restored and we

find a long-term solution to the serious issues facing Last Chance Grade

and Del Norte County."

According to Huffman, the bulk of the millions of dollars of damages

done to Del Norte highways were caused by the troublesome section of

U.S. 101 between Klamath and Crescent City known as Last Chance Grade,

that's saddled on a moving mountainside.

This month, Caltrans and Office of Emergency Services met with Brown

to propose another emergency be declared specifically for Last Chance

Grade, so that Caltrans can apply for funding a permanent solution to

the stretch of highway that racks up millions of dollars in maintenance

costs to keep it open every year.

The Emergency Relief program sets aside just $100 million a year for

emergency projects nationwide. Anything more than that will need the

help of Congress.

Bypassing Last Chance Grade is looking to cost at least a $250 million.

Reach Laura Jo Welter at lwelter@triplicate.com

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