AW Calls for Public Hearing - River Access & Bridges in CA

posted July 9, 2012
by Megan Hooker

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The most common way to access a river is where a public road crosses it. Paddlers often find themselves squeezing down the narrow easement that typically exists between a bridge and private land. It turns out that in California, the Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is required to fully consider and report on whether it is feasible to provide public river access when they build a new state highway bridge over a river (see California Streets and Highways Code section 84.5; similar provisions apply to bridges connected to county highways (§ 991) and city streets (§ 1809)). These under-utilized sections of the California Streets and Highway Code provide a great opportunity for paddlers to get involved in the public process and open up more public access to rivers throughout the state. 

To date, Caltrans has only performed one Access Feasibility Study in the 40 years that Section 84.5 has been in place - and surely there have been many more bridges built in that time. The study was for access at the SR 99 Bridge over the Feather River, and it doesn't adequately consider access alternatives. Today, American Whitewater requested a public hearing about the study. You can view our letter here.  
 
As is often the case with these matters, it’s up to the public to remind the agency of their duty. You can help open up access to California's rivers! If you see that there’s a new bridge project happening over an important river reach in your area, we encourage you to become aware of the public planning process for that bridge and write to Caltrans, the County Board of Supervisors, or City Government, and remind them that an Access Feasibility Study needs to be done. 


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