El Dorado County Threatens Access to the South Fork American River (CA)

posted November 21, 2016
by Theresa Simsiman

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El Dorado County has released the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Mosquito Road Bridge Replacement Project.  The preferred proposal would cut off key access to the Slab Creek reach of the South Fork American River.  Last spring saw the first boating releases on this reach where over 200 paddlers showed up to experience this classic Class IV-V run. Yet, despite 3 years of community engagement, the DEIR fails to recognize the impacts to recreation like whitewater boating.  The proposed bridge project would construct a new downstream bridge approximately 400 feet over the river. It would cost an estimated $65 million and would be the 7th tallest bridge in California. In addition to being used by paddlers the old bridge is also popular with hikers, climbers and cyclists.  The County DEIR proposes to remove the old bridge once construction is completed and provides zero mitigation for the loss of this recreational resource.
Among the recreational concerns ignored by the DEIR, American Whitewater has repeatedly communicated that the proposed changes that use distance and no parking signs effectively ends public access to a navigable waterway and is unacceptable. The Access Fund, a national advocacy organization whose mission conserves the climbing environment, submitted a comment letter pointing out that the bridge affords access points for various activities including climbing.  And most recently the organizer of the annual Motherlode Century has expressed removal of the bridge would put an end to a popular bicycle route described in Bill Oetinger’s book 75 Classic Rides Northern California: The Best Road Biking Routes.
Fortunately, recreational stakeholders can still submit comments to El Dorado County regarding the recreational deficiencies in the Mosquito Road Bridge Replacement Project DEIR. We encourage you to send comments to the County that would request the following actions in adherence to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA): 
  • The DEIR should include all stakeholder comments regarding recreation in the Mosquito Road Bridge area.
  • The DEIR should include the Mosquito Road Bridge Public Access Feasibility Study and subsequent written & verbal comments made to the Board of Supervisors.
  • The DEIR should ascertain and thoroughly evaluate all recreational interests in the Mosquito Road Bridge area.
  • Based on a thorough evaluation the DEIR should identify all significant impacts on recreation in the area. 
  • The DEIR should include mitigation for significant impacts to recreation in the area.
  • El Dorado County should provide project alternatives in the DEIR that alleviate the significant impacts to recreational interests.
  • Based on the impact to Bureau of Land Management property and recreational interests a corresponding National Environmental Policy Act Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should be considered. 
For your convenience, we’ve made it easy for you to file a comment here!  Comments are due by December 1st.