The controversial Waterfront Drive extension project is coming back before the Eureka City Council on Tuesday, and it's time to fish or cut bait, according to a city staff report.
Eureka city staff are asking the city council to either direct staff to continue working on the project by completing an environmental impact report, or stop the project and funnel the state transportation funding into another project.
The project -- a two-lane extension of Waterfront Drive from Del Norte Street to Hilfiker Lane -- has been on hold for nearly two years. The city began the project's environmental review process in 2004 but came to a standstill in 2010 due to opposition from environmental groups and the California Coastal Commission, an agency that would eventually review the project's permits. Commission staff were concerned the project is inconsistent with the California Coastal Act, and would negatively impact surrounding wetlands.
According to a staff report, $153,000 remains in the project fund for environmental work, but if the council decides to continue environmental review, it is likely the city will need to request more transportation dollars from the Humboldt County Association of Governments to complete the EIR.
”Given the amount of time that has passed since work has been done on the (draft environmental impact report), there will be additional costs with resuming work on the project and updating documentation that has been prepared thus far,” Environmental Planner Lisa Shikany wrote in a memo.
Additionally, staff recommends consulting with Caltrans to ensure the city does not have to repay the funding if the city can't complete the EIR, or can't get it certified.
”To date, Caltrans has taken the position that due to Coastal Commission's opposition and our perceived inability to permit the project, the city will not be required to repay funds expended to date,” the staff report said.
The project aims to reduce traffic on Broadway, improve access to businesses in the area and provide public access through multi-use trails. The proposed roadway would connect to Broadway at Truesdale Avenue and may have possible connections at McCullens Avenue and Bayshore Way.
Shikany's memo states the city “will face many challenges” if it moves forward, but identifies four primary concerns over the project: issues with filling in the wetlands, impacts to environmentally sensitive habitats and possible conflicts with the Bayshore Mall parking area and the Coastal Conservancy. The conservancy has funded enhancements for the PALCO Marsh, which would be adjacent to the new roadway.
The staff report also included a list, dated March 21, 1997, of projects that are eligible for the transportation funds if the council decides to abandon the project. The projects include other improvements on Broadway, Fourth and Fifth streets; improving the route to the Humboldt County Library; adding bike routes to certain areas and closing some streets between Fourth and Fifth streets for pedestrian use only.