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Salt and sand barn challenged

The Truckee-based Mountain Area Preservation Foundation will sue Caltrans over the state transportation agency’s plans to put a salt and sand barn at the mouth of Negro Canyon.The local nonprofit is seeking to force Caltrans to complete an environmental impact report on the project, to investigate the project’s impacts on recreation, water quality, deer migration and vegetation in the canyon.”It really doesn’t belong there,” John Eaton, president of the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation, said of the proposed salt and sand barn.The building, at the Donner Lake Interchange offramp of Interstate 80, would replace an aging facility near Boreal Ski Resort on Donner Summit. The new barn would house sand and de-icing material used to keep winter roads safe during snowy or icy conditions.The lawsuit comes months after representatives from the Town of Truckee, Nevada County and the state Senate met with Caltrans at the site to discuss changes that could improve the project.Truckee Town Manager Tony Lashbrook said the project was only slightly altered following the meeting. Although the project is outside of town boundaries, the town has commented on the proposal. “There were some changes made to the project but we were hoping for more,” Lashbrook said.Proposed buildings were moved away from Gregory Creek, but only slightly, according to the revised plans.One of MAPF’s main concerns about the proposed location is the potential damage to Gregory Creek, which feeds on runoff from Negro Canyon and eventually drains into Donner Lake.”There is nothing to say the heavy metals, petroleum and salt will not run into the ground water and right into Donner Lake,” Eaton said.Although Caltrans has designed the project to deal with summer runoff, Eaton said spring melt could push salt, sand and other pollutants into the creek.”It’s inappropriate land use,” he said.Since the beginning of the project, Caltrans has added a diversion ditch into the plans to keep the de-icer and sand from being washed into the creek. The site will be swept after storms to pick up loose material, according to Caltrans.But the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, in a letter to Caltrans, noted that the infiltration or detention basins are traditionally not enough to keep pollutants from entering a stream, and asked the state agency to amend their project.Truckee Donner Land Trust Executive Director Perry Norris, whose nonprofit is buying 280 acres in the canyon to preserve for open space and recreational uses, said Caltrans has promised the canyon will be accessible during both winter and summer. But the promises have not been reflected in any of the project documentation.”I’ve heard promises, but I haven’t seen anything in writing,” said Norris, “… there have been some assurances and promises, but we need to have some clearly binding agreements now.”In the updated environmental document from Caltrans, the report says summer parking will be allowed, but winter parking will not be allowed along the road into Negro Canyon or on the Caltrans property.Caltrans calls that loss of parking “less than significant” in its assessment.Caltrans will have to acquire 3.5 acres of right of way in the canyon for the project. The property will likely be taken from Royal Gorge and property the land trust is purchasing in the canyon.Royal Gorge owners oppose Caltrans’ project, saying it will reduce their property values in the canyon, which is zoned for residential development.Groups and agencies from the Donner Lake Property Owners Association to the U.S. Forest Service, along with many Truckee residents, have either opposed or asked for changes in Caltrans’ plans for Negro Canyon.Caltrans said they would not comment on the lawsuit because they have not seen the document and they do not discuss litigation.


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