Town blasts salt and sand barn plan | SierraSun.com

Town blasts salt and sand barn plan

David Bunker

The Truckee Town Council has picked apart a proposal to put a Caltrans salt and sand barn at the mouth of Negro Canyon and is urging the state transportation agency to delay a decision on the project.The new structure, which would replace a Caltrans salt and sand storage location near Boreal Ski Resort, is expected to block parking and wintertime access to the canyon and multiple trails in the region.But it wasn’t only the cursory pass at the project’s potential effect on recreation in the environmental document that rubbed the council the wrong way at its Thursday meeting. The short, often questionable, references to water quality issues and environmental impacts had the council taking a hard line on the structure Caltrans wants to begin building in 2007.”I think that your [mitigated negative declaration] would go down in flames on a number of issues,” said Councilman Josh Susman, of the project’s environmental report. “This, as a [California Environmental Quality Act] document, is extremely weak and deficient.”The council unanimously agreed that either the existing salt and sand barn should be reused, or the project should be redesigned to allow for recreational access and improve water and quality protection.”I know for you this is a tiny project – it’s nothing,” said Mayor Craig Threshie to Caltrans representative Mike Bartlett. “But for us, it’s huge.”The entrance to Negro Canyon is not within the Town of Truckee, and Nevada County Supervisor Chairman Ted Owens attended the meeting to let the council know that Nevada County backed the town its position.”I am not going to buy that your [existing] facility is going to deteriorate to a point in a 12-month period that you cannot use it,” Owens said. “And a collaborative process could not hurt this issue.”Caltrans’ justification for plowing ahead with the project despite public concerns was based on the deteriorating condition of their facility near Boreal.”It has become a safety issue, and we need to address that quickly,” Caltrans’ Bartlett said, adding that the existing structure is “ready to fall down.”The state transportation agency said the current location gets clogged by skier traffic that leaves snowplows and loaders idling in gridlock.Caltrans representatives have met with Truckee officials and representatives from the Truckee Donner Land Trust, who have an option to buy 280 acres of land in the canyon. However, the meeting only resulted in the agency considering minor adjustments to the plan.”We’ve looked at creative ways that we can be a good neighbor,” Bartlett said. One of those is the potential of working with the land trust to get a formal trailhead parking lot on the ground and cleared of snow during the winter, he said.These assurances, however, were too little for the council. They insisted Caltrans delay filing their notice of determination, which signals they intend to build the project. Whether or not the process is delayed, the filing of a notice of determination is still a ways off, since the environmental document for the project has not been finalized, according to Bartlett.After the council meeting, Caltrans officials were still uncertain whether they would delay the project, as the town requested. That decision may still be weeks away, said Caltrans spokeswoman Shelly Chernicki.