My point of view on Devil's Slide

Mary Griffin

San Mateo County Supervisor

The issue of Devil's Slide continues to generate much emotion and confusion. I voted to support the original position of the board of supervisors based on the following facts:

  1. The Marine Disposal Alternative (MDA) appeared to be infeasible, dangerous and damaging to the Marine Preserve environment in the ocean below the cliffs. (It would have required dumping 14 million cubic yards of debris into the ocean.)
  2. Although the courts ruled on issues surrounding the federal funding (the plaintiffs in the litigation had attempted to have the funding de-obligated), the funding itself comes from the Emergency Relief funds under Title 23, U.S. Code, Section 125. These funds were obligated for fiscal year 1984 plus two fiscal years. I quote from a letter from the Administrator under Secretary of Transportation, Federico Peña, dated March 3,1995: "Under Title 23, funds cannot be obligated for a project in general. They can be obligated only by approval of plans, specifications, and estimated for a specific alternative... Should a decision be made not to proceed with the specific alternative for which the funds were obligated, the funds would have to be de-obligated... and could not be used for other work." In other words, they could only be used for the Martini Creek bypsss alternative. If unused, these funds would revert to other states throughout the nation.
  3. The bypass alignment was created before the State Park was in existence and the design of the route was done in conjunction with the plans for the park for minimum impact on the recreational area.
  4. The $100 million in recent federal emergency repair funds referred to in so much of the discussion is allocated for the entire state of California and not for just one project.
  5. Though there is much discussion concerning the mitigation of possible noise impacts surrounding the proposed alternative, there has not as yet been a formal report identifying what Caltrans will do. It is premature to analyze sound walls, berms or any other possible design.
  6. Temporary repairs to the slide area have already begun. I have been told that the rock-netting should be in place by next week to facilitate a safe environment for the most damaged areas on the roadbed where the danger of falling boulders is of great concern.
  7. Many people have indicated that the primary concern is that the bypass alternative will be growth inducing. In light of the fact that the County of San Mateo enacted Measure A protections against growth, that water and sewer hook-ups must accompany building permits, that the City of Half Moon Bay has a limit on building permits (100 per year, a number which has yet to be reached), and that much of the coast comes under the protection of the California Coastal Commission, I have difficulty understanding the logic of that argument.

The preceding information, coupled with the knowledge that if a new project were chosen, there would be the possibility of a delay of three to five years while waiting for the EIRs (Environmental Impact Reports), ElS's (Environmental Impact Statements), Coastal permits, NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) investigation, 4(f) studies (required under the Federal Highways Act when a project impacts state parks), and a search for new funding in a difficult economic setting, was the basis for my conclusion. My vote was not about closing my doors to information, was not against seeking more information about the tunnel option from Caltrans.

My vote was against holding the commuters and businesses on the coast hostage to such unconscionable disruption.

The issues are complex and tend toward divisiveness. It is my hope that once the final decision has been made, the residents of San Mateo County can focus their attention on the major transportation and land use planning issues that will ensure the continued preservation of the quality of life in our beautiful, diverse county.

This appeared under the heading "Guest Columnist" in the April 26, 1995 issue of the Pacifica Tribune, p. 13A.