Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Regional

Route 162 in Covelo at the decorative median island. Photo courtesy of Caltrans.

COVELO, Calif. – Caltrans hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony today to celebrate the completion of a $1.5 million Clean California project to beautify downtown Covelo and improve safety for drivers, pedestrians and bikers.

The project was made possible through Gov. Gavin Newsom's Clean California initiative, a sweeping $1.2 billion, multiyear clean-up effort led by Caltrans to remove trash, create thousands of jobs, and engage communities to transform public areas into spaces of pride for all Californians.

The upgrades improved a nearly one mile stretch of Commercial Street (State Road 162) that serves as the main street through Covelo.

This included adding traffic-calming features from west of the Town Creek Bridge to east of East Lane, such as a decorative median island and speed table humps to reduce traffic speeds.

The Mendocino County town is located adjacent to the Round Valley Indian Reservation. The project added crosswalks and solar lighting with changeable banners featuring a Yuki Basket design selected by local tribes.

The tribal pattern represents the history and culture of the area and is designed to help reduce litter and discourage graffiti by adding value and a sense of community representation.

Ribbon cutting of the Covelo Clean California project Mendocino County District 3 Supervisor John Haschak and Covelo residents Kay Richards and Lew Chichester. Photo courtesy of Caltrans.

“These investments will benefit the entire community in and around Covelo by creating a safer, more reliable transportation system,” said Caltrans Director Tony Tavares. “Pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists will all benefit from this project, as we continue to improve and rebuild our infrastructure.”

To create improvements that would best reflect community needs, Caltrans partnered with the Round Valley Tribes, residents, businesses and the Mendocino Council of Governments, or MCOG. After receiving feedback and planning for the project, construction took one year to complete.

“With the ongoing efforts to beautify and increase safety, we look forward to continuing to work with the community of Covelo to fine-tune these traffic calming measures that address the safety concerns for drivers and non-motorized users, said Caltrans District 1 Director Matthew Brady. “We are proud to make an investment into downtown Covelo and bring this Clean California project with pilot features to the community.”

The project is one of about 320 Clean California projects beautifying communities throughout the state.

Since launching Clean California in July 2021, Caltrans has removed an estimated 2 million cubic yards of litter from state highways – or enough to fill 634 Olympic-size swimming pools. The program has created nearly 8,700 jobs that have helped Californians overcome barriers to employment and drawn more than 10,000 volunteers to events ranging from community cleanups to large debris collections for appliances, tires, and mattresses.

For more information, visit https://cleancalifornia.dot.ca.gov/.

Solar lighting with changeable banners featuring a Yuki basket design selected by local tribes. Photo courtesy of Caltrans.

A female wolf in the woods. Photo courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The wolf pack discovered this summer in Tulare County will now be called the Yowlumni Pack.

The pack was found in the Sequoia National Forest in proximity to the Tule River Tribe of California’s reservation and ancestral lands.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, or CDFW, is honored to partner with the tribe on formally naming the pack.

The tribe shared that the name Yowlumni comes from the Yowlumni band of the Tule River Yokuts.

“This was described by my mother, Agnes Vera, who was born on the Tule River Indian Reservation in 1926,” said Vernon Vera, a Tule River tribal elder. “She was the last fluent speaker of Yowlumni until her passing in 2010. She taught that the Yowlumni were speakers of the ‘Wolf Tongue.’”

CDFW is thankful for the tribe’s assistance in naming the Yowlumni Pack and connecting the cultural significance of the pack in the region to its name.

After months of collecting DNA samples for analysis and attempting to collar one or more wolves in the Yowlumni Pack, CDFW was successful in capturing and collaring an adult female wolf on Dec. 5. She is approximately 7 to 8 years old and 85 pounds.

CDFW staff will monitor her movements to glean information about the pack including determination of its home range, use of habitat, potential for livestock conflict and other data.

Based on the results of the DNA analyses and subsequent observations, CDFW learned that the pack consists of a breeding pair and six pups. CDFW previously reported there were four.

Information about California’s wolves, including current information about existing packs, wolf biology, conflicts with livestock and CDFW’s wolf management plan can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Mammals/Gray-Wolf.

MARYSVILLE, Calif. — Caltrans is alerting motorists about a winter storm on its way to the Sierra Nevada that could create challenging mountain travel conditions today and Thursday.

The National Weather Service is forecasting up to 10 inches of snow above 4,000 feet with gusty winds up to 45 mph affecting several mountain passes over the next two days.

A winter weather advisory is in effect from 4 p.m. today through 10 p.m. Thursday. Motorists should be prepared for potential chain controls, additional travel times and possible delays.

In the Sacramento Valley, the best chances for rain are forecast north of I-80 with precipitation amounts between 0.1 and 0.5 of an inch, with upwards to an inch of rain possible in the foothills.

Motorists are encouraged to check Caltrans’ QuickMap before traveling for current road conditions and chain requirements or download the QuickMap app from the App Store or Google Play.

Road information is also available on Caltrans’ website or by calling the California Highway Information Network automated phone service at 1-800-427-ROAD (7623).

Caltrans District 3 is responsible for maintaining and operating 4,385 lane miles in 11 Sacramento Valley and Northern Sierra counties. The department will issue updates on X @CaltransDist3 and on Facebook CaltransDistrict3.

Last Chance Grade. Photo courtesy of Caltrans.

NORTH COAST, Calif. — In a major milestone toward a permanent solution at Last Chance Grade, Caltrans has announced the release of an essential environmental document that could lead to the construction of a long-anticipated project for U.S. 101 in Del Norte County.

This coastal stretch of highway south of Crescent City is historically prone to landslide activity and indefinite maintenance costs.

As an essential artery that connects Del Norte County with its neighbors, closures of U.S. 101 at Last Chance Grade are devastating. This is why Caltrans and its stakeholders have been working hard — and working fast given the project’s magnitude — on a permanent solution for the area.

In a move that keeps this important project on budget and schedule, Caltrans is pleased to share the Last Chance Grade Permanent Restoration Project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) including a Draft Section 4(f) Evaluation — the aforementioned essential environmental document.

“This document analyzes two proposed alternatives,” said Caltrans District 1 Director Matt Brady. “One involves a bypass inland with a tunnel and the other would re-engineer the existing alignment. Circulating this information gives the public a chance to review and comment on the project description and the assessment of the environmental impacts of these alternatives. With added strength from partnerships and stakeholder coordination, these documents are based on years of new engineering and scientific studies.”

“This document represents the diligent work of Caltrans and the wider community of tribes, conservation groups, agencies, local governments, and business leaders,” said U.S. Congressman Jared Huffman. “Starting back in 2014, I convened the Last Chance Grade Stakeholder Group to make sure the public had a significant role in advancing the project. Since then, Caltrans has embraced that role and expanded its efforts to make this project one of its most collaborative ever. No solution to Last Chance Grade is perfect, and I encourage people to read and comment on the draft proposal and make sure your voices are heard.”

“The Last Chance Grade project is massive and everyone who has spent their time and effort on this project is deeply appreciated,” said California Assemblymember Jim Wood. “People who live in this beautiful area have lived with road failure and ongoing problems for decades and the public’s patience is much appreciated by me. I know that Caltrans has long-term and consistent safety as its top priority in making this a safer transportation corridor for the communities.”

“Highway 101 is the lifeblood of Del Norte County and the North Coast," said California Senator Mike McGuire. "The community desperately needs and deserves a permanent fix to Last Chance Grade. In response, the state secured $50 million to move this environmental study forward. Today, we've reached a huge milestone with the release of Caltrans' Draft Environmental Document, which represents six years of collaboration among a broad coalition of local and tribal governments and community organizations. While this is a day to celebrate, we know there's a ton of hard work ahead and we won’t quit until every last penny is secured to build an inland alternative to the Last Chance Grade.“

This document is available for review at lastchancegrade.com and at the Caltrans District 1 Office at 1656 Union Street in Eureka on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as at the Del Norte County Library at 190 Price Mall in Crescent City. Comments on this document are being accepted by mail or email until 5 p.m. on February 13.

The public is also invited to attend a virtual public open house regarding this subject on Wednesday, January 24, 2024, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Please continue to check lastchancegrade.com for the posting of the meeting link.

After receiving public comments, Caltrans is scheduled to coordinate with stakeholder working groups to help select a preferred alternative in the spring of 2024. If all goes according to plan Caltrans could begin construction as early as 2030.

The California Transportation Commission on Thursday awarded more than $300 million to 15 projects across California that will make the state’s transportation system more resilient to the impacts of climate change while also encouraging more walking and biking and enhancing public health.

The investments made by the commission total $309.2 million and will help fund projects with a total cost of more than $1.1 billion in climate-vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.

Projects funded through the program will make surface transportation infrastructure more resilient to sea level rise, flooding, extreme weather events and other natural hazards exacerbated by the changing climate.

“Communities across California are experiencing the impacts of climate change,” said Commission Chair Lee Ann Eager. “The extreme storms, flooding, and devastating wildfires we see year after year have become the norm, and we must invest in our transportation infrastructure today to avoid costly repairs and preserve access and mobility options for Californians in the future.”

“The initial investments we are making today represent a critical first step in ensuring California’s transportation system can withstand the impacts of climate change,” said Commission Vice Chair Carl Guardino. “We look forward to working with Governor Newsom and the Legislature to ensure sufficient funding is available to keep our entire transportation system functional and safe for future generations.”

The adopted program includes the following projects:

Addressing Climate Change, Emergencies, and Sandstorms (ACCESS) Project (Coachella Valley Association of Governments)

This $75 million project will construct two all-weather bridges on Indian Canyon Road, which is often impacted by severe flooding and blown sand. These improvements will increase the resiliency of local disadvantaged communities by increasing their access to key destinations that are critical to their livelihood and well-being. The project also includes improvements to make walking and bicycling safer along the route.

Roe Road Phase 2 Project (Town of Paradise)

This $66 million project will provide alternative access to State Route 191 / Clark Road so residents have a second route for emergency evacuations in the event of a natural disaster. The project serves the climate-vulnerable communities south of Pearson Road which experienced the highest concentration of fatalities from the 2018 Camp Fire.

Coastal Rail Infrastructure Resiliency Project (Orange County Transportation Agency)

This $15 million project will help develop solutions to ongoing climate-related service suspensions along seven miles of the LOSSAN Rail Corridor between the cities of San Clemente and Dana Point.

The full list of approved projects can be found on the Commission’s website at this link.

The Local Transportation Climate Adaptation Program provides $400.5 million over five years, with $148 million in state funding from Gov. Newsom’s 2022-23 Clean Transportation Infrastructure Package and $252.5 million from the federal Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Formula Program established in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Remaining funds will be awarded by the Commission in a future funding cycle.

For more information, visit the commission’s website.

Denise Cruz. Courtesy photo.

A 43-year mystery has been solved and a family is finally getting closure thanks to a partnership between the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, the California Department of Justice and Othram Inc.

On Feb. 11, 1980, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call of possible human remains located in the brush off Stagecoach ROAd, near Trinidad. A HCSO detective responded and began an investigation.

A female body, described as 20 to 30 years old, with reddish-brown hair, 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing 170 pounds, was located in a sleeping bag.

During the investigation the California Department of Justice was able to recover a latent fingerprint which was run through the Automated Latent Print System with no reported matches.

A forensic dental examination was completed by a local dentist. An autopsy was completed, and the cause of death was listed as an overdose.

A DNA sample was obtained and entered into both the California Missing Persons DNA Database and the National Unidentified Persons DNA Index (#UP55390).

The DNA profile was routinely searched against profiles from both missing persons and other human remains in the Combined Index System, or CODIS. No profile matches were ever made.

Missing persons cases stay open until solved. In December of 2022 the HCSO and the California DOJ partnered with Othram Inc, a forensic genealogy lab, to determine if advanced forensic DNA testing could help establish an identity for the unidentified woman or a close relative.

The DOJ sent Othram a DNA extract from the unknown woman’s remains. Othram scientists used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the woman.

Once the profile was built, Othram’s in-house genealogy team used forensic genetic genealogy to produce investigative leads.

In August of 2023, the HCSO received the Othram report indicating the DNA profile may be that of Denise Gail Cruz, born in 1953.

The report included several genetic relatives, including a possible brother named Mark from Colorado.

HCSO investigators were able to contact Mark, who confirmed he had a sister named Denise Gail Cruz.

A DNA sample was obtained from Mark and sent to the DOJ for comparison to the unknown female. The DOJ was able to confirm that Mark and Denise were genetic relatives.

For unknown reasons Denise Cruz stopped communicating with family members. Their last contact with her was in September of 1979.

Cruz had been living a transient lifestyle and was suffering from untreated mental health issues. As the family was not sure whether the loss of contact was intentional, she was never reported as missing.

HCSO thanks the California Department of Justice DNA lab and Othram for their outstanding work and assistance in solving this case and providing the Cruz family with some closure for their missing loved one.

The HCSO is continuing its partnership with the DOJ and Othram and is reviewing several of our missing persons investigations for the use of this latest DNA technology.

Anyone with information regarding Denise Cruz and her last known activities or whereabouts prior to her death, or information that may assist in the investigation of any open missing persons cases, is asked to contact HCSO Cold Case Investigator Mike Fridley at 707-441-3024.
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