Supervisors support forest highway paving plan

Dan McDonald
Staff Writer

For the second time this year, the Board of Supervisors approved a plan to pave a lonely stretch of county road between Beckwourth and Clover Valley.

Despite objections by several residents who use the road, the board unanimously approved the upgrade of 9.6 miles on California Forest Highway 177 during its Tuesday, Aug. 21, meeting.

The project, which has been 10 years in the making and might not be finished until 2016, would be paid for with federal highway funds.

The supervisors originally approved the project in February. But they needed to approve it again after the Forest Service tweaked plans for an off-highway-vehicle (OHV) trail running adjacent to the paved road.

“This is a huge opportunity for us to upgrade and improve a road, and have everybody in the United States share in the cost of it, for the benefit of us,” board chairman Robert Meacher said.

When the project is finished, the road will be paved all the way from Highway 70 at Beckwourth to Janesville and Antelope Lake. The road is currently paved on both ends, with about five miles of gravel road in the middle.

The total cost of the upgrade is projected to be about $23 million.

An environmental study by the federal government is reportedly one of the final hurdles in the project. Plumas County Public Works Director Bob Perreault, who outlined the plan for the supervisors, expected that document to be finalized by the end of August.

Residents in the area who opposed the road improvements offered several reasons for their stance.

They said completely paving and straightening the road would encourage unwanted development in the area.

One opponent of the plan said a rancher along the route would benefit more from the tax-payer-funded project than other residents in the area.

Resident Cindy Noble, who attended the meeting, said she had several concerns, including development. She said she considered the project a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“And the cost to the county of maintaining the road is irresponsible,” Noble said.

Perreault countered by saying it would actually be cheaper for the county to maintain a paved road than a graveled one. He said the road would not be plowed during the winter months.

Upgrading Forest Highway 177 is a joint project by the Federal Highway Administration, the county, the California Department of Transportation and the Forest Service.

All stakeholder agencies have signed off on the project, according to Perreault.

The Forest Service approved the road upgrade after an alternate off-highway-vehicle corridor was developed.

Plumas National Forest Supervisor Earl Ford said his agency planned to complete its environmental study by the end of fiscal 2013.

Ford said the Forest Service was concerned about the impact of building new OHV trails in environmentally sensitive areas. But he also said the project would provide an economic boost to the county.

The supervisors said upgrading the road would not lead to new development unless the county wanted it. The board would have to approve any zoning changes.

“I think we can control growth back there through the general plan process,” Supervisor Terry Swofford said.

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