The June 1st Marin Voice on the Meadow Bridge attack on “Save Fairfax,” a 6-year old local grassroots movement, deserves a response.
Fairfax's bridge consultant, California Infrastructure Consultancy (CIC) is processing applications for 6 Fairfax bridges: 2 are being replaced (Azalea and Meadow Way) and 4 will receive major upgrades (Marin, Spruce, Creek and Canyon Road bridges).
The Meadow Way Bridge is the first of the group to be undertaken.
Fairfax has already made improvements to the Meadow Bridge, for safety. In 2017, it guaranteed heavy fire engines could cross and made additional upgrades while the project’s review process has been taking place. Fire officials have said that if a wildland fire comes through the Cascade Canyon, the bridge will not burn down before everyone gets out. It is also anticipated that in an earthquake, this wooden bridge will still be standing. It was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1956 and has survived two major SF Bay Area quakes, the 1957 5.7 off the coast of SF and the 1989 7.1 Loma Prieta.
The original cost estimates for the Meadow Way work were $4.7 million. However, we have now found out that the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) & Ross Valley Sanitary District (RVSD) were never advised of the bridge proposal, as is required by state law.
On January 22, 2020, I submitted comments explaining that moving the bridge over by 7 feet would require the realignment of MMWD's high pressure water main and RVSD's sewer transmission pipe serving the Cascades. This would cost an additional $1 million, a cost that would fall on rate & taxpayers on their water and sewer bills.
So, we now have a $5.7 million dollar project.
Assessing Environmental Impacts
Fairfax is in the process of doing its due-diligence, assessing the environmental impacts of the bridge replacement plan under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The question at hand is whether a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) is sufficient to make a judgement about impacts or is a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) required.
CIC's consultant, WRA, wrote the Biological Assessment for the all the Bridge projects. Their opinion was that doing a MND was sufficient.
The Cascade Canyon is one of the richest environmental treasures in Marin County, home to foothill yellow-legged frogs, northern spotted owls, and steelhead. Coho salmon are now extinct in this watershed and steelhead are not far behind. We are in a drought and the MND incorrectly defines San Anselmo Creek as an intermittent stream, it's a "perennial stream" according to CA Dept of Fish & Wildlife.
The purpose of CEQA is to have an unbiased third party do the environmental assessment of potentially significant unmitigated impact.
Michael Graf, the lawyer who authored two local Initiatives, Fairfax's “Save Lefty Gomez Field” and San Anselmo's “Save Memorial Park” is an expert in CEQA law. He wrote to the Town of Fairfax, advising them that an EIR was necessary for the Town Council to accurately assess the significant adverse impacts of the proposed project and that 5-page letter was submitted to the Town of Fairfax before the May 6th Town Council hearing.
On May 29th, a scientific study was prepared by well-known geomorphologist, Laurel Collins on the impacts of the proposal. It is one of the most comprehensive studies ever written on a project in the San Anselmo Creek watershed. The study delineates how the Meadow Way Bridge Project, as proposed, will cause de-watering of vital steelhead fry refuges and add to downstream erosion and flooding. It shows what the MND missed and proves beyond any doubt that an EIR is necessary.
Fairfax must do this EIR to protect itself from future lawsuits caused by this project.
Sierra Club Marin Group, Watershed Alliance of Marin and SPAWN have significant fishery concerns and also asked that the Town do a full EIR. Fairfax and Caltrans know the earliest the Meadow Bridge project can start is summer of 2022. So, there is no rush to approve it.
Save Fairfax wants the safest, least expensive, and most environmentally sound bridge project possible.
Please email Fairfax Town Councilmembers and ask for an EIR for the Meadow Bridge Project.
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