The Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing has reached a major milestone. Caltrans has completed the initial study and environmental assessment (IS/EA) for the project and is seeking public input. The overpass, intended to provide a safe route across the 101 freeway and Agoura Road, would be the first of its kind in California.
Liberty Canyon in Agoura Hills was identified as the ideal spot for a vegetated crossing because it’s the one location on the 101 with open space on both sides of the highway and the potential to reestablish a connection between the Santa Monica Mountains and the network of ranges surrounding the greater Los Angeles area.
The announcement stresses that no public funds will be diverted from the state highway construction budget to build the wildlife crossing. The Caltrans project is being drawn up in conjunction with fundraising efforts by the National Wildlife Federation and Santa Monica Mountains Fund.
The IS/EA report details how the project will “provide a safe and sustainable wildlife passage across Highway 101 to help reduce wildlife mortality and enhance safety for motorists by reducing motorists’ sudden movements when avoiding animals crossing the freeway,” a Caltrans press release states.
Caltrans intends to adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration on the project based on the finding that the project “will not significantly affect the quality of the environment” provided it “incorporates certain measures such as vegetation and replanting, water quality permits and post-construction monitoring.”
A public hearing on the report is scheduled for October 12 from 6 to 8 p.m. at King Gillette Ranch Auditorium, 26800 Mulholland Highway in Calabasas. The public is invited to attend to learn more about the project, ask questions and provide comments as the project moves forward.
Since 1996, the National Park Service has been studying carnivores in and around the Santa Monica Mountains to determine how they survive in an increasingly fragmented and urbanized environment. A study co-authored last year with researchers at UCLA added urgency to the overpass project, when the findings confirmed that without increased connectivity the genetic diversity of local wildlife will continue to erode, increasing the chances of extinction of the mountain range’s population of mountain lions and other wildlife.
The IS/EA is available for review online at the Caltrans project website at http://www.dot.ca.gov/d7/projects/libertycanyon/.
The IS/EA is also available for review and reproduction at the Caltrans District 7, Division of Environmental Planning Office (100 S. Main Street, Suite 100, Los Angeles, CA 90012) weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Additionally, it will be available for review at the Agoura Hills Public Library (29901 Ladyface Court, Agoura Hills, CA 91301) weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The public may submit comments in writing, no later than Oct. 26, to Ron Kosinski, Deputy Director, California Department of Transportation, Division of Environmental Planning, 100 S. Main Street, MS 16A, Los Angeles, CA 90012.