October 22, 2017

Letter Sent to Caltrans Re: Environmental Assessment for Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing

To: Ron Kosinski, Deputy District Director California Department of Transportation Division of Environmental Planning

Re: Liberty Canyon Crossing Project Mitigated Negative Declaration - Environmental Assessment Comments (SCH No. 2017091039)

Support for Alternative 2, Design Option 1

Dear Mr. Kosinski,

We are 8 former Mayors of the City of Agoura Hills. We have been aware for many years of the need for a wildlife crossing west of Liberty Canyon in Agoura Hills and actively supported acquisition of large areas of permanent open space, managed by the National Park Service, State Parks the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC), and the Mountains Restoration and Conservation Authority (MRCA) on both sides of the 101 Freeway. We support the construction of a linkage bridge connecting the fragmented habitats north and south of the 101 Freeway. The SMMC began land acquisition and native vegetation restoration on both sides of Agoura Road approximately 15 years ago to facilitate wildlife movement in this area.

Expert wildlife biologists from the National Parks Service and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy thoroughly reviewed the alternatives for the crossing and also preferred Alternative 2, a crossing over the freeway and Agoura Road rather than a long, narrow tunnel that leaves wildlife to cross Agoura Road through traffic, or to use the existing underpass at Liberty Canyon Road with its commercial development and lighting. These alternatives were discussed and analyzed by multiple local, state and federal partners participating in the project, as well as by public testimony beginning with the hearing on the Scoping Plan in Jan 2016 and reinforced at the October 12th hearing.

We continue to be supportive of Alternative 2, a 200 foot long, 165 foot wide landscaped bridge over the 101 freeway and also over Agoura Road with the preferred Option 1. This option would be to construct a 48 foot wide bridge over Agoura Road, rather than the 54 foot wide and 18 foot high alternative. The steep topography from the freeway bridge to the protected open space south of Agoura Road requires the extension of the bridge to protect the wildlife and the motorists on Agoura Road. The reduced height to about 16 feet is consistent with freeway overpasses in our area and the 48 foot width of the Agoura Road bridge will reduce impacts to wildlife, as well as creeks and oaks along this narrow rural road. The City of Agoura Hills General Plan designates this section of Agoura Road as a rural road with two lanes for motorists, bicycle lanes, and no street lights. The 48 foot dimension is more than adequate to accommodate these features. The larger 54 foot dimension increases costs and environmental impacts with no justifiable gain.

Cal Trans has done an excellent job in providing public outreach on this project. There were well attended hearings in Jan of 2016 and October of 2017, press releases in all the local newspapers in the region, mailings to the public, and emails with access to the environmental assessment. Cal Trans along with partner organizations have encouraged the public to attend the hearings and send in written comments by October 26th. We look forward to the final adoption of the Mitigated Negative Declaration/Environmental assessment prior to the end of this year.

Former Agoura Hills Mayors:

Ed Corridori, Fran Pavley, Joan Yacovone, Darlene McBane,
Louise Rishoff, Jack Koenig, Jeff Reinhardt, Dan Kuperberg

If you agree, send your own comment to  Mr. Kosinski at:  liberty.canyon@dot.ca.gov

October 3, 2017

Caltrans to Hold Public Informational Meeting on Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing Project

Public Hearing Scheduled Oct. 12

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) plans to hold a public informational meeting Oct. 12 and accept public comments on Caltrans’ proposal to build a wildlife crossing facility over U.S. Highway 101 (the Ventura Freeway) in the city of Agoura Hills.

The initial study and environmental assessment (IS/EA), which Caltrans issued in September, found that 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.

Caltrans intends to adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration on the project, based on studies that show it will not significantly affect the quality of the environment provided that the project incorporates certain measures such as vegetation and replanting, water quality permits and post-construction monitoring.

The public hearing on the report is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 12 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.

The Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing would be the first of its kind in California. Similar wildlife crossings have been built and used successfully in other states and countries.

Liberty Canyon in Agoura Hills has been identified as the ideal spot for a vegetated crossing to provide safe passage for wildlife across U.S. Highway 101. 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.

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. During the course of the study, biologists have studied more than 340 bobcats, 145 coyotes and 60 mountain lions.

A study co-authored last year with researchers at UCLA found that without increased connectivity, especially for animals moving in from the north, this would lead to the continued erosion of genetic diversity and increase 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/.

It will also 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.

For additional information, the public may contact Ms. Susan Tse at (213) 897-1821 or via email at LibertyCanyon@dot.ca.gov.