December 18, 2014

Caltrans Responds to Community

 

Topanga residents’ alarm over Caltrans spraying the roadside along the Boulevard/State Route 27 with herbicide have been heard.

In a letter (reprinted below) to the reactivated TCB Ad Hoc Committee, reductions in Caltrans’ maintenance workforce — from 1,390 in 2002 to 850 in 2012, with plans to reduce it further to 700 in 2013 — spurred the decision by Caltrans to use herbicides.

The original TCB Committee, formed in 2001 and co-chaired by then State Senator Sheila Kuehl and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s office, collaborated with Caltrans, CHP and Community organizations regarding traffic issues along the Boulevard. Some years later, in separate conversations initiated by RCDSMM's Senior Biologist, Rosi Dagit, Caltrans and State representatives had reached a verbal agreement for Caltrans to hand-cut roadside vegetation instead of using herbicides.

According to Susan Nissman, Sr. Deputy to Sup. Yaroslavsky, the reactivated committee will consist of Caltrans, Community organization leaders, LAC fire prevention, natural resource managers, and will be co-chaired by Sen. Fran Pavley’s and Yaroslavsky’s offices.

Plans are for the committee to meet by late June or early July. Its main mission will be to find common ground regarding clearance of roadside vegetation along Caltrans' right-of-way.

“My sense is,” Nissman says, “that [Caltrans] is more than committed to finding alternative methods in Topanga, but it will take hands-on job sharing with the community. We are very confident we will come up with pro-active solutions.”

The letter from Caltrans to the committee follows:

Dear Concerned Topanga Canyon Blvd. Ad Hoc Committee:

Caltrans recently sprayed herbicide along state right of way to establish a fire strip and eradicate a number of very invasive weeds (Yellow Star Thistle, Scotch Broom, Euphorbia Terracina) along State Route 27 (SR-27) through Topanga Canyon. Due to community complaints, Caltrans has ceased spraying operations until an amicable and mutually supportive solution to fire and non-native vegetation control can be reached.

There is a practical long term need to control vegetation in order to diminish fire hazards and invasion of no-native plant species. Given budget and personnel resource limitations, it is impractical for Caltrans to continue hand cutting of vegetation. This method takes approximately 24 hours to clear a quarter-mile of shoulder. Completion of vegetation control for the entire area would take several months.

We have reduced our maintenance workforce in Los Angeles and Ventura counties from 1,390 in 2002 to 850 in 2012, and that will be reduced to 700 in 2013. Thus, to protect the community from potential fire hazards we embarked upon a spraying process, which is unacceptable to the community. We will now develop a process that is mutually agreeable to the community and Caltrans while meeting fire control and non-native vegetation species invasion requirements.

We request your input in the formation of creative solutions to meet our mutual needs, which may include job sharing of critical responsibilities. We will meet with the Topanga Canyon Boulevard (TCB) Committee, comprised of local government representatives and community-based organizations, to discuss alternatives to meeting these requirements. Caltrans looks forward to working with the community to meet all of our needs. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s office will notify you in the near future of the TCB Committee meeting.

— Sincerely,

Daniel J. Freeman, P.E.

Deputy District Director

Maintenance, District 7