Freeway as Pollutant--Yet another reason to halt Hatton Canyon.
Thursday, July 2, 1998
Now that the National Ocean Conference and Ocean Fair has come and gone, what have we learned that can be applied locally?
Both President Clinton and Vice President Gore spoke of a type of pollution that goes largely unnoticed by the general public. It is given the dry title "nonpoint source pollution," which makes it that much more difficult to pin down. It does not have the same effect on people''s minds and hearts that an oil spill might have. What exactly is this pollution? It is pollution that comes from the land such as contaminated stormwater run-off from roads, parking lots and agricultural fields. It also includes toxic pollutants released into the air by cars and trucks which then filter back down into the waterways and ocean.
President Clinton, in his speech given during Ocean Fair said, "Too much pollution from the land runs straight to the sea. One large city can spew more than 9 million gallons of petroleum products into the ocean every year." Thankfully, the Carmel area is not a large city. However, in 1991, it was reported in the document establishing the Monterey Bay as a National Marine Sanctuary, that Carmel Bay was found to have higher than expected concentrations of petrochemicals. With a steady increase in traffic since then could this situation get any better?
What role does preservation of Hatton Canyon play? It is the watershed for the Carmel River, Carmel Bay and the National Marine Sanctuary. Among the irreplaceable wildlife habitats of Hatton Canyon, it is home to wetlands. Wetlands act as the filters for the pollutants released from manmade sources. Some say as much as 95 percent of wetlands have been lost to development in California, which make these particular wetlands even more valuable. Mitigations are a band-aid approach. The FEIR for the proposed Hatton Canyon Freeway states, "The project alternatives would, however, contribute to the cumulative adverse impact on the regional groundwater, surface water and offshore water quality..."
Ten years ago a report was issued by the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries which said: "While we must address marine dumping issues, and we are, our priority attention needs to be directed landwards towards the sources of pollution and degradation of our coastal waters, industries, and farms, our homes and our roads--in other words, ourselves."
Now, in 1998, with the proposed freeway looming on the horizon, the irony of this proposal is that even Caltrans admits that "Carmel Valley Road and Highway 1, south of Rio Road would continue to experience congestion and delay during peak commute hours...congestion and delay would continue near the Carmel Valley Road/Carmel Rancho Intersection." And even if the freeway were built, it is designed only to provide the capacity necessary for through traffic until the year 2010. Then what we will do? We, as tax payers, should be outraged that the problems that Caltrans has been charged to alleviate will not be solved. However, it comes as no surprise to those who are aware of what happens when new roadways are constructed. Cars flock to them like lemmings only to find they can''t go off the edge because of gridlock. We''re damned if we do and damned if we don''t.
The only comprehensive, long term answer is to put the money earmarked for new roadways into alternative transportation. As President Clinton said in his speech regarding preservation of our ocean environment, "In the 21st century, these traits (of humans)--hope, creativity, imagination--they must lead us to preserve our living oceans as a sacred legacy for all time to come." Say "No" to the proposed freeway. Let''s preserve Hatton Canyon as a Coastal Watershed Park now!
Paola Berthoin is an avid bicyclist who has been helping to preserve Hatton Canyon for the past 10 years.