Caltrans drops plan for Negro Canyon project |

Caltrans drops plan for Negro Canyon project

David Bunker

TRUCKEE – Caltrans has shelved a proposal to build a salt and sand barn at the entrance of Negro Canyon, saying the project was too expensive and funding was unavailable.

The decision comes just days after the environmental group Mountain Area Preservation Foundation filed a lawsuit over the project.

The Truckee nonprofit challenged the plans, asking for a complete environmental impact report. The group said issues of water quality, habitat and recreation were not adequately addressed in the project’s original environmental document.

“At least for now the canyon is preserved,” said Foundation president John Eaton.

The project would have reduced or eliminated parking in the canyon that is heavily used by hikers, skiers and snowmobilers. The foundation was also concerned about the project’s effect on Gregory Creek, which drains Negro Canyon and empties into Donner Lake.

Caltrans officials said the lawsuit had nothing to do with the decision to drop plans for the building, which would have replaced the existing structure on Donner Summit near Boreal Mountain Resort.

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The project was estimated to cost $1.2 million, making it ineligible for funding from the state’s “Minor A Program,” which has a limit of $1 million.

“We’ve decided not to pursue the project due to escalating construction costs and the unavailability of funding for the project at this time,” said Shelly Chernicki, a Caltrans spokeswoman.

But Eaton said the lawsuit was likely one of the factors that made Caltrans shelve the project, which was criticized by snowmobilers, Donner Lake homeowners, the Town of Truckee, the Truckee Donner Land Trust and Royal Gorge cross country ski resort, which owns land in the canyon.

“I think it did make it more expensive,” Eaton said of the lawsuit. “I think there was a high probability we would have won the suit and they would have to do an EIR, and EIRs are expensive.”

Eaton said the foundation’s lawsuit will stand until they hear from Caltrans that the project has officially been withdrawn.

Caltrans officials said they may pursue the project at a later date when funding is available.