The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has asked Caltrans to cease work on a portion of the Highway 41 passing lanes project near Road 208 until its concerns over an environmental survey are met.
Between March and April, a biological consultant studied the length of the 1.7-mile-long expansion lanes and concluded there were no active nests of the Swainson’s Hawk - listed as a threatened species in 1983 - within 0.5 miles of the project area.
CDFW contends the consultant did not follow protocol, and asked Caltrans to stop construction on the project’s drainage systems - construction during nighttime hours - until Sept. 1. Caltrans believes instead the survey’s results are valid, spokesperson Christian Lukens said.
Lukens said portions of the project have been put on hold until the issue is resolved - June 20 being the earliest possible date - but neither the construction as a whole, or drivers, will be affected.
“I wouldn’t even call it a setback, really,” Lukens said. “They’ll be stopping work on just some parts next week to see if any nests have been established.”
Lukens added no blasting is scheduled for the week beginning June 13.
The Streambed Alteration Agreement for the project requires Caltrans to complete protocol level Swainson’s Hawk surveys. In February, work on the project was delayed for a separate environmental concern, when threatened California Tiger Salamanders were found in construction areas.
After CDFW concurrence with next week’s survey is obtained, work will begin in the drainage areas, Lukens said.
Blasting has been underway since April 28 on the lanes, causing delays of up to 30 minutes for drivers, though some were stuck in their cars for longer periods of time.
The project will construct lanes in both directions on the highway, starting 0.3 miles north of Road 208, next to the 22 Mile House, and run 1.7 miles northward.
Teichert Construction of Sacramento’s $8.7 million bid was selected for the work over three competitors last July. Total project costs are $9.7 million.
Rocky Cut, where a rockslide closed Highway 41 in January, is outside the project area and will not be included in blasting operations, though Caltrans officials have said it is continually monitored.