The California High-Speed Rail Authority released the final environmental impact report (EIR) for the San Jose-to-Merced leg of the project on Feb. 25. This section of the railway will connect Silicon Valley and Central Valley with a route that goes through Gilroy and north San Benito County. The Rail Authority Board will consider the document for approval at its meeting on April 20 and 21.
No stops are planned in San Benito County. The rail stretches 500 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco through Bakersfield and the Central Valley and has an expected price tag of $98 billion total and according to a SFiST report the estimated cost of the San Jose-to-Merced section is estimated at $19 billion.
The Authority says, “the final environmental document provides analysis of alternatives in the project section, proposes mitigations to address project impacts, and responds to the comments that were received on the draft environmental document.”
According to the Authority’s website, following the publication of the draft EIR in April 2020, “the Authority learned that the California Fish and Game Commission advanced the Southern California and Central Coast mountain lion (Puma concolor) populations to candidacy for listing under the California Endangered Species Act. The Authority also learned that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that listing the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) under the federal Endangered Species Act is warranted.”
Because of this and in accord with both California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Authority published a revised/supplemental draft EIR in April 2021 to address potential impacts of the project on these species, as well as potential noise and light impacts on wildlife and associated mitigation.
Other species of special concern had previously been identified in the area. These include the Bay checkerspot butterfly, the San Jaquan kit fox, the California tiger salamander, California red-legged frog and several wetland plants. During construction wildlife corridors would be disrupted.
A summary document is available here. It shows all categories such as air quality, aesthetics, archaeological, that fall under review and all mitigation required by CEQA and NEPA.
The final draft EIR and revised/supplemental Draft EIR are also available on the Authority website. An electronic copy of the Final EIR, the previously published Revised/Supplemental Draft EIR/EIS and Draft EIR, and the associated technical reports are available by calling 800-455-8166 or emailing [email protected]. An electronic copy can also be viewed at San Benito County offices, 440 5th Street #206 in Hollister.
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