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Grant aims to protect wildlife on Highway 152

$3.125M will fund efforts to build animal overcrossing

A grant from the California Wildlife Conservation Board will help fund the creation of a wildlife crossing over Pacheco Pass on Highway 152. 

The $3.125 million grant to the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency will pay for the planning, design, environmental review and permitting of the proposed overcrossing, says a press release from the California High-Speed Rail Authority. The authority and other participating agencies applauded the grant for its “efforts to protect wildlife movement in Northern California.” 

The wildlife overcrossing is proposed near the southern end of the High-Speed Rail project’s San Jose-to-Merced section.

“This grant aligns with the Authority’s planning efforts to increase wildlife connectivity in the San Jose to Merced project section,” said HSRA Northern California Regional Director Boris Lipkin. “The award reflects the wide range of support and collaboration we’ve had with key partners focused on protecting sensitive habitats, preserving wildlife movement, and enhancing the natural environment in the project area.”

In sensitive wildlife areas along the planned high-speed rail corridor—such as Coyote Valley, Pacheco Pass and the Grasslands Ecological Area—the authority has incorporated project elements to allow for wildlife movement. In some cases, these efforts would improve on current conditions, the press release says.

“Without this being a team effort sitting at the table to develop a shared solution, I don’t think this outcome would have come to pass,” said Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency Executive Officer Edmund Sullivan.

The grant will support four years to work on the planning and environmental review for the proposed overcrossing, which includes conducting a habitat modeling analysis, completing a feasibility study, preparing a project initiation report under Caltrans’ oversight and advancing the project to 65% design, the press release continues. With additional funding, the Habitat Agency would also oversee the preparation of an environmental document under the California Environmental Quality Act that will evaluate at least two build alternatives.

Pathways for Wildlife has worked with the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency for the past three years conducting a wildlife connectivity study along SR-152 in the Pacheco Pass and within the Habitat Agency’s property, the Pacheco Creek Reserve.

“By collectively working on this project together, we will not just improve the safety of both wildlife and drivers along the highway but also ensure the long-term genetic health for species such as mountain lions and badgers by improving the ability for wildlife movement through this critical wildlife linkage,” said Pathways for Wildlife Co-Principal Tanya Diamond.

Environmental approval of the Authority’s San Jose to Merced project section through the Pacheco Pass will be considered at the Authority’s Board Meeting on April 27 and 28.

California High-Speed Rail is under construction along 119 miles with more than 35 active job sites. To date, more than 7,500 construction jobs have been created since the start of construction, according to the press release.