Frequently Asked Questions
The project covers the Highway 17 corridor between the Main Street bridge in Los Gatos and the Summit Road overpass.
Work will begin on August 26 in the Redwood Estates Community.
In order to execute such a complex operation successfully, CAL FIRE, the Santa Clara County FireSafe District and Caltrans will collaborate with agencies and public land owners, private property owners, contractors and stakeholders. Permits, traffic control and precautions such as avoiding work on high fire danger days (“red flag days”) as well as the protection of sensitive species are included in the project plan. There is a bidding process for the work.
Lexington Hills, Ben Lomond, Los Gatos, Lompico, Monte Sereno, Zayante, Saratoga, and Scotts Valley. (Note: Lexington Hills includes the communities of Redwood Estates, Chemeketa Park, Aldercroft Heights and several HOAs in the vicinity). All communities listed are in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties.
Species listed on state and federal endangered species list will not be removed unless they are designated hazard trees. Hazard trees — trees that are on steep slopes leaning at angles that could fall and block a roadway, or dead or decayed trees — will be removed. Shaded areas will retain most of the tree canopy; this shade is important to retard regrowth. While it is not possible to shade along the edge of the highway because the light comes in from the side, the shade will remain further away to shade and protect the forest ecosystem. The area will not be completely cleared; it will still remain a forest, but you will be able to see the tree trunks after the brush and debris below the trees is removed.
When vegetation is managed, the area surrounding a car fire is less likely to ignite. Also, in the event of a wildfire, a highway where defensible space has been created is more likely to remain cooler, allowing for more people to use their evacuation routes.
Mostly brush: French broom, toyon, other understory shrubs, and low branches on trees will be pruned off. Smaller trees such as bay will be targeted for thinning. We will try to protect large healthy oaks, and large strong conifers like Douglas fir and redwoods. Redwoods are fire resistant and will be mostly retained, but we will remove some of the smallest ones to create spacing between trees.
Vegetation will be cut with hand tools to minimize ground disturbance. A crane and bucket trucks will be required to access difficult sites. Most of the cut vegetation will be dragged to the nearest roadway where it will be chipped on site or loaded into dump trucks for chipping off site. All supporting vehicles and heavy equipment will remain on roadways. The key constraints for this project are the need to minimize soil disturbance to prevent soil erosion and to minimize traffic disruptions.
Residents will learn that upcoming work is scheduled and when they are invited to attend community meetings held in the Highway 17/Santa Cruz Mountains neighborhoods. Residents will also start to see signs about future lane closures for the roadwork before the work begins. The project will be done in a series of stages, with all work being done on weekdays, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 9:00 am and 5:00 pm. Public and neighborhood updates will be made available through LED roadway signs, websites, newsletters, HOAs, and standard messaging tools.
The focus of the project is for fuel reduction along the main highway corridor. We will contact property owners and residents that are directly adjacent to the highway as well as some that are nearby. Private and county roads that connect to SR17 will also be treated to create defensible space along those roads. Examples include Brush Road, Idylwild, and Madrone Drive. We will work with County Roads as well as road or homeowner associations, mutual water systems and private property owners to coordinate and get permissions.
Project activities are designed to avoid significant effects and avoid taking special status species that are listed as rare, threatened, or endangered under Federal law; or rare, threatened, endangered, candidate, or fully protected under State law; or as a sensitive species by the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. A California Natural Diversity Database search has been completed and appropriate field review conducted to detect species prior to project disturbance. If protected species are found within the project boundary, a CAL FIRE or DFW Biologist will be consulted for appropriate protection measures. In addition, a current archeological records check has been completed. An archeological field review will be conducted by qualified personnel. And a Registered Professional Forester or designee will be onsite during operations to evaluate the presence of cultural resources and ensure cultural resource protection through avoidance.