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Salamanders & high voltage power poles create issues for two new interchanges
The California Tiger Salamander is a threatened species in the Central Valley.

The threatened California Tiger Salamander could swell the cost of the McKinley Avenue/120 Bypass interchange by $1.4 million.

The city this past month was notified by the state that a California Tiger Salamander was found on the land Manteca acquired to build the $30.7 million interchange that is expected to go out to bid in 2020.

The good news is the discovery of the stocky salamander with a broad, rounded snout sporting small eyes with black irises protruding from its head doesn’t kill the project.

There is a recovery plan in place for the Central Valley where the California Tiger Salamander is simply threatened while there is separate recovery plan for the species in the Napa Valley where they are endangered.

The Central Valley recovery project has been estimated to cost at least $85 million and will take until 2067 until the species is fully recovered. It is why Manteca faces at least a $400,000 fee to be able to develop the interchange with a possible additional charge of $1 million that City Manager Tim Ogden is trying to negotiate downward.

Meanwhile a bigger threat exists for the $23.7 million Union Road/120 Bypass interchange involving right-of-way master agreements and easement deals involving PG&E and Caltrans.

There are four high voltage power poles that need relocating. The price tag for the work is around $2 million. Typically the cost would be split 50-50 between the state and PG&E.

But due to issues centered around paperwork — or lack thereof — dating back decades surrounding  who is financially responsible when power lines have to be relocated for state highway projects, it has created a major hurdle that if it can’t be resolved will create a situation where the project may have to be killed.

Ogden has been leading a city effort working with Caltrans, PG&E, Assemblyman Heath Flora’s office, Teichert that submitted the low bid to construct the interchange as well as the San Joaquin Council of Governments to come up with an economical solution that would allow the Union Road/120 Bypass interchange work to proceed.

As a side note, the city has avoided some additional costs connected with the McKinley interchange project by negotiating a deal with property owner Eileen Buantello who resides on Bronzan Road to exchange 4,367 square feet of her property needed for freeway ramps for the same amount of acreage that was taken with another parcel purchased where the city did not need the entire interchange to work.

It will create an L-shaped addition to Buantello’s property. It is a benefit for Buantello as she has water well issues while the property the city is swamping has on it a water well that is producing a strong flow of water. Besides avoiding what would have been a $26,000 cost to buy part of Buantello’s land the city is saving the cost of demolishing the water well and avoids having an odd piece of property they would have to maintain as well as control the weeds on it.

Vice Mayor Dave

Breitenbucher is

in charge Tuesday

Vice Mayor Dave Breitenbucher is in charge of Tuesday’s 7 p.m. City Council meeting at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

That’s because Mayor Ben Cantu along with council member Debby Moorhead will be in Las Vegas attending the International Shopping Center Conference with city economic specialist Don Smail.

Cantu and Moorhead will participate in the meeting via teleconference.

That means you have two locations to attend Tuesday’s meeting. Either you can stop by the civic center or travel to the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, 3000 Paradise Road, in Las Vegas as the public can also access the location where the teleconferencing council members are attending the meeting.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email