As residents from Mammoth Lakes to Lone Pine sometimes struggle to get on the internet, the project considered the savior of the Eastern Sierra band-width situation works through environmental approvals toward construction.
Digital 395 means 593 miles of new fiber optic cable buried along side Highway 395 from Barstow, through Inyo and Mono, to Carson City. The project promises to bring high speed broadband to hospitals, libraries, local internet providers, government offices and private citizens.
Michael Ort of Praxis, a company at work on the design of the project, said that he and others continue work to close off environmental approval. This week, Ort said that the Fish and Wildlife Service is close to giving the project a biological opinion on the impacts. Up next, federal approval. Ort expects a finding of no significant impact (FONSI). Once this finding is issued, Ort said that the Forest Service and BLM could move forward with issuance of permits. He called it a “series of dominos”.
If this highly complex project does successfully wind its way through final environmental approvals, Ort says they plan to start construction in April. Praxis and others have also worked with local tribes on a cultural review. Both Inyo and Mono Supervisors have issued license agreements to California Broadband Cooperative, Inc. for use of county land and rights of way.
In an official Notice of Determination filed in December with Inyo County, the project description says that fiber optic lines will go underground through county and Caltrans rights of way as well as areas of land owned by BLM, Indian tribes, the Forest Service, LADWP, the Department of Defense, the City of Bishop and State-owned lands.
When permits move forward, Ort said construction would begin in both the Barstow and Carson City areas, on both ends of the project. He said that officials are working through meetings with contractors and moving forward with engineering and design work.
Once work does start, Ort said it moves surprisingly fast. With three contractors set to work on the back bone of the system, he said they will complete 5 or 6 miles each day.