Who could have thought it so controversial for a non-profit, environmental advocacy organization to work to protect an old growth redwood grove from the machines of progress, within a State park?
Over the last several years, EPIC staff and volunteers have pored over documents and kept a watchful eye on the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) in an effort to protect Richardson Grove State Park from a proposal to construct a larger highway through the famed gateway into Humboldt County from the south. The project’s stated purpose is to provide access for federally standardized commercial trucks (STAA) into the region (This is a truncated purpose. To find out more, please download the Caltrans draft EIR).
Did you know that if EPIC and our allies had not forced Caltrans to follow the law and analyze the impacts of their proposed construction, the project would likely have already been built, without environmental analysis or public input?
Now, after being forced to conduct minimal environmental and public review, CalTrans asserts that their process and planning have been exhaustive. Unfortunately, we at EPIC have learned about state agencies, and their incredible ability to sidestep legal processes and environmental considerations over the last 33 years.
We are informed to proceed with caution, and keep a critical eye on all governmental agencies acting in tandem with the interests from within the business community.
Where in this process have people had a chance to weigh the costs this expansion could have on our environment? And the laws designed to protect our State Parks?
Do these costs justify the benefits?
Does a decreased shipping cost for businesses that rely on export for success outweigh damage to the trees within this grove? What about the cultural and aesthetic values within this State park?
Now is the time to consider these questions.
Sometime in the next few weeks, EPIC expects Caltrans to release the final Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment for the project. At that point, according to Caltrans, there will be no opportunity to offer public comment, even though there may be major changes within the plan.
Once the FEIR is released, other agencies, including the US Fish and Wildlife Service, have to sign off on the project. Then, the California Transportation Commission has to approve the project for funding. If they get all of the approvals they need, and the CTC stamps the project as fundable, we could see a Record of Decision sometime this summer.
The iconic date that marked so many protests against MAXXAM’s Pacific Lumber, September 15, could be CalTrans target date to begin construction. This is the date that the Marbled Murrellet nesting season is considered over.
Does history repeat itself?
EPIC remains extremely concerned that the plans Caltrans will release could damage one of our prized old growth forests, within Richardson Grove State Park. In addition, we stand with the Intertribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council in their stated points opposing the project. We also work the Center for Biological Diversity and a host of individuals working to protect the grove.
Check back to read more as the campaign to protect Richardson Grove State Park continues to grow.