Three years after Caltrans first announced their intention to widen Highway 101 through Richardson Grove State Park, no construction has begun. The agency may have cited an urgent need to complete the project, but has not been successful in forcing the project through amidst controversy. In response to deficient environmental documents and inadequate public review, EPIC and our allies had no choice but to file a lawsuit to stop the project. In addition to a legal battle, the public campaign to protect the grove continues to build momentum. Starting later this month, we will have new opportunities to coordinate our efforts so we might build our political power and influence decision-makers to rescind the project altogether.
At this writing, EPIC, the Californians for Alternatives to Toxins (CATs), the Center for Biological Diversity and five citizen plaintiffs have filed two lawsuits challenging the project, one in State court and one in federal court. The two lawsuits raise many issues to the court, namely that Caltrans did not adequately assess the environmental impacts under either Federal or State laws designed to protect our rivers and forest ecosystems. We have an incredibly talented legal team, including the leadership of Sharon Duggan and the support of the acclaimed Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy law firm. Soon, these cases will be heard in San Francisco for the Federal lawsuit and in Humboldt County for the state lawsuit. As soon as we hear from either court about scheduled dates, we will post them on our website, so those interested may attend the hearings. Even with many of the attorneys working pro-bono on this case, the cost of these legal challenges can be overwhelming. Please consider donating to the Richardson Grove Legal Fund, to support the effort.
Rumors and poor media coverage have led the public to inaccurate conclusions about the Richardson Grove highway widening project, including that Caltrans’ project planners have all but one permit to proceed, and that they intend to begin the project as soon as February, 2011. Sources at Caltrans consistently state that they cannot begin the project next month, and that agency does not, contrary to popular belief, have all of their permits in order to even contract the construction work. Estimated start date for Caltrans is June 2011, but if we have anything to do with it, no project will proceed!
While construction will likely not start as soon as anticipated, our collaborative campaign to protect the ancient stand of redwoods along 101 must now get more organized, for anticipated public events in the coming months. Now is the time for campaign supporters to create visual tools, spread the word and organize regional meetings with a member of the coalition to keep informed. One self-organized group of activists have taken the first step and organized a meeting (location TBA) during the last week of January. This free potluck gathering in Arcata will offer an opportunity for an in-depth update from EPIC, a strategic planning discussion, and plenty of time to paint banners and build puppets for future rallies. In addition, Richardson Grove Campaign materials will be available, including t-shirts, brochures, stickers and petitions.