Thursday, February 23, 2012, San Francisco–United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Attorneys for Caltrans and the Plaintiffs (EPIC, CBD, CATS, et al.) gave oral arguments on the sufficiency of the Caltrans’ finding of FONSI (Finding Of No Significant Impact) relating to the Highway 101 Re-Alignment project through Richardson Grove.
Sharon Duggan, Esq. representing EPIC gave the oral argument for the Plaintiffs. Sharon was ably supported by an awesome team of talented attorneys including Kevin Bundy, Stuart Gross, Phil Gregory and former Congressman Pete McClosky. You will not find a higher caliber group of environmental law experts.
The hearing was very well attended by supporters of the Grove, not just from Humboldt County but also from the Bay Area.
Judge Alsup had issued an Order the previous day requesting that the attorneys be prepared to focus on the issue of the diameter of the trees. This is important because the diameter of the trees influences the area of the structural root zone and the health root zone. For example, if a tree measures a diameter of 36 inches (3 feet) its structural root zone is considered to be 9 feet around the tree and its health root zone is considered to be 15 feet around the tree.
Our argument is that Caltrans did not accurately measure the diameter of certain trees, actually omitted trees and most importantly merely listed trees on their diagrams and tables without doing any actual tree-by-tree analysis of the effects of the project on each tree.
The importance of making these points is to show that Caltrans acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” when it reached its conclusion of Finding Of No Significant Impact.
On Friday, February 24, Judge Alsup issued the attached order for the parties to meet at the Grove with their experts to measure a selected number of trees. While I have been unable to discuss the importance of this development with our attorneys, I am assuming it shows that the Judge wants to verify whether or not Caltrans was accurate in their data gathering. This may or may not dictate the Judge’s final ruling in the case.
Therefore, stayed tuned for further updates. Remember, we are also pursuing a State Court action on violations of CEQA. The hearing is to be held on March 14 in Superior Court in Eureka.
Thanks to all for their support of the Grove