Bootprint of the Willits ByPass

Greetings … The Willits By-Pass is another of the CALTRANS coordinated attacks on our North Coast environment. CALTRANS is waging a multi-phase campaign starting from the north with the Smith River 197/199 STAA “improvements,” the Arcata-Eureka 101 corridor “improvements”, the Richardson Grove “improvements” and the Willits By-Pass.  All of these projects are related and interconnected for the purpose of facilitating STAA truck access and creating a second Interstate Route as an alternate to Interstate 5.

A coalition of groups opposed to the project is organizing non-violent protests and on-going non-violence training.  A support demonstration against the project is set for Monday, January 28.  Meet at the Evergreen Mall in Willits at 9:00AM – look for the big lumberjack statue.  Shuttles will take participants to the site.  You are urged to bring signs with the motto “Save Our Little Lake Valley” (SOLV.)  Here is the announcement of the action and contact information:

We last updated you in November re. this Caltrans boondoggle project in Mendocino County that would affect significant wetlands, an oak woodland, salmon and steelhead habitat and endangered plant species. Now, after delays and false starts, construction on the Willits Bypass is officially set to begin Jan. 28, 2013. Caltrans has received their last remaining permits from the Water Quality Board and State Fish and Wildlife Departments, giving them the green light to “top” and limb oaks, remove vegetation in the Bypass footprint and punch a haul road into the wetlands to install the first “test” pylons.

A lawsuit filed by Willits Environmental Center, Environmental Information & Protection Center, Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club Coast Redwood Chapter is in federal court but was recently denied a request for a preliminary injunction, leaving direct action as the only option to protect the sensitive habitat of Little Lake Valley from irreparable harm.

Nonviolent civil disobedience trainings are being offered and the resistance to this wasteful, destructive and unnecessary project is building. Tours of the ecological footprint of the project area are being arranged.

This concrete and asphalt assault will have long term negative impacts on the land, water, fish, endangered species, and the rural quality of life. The Bypass is part of Caltrans’ larger plan to pave a four lane freeway from the Mexican border to Canada through road widening projects like those in  Richardson Grove and on the Smith River (Hwy 197/199).

The north coast needs your support!

For more info and to get involved, contact:
Naomi Wagner 707 629-3546 or Ellen Faulkner  707 485-5867

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Court Will Not Stop Caltrans from Cutting Trees, Harming Salmon Streams Before Lawsuit over Controversial Willits Bypass Project Can Be Heard

SAN FRANCISCO— A federal judge today refused to halt imminent environmental destruction by the California Department of Transportation in preparation for construction of the Willits Bypass, a proposed four-lane freeway to be built around the community of Willits in Mendocino County. Caltrans has awarded a construction contract that could result in cutting of mature oak forests and clearing of riparian vegetation along critical salmon streams as early as this month.

“We’re disappointed Caltrans may be able to start cutting trees and destroying streamside habitat in the headwaters of the Eel River right as salmon are beginning to migrate into spawning rivers,” said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It will be a shame if irreparable harm is done to salmon habitat before we get our day in court, since we have a strong case that environmental review for the project is weak.”

“A $200 million project to bulldoze a six-mile freeway through major wetlands and endangered species habitats while we are facing unprecedented climate disruption is 1950s-style planning — is this the best we can do?” said Gary Hughes with the Environmental Protection Information Center. “We intend to redouble our efforts in this lawsuit to force Caltrans to consider alternatives which will not harm wetlands, salmon streams, endangered plants, and productive farmland and rangeland.”

“We will press forward with our lawsuit against this ill-conceived highway project,” said Ellen Drell with the Willits Environmental Center. “We cannot allow Caltrans and the Army Corps of Engineers to use taxpayer money for such extensive damage to our environment just because one intersection in Willits backs up for a few hours a day.”

The court denied a motion for a preliminary injunction requested by the Center for Biological Diversity, Willits Environmental Center, Redwood Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), despite a pending lawsuit challenging the permits and approvals for the controversial project, which will not be heard until December at the earliest. Although the court agreed there is a risk of irreparable environmental harm in allowing the cutting of legacy oaks and riparian vegetation to go forward before the trial, its ruling could allow Caltrans to initiate tree-cutting and degrade salmon-bearing streams.

The court’s ruling is limited, and Caltrans has indicated it will only proceed with “topping” trees and clearing vegetation in the near future. As far as filling wetlands and excavating the roadway, Caltrans claims these activities will not occur until 2013. In the meantime, the court will hear the merits of the entire case.

Background

Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration are pursuing a bypass on Highway 101 around Willits, supposedly to ease traffic congestion. The agencies insist on a four-lane freeway and have refused to consider or analyze equally effective two-lane alternatives or in-town solutions. The project would construct a six-mile, four-lane bypass including several bridges over creeks and roads, a mile-long viaduct spanning the floodplain, and two interchanges. This would hurt wildlife habitat and biological resources in Little Lake Valley, including nearly 100 acres of wetlands, and require the largest wetlands fill permit in Northern California in the past 50 years. It would damage stream and riparian habitat for chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout in three streams converging into Outlet Creek, harm the rare plant Baker’s meadowfoam, and destroy increasingly scarce oak woodlands.

Conservation groups sued Caltrans and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May 2012 for violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act. The California Farm Bureau Federation has since intervened on behalf of the plaintiffs due to its concerns about threats to productive agricultural lands. The plaintiffs contend that Caltrans refused to consider two-lane alternatives and failed to prepare a supplemental “environmental impact statement” for substantial design changes and new information about lower traffic volumes and more severe environmental impacts. The Army Corps improperly issued a wetlands fill permit in February 2012.

Although Caltrans documents show that traffic projected to use the bypass is not enough to warrant a four-lane freeway, the agency unilaterally discarded all nonfreeway or two-lane alternatives. New information shows that traffic volumes are below what Caltrans projected when it determined a four-lane freeway was needed.

For Immediate Release, November 1, 2012

Contacts: Gary Hughes, Environmental Protection Information Center, (707) 223-5434
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185
Ellen Drell, Willits Environmental Center, (707) 459-4110

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Injunction Sought to Stop Construction of Controversial Willits Bypass Project

The Center for Biological Diversity, Willits Environmental Center, Redwood Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) filed a motion in federal court on Friday seeking a preliminary injunction to halt imminent construction of the Willits Bypass, a proposed four-lane freeway to be built around the community of Willits in Mendocino County. Despite a pending lawsuit challenging the permits and approvals for the controversial project, which would destroy significant wetlands and habitat for endangered plants, as well as degrade salmon-bearing streams, the California Department of Transportation has awarded a construction contract that could result in the cutting down of mature oak forests and riparian vegetation as early as October.

“The Willits Bypass would be a disaster for local wetlands, oak forests and the wildlife that depend on them,” said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Caltrans has made significant changes to this project without fully evaluating the impacts of bulldozing a freeway through precious wetlands and endangered species’ habitats.”

“The Willits Bypass project is an egregious example of how Caltrans is totally out of touch with the needs of local communities and ecosystems on the North Coast,” said Gary Graham Hughes of EPIC. “We are asking the federal court to halt this project before irreparable damage is done to oak forests and critical aquatic habitats in the headwaters of the Eel River.”

Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration say they are pursuing the bypass on Highway 101 around Willits to ease traffic congestion. The agencies insist on a four-lane freeway and have refused to consider or analyze equally effective two-lane alternatives or in-town solutions. The currently planned project would be a 6-mile, four-lane bypass including several bridges over creeks and roads, a mile-long viaduct spanning the floodplain, and two interchanges.

Construction would damage wildlife habitat and biological resources in Little Lake Valley, including nearly 100 acres of wetlands, and it would require the largest wetlands fill permit in Northern California in the past 50 years. It would also affect stream and riparian habitat for Chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout in three streams converging into Outlet Creek, harm the rare plant Baker’s meadowfoam and destroy increasingly scarce oak woodlands.

Background

A lawsuit was filed against Caltrans, the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May 2012 for violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act. The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the agencies to prepare a supplemental “environmental impact statement” that considers two-lane alternatives and addresses substantial design changes and new information about traffic volumes and environmental impacts. In August, the California Farm Bureau Federation filed a motion to intervene on behalf of the environmental plaintiffs, providing supporting arguments that Caltrans and the Army Corps of Engineers have violated environmental law in approving permits for this project. Since a 2006 environmental review, Caltrans has made significant changes and ongoing revisions to the project that will cause new environmental impacts, yet it has failed to supplement the environmental review. Project changes will destroy additional wetlands, oak woodlands and riparian habitat; increase habitat loss for the rare Baker’s meadowfoam; further degrade salmon habitat; and add significant new impacts to agricultural lands.

For more than half a century, Caltrans has promoted turning Highway 101 into a four-lane freeway from San Diego to the Oregon border, with a four-lane freeway bypass around Willits. Caltrans first discussed potential bypass designs and routes through Willits in 1988, but by 1995 had unilaterally discarded all non-freeway or two-lane alternatives.

The California Transportation Commission, the state funding authority, has repeatedly refused to fund a four-lane freeway, so Caltrans proposes to proceed in “phases,” grading for four lanes and constructing two lanes with available funds, then allegedly constructing two additional lanes when additional funding becomes available, a dubious prospect. Yet Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration did notdraft a supplemental “environmental impact statement” to examine impacts of this changed design or consider two-lane alternatives.

A 1998 Caltrans study found that 70 percent to 80 percent of traffic causing congestion in downtown Willits was local, and Caltrans internally conceded that the volume of traffic projected to use the bypass was not enough to warrant a four-lane freeway. Agency data showed the volume of traffic that would use the bypass did not increase from 1992 to 2005. New information shows that actual traffic volumes are below what the agencies projected when they determined that only a four-lane freeway will provide the desired level of service, and that a two-lane bypass will provide a better level of service than projected.

Phase I of the project would fill more than 86 acres of wetlands and federal-jurisdiction waters. Caltrans purchased approximately 2,000 acres of ranchland in Little Lake Valley to supposedly mitigate for loss of wetlands, but this approach makes little sense because functional wetlands already existed on the properties and Caltrans has no ability to “create” new wetlands there. To obtain the required wetlands fill permit under the Clean Water Act, the state and federal agencies submitted a significantly deficient “mitigation and monitoring plan” to the Army Corps to “enhance” wetlands. This plan itself alters existing wetlands and causes significant new impacts to wetlands, endangered species and grazing lands, as well as making design changes that were not analyzed or disclosed in the 2006 environmental review. The Corps improperly issued the permit in February 2012.

Press Release

Plantiffs Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Memorandum in Support

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Willits ByPass Basics

Caltrans is proposing to spend $200 million to bulldoze a six-mile, four-lane freeway the size of Interstate 5 around the community of Willits, in Mendocino County, California. The project would cause unnecessary environmental damage to increasingly rare wetlands, salmon-bearing streams and endangered plants, and is not needed for the traffic volumes through Willits.

The project would fill more than 86 acres of wetlands and require the largest wetlands fill permit in Northern California in the last 50 years!

A 1998 Caltrans study found that 70-80 percent of traffic causing congestion in downtown Willits was local traffic; the bypass would only divert 20%-30% of Willits’ Main Street traffic.

There are alternatives to reduce traffic congestion in Willits including: internal street connections, bike paths, safe crosswalks, improved intersection performance, and better local public transit that would be able serve the needs of the interregional traffic and reduce construction impacts, time, and cost.

EPIC joined conservation partners in filing a lawsuit in April 2012 challenging the Willits Bypass. Caltrans must consider alternatives that do not fill wetlands, harm endangered species and respects the local community.

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Caltrans Four Bridges Project Meeting Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 4:30PM at the South Fork High School Gym in Miranda

Back in March, 2011 CALTRANS floated this project, called the “Four Bridges Project”.  They proposed to replace the railings on four bridges along the Avenue of the Giants.  Sounds innocent, right?  Don’t believe it!  They are going to replace the bridge decks in the process to add an extra lane “for safety.”  Always the “safety” excuse.  What makes the “safety” excuse laughable is that there is no extra lane alone the Avenue of the Giants to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists so why do the bridge decks need to be enlarged?  You can bet that this is going to be a huge project – enlarging the bridge decks will mean new bridge supports, in effect new bridges – and the consequent disruption to the environment, stream diversions and injury to the old growth trees.

The meeting is supposedly an “update.”  But that does not mean that there will not be surprises.  The meeting is to be held on Wednesday, August 23, 2012 at 4:30PM at the South Fork High School Gym in Miranda.  It would be great to have a good turnout at the meeting to show community concern.

To read their announcement for yourself click here: <http://times-standard.com/localnews/ci_21290318>

Below is my letter sent March 14, 2011 with Scoping Comments:
To Sandra Rosas
Office of Environmental Management
703 B Street
Marysville, CA 95901
sandra_rosas@dot.ca.gov

March 14, 2011

RE:  Four Bridges Project – Scoping Comments

Considering the environmental damage that this project will inflict uponHumboldt Redwoods State Park, its wildlife, old-growth trees, streams and fish, the cost to the taxpayers, the disruption to Park visitors, the losses to local businesses and inconvenience to local residents, it is hard to establish any justification for this project.

The ostensible purpose of the project is to replace bridge railings but if the railings of these bridges are deficient then the railings should be replaced in as cost-effective manner as possible without adding other elements to the project.  Why this alternative is being dismissed does not make any sense to the public.

The claim is being made by CALTRANS that the bridge decks need to be enlarged “for safety.”  Yet, no accident statistics are provided to show that the bridges are unsafe.  Regardless of the fact that newer bridges allow for shoulders, this is a scenic and historic roadway and should be preserved as it exists without distorting its historic character.  Tourists come from around the world to meander down this roadway and marvel at the pristine natural beauty.  Traffic moves slowly.  Locals know to watch for bicycle riders and pedestrians.

If safety is such a concern, why is there no consideration of lowering the speed limit?

Given the fact that there is no bike or pedestrian lane existing along the Avenue of the Giants, why is it necessary to provide such a lane on the bridges?  Have any other alternatives for bikes and pedestrians been considered?

There was no information given on how the determination was reached that the Bridge Creek bridge is structurally deficient.

What access roads and staging areas are planned?  These will extend the project’s footprint with root damage, vegetation removal and soil compaction.
The impact of heavy construction vehicles driving and parking on the roots of old growth trees is barely mentioned.

Of the endangered species mentioned, the murrelet is known to be disturbed by noise in the vicinity of its nesting areas and CALTRANS intends to work during nesting season.

Additionally, diverting streams at the height of the summer, when the river is running low, warm, slow and often full of algae will only create additional stress and adversely impact whatever endangered fish are trying to exist in the waters of the South Fork of the Eel River.

In summation, this project needs to be scaled back to address only what is absolutely required – replacing defective railings.  This approach would greatly mitigate many of the adverse impacts that are envisioned with the current scope of the project.

Posted in Other Caltrans Projects of Concern | Leave a comment

State Ruling in the Richardson Grove Case

June 28, 2012–The Superior Court of California, County of Humboldt has “NOT found a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) at this time, nor is the petitioners’ request for injunctive relief ready for determination.” (Click here to read the order).

While it appears that the state court agrees with Caltrans at this moment, there has yet to be a final decision on the merits of the case.

EPIC and the other petitioners (the plaintiffs) in the case are disappointed that the State Court did not find the legal errors which we believe are well-documented. Our attorneys are reviewing the decision and will comply with the court’s order, said Natalynne DeLapp, Richardson Grove Coordinator for EPIC. “We take comfort in the fact that the Grove remains under the protection of the injunction granted by the Federal Court, and that Caltrans has to go back and redo their analysis after the federal judge found their initial analysis was based off ‘false data.’”

The legal challenges are far from over.

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Lawsuit Challenges Caltrans’ Four-lane Willits Bypass Freeway That Would Destroy Wetlands, Salmon, Rare Plants

May 1, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity, Willits Environmental Center, Redwood Chapter of the Sierra Club and Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) filed a lawsuit in federal court today challenging the approvals and environmental review for the Willits Bypass, a proposed four-lane freeway around the community of Willits, in Mendocino County, Calif., that would hurt wetlands, salmon-bearing streams and endangered plants.
“Bulldozing a freeway the size of Interstate 5 through precious wetlands would be wasteful and destructive — a four-lane road is just not needed for the traffic volumes through Willits on Highway 101,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity.
“This is a wake-up call for Caltrans, which should be building efficient public transit and maintaining existing roads, rather than wasting our money and resources clinging to outdated visions of new freeways,” said Ellen Drell, board member of the Willits Environmental Center. “Global climate change, threatened ecosystems and the end of cheap oil are warning signs that we need to change course. The change needs to happen in every community, including here in Willits.”
For decades, Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration have pursued a bypass on Highway 101 around Willits to ease traffic congestion. The agencies insist on a four-lane freeway and refuse to consider or analyze equally effective two-lane alternatives or in-town solutions. The current project is a six-mile, four-lane freeway bypass, including several bridges over creeks and local roads, a viaduct spanning the regulatory floodway and two interchanges. Construction would damage wildlife habitat and biological resources in Little Lake Valley, including nearly 100 acres of wetlands, and would require the largest wetlands fill permit in Northern California in the past 50 years. It would also affect stream and riparian habitat for chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout in three streams converging into Outlet Creek, harm state-protected endangered plants (Baker’s meadowfoam) and destroy oak woodlands.
“In a time of devastating budget cuts to health, education, social services and the state park system, Caltrans proposes to spend nearly $200 million on an unnecessary project that will seriously degrade the headwaters of the Eel River,” said Gary Graham Hughes, executive director at EPIC. “This project is completely out of touch with the needs of the natural and human communities on the North Coast.”
“For three decades the Sierra Cub has promoted responsible transportation planning in Mendocino County, but requests to consider a two-lane alternative have been ignored by Caltrans,” said Mary Walsh with the Redwood Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We’re proud to challenge this wasteful and destructive highway project.”
The lawsuit is against Caltrans, the Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act. It seeks a court order requiring the agencies to prepare a supplemental “environmental impact statement” that considers two-lane alternatives and addresses substantial design changes and new information about traffic volumes and environmental impacts.
Background
For more than half a century, Caltrans has promoted turning Highway 101 into a four-lane freeway from San Diego to the Oregon border, with a four-lane freeway bypass around Willits. Caltrans first discussed potential bypass designs and routes through Willits in 1988, but by 1995 had unilaterally discarded all non-freeway or two-lane alternatives. An environmental review for a four-lane freeway was finalized in 2006.
The California Transportation Commission, the state funding authority, has repeatedly refused to fund a four-lane freeway, so Caltrans proposes to proceed in “phases,” grading for four lanes and constructing two lanes with available funds, then allegedly constructing two additional lanes when additional funding becomes available, a dubious prospect. Yet Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration did not draft a supplemental “environmental impact statement” to look at impacts of this changed design or consider two-lane alternatives.
A 1998 Caltrans study found that 70 percent to 80 percent of traffic causing congestion in downtown Willits was local, and Caltrans internally conceded that the volume of traffic projected to use the bypass was not enough to warrant a four-lane freeway. Agency data showed the volume of traffic that would use the bypass did not increase from 1992 to 2005. New information shows actual traffic volumes are below what the agencies projected when they determined only a four-lane freeway will provide the desired level of service, and that a two-lane bypass will provide a better level of service than projected.
Phase I of the project will discharge fill into more than 86 acres of wetlands and federal jurisdiction waters. Caltrans purchased approximately 2,000 acres of ranchland in Little Lake Valley to “mitigate” for loss of wetlands, but the properties already had established existing wetlands, with no ability for Caltrans to “create” new wetlands. To obtain the required wetlands fill permit under the Clean Water Act, the state and federal agencies submitted a significantly deficient “mitigation and monitoring plan” to the Army Corps to “enhance” wetlands. This plan itself alters existing wetlands and causes significant new impacts to wetlands, endangered species and grazing lands, and makes design changes that were not analyzed or disclosed in the 2006 environmental review. The Corps improperly issued the permit in February 2012.
The Willits Bypass is the latest in a series of controversial, environmentally damaging, expensive and unnecessary highway projects Caltrans is pursuing while refusing to consider alternatives and ignoring public opposition. Last month, a federal court ordered Caltrans to redo critical aspects of its environmental analysis for a project to widen and realign Highway 101 to promote large-truck travel through the ancient redwoods of Richardson Grove State Park. Caltrans is also proposing a project on Highway 197/199 in Del Norte County that would fell protected ancient redwoods and threaten the pristine Smith River. In January, Caltrans was forced by a lawsuit to rescind project approval and cancel construction of the first phase of an $80 million highway widening “safety” project in Niles Canyon, Alameda County, that Caltrans now admits is not needed.

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Resounding win in Richardson case

Dear Editor,

On April 4, Judge William Alsup unambiguously rebuked Caltrans for failing to take a hard look at the environmental impacts of its proposed project through Richardson Grove. He found that Caltrans’ analysis was “based off of false data,” and thus its results “so implausible that they could not be ascribed to a difference in view or the product of agency expertise.” Accordingly, he ordered Caltrans to “correct the data inaccuracies … and assess the impacts of the project through the lens of a corrected analysis.” In doing so, he specifically ordered Caltrans to “set forth the environmental issues to each one” the 79 old-growth redwoods in the project’s path. He further warned, “Caltrans should give serious consideration to the other significant arguments made by plaintiffs in their motion.”

Thus, the Times-Standard’s April 5, 2012, minimization of the order’s impact, characterizing it as merely requiring Caltrans to “redo Richardson Grove maps,” is disturbingly inaccurate and misleading. As Judge Alsup acknowledged, the National Environmental Policy Act’s “mandatory in-depth analysis forces agencies to truly consider the impact of their plans.” This was precisely what I and the other members of Congress who drafted NEPA in 1970 intended, and this is precisely what Judge Alsup has now ordered Caltrans to do. To characterize this as anything other than a resounding victory for the plaintiffs, the public, the environment, and the rule of law is simply wrong.

Paul N. McCloskey Jr.

Rumsey

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Caltrans is merely a tool of policymakers

The federal judge’s ruling in the Richardson Grove case is a game-changer.

It is therefore unfortunate that the Redwood Times (4/10) and Times-Standard has joined Caltrans and the county to obscure the real consequences of, and development agendas associated with, the project to facilitate STAA truck traffic through our precious Richardson Grove State Park.

The ruling focused on the shortcomings of Caltrans’ environmental evaluations, especially with respect to old growth redwood trees survival, and suggested a similarly capricious approach to other significant issues. It seems reasonable to expect Caltrans’ revised Environmental Assessment to lead to a full Environmental Impact Statement (federal) and a re-circulated Environmental Impact Report (state), which should cause policymakers to consider better alternatives.

As a complement to the Richardson Grove project, Caltrans is currently planning on widening U.S. Highway 199 through Del Norte County (alongside the Wild and Scenic Smith River), and State Highway 299 in Trinity County (alongside the Wild and Scenic Trinity River) to close the loop connecting Highway 101 to I-5 for large diesel trucks. Willits is to be bypassed with a highly destructive aerial causeway over fragile wetlands, the 101 corridor between Arcata and Eureka will become a freeway, Waterfront Drive in Eureka will be widened to accommodate STAA trucks.

Caltrans is deliberately, and illegally, ignoring any cumulative impacts from this 101-I-5 loop, despite acknowledging them in, and later excising them from, earlier draft proposals for these projects.

It should be obvious that the Caltrans Richardson Grove project is not just designed so that bigger trucks can come to Humboldt and turn around and go back. It should also be obvious that the large national and international trucking industries, and sprawl development, will be the primary beneficiaries, to the detriment of our quality of life.

WalMart and Home Depot, both of which have lobbied hard for the Richardson Grove and 199 projects, use their profit margins to squeeze out local competition. They depend on numerous, rapid, reliable transports of huge volumes of whatever to make billions on pennies saved, not just from cheaper transport costs, but also from low wages and benefits.

Local truckers warn of additional increased large through-truck traffic diverted from I-5, especially during winter conditions that force truckers on sections of I-5 to put chains on and take them off as many as seven times.

EPIC, the Center for Biological Diversity, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, and a few courageous individual plaintiffs, have shown us that development dependent on outdated technologies and perspectives is not inevitable, that a better way is possible. Fortunately, we are not alone. Imagine a four-lane Highway I with multiple connecting links to 101, and massive Orange County-style planned communities in rural areas and quiet beach towns? That’s what the California Coastal Commission stopped in the 1970s and ’80s, resulting in major parkland acquisitions as speculative real estate was sold to the state, to our collective benefit.

Caltrans is merely a tool of policymakers. The federal court’s ruling, and successful challenges to these other proposed boondoggles, bode well for more progressive and appropriate development, based on the efficient transport of goods and an economy that depends upon nourishing a thriving natural environment rather than replacing it with sprawl.

Ken Miller
McKinleyville

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A trucker’s perspective on widening Hwy 101

This is regarding the Caltrans Hwy 199 / 197 / 101 STAA Truck Access DEIR.

I am an experienced long haul (Truck Load) truck driver with a current Class A TX license. I have delivered freight using Hwy 199 and Hwy 101 for many years by sliding the trailer axles to within 40 feet of the rear axle/kingpin setting required and driving a short wheel base cab-over tractor. This has allowed me to see the roads in question at all times of the year.

I want to point out that the planned changes to the truck access rules will result in a huge increase in truck traffic and probable road damage for a very simple reason, namely greatly reduced chain requirements.

Truck drivers hate to chain their trucks needlessly. Using Interstate Route I-5 very frequently requires truck drivers to chain their trucks and trailers because of snow. This can happen as many as seven different times on a trip from the middle of Oregon to the middle of California. This chaining is easily dodged if one is allowed, as I have been, to use US Highway 101 instead of I-5. One could easily imagine many times more trucks per hour on the proposed route in heavy snow if the planned changes are implemented. This does not take into account what would happen to the traffic numbers if I-5 closed for snow or an accident as it often does.

A study could quickly and easily be done on the impact of the proposal by counting the number of trucks that pass any given I-5 mile marker verses the number of trucks that currently pass any given mile marker on US 101. I believe the variance would be shocking.

This change in road usage is important because Caltrans finds it difficult to maintain these roads now. With a huge increase of trucks with winter weather, I think maintaining the roads would be impossible.

I would also like to point out that the so called “Mandatory Safety Exemptions” in the proposed STAA Truck Access DEIR would allow trucks to partially enter the on-coming traffic lanes and track off the road in spots. This is not a good idea as seen by current guardrail damage and the Hwy 199 accident history.

James R Barrett
Crescent City, CA

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