EPIC Victory for Richardson Grove! EPIC and partners prevail on California Environmental Quality Act Appeal!
Four years after Caltrans began planning to widen Highway 101 through Richardson Grove State Park, EPIC and our allies secured a Preliminary Injunction in Federal Court, temporarily halting the project. On April 4, 2012, the Northern District of the US Federal Court ordered Caltrans to create new maps that accurately describe the project area and to reassess their conclusion that the project would result in no significant impact to the ancient redwoods in the park. Hearings on the state court challenge under the California Environmental Quality Act to the permitting of the Caltrans project in Richardson Grove were held on March 29, 2012, and a decision on that case was made at the end of June 2012. The state decision in the county court was favorable to Caltrans, but it did nothing to change the results of the previous federal court decision that forced Caltrans back to the drawing board on the project.
Plaintiffs have continued to consider all their options in the legal defense of the ancient redwoods against the unnecessary highway development proposed by Caltrans, and in December 2012, EPIC filed a formal appeal of the Humboldt County Superior Court decision that favored Caltrans, and that appeal was heard before the appeal court in San Francisco on January 15, 2014. A decision on this California Environmental Quality Act Appeal was issued on January 30, 2014. The appeals court unanimously found that Caltrans failed to follow the law in assessing impacts to ancient redwoods and providing mitigation measures to reduce potentially severe harm to the trees. This is an important victory in holding Caltrans accountable to the law and the public the agency serves, and for protecting our ancient redwoods.
EPIC has also succeeded with partners in using federal law to stop Caltrans from expanding Hwy 101 through the ancient redwoods protected in Richardson Grove State Park. In April of 2012 a federal judge ruled that Caltrans had been “arbitrary and capricious” in their use of “faulty data,” and ordered the agency to reassess the environmental impacts or to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). On September 21, 2013, Caltrans released a Supplement to the May 2010 Final Environmental Assessment for the Richardson Grove Operational Improvement Project for a thirty day public comment period that ended on October 21, 2013. Upon review of the Supplement, it was clear that Caltrans had provided an inadequate document that does not fully address all of the impacts of the project. Over 3,000 people took action through EPIC’s website to provide comments on the document, asking to protect Richardson Grove State Park from Caltrans’ proposed highway widening project.
In addition to a legal strategy in both state and federal court to protect the famed old growth redwoods at Richardson Grove, a broad coalition of community activists has organized a public campaign to underscore the growing movement forming to protect this stand of ancient trees. The Rein in Caltrans campaign at EPIC has grown to include challenges to the massive Caltrans Willits By Pass project in Mendocino County, as well as opposition to the Caltrans Highway 197/199 widening project on the Smith River in Del Norte County. Reform of Caltrans is an important objective for EPIC in addressing effectively the way in which transportation habits are contributing to local and global climate change, as well as for protecting specific sensitive environments that represent the natural essence of the North Coast of California.
Here are some of the important documents and milestones relating to Richardson Grove:
A Little Background
Richardson Grove State Park marks the southern entrance to Humboldt County, and is considered to be the famous redwood curtain that has kept the county from becoming another exit along the superhighway of modern development. In 1922, concerns about “potential destruction of the trees by highway construction and logging” persuaded the State to protect the redwood grove in the State Park system. But now Caltrans is proposing to widen the highway through the Grove, resulting in removal of trees and destruction of old growth root systems. Read more on the project specifics here.
Donate to EPIC’s “Save Richardson Grove Legal Fund” EPIC needs support to keep the Richardson Grove legal defense going. We are up against large scale developers, and this has been a very expensive process. Every donation helps! Contact EPIC directly at 707-822-7711 if you have interest in making a significant donation. Thank You!
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