Strategic Partnerships Key to EPIC Regional Initiative to Rein in Caltrans

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Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Photo by Jeff MusgraveIt has been more than four years that EPIC has been working in coalition with a large and diverse group of allies to challenge the Caltrans proposal to widen Highway 101 through Richardson Grove State Park. The effectiveness of this teamwork was proven in the broad grassroots campaign that provided a solid foundation of public support for litigation that has thus far resulted in a resounding judicial scolding of Caltrans with the remand order  provided by the Northern District Federal Court in early April 2012.

Amongst the important partnerships that EPIC developed in the Richardson Grove case were those with the group of citizens and the organizations that joined as co-plaintiffs. EPIC is pleased to still be working with Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs) and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) as we await the decision that will be forthcoming in the state case before the end of June. Despite uncertainty, we have confidence in the strength of the case that has been presented.

As EPIC is working closely with CBD on a variety of issues, such as endangered species activism for the seriously at risk Humboldt Marten and reforming private lands forest policy, it has been exciting to step up and participate in a new coalition effort challenging Caltrans. EPIC is a part of the legal challenge to the unnecessary and out of touch Willits By Pass Project, an enormous and expensive 4-lane highway infrastructure project slated to cross sensitive wetlands in the Willits area. In this case there are four plaintiffs: Mendocino Lake Sierra Club, EPIC, CBD, and the Willits Environmental Center (WEC).

Though the necessity of having to take action on this issue is unfortunate, and forced by a Caltrans culture that refuses to let go of an expensive boondoggle, the honor of supporting Ellen and David Drell is immense. As a means of sharing with the citizens of the region their knowledge about the issue, EPIC’s Gary Graham Hughes spoke with David and Ellen about the Willits By Pass Project on the EPIC Edition of the KMUD Environment Show. (listen HERE) The show is an in-depth look at the history of the project design, the environmental considerations in terms of the wetlands loss, and why such venerated activists such as the Drell’s of the WEC would stand up to challenge the Willits By Pass project. Our colleagues at WEC are exemplary amongst exemplary partners.

On the north end of the region EPIC is in constant contact with Friends of Del Norte as we monitor the STAA access highway development proposal that Caltrans has been preparing to unleash along Highway 197/199 through the narrow canyons and ancient redwoods of the pristine Smith River. The growing realization of the environmental impact of the behemoth road building agency became acute throughout the planning process for the Richardson Grove highway development project, and has organically transformed into a regional initiative to Rein in Caltrans. This initiative seeks to to force Caltrans to alter or abandon their most environmentally egregious highway widening projects; and to publicize and reform the flawed decision-making and environmental review process that allow these wasteful and destructive projects to move forward.

EPIC is dedicating energy to building an active constituency and membership that supports our policy stances and legal actions on these issues. We know, especially when we converse with visionaries like David and Ellen at WEC, and Friends of Del Norte that this is a line of work that is important for protecting the natural qualities of our bioregion, and for directly addressing the obstacles that our communities face in the pursuit of a truly sustainable economic development that is appropriate for our region as well as a coherent response to the times in which we live.

This regional initiative to Rein in Caltrans will continue to grow. Stay tuned for updates, and for our efforts to contribute to a building movement. Listen to the interview with the Drells and get informed about the Willits By Pass Project.

Join us as we Rein in Caltrans!