The legal proceedings for Richardson Grove continue, this time with a State Court decision, which appears to agree with Caltrans. However, there has yet to be a final decision on the merits of the case.
Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Dale Reinholtsen handed down a 30-page order that found that Caltrans made “no violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) at this time.” The judge said that there is substantial evidence to show that the project will have no significant effect on ancient redwoods in the park, and ruled against all, but possibly one count brought by EPIC and fellow petitioners. A violation may be found if Caltrans has not adopted a “reporting or monitoring program” that is “designed to ensure compliance during project implementation.”
“It is disappointing that the State Court did not find the legal errors that we believe are well documented, said Natalynne DeLapp, EPIC spokesperson. “However, we are thankful that the federal judge found  that Caltrans was in the wrong when they based their findings of no significant impact on ‘false data’ and ordered them to go back and redo critical aspects of their analysis, including surveying and describing the environmental issues to each and everyone of more than 70 old growth redwood trees in the project area. This firm ruling on the part of the federal court still stands, and there is nothing in the state court ruling that can or will change that fact.”
At this time, the federal injunction remains in effect, which prevents Caltrans from beginning work on the project, pending the resubmission of the new maps and analysis to the judge in order that the federal case can proceed.
Since 2007, EPIC and our allies have held Caltrans accountable to the law. Initially Caltrans was only going to do the bare minimum of environmental analysis for the Richardson Grove ‘Improvement’ Project—a Categorical Exemption, which is reserved for projects that do not have a significant impact on the environment. Had EPIC not intervened on behalf of the Grove, it is likely the project would likely have already been built, with very little environmental analysis, and zero public input.
“Win or lose, EPIC has done its job,” said DeLapp. “We have held Caltrans accountable to the law and the people. With regards to the State Case, now there is a court ordered mandate that will make Caltrans fully comply with environmental law—if the project is actually implemented. ”