The Humboldt County Superior Court has ruled that a lawsuit challenging Caltrans’ proposed highway widening through Richardson Grove State Park can continue, meaning the building of the destructive highway is still on hold. The lawsuit was filed in 2010 by the Environmental Protection Information Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics and community members, to prevent a project that would needlessly damage or destroy thousand-year-old redwood trees.
“Caltrans’ most recent environmental documents are deeply flawed and one-sided, failing to take a hard look at the impacts to the iconic ancient redwoods of Richardson Grove State Park,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of EPIC. “We are heartened that Caltrans remains subject to the writ and we can show the court the inconsistencies and other alarming shortfalls by Caltrans.”
“Caltrans receives another failing grade for its latest attempt to circumvent public review and ram through an unneeded highway-widening project without fully disclosing the extent of the damage that would be done to ancient trees,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity.
At issue was whether Caltrans had complied with a previous court order prohibiting road construction until a valid environmental analysis had been prepared. The 1st District Court of Appeals ruled in 2014 that Caltrans’ environmental analysis was critically flawed and the agency had to “separately identify and analyze the significance of the impacts to root zones of old growth redwood trees before proposing mitigation measures.”
Instead Caltrans released an addendum to its environmental review that repeated the state agency’s discredited arguments that highway work would not harm ancient redwood trees in the park. Caltrans allowed no public comment period and sought to dismiss the lawsuit and end the public’s right to a thorough environmental analysis of the project impacts, arguing that the addendum complied with the appellate court’s order. But Judge Kelly Neel found in the new decision that the court-ordered halt to construction should remain in place until the court can review the new documents released by Caltrans, and address legal issues presented by conservation groups in a 2017 lawsuit.
Project opponents remain vigilant in defense of the grove, with three current lawsuits challenging Caltrans’ inadequate environmental analysis and other attempts to dodge public scrutiny. For more on the campaign to protect Richardson Grove State Park, visit www.SaveRichardsonGrove.org.