EPIC will continue in 2014 to advance initiatives that challenge unnecessary, wasteful, and environmentally harmful highway development projects proposed by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) on the North Coast of California.
In late December 2013, EPIC and partners received a significant set back in our efforts to “Rein in Caltrans” due to an unfavorable federal court decision regarding the challenge to the Willits Bypass Project. Despite the unfavorable ruling, our campaign to reform the largest road building agency on the planet will continue in earnest in 2014. Whether it be demanding that the State of California and Caltrans come to terms with the real implications of our transportation habits for local and global climate change, defending site specific sensitive environments like Richardson Grove State Park or the precious Smith River, or protecting the right of our communities to meaningful public participation in the decision making that can affect our daily lives, EPIC will keep the pressure on Caltrans in the coming year.
EPIC will endeavor along with strategic partners to hold Caltrans accountable to environmental law, and to increase the effectiveness with which local communities can influence the planning and decision-making processes of this behemoth agency. Our legal challenge regarding the Willits Bypass Project may have been unsuccessful in convincing the federal court that our concerns regarding Caltrans merited intervention in the implementation of the project, but we are steadfast in our commitment to defend and protect irreplaceable natural treasures on the North Coast of California from poorly conceived highway development projects.
In that context, on Wednesday, January 15, 2014, EPIC and partners, the Center for Biological Diversity and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, will present oral arguments before the State of California Court of Appeal regarding our California Environmental Quality Act challenge to the Caltrans Richardson Grove highway-widening project. The oral arguments for this case will be heard at 9 AM on Wednesday January 15, 2014 on the Fourth Floor of the First Appellate District Court of Appeal at 350 McAllister Street in San Francisco.
Two lawsuits were filed challenging the unnecessary project, which intends to widen Highway 101 as it winds through the towering ancient redwoods of Richardson Grove State Park. EPIC and partners prevailed on the federal lawsuit when the federal court ruled in April 2012 that Caltrans had been “arbitrary and capricious” in their use of “faulty data” in the Richardson Grove project documentation, and the court ordered that Caltrans develop new documentation that would accurately assess the potential impact of the highway development project on rare ancient forest ecosystems protected in the State Park. A parallel state law case was developed challenging the permitting of the Caltrans project under the California Environmental Quality Act. Hearings for that case were originally held before the Humboldt County Superior Court on March 29, 2012, with a decision favorable to Caltrans issued at the end of June 2012. In the wake of that unfavorable decision, plaintiffs explored all of their options in the legal defense of the ancient redwoods against the unnecessary highway development, and in December 2012, EPIC filed a formal appeal of the Humboldt County Superior Court decision. It is that appeal that will be heard in San Francisco on Wednesday, January 15, 2014. We encourage defenders of Richardson Grove to come to the hearing and to be present in a respectful manner in support of our state parks and ancient redwoods.