This upbeat gathering to celebrate and support EPIC public interest conservation advocacy has become an annual tradition of festive proportions, and this year there is a particular excitement surrounding the celebration due to the massive public support for EPIC work to protect Richardson Grove State Park from the insatiable highway development agenda of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). In late September 2013, more than 16 months since the federal court in San Francisco had found Caltrans to be “arbitrary and capricious” in their use of “faulty data,” Caltrans came forth with the release of new documentation for the Richardson Grove project in the form of a “Supplement to the Final Environmental Assessment.” The release of this documentation required an agile and speedy response from the broad community of North Coast residents and California conservation advocates that have questioned the purpose, need, and design of the highway widening project that Caltrans is proposing for Richardson Grove. Within weeks EPIC and partners, including our invaluable ally the Center for Biological Diversity, were able to decipher and break down the new project documentation, and prepare a succinct action alert that was circulated broadly by email and social media and that facilitated the submission of comments by nearly 10,000 people from around the state, the country, and the world. The message from this incredible movement of active citizens is that Caltrans either drop the Richardson Grove project altogether, or do a proper analysis of the impacts of the project, including a robust examination of potential alternatives, in the form of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The completion of an EIS for the project was implicitly suggested by the judge in the April 2012 court order that sent Caltrans back to the drawing board for the Richardson Grove project. Unfortunately the agency chose to ignore the court order and provided legally questionable and technically deficient documentation that will only lengthen the stalemate around the project and postpone the identification and design of comprehensive and community supported solutions for transportation planning, goods movement, and State Park protections. One of the triggers for an agency needing to complete an EIS is that a project generate a significant level of controversy. Clearly, the response of many thousands of people voicing opposition to the project, as well as a clear federal court order remanding the project to the agency for review “under a corrected lens of analysis” is an undeniable indication that this is a controversial project. It is obvious at this level that Caltrans must do a full EIS.
“The tremendous response of online activists, local community members, and statewide residents to our call to action to ‘Rein in Caltrans’ has been very exciting and inspirational,” said EPIC executive director Gary Graham Hughes. “Getting everyone together at our Fall Celebration this Friday will be a wonderful opportunity for like minded folks to relish this phenomenal level of citizen participation in efforts to promote a healthy human relationship with our landscapes here on the North Coast,” continued Hughes.
Whether it be working to eliminate the toxic damage from egregious cannabis agriculture operations, challenging the ongoing logging of the remaining old wild forest in our bioregion, or reforming the outdated and archaic Caltrans vision of perpetual development in an age of rapidly evident global climate change, EPIC is there as the guardian of your wild backyard. Joining the fun at the EPIC Fall Celebration is great way to support grassroots public interest advocacy in Northwest California, and a wonderful way to party with your friends and the team at EPIC. Come on out on Friday, November 1, to the Mateel Community Center and be part of the EPIC 2013 Fall Celebration.