EUREKA- Caltrans officials updated the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday morning regarding a project to widen Highway 101 at multiple turns in Richardson Grove State Park.
Planning for the project began in 2007. Caltrans officials say traffic safety is one reason for the project, something opponents say is not an issue.
"There's never been an accident in Richardson Grove with any STAA trucks or the recreational vehicles traveling through the grove. So the trucks are already coming in," said Natalynne DeLapp, the Executive Director of Environmental Protection Information Center.
"Those trucks can't make the turns. You can't have two trucks passing side by side in the grove. If you had that, you'd have a collision and you'd have traffic backed up. It's one of those things, you'd never want to have happen,” said Eli Rohl, the Public Information Officer for Caltrans, District 1.
EPIC was one of the plaintiff’s in a previous lawsuit against Caltrans for the project. However, EPIC dismissed the lawsuit due to Caltrans rescinding its Finding of No Significant Impact report in order to potentially make changes to it. The rescinding of the report occurred after the California Court of Appeals ordered Caltrans to re-evaluate the environmental impacts of the project last month. On Tuesday, EPIC representatives told the Board of Supervisors that the project could harm redwood trees.
"Redwoods have long, lateral, shallow roots that would be underneath the road and would be potentially severed by road realignment," DeLapp said.
“What we're trying to do is make some minor adjustments in the alignment, taking pavement from one side and we're moving it and placing it on another side. No old growth trees are going to be removed. Any work done around the structural route zone of the trees will done by hand using air tools blowing dirt away from the routes, great care will be taken,” said Charles Fielder, the Caltrans District 1 Director.
Members of the Board of Supervisors agree with Caltrans officials that the project would benefit the North Coast economy.
“This opens us up to the STAA trailers, which are the longer trucks and trailers that open up our commerce to the east coast without having to transfer loads to be able to ship. So what that does is it lowers the transportation cost for all local vendors," said First District Supervisor Rex Bohn.
Caltrans officials plan to hold community meetings this fall regarding progress made on the project.