Caltrans faces new lawsuit over Richardson Grove Project

Eureka, Ca., (KIEM)- On November second several individuals, and several environmental groups filed a lawsuit they say is the, “third round in the battle between trucks and trees.”

The suit claims the California Department of Transportation did not adequately assess the environmental impacts of the Richardson Grove Operational Improvement Project. The project would widen parts of Highway 101 near the Humboldt county line to allow larger freight trucks to pass through the area.

That stretch of highway curves through old growth redwood forests and critical habitat for several animal species. According to a report assembled by Caltrans in May, the project would not create significant environmental impacts.

The Center for Biological Diversity, the Environmental Protection Information Center, Friends of Del Norte, and Californians for Alternatives to Toxins beg to differ.

“Caltrans would have us believe allowing oversize trucks to drive faster through the tight Smith River canyon will make this scenic highway safer, yet it will do the opposite,” Don Gillespie with Friends of Del Norte said in a statement. “We are challenging this project to protect motorist safety and defend our treasured Smith River.”

Caltrans emphasizes there will NOT be any impact to old growth redwood trees, despite the changes to the highway.

A brochure from the department of transportation says, “The minor realignment will accommodate industry-standard sized trucks while the completed project will maintain the curvilinear, highway, the old growth trees, the park ambience,
and the “gateway” feeling of the Grove.”

To back up those statements, Caltrans brought in a Registered Consulting Arborist, who also concluded the project would not impact the trees. A link to his full report can be found here: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist1/d1projects/richardson_grove/final_arborist_report_8-14-2015.pdf

For a closer look at Caltrans’ report on environmental impacts: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist1/d1projects/richardson_grove/fonsi_5-1-17.pdf