Environmental groups file injunction on Richardson Grove project; motion to stop project claiming lack of information, irreparable damage
Nearly one year after filing a lawsuit to stop the Richardson Grove road realignment project, a group of environmentalists and individuals filed an injunction Wednesday, asking the court to put a hold on the project as it gets closer to construction.
The injunction, filed in federal court in San Francisco, alleges that the project would cause irreparable damage to the area, and includes a statement from a UC Berkeley professor who said the impacts to redwoods had not been adequately analyzed.
The court is scheduled to take up the matter on June 30.
Caltrans, which is still waiting on a permit from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board in order to start construction, said it plans to oppose the injunction.
Caltrans spokeswoman Julie East said that the agency was notified Wednesday morning and was still reviewing the document.
”We do stand behind this project -- it will not remove any old growth redwood trees,” East said. “We've worked very hard to minimize activity in the park and to minimize project impact. This project brings an innovative solution to a long-standing transportation project.”
The project, supported by many in the business community, is meant to solve transportation issues on a narrow stretch of U.S. Highway 101. The project involves cutting down several trees for the realignment of the road, culvert improvements and the construction of a retaining wall to allow for the passing of larger cargo trucks.
East said construction is expected to begin no sooner than this fall.
The Environmental Protection Information Center, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics and the Center for Biological Diversity -- which filed the suit along with several individuals -- announced the injunction in a joint press release.
The release called the project a waste of taxpayer resources.
”With less than 3 percent of our ancient redwood trees remaining, we cannot allow Caltrans to injure and kill the precious giant trees of Richardson Grove State Park,” said Peter Galvin, conservation director for the Center for Biological Diversity, in the release. “We will fight this project to the end, no matter how long it takes.”
Caltrans has emphasized that no old growth redwoods will be removed, and the 89 trees that were initially slated for removal have been reduced to 54 -- most are small tanoaks.
A Caltrans arborist and independent arborist Dennis Yniguez, who was contracted by the Save-the-Redwoods League and helped shore up the vandalized giant redwood in which Julia “Butterfly” Hill staged a two-year tree sit, each determined that old growth redwood roots would remain healthy and continue to take up sufficient water under the project.
According to court documents, Joe R. McBride, a professor of Forestry and Landscape Architecture and a licensed forester, said the reports made by the arborists were inadequate because there were no references to individual trees.
”The Caltrans documents and arborists' reports demonstrate that attention was not paid to the variation in the potential impacts to each tree, and distinctions were not specifically made between the impacts of soil cutting and filling, soil compaction, and increased exposure of individual trees to greater wind velocity,” McBride said in a signed declaration.
Additionally, arborists only looked at trees over 30 inches in diameter, which does not account for damage to the entire area, McBride argues. In his analysis of the area, which includes site visits and the reports associated with the project, McBride examined 108 trees in what he calls an impact zone. He identifies 34 trees that would likely be impacted that were not listed in the Caltrans analysis.
”The impact of the cutting of these trees should also not be dismissed since it can cause a domino effect of desiccation and tree failure along the margins of openings in the forest canopy,” he said. “The ultimate loss of trees would be greater (than) the number removed in the project due to these negative indirect effects on adjacent trees.”
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