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Saving Richardson Grove
Marbled murrelet
Times-Standard, May 20, 2010

Caltrans to release Richardson Grove project final EIR today
By John Driscoll and Donna Tam

Caltrans has filed a notice with the State Clearinghouse announcing it has determined its Richardson Grove Highway Improvement Project will have no significant environmental impact.

A final environmental report for the controversial Southern Humboldt County effort will be made available today, said Caltrans Project Manager Kim Floyd.

”We're trying to do it as quickly as we can,” Floyd said.

She added that the notice to the clearinghouse had to be filed in advance of the final environmental impact report, and that the notice likely wouldn't be published until next week.

An opponent of the project, the Center for Biological Diversity, made the notice available to the Times-Standard Wednesday.

Both the Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) announced their intentions to challenge the project legally.

”Anyone who cares about California's redwoods and the rural charm of Humboldt County should weigh in to stop this disastrous project,” EPIC's outreach director Kerul Dyer said in a press release.

The project -- meant to solve transportation issues on a narrow stretch of U.S. Highway 101 -- would realign the highway through Richardson Grove State Park to accommodate larger trucks, and include widening the road, culvert improvements and construction of a retaining wall. The project's supporters have said the realignment would save businesses tens of thousands of dollars each year.

Opponents of the project have been arguing that their opinions have not been heard throughout the EIR process. At the supervisors' April 27 meeting, about 43 people spoke against the project during public comment, including Southern Humboldt resident Barbara Kennedy. Kennedy is a member of the Save Richardson Grove Coalition, an informal group advocating against the project.

Kennedy said Wednesday that the group is not only concerned about the environmental impacts of the project, but also disputes the projects' economic and safety rationales presented by the draft EIR. She said the group is also concerned the increased traffic would open up the area unwanted sprawl development.

Caltrans has said in the past that they have followed the protocol for the EIR public input process. The final EIR will be released with responses to public comments that were sent in, which follows the regulatory project.

Kennedy said it's not enough.

”But where is the public discussion -- where is the discussion of alternative methods that might fit in better in the future?” she said.

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