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Saving Richardson Grove
Times-Standard, June 18, 2010

Environmental groups sue Caltrans over Richardson Grove; suit claims road-widening project will pose risks to state park
By Donna Tam

A coalition of environmental groups and local citizens filed suit Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court against Caltrans in protest of the Richardson Grove project.

Less than a month after Caltrans released its final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the project, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) and the Center for Biological Diversity are leading other parties in a lawsuit against the state agency. The two environmental groups are joined by Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, and local residents.

According to the lawsuit, Caltrans violated the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, in approving the project, which poses risks to Richardson Grove State Park.

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 to allow for the passing of larger cargo trucks. Although Caltrans has said the cut trees will not be old-growth redwoods, critics said there are other consequences.

”Caltrans wants to cut through and pave over the life-giving roots of ancient redwoods in one of California's most-loved state parks, yet expects us to believe there won't be any damage,” Peter Galvin, conservation director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release. “Caltrans' failure to follow the law puts these old-growth trees and the endangered species dependent on them at unacceptable risk.”

Caltrans representatives said the agency is not issuing a public response to the lawsuit.

”At this time, Caltrans has no comment,” said Caltrans spokeswoman Julie East.

The groups charge that the EIR prepared by Caltrans “failed to acknowledge the full extent of the project's impacts” on the tree roots, and to the area if the road is opened up to larger trucks. The suit is also alleging that Caltrans did not “adopt legally required measures to lessen these impacts and failed to consider less damaging alternatives.”

The individuals who have joined in the suit include: Trisha Lotus, the great-granddaughter of Henry Devoy who, in 1922, transferred to California the initial redwood forest which became Richardson Grove State Park; Jeffrey Hedin, an elected commissioner of the Piercy Fire Protection District and a volunteer responder; Bruce Edwards, a licensed contractor who frequently travels the highway through Richardson Grove; and Loreen Eliason, a Humboldt County native and the proprietor of the Riverwood Inn.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton