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Monday, July 27, 2009

Reassessing the Richardson Grove Highway Project: A Consideration of the Consequences and Alternatives



The current broad public discussion concerning the Richardson Grove Highway Project (RGOPP) provides an unprecedented opportunity for North Coast communities to seek federal funding for the development of alternative transportation modalities, powered by non-fossil fuels, to meet the economic and ecological needs of our community. Short-sea shipping, for example, could serve coastal communities and help develop our Port in an appropriate way. Our academic, technical, labor, non-profit, business and government resources could collaborate on alternative initiatives that would avoid the need for disturbing Richardson Grove, a project that relies on anachronistic transport modalities and will foster uncontrollable and unwanted development.

Humboldt County will suffer significant adverse impacts if the Richardson Grove road project is approved. The project is too big, too consequential, and too transformative to be pushed through by CalTrans and the County Economic Development Department without the fully informed consent of the citizenry.

We believe that this project’s impacts on traffic through the county, its likely economic downsides, its risks to old growth redwood habitat, and its preclusion of better alternatives are matters of grave public concern that are trivialized by supporters of the RGOPP.

The Richardson Grove Project is linked to two other STAA truck access bottlenecks, one over Highway 299 at Buckhorn Summit, and the other along Highways 199/197 in Del Norte County along the Middle Fork Smith River. STAA truck traffic will then facilitate interstate and interregional commerce, as well as the unexamined potential for sprawl development along these routes as large franchise operations benefit from the efficient delivery systems. The risk to local businesses remains unevaluated but is clearly significant. Richardson Grove is critical Marbled Murrelet habitat, yet population demographics are unknown, and Caltrans proposes to survey for the endangered seabird only after the project. Analogously, the consequences of redwood root compaction and other disturbances related to the Project on the vitality of 28-30 ancient redwood trees are unknown.

Caltrans has narrowly construed the purpose of the Project to allow STAA access through the Grove, rather than to facilitate the movement of goods into and out of the County. Consequently, no feasible, reasonable alternatives are, or can be, considered.

However, approval of the project is not inevitable.

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  1. Of course trucks are getting bigger. We are at the leading edge of an energy emergency. It will last as long as this generation lives. We let them build roads instead of insisting Amazon development be railway based.

    CalTrans responds to what the people in the US need and want. No environmental group on earth has taken the trouble to be rail savvy. Like, anyone in the room read James N. Sites, Edward Hungerford, Joseph Vrancich, J. W. Barriger? If not, here's one for the modern era:

    Christopher C. Swan gives us a compendium of renewable energy tech, ways to apply to sustainable local power generation and mobility. "ELECTRIC WATER" (New Society, 2007) describes a "Guarantor of Societal & Commercial Cohesion.

    Grey hippies protested the VietNam war, and got into their gasoline powered cars and vans. Few ever really connected the ripping up of America's branch line rail network with foreign policy focused on keeping the Straits of Malacca open for the convenience of Royal Dutch Shell. Apparently, to this day.

    Cal Trans will eventually catch up. Fatih Birol, IEA Economist writes on the wall last week. Eventually, we will be thinking about preventing famine, not the lost forests of the world. Never too late to start, though! See ( articles 374 & 1037, in ASPO Newsletters 42 & 89, respectively.

    See you down the line

  2. In my opinion, San Francisco has got to be the best example of how rail can improve mobility. (Despite the fact that the BART system has suffered a few non-fatal accidents in the past month)

    Why can't we have an alternative to diesel trucking instead of spoiling our scenic route(Hwy 101)? An improved sea-port? An eco-friendly and non-intrusive rail system to the Bay area?

    Instead of trying to play catch-up with the rest of the petroleum dependent State, why can't we be the shining example of sustainable commerce and logistics?

    Our governor should stop pretending to be green and act in the best interests of Californians. California was the benchmark for new technologies and ideas. Where exactly are we with that?


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