BOTTOM LINE: WE CAN AND MUST DO BETTER
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.