Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Richardson Grove project opponents are gaining support from the outside.
The Albany City Council voted Monday to approve a resolution urging Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to rescind the Caltrans project to widen the road through Richardson Grove, with two councilmembers abstaining.
Despite it being a Humboldt County-based project, Albany -- a city in the San Francisco Bay Area -- is the first municipality to officially weigh in on the matter. The Albany council is forwarding the resolution to other Alameda cities and the Association of Bay Area Government, in hopes others follow their lead.
Although the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approved a letter on May 4 detailing the concerns of about 50 project opponents who stormed a board meeting in April, it seems no municipality in Humboldt County has officially taken a stance. The letter detailed environmental, circulation and project transparency issues.
Albany Councilman Robert Lieber, a frequent grove visitor, sponsored the resolution and said he had hoped that Humboldt County residents could stop the project.
”Since this is a state park, since this is a property of all in California, I feel like the people who are affected by this should have their voice heard,” he said before the meeting on Monday.
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 larger cargo trucks to pass. Although Caltrans has said the cut trees will not be old-growth redwoods, critics said there are other consequences.
During the meeting, Lieber said he does not support the kind of big box economic growth the project is paving the way for.
”To export that kind of philosophy north, from the bay area, from L.A., is just the wrong-headed idea,” he said.
Vice Mayor Farid Javandel and Councilwoman Peggy Thomsen chose to abstain from the voting. Thomsen said she thought the resolution was not enough action. She vowed to contact the governor personally, and encouraged others to do the same.
Javandel said he supported the spirit of the resolution and a part of him wished they could “let the road disintegrate” so that the grove would not be disturbed at all, but said he was not comfortable taking a stand against a project he had questions about.
”There's holes in my understanding,” he said, questioning why the project was being done when trucks can receive exemptions.
Several members of the public spoke in favor of the project, including Southern Humboldt resident and former Albany business owner Bob Stern, who described the grove as a “magical place.”
Caltrans District 1 Director Charles Fielder said he is surprised the item is receiving attention from Albany, and said he thinks the public has been misinformed about the magnitude of the project. He said it's been a long-standing project for the state.
”The work that is being proposed is very minor in nature,” he said. “I'm actually quite proud to say we've come up with a very creative solution for a very real transportation problem.”
He said the project will not remove any old-growth redwoods and arborists will be on site to monitor the work, which is being done by hand in order to have minimal impacts to the trees' root system.
The realignment work will occur in the structural root zone of 74 redwood trees, according to the project's environmental impact report.
Lieber, who said he owns property in the Trinity Alps and often drives through the grove, said removing any of the trees and adding the retaining wall will be a loss for the area.
”They're going to ruin the ambiance of the entire grove and it's just not going to be the same,” he said. “And it's a project we can't afford. The cities are having problems, the state's grabbing funds. There are other things Caltrans can be doing.”
The project will cost about $5.7 million to construct and $4.4 million in mitigation costs, according to the State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP). A majority of this program is funded through the federal government and a portion through the state.
On June 17, a coalition of environmental groups and local citizens filed suit in San Francisco Superior Court against Caltrans in protest of the Richardson Grove project. The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) is a lead organization in the suit, which was filed less than a month after the final environmental impact report was released.
EPIC Outreach Director Kerul Dyer said she's heard from people all over the state that are interested in the project, and the resolution only furthers the notion that this is a statewide issue. She hopes this resolution will be the first of many.
”Unlike the impression that Caltrans would have us believe, people do care about it and it does have a major impact,” she said.
Dyer said the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are in mandatory settlement discussion, but there continues to be concern over the roots system.
Fielder said he recognizes that there are residents who don't agree with Caltrans' findings, but the parties are continuing discussions to see if they can reach a consensus on the project's mitigation. He said the agency has already made additional changes due to public concern and would consider more changes if they can minimize impact.
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Donna Tam can be reached at 441-0532 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, September 16, 2010
You should be at Earthdance! Wherever you find yourself this weekend, join us in spirit on Saturday at 4PM.
My personal favorite part of the event is the worldwide "Prayer for Peace" that has happened every year on Saturday(the "International Day of Peace") at 4Pm, since Earthdance began in 1997. It is really inspiring to join with so many human beings in positive intention for the end of global war and suffering. We hope you come out to Earthdance 2010 this weekend and join together with thousands of your brothers and sisters here in Laytonville, as well as with the hundreds of thousands of participants in over 350 cities around the planet.
We hope that if you cannot make it to Earthdance to in the least join us for the "Prayer for Peace" in spirit at 4pm this Saturday.
Monday, September 13, 2010
The action Sunday morning went very smoothly. Despite threats from the Park about shutting down the project, Jack of Tree Spirit, crew and participants pulled it off. Over 50 "spirits" participated. I cannot wait to see the beautiful photos. I feel it was a great way to show the vulnerability of nature juxtaposed with the vulnerability of being nude.
Please visit http://treespiritproject.com/ to view Jack's amazing work. Many thanks to the crew and participants for such an inspiring action to save this amazing place we call the "Redwood Curtain"...
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
Richardson Grove Calendar for September 11 and 12:
September 11, 2010:
Camp near Richardson Grove in prep for Tree Spirit Project (and to discuss protecting the Grove - and everything else in our lives that would be killed or horribly altered if the road-widening were to happen.)
September 12, 2010:
Early morning meet at French's Camp outside Grove
7:00am in the Grove
9:00am Project Conclusion;
Shared meal and strategy discussion near river
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Willits bypass project dead,' officials say
The Willits bypass project is at a halt after more than 50 years of planning, officials reported Tuesday.
The topic came up when 3rd District Supervisor John Pinches noted an item on the consent calendar - a list of items that are voted on as a block because they are expected to be non-controversial - that would have raised funding to the Mendocino Private Industry Council, a jobs training program, by $300,000.
"In light of what happened yesterday with the Willits Bypass, it doesn't seem like there are jobs being created," he said. "Why are we spending money for training people when there are no jobs?"
The article from The Daily Journal continues...
Phil Dow of MCOG was called for an update, and told the board the council got a conditional funding agreement from Caltrans in June for about $126. million for the bypass. One of the conditions was that four permits were needed, one of them from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"We knew at time that the chief obstacle was the Army Corps of Engineers, which has control over wetlands, and we knew this was the largest wetlands take of any project handled by the Army Corps in the state of California. Everyone's known that for 15 years," Dow said.
After getting the three other permits needed, Caltrans met with the Army Corps "to decide what needed to be done to get a decision on the remaining permit" and developed a list of materials the Army Corps would need, with dates of delivery through 2012, according to Dow.
The materials were delivered according to an agreed-on schedule through Aug. 16, and the Army Corps told Caltrans to "back off" while the Corps reviewed the materials and made its decision on the final permit, according to Dow.
"We got word last Friday that their intent was not to issue a permit for the project," Dow said.
Thompson was in the area and called a meeting Monday with Caltrans and the Army Corps in his Napa office, according to Dow.
Dow, who attended by teleconference, said the reason the Army Corps gave for not signing the permit was that it didn't have enough information, and didn't have "the discretion to issue a conditional permit."
Dow questioned why, if they couldn't issue the permit, they agreed on a list of needed items through 2012.
"They couldn't answer other than to apolojize for the confusion," Dow said.
He said discussion between the attorneys for Caltrans and the Army Corps indicated the Army Corps does have discretion to issue conditional permits when the wetlands take is small, and when the project footprint is small. That raised the question of whether the Army Corps ever meant to issue the permit, Dow said.
He said contsruction was to start by next spring, and the project was to generate hundreds jobs for about four years.
"The jobs thing is bigger than the traffic issue at this point," Dow said. "Now that's not going to happen."