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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Monday, Feb 21st: CalTrans Lies Exposed!

We are here in this tree to draw attention to trees threatened by Caltrans' plan, and to send the message that we are prepared to stop the plan at any time, at every step. The tree we were in was one of a grove of trees marked for removal, including at least six ancient trees, on land to be taken by "eminent domain". Not one ancient should be cut!

The trees in the grove have all been spray-painted with white dots. When a tree is spray-painted, this means death. Caltrans has denied any knowledge of the marks and denied intent to cut the grove. The decision-makers at Caltrans originally wanted to push the highway widening through without a public comment period. And when public meetings were held, Caltrans had already made the decision to go ahead, despite a majority of people with real, valid opposition. Caltrans has misclassified trees, and made every effort to minimize the effect of their project in the media. With them pushing the plan so hard, why should we believe they aren't going to cut those trees? Why should we believe they have no ulterior motives? Caltrans will take license to cut whatever they want.

It is common knowledge that highways are the arteries of military, industry, development, and capitalist opportunists: everything which represents death to us. These things turn living places into dead, like Camden, New Jersey, or Pelican Bay. These things are "progress", and we say it ends here for Humboldt.


EXPOSE CalTrans' Lies and


CalTrans proponents of the federally-funded road widening through Richardson Grove initially tried to push the project ahead unlawfully, without the required Environmental Impact Report and thus, without public input. If a CalTrans [California Department of Transportation] employee had not discovered this disgraceful attempt, the Richardson Grove plan would have gone through without our prior knowledge or the minimal required environmental review. CalTrans' District One Supervisor, Charles Fielder, wants the road widening through the Grove to improve his political status with government and corporate entities. The highway expansion plan through Richardson Grove is no minor project, as CalTrans1* would have you believe.




CalTrans lies about the effects that cutting the roots of ancient redwoods would have. CalTrans denies that cutting the roots will kill ancient trees. CalTrans lies about the effects of paving over ancient redwood tree roots. CalTrans lies about the effects of pneumatically excavating the roots of ancient trees. Redwoods (and these are in a park where they are supposed to remain protected) cannot survive cut, blown out, or paved-over roots. If the ancient trees in and near Richardson Grove are not cut now, but their roots are damaged the way CalTrans intends, the old trees, next to the highway, will slowly die and eventually be cut. CalTrans will call them “dangerous.” Not one tree should be cut in Richardson Grove State Park. And we are not fooled. We know that trees are affected by what happens to their roots!

...physical damage that will occur to the root systems of these ancient trees will jeopardize their long-term health & well-being.”

Long-time horticulturist & plant pathologist, Stan Binnie, who now resides in Humboldt wrote in a February 12, 2011 Eureka Times-Standard Op-ed:

...I witnessed the death of hundreds of mature maple and oak trees from damage to their root systems during the construction process. The problem was significant enough for me to author a university publication, which is still being distributed to concerned developers and homeowners. Consequently, I have some knowledge & background to justify my concerns about the root systems of the old-growth redwoods in Richardson Grove.”

Mr. Binnie also cited Dr. Stephen Sillett of Humboldt State University, and a world-renowned expert on coastal redwood trees, as writing in a letter to CalTrans: “I have studied redwoods for many years, and my repeated observations of large redwoods near construction sites have convinced me that cutting large roots is a BAD IDEA if maintaining tree health and vigor is a goal.”

Mr. Binnie continued, “...Caltrans states that no roots larger than 2 inches in diameter will be cut during this project. However, it appears that no surveys were conducted to determine if any larger roots are in the area of the proposed project-which seems inevitable when dealing with such large trees-or where the roots are located... “... what will happen if larger roots are encountered, and what will happen if larger roots need to be cut or removed. Will the project be stopped or canceled? I seriously doubt it.

In Richardson Grove State Park, just feet from where the road project is proposed, there are signs that say: “AREA CLOSED TO PROTECT ROOTS.” And another nearby sign says: “Ironically, one of the greatest threats to a redwood's longevity comes from well-intentioned humans. Continuous foot traffic compacts the soil around a tree, damaging its network of fine surface roots and restricts their intake of water and nutrients. For this reason, visitors are asked to stay on designated paths.”

How is it that there is concern about foot traffic damaging the roots of ancient redwoods but there seems to be little concern over heavy equipment crushing their roots or the ...cutting, filling and compacting of soil over their delicate root systems. far as the trees are concerned, nothing good can come to them as a result of this project.

Why would we want to jeopardize the long-term well-being of these few remaining old-growth redwoods?...”

CalTrans downplays the impact and significance of the road widening project.

We know that it IS a big deal. CalTrans is relying upon an “incidental take permit”as the go-ahead to kill endangered species and wipe out rare habitats. “Take” defined by the Endangered Species Act is 'to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect any threatened or endangered species.' Harm may mean that a construction or development project, or resource extracting activity, kills or injures a listed species by interfering with essential behavior like nesting or reproduction. This project requires an incidental take permit which means harassment and death to otherwise protected species and habitats in and around Richardson Grove State Park- that may never again exist on Earth. Forests cannot survive in isolated strips. Redwood forests, in particular, have developed for thousands of years in circular, shallow, and connected root families.

CalTrans, in its mis-information campaign, responds to the people's outrage, to simple science and to common sense by casually claiming to care for our environment. CalTrans officials repeat over and over the incredible lie that the road widening project will not affect old-growth trees. If you look at the marker stakes in the Grove that show where CalTrans aims to cut, excavate, compact, and pave over, you will see markers leaning right up against ancient redwood trees.

????Why are there White Dots Painted on Ancient Trees adjacent to Richardson Grove State Park ????

The huge old redwood trees, which are on the Singing Trees Recovery Center property, were marked with white paint in June of 2010 - the property owners' knowledge. We figured CalTrans painted the dots during a survey but Kim Floyd, Caltrans manager for the road widening project through the Grove, denied knowledge of the marked trees. The ancient trees, branded with white paint, are between CalTrans' orange project markers and Hwy 101.

Do the white paint dots mark the location for CalTrans to build a retaining wall through the Singing Trees property - as part of the road widening project? Does CalTrans intend to cut the marked trees to make an equipment staging area? Does CalTrans want to wipe out the old trees to create a vehicle detour?

Any way we think about it, it doesn't look good. Road construction usually requires retaining walls, equipment staging areas, and vehicle detours. CalTrans' plan has stated the government's intention to declare eminent domain on parts of the Singing Trees property. Does CalTrans want to take out those huge ancient singing trees to accomplish their plan?... and not tell anyone?

CalTrans fails, in all public discourse, to mention its intended use of DEFOLIANTS. Agent Orange is an example of a defoliant. Just as defoliants had no place in the jungles of Vietnam, in the bodies of human beings, or in the waters that flow through the land, defoliants have no place in Richardson Grove or the Eel River, much less any forest or its inhabitants.

As CalTrans claims it can build a road through the redwoods with no environmental harm, it is being fined by the Regional Water Board for immense environmental violations on the Confusion Hill bypass. The Board's Complaint alleges 154 violations and 141 days that CalTrans violated General Discharge Prohibitions. CalTrans illegally and consistently discharged sediment, concrete water, and construction waste directly into the Eel River and into active streams. CalTrans caused welding slag to fall in the river and sent sandblasting waste, hydrolic fuel and other pollutants into the water and gravel bars.

One key point made by supporters and propagators (CalTrans, Feds, and ill informed locals) of the highway expansion project is that, as the road is widened, more traffic will flow quickly thru the Grove, primarily more (excessively polluting) STAA trucks. Unfortunately, a widened road and more trucks mean that rain & storm water, instead of being filtered by soil particles, will flow across the road picking up contaminants associated with air pollution particles, spilled oil, detergents, solvents, pesticides, and other toxins, which then readily make their way into the Eel River, the creeks running through Richardson Grove, and marshy patches along the river bank.

There is no basis for us to trust CalTrans to care for the well-being of our environment.

Have you seen Richardson Grove?
Do YOU believe the road can be
widened without CUTTING BIG TREES?

The only guaranteed economic outcomes from another NAFTA highway are crappy, short-lived jobs, less money for education, healthcare, and other necessary social programs, massive highway maintenance expenses, consistent access for unaccountable trans-national corporations, and the rapid urbanization of our landscape. These conditions will be long-term and pervasive, and will only get worse with time. CalTrans spreads misinformation about economic impacts of its plans. Widening highway 101 through Richardson Grove must be stopped.

The U.S. military defends the interests of multi-national and trans-national corporations, and the highways (i.e. "NAFTA highways") are expanded for both the corporations and their military protectors.


Highways were designed for the purpose of moving military convoys.

Today, they are still part of networks such as STRAHNET. "The Strategic Highway Network (STRAHNET) system of public highways provides access, continuity, and emergency transportation of personnel and equipment in times of peace and war. The 61,000-mile system, designated by the Federal Highway Administration in partnership with DOD[Department of Defense], comprises about 45,400 miles of Interstate and defense highways and 15,600 miles of other public highways. STRAHNET is complemented by about 1,700 miles of connectors—additional highway routes linking more than 200 military installations and ports to the network."

The Redwood Curtain area has been a natural bottle-neck blocking the swift access of military vehicles, tanks, etc for a long time. CalTrans intends to "straighten out" such rural highway routes so there are no obstacles to increased military access to & throughout the coast. There is also a plan to re-route Hwy 101 through Cutten- to pass the armory there.

With the Pentagon trying to station military personnel throughout communities in the U.S., with the Navy planning war games off the Pacific Coast, with the increased rounding up of undocumented people, houseless people, and mentally ill people, with the increased militarization of the police, with civil unrest more frequently occurring (thankfully), with the drug war continuing on overload, with military recruitment a major interest and enormous federal expenditure to keep bodies of poor young people going to war, with Obama's Council of Governors "strengthening" the power and alliance between state and federal "defense" abilities, and with the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, and National Security Agency doing everything they can to infiltrate every part of our lives and movements, there is no doubt that widening Hwy 101 and straightening out other entry routes to the west coast continue to be motivated (as most federally funded highway projects are) by military desires.


Only since direct action, media, and controversy have put the Richardson Grove plan in the spotlight (Feb 2011), has CalTrans acknowledged the 1500 trucks of nuclear material that would travel through this region from the Humboldt Bay power plant- if the highway were widened. CalTrans continues, however, to conceal the larger federal plan for nuclear waste to come into the Bay from all over the world, and then be transported through and beyond California on highways. The Humboldt County Planning Commission conceded a few years ago, that if the port in Humboldt Bay were to be further developed and the highways made accessible to more and more large trucks, nuclear materials coming from overseas would likely be transported through this region, with or without our consent, to Yucca Mountain. Can you imagine? Transporting nuclear waste only means extremely dangerous possibilities for all of us.

CalTrans lies when it cites highway safety as a priority motivation for the Richardson Grove project. There are rarely accidents through Richardson Grove. If the road widening plan was implemented, shoulders would be designated for trucks to drift into the shoulder rather than off-track. Pedestrians and bicycles will be in grave danger. Heavy truck traffic, including military vehicles, will make a once beautiful and safe stretch of highway through Richardson Grove, a busy and frightening thoroughfare.

"Expose CalTrans Lies and Mis-information" was written by Richardson Grove Action Now

1*Throughout this pamphlet we write about CalTrans, a State entity. While we may implicate planners, supervisors, managers and engineers from CalTrans, we are not referring to the regular, non-managerial workers of CalTrans. We know that many CalTrans employees are against the highway widening through Richardson Grove and hope they join us in the struggle to stop the plan.

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