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Friday, November 26, 2010

Caltrans: Waterboarding on the North Coast

Photo by TreeSpirit Project Jack Gescheidt
Click here to visit the TreeSpirit Project website

One of the last hurdles Caltrans is facing in order to commence the destructive and controversial R.I.P.(Richardson Grove Improvement Project) is certification for the project from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Caltrans is required to uphold standards set in place by the Federal Clean Water Act, assuming that Caltrans is not facing a court order to cease construction from one of the multiple lawsuits currently in progress, including plaintiffs from big environmental organizations such as EPIC(Environmental Protection Information Center) and the CBD(Center for Biological Diversity).

The irony of the Caltrans permitting request from the Water Quality Control Board is Caltrans' blatant disregard for the Federal Clean Water Act in recent projects. One of the most striking examples is the recently completed Confusion Hill bypass project.

From August 17, 2006 to June 1, 2007 while during the construction of the two bridges that now span the Eel River at Confusion Hill, Caltrans violated its 401 Clean Water Act permit 154 separate times and had 141 days of violation during the construction:

"NCWQCB Assistant Executive Officer Luis G. Rivera recommended in August 2009 that CalTrans pay a $1.5 million fine for the violations out of the possible $3 million maximum that could have been levied.

According to the complaint, "the discharger [CalTrans] easily could have avoided many of the violations included in this order had it simply used adequate best management practices and timely reported the violations. CalTrans was warned in the two notices of violation that many of the BMPs utilized at Confusion Hill were inadequate and had resulted in violations of the Water Quality Certification and Storm Water Permit, but failed to take corrective measures."
From "The Willits News" 04/30/2010

How can we allow Caltrans to get away which such crimes? And why would the Water Quality Control Board continue to allow Caltrans to trash the already impared Eel River? Again!?!?

Only you can help stop Caltrans continued degradation of the Eel River by contacting the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and asking them to hold Caltrans accountable for their indiscretion to the law. Don't let these crooks get away with it. Again!

Contact Jeremiah Puget at the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board right now at 707-576-2220 or at Public comments accepted until December 9th.

Full public notice at:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Spring Construction? Fat chance Caltrans!

From KGO News Channel 7 San Franscisco:

Environmentalists battle Caltrans highway project

Friday, November 19, 2010

There is a heated battle over a Caltrans road project cutting right through a grove of ancient redwood trees. Caltrans says the improvements will bring the highway up to modern standards, but opponents say the project could kill old growth redwoods - and they're doing whatever they can to stop it. They've filed lawsuits and tried another more unexpected type of protest.

Fifty people, many from the bay area, are getting into position on Highway 101 in Humboldt County. A documentary film crew shot video of what was happening.

With a few clicks of the camera, Marin County photographer Jack Gescheight gets the shot he's after.

"We wanted to make a dramatic statement of our affinity, our affection, our love for a giant, old ancient, ancient, over a thousand year old redwood trees," he said.

All these people took off their clothes to protect Richardson Grove. It's a state park in Humboldt County, considered the gateway to Northern California's tallest redwoods. The park is known for its tranquil beauty - with one big exception. A narrow stretch of Highway 101 cuts right through the middle.

A lot of 101 is a wide four-lane road. It's the only major highway into Humboldt County, but the one mile section through Richardson Grove does not meet federal standards.

So although some trucks are allowed to drive through here - the longest commercial rigs are not.

"There are very few roads in the U.S. anymore, major highways, that have these length restrictions and most of the trucking companies have newer equipment that don't even have the shorter trailers," Rob McBeth from O & M Industries said.

McBeth says he's losing business because the biggest trucks can't get to his steel fabricating plant in northern Humboldt County, and he's not the only one. So Caltrans plans a $7 million project in Richardson Grove to realign the road.

Caltrans wants to widen the shoulders and move the curves to help trucks stay in their lanes. The project manager showed us the spot where the most change would happen.

"The trees on that cut slope will be removed," Caltrans project manager Kim Floyd said.

In total, about 50 trees would be cut, including five small redwoods. No old growth trees will be removed.

But what concerns environmentalists most is the plan to cut and disturb the sensitive roots of ancient redwoods.

"Caltrans cannot guarantee that their project will not harm the old growth. They are going to go in and they are going to cut through the roots of around 60 old growth redwood trees. We don't have enough old growth redwood to risk that, Kerul Dyer from the Environmental Protection Information Center said.

Caltrans promises to take all possible precautions.

"We won't be cutting roots larger than two inches and we're not going to work in the whole structural root zone," Floyd said.

But a coalition of environmental groups claims there is no scientific evidence to support Caltrans' methods, so they are suing. Caltrans won't comment on that, but defends its plan.

"The conclusion we've reached with our certified arborist is the way we are proposing to do this work will not have a significant long term impact to the trees," Floyd said.

Businesses near Richardson G rove that depend on the redwoods to bring in tourists are worried.

Dan Beleme operates a gift shop and the One-Log House, a home built into a single hollowed out redwood. He believes nine to twelve months of construction near his business will drive away tourists.

"This particular project is just to help one particular part of the economy - the trucking industry and a few really large retailers, and it's going to hurt the environment and the local businesses here," he said.

But the manager of Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka says that making room for larger trucks will help all consumers get products they want. He believes environmentalists are overstating the risk.

"It's a very, very small incremental improvement that we are asking for on that stretch of highway," he said.

Those who think it's a much bigger deal are reaching out to the Bay Area for support. Remember that photo of people posing au natural with the redwoods? The picture was unveiled at an Albany City Council meeting, just before members voted to ask the governor to block the construction.

"We should all be concerned about this. It's a very unique area and it's also a sustainability issue. This is at the core of the idea that we should build faster, build more, consume faster, consume more," Robert Lieber from the Albany city council said.

So far no response from the outgoing governor, but things could change when Jerry Brown takes office. So even with two lawsuits pending, Caltrans plans to start taking bids soon with construction to start by spring.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney

(Copyright ©2010 KGO-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Court hearing on Richardson Grove case in SF needs support: Please attend on Nov. 10

Just in from BACH!

Court hearing on Richardson Grove case in SF needs support: Please attend on Nov. 10


We need whomever can make it to SF on Wednesday morning to be in the courtroom for a 9:30 am hearing to show support for the great legal team who filed suit against Caltrans concerning their highway-widening project through Richardson Grove State Park. Caltrans has filed a change of venue motion, opposed by our environmental attorneys, and it will be argued in SF Superior Court, Dept. 301, 400 McAllister St. (at Polk) It is very near Civic Center BART.

It is especially difficult to get people out on a weekday morning, so if you are able to come, your presence will be especially valuable. It is likely to be short hearing.

This case for the redwoods in Richardson Grove has a fantastic legal team, so it should be an interesting session. Attorneys representing EPIC and the Center for Biological Diversity will be present.

You can call the BACH office if you have questions. We hope you can attend.


Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters

2530 San Pablo Ave.

Berkeley, California 94702