Photo from

Search This Blog

Thursday, May 26, 2011

May 25, 2011: Injunction Sought in Lawsuit Against CalTrans

For Immediate Release, May 25, 2011

Contacts: Gary Hughes, EPIC; Patty Clary, CATS; Peter Galvin, Center for Biological Diversity

Challenge Seeks to Halt California Highway Project That Would Destroy Ancient Redwoods

SAN FRANCISCO— A coalition of conservation groups and local residents today asked a federal judge to stop California transportation officials from moving ahead with a controversial highway project that would jeopardize ancient stands of redwood trees in northern California’s Richardson Grove State Park.

The coalition seeks to halt plans by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to realign a section of Highway 101 that winds through old-growth redwoods in the park. The work would require crews to dig into the roots of towering redwoods that stand along the highway within park boundaries. Today’s filing asks a judge to stop the project until legal proceedings are complete.

The threat of possibly fatal damage to the prized ancient trees, as well as harm to sensitive wildlife posed by the controversial project, is driving today’s legal challenge, which is the second filed by the coalition. Caltrans has failed to evaluate impacts of the project in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

“The importance of this old-growth redwood stand, in view of the important heritage of the redwood forest, requires special consideration before projects that would impact the stand are allowed to go forward,” Joe McBride, a professor of forestry and landscape architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, said in today's filing. “Substantial, irreparable damage would occur to the trees in the project area. This would, in turn, cause negative impacts to the overall health of the forest.”

McBride’s finding is based on his scientific review of the potential of impacts to each tree along the project route — a review plaintiffs show Caltrans failed to undertake.

“This project will cause major damage to one of our most prized state parks,” said Gary Hughes of the Environmental Protection Information Center, one of the plaintiff groups and spokesman for the coalition. “For Caltrans to railroad this multimillion-dollar project by grossly understating its impacts is a violation of the public's trust and a wasteful use of taxpayer money.”

“With less than 3 percent of our ancient redwood trees remaining, we cannot allow Caltrans to injure and kill the precious giant trees of Richardson Grove State Park,” said Peter Galvin, conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We will fight this project to the end, no matter how long it takes.”

Plaintiffs are Trisha Lee Lotus, Bess Bair, Bruce Edwards, Jeffrey Hedin, Loreen Eliason, Environmental Protection Information Center, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics and the Center for Biological Diversity. They are represented by a team that includes Philip Gregory and former congressman “Pete” McCloskey of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, a law firm in San Francisco.

Lead Hazardous Waste in Richardson Grove

There is an important issue concerning Richardson Grove that Caltrans has done their best to keep from the public's eye. This issue is hazardous waste in the form of aerially deposited lead (ADL).

ADL is lead left behind from years of leaded gasoline use. On old roads like 101 that have been in existence since the early 1900's, lead was continuously deposited from the tailpipes of cars and poorly combusted leaded gasoline. This lead ended up in either the surrounding soil or moving downstream. In areas with thick canopy cover and deep rich soil, like Richardson Grove, much of the lead remained in the soil and usually ended up between 6 and 24 inches underground. The top six inches are usually lead free, as this is duff and recent soil accumulation post leaded gasoline.

Lead serves no purpose in our bodies and is dangerous to all living things. It is toxic to numerous organs and biological functions, including the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys, and reproductive and nervous systems. It is especially toxic to children, causing potentially permanent learning disabilities and behavior disorders. There is no safe threshold for lead exposure, no amount small enough to not cause harm. We all carry a pre-existing body burden of lead in our bones, blood and tissue, and unless specialized therapys are undertaken, it remains for life. That is why hazardous waste guidelines for lead exist. In Richardson Grove, levels of lead were found in many places to be above hazardous waste levels, and other places just slightly below. Considering how sensitive a state park like Richardson Grove is, with familys camping and people strolling about throughout the year, and automobile traffic up 101, one would think that CalTrans would care about the potential for exposing people to lead. They don't.

Removing leaded hazardous waste from roadsides requires great care and large amounts of money. Care and money that Caltrans doesn't have. This is why Caltrans is doing their best to avoid listing areas in the state as hazardous waste sites. They are doing this by either raising the allowable limits 30 times current standards in non sensitive areas. Or in the case of Richardson Grove and other sensitive areas, fudging the books and manipulating data collection. They did this in four ways;

1) Caltrans tests every six inches and then combines these together for a "Total Threshold Limit Concentration" (TTLC). If the combined levels exceed 5 ppm soluble lead its hazardous waste. Their rationale for using this dubious method is that all of the removed soil will be mixed up into one mass by the projects end. However, in the case of Richardson Grove, the project calls for excavating down 24" (except for new wall pillars that go much deeper), yet Caltrans only tested down to the 18" depth, avoiding the area with potentially the greatest concentration of lead. Caltrans website states that “Aerially deposited lead is typically found within the top 2 feet of material in unpaved areas within the highway right of way”.

2) The top 4 inches, which are lead free, were added to the mix to come up with a TTLC that was just under haz waste criteria. Yet this soil will not end up with the rest of the soil and shouldn't have been added. The FEIR states "The top 4 inches of duff (redwood tree and Douglas fir leaf litter) shall be removed, stored at a staging area location and subsequently spread out on exposed disturbed soils within the park boundary."

3) Caltrans never tested the area where the new wall is going and where the deepest excavating is to take place.

4) Caltrans used an inaccurate test method. Even though Caltrans has always prided themselves as being more protective from hazardous lead exposure than other states because they use a test method known as CA-WET (CA=citric acid), for Richardson Grove they used a method called Di-Wet. This method is known for being inaccurate, so much so that in 2007 WQCB issued a memorandum and action alert that stated “analytical data from the Waste Extraction Test (WET) performed with deionized water as the extractant (DI-WET) were used to classify a waste stream as non-hazardous. When samples of the waste were subjected to the correct version of the WET (using citric acid as the extractant), it became clear that the waste had been improperly tested initially and may have been inappropriately accepted for discharge to a landfill that was not permitted to accept hazardous waste. As a result, the owner and operator of that landfill may face significant enforcement proceedings and expensive corrective action measures.”

For Caltrans to honestly evaluate the potential for lead hazardous waste, they need to retest to the depth of 24”, the need to test the new wall site, they need to exclude the 0-4” horizon from the TTLC and they need to use their normal method of CA-WET when they test. But even then, the question will remain, will they manipulate new testing as well. Since the answer is probably yes, the testing should instead be done by an independent agency that can be trusted.

Dan Zimmerman / Environmental Investigator / Northcoast Ocean and River Protection Association (NORPA)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Food and Fun in Piercy on May 28th!



Food, music and games. The volleyball net will be up, the horseshoe court will be re-installed, basketball, Frisbees. The BBQ will be smoking nonstop. A kids corner will provide amusing books and toys. Bring your musical melody makers and something tasty to share.

LAW WORKSHOP: Get up-to-date information on the LEGAL STATUS OF THE LAW SUITS AGAINST THE STATE AND THE FEDS to Cancel the Plan. Find out how you can help.

Workshop on Nonviolence and consensus decision making: for those prepared to put their bodies on the pavement if need be.



FOR FURTHER INFO CALL 923 1491 or 923-4488

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Flash Mob /Pot Luck WED, MAY 25th


WEDNESDAY 05/25/11

6:00 P.M.


PARC is in Eureka in the Q Street alley between 3rd and 2nd. Go past the library north, staying on 3rd St. toward the Samoa Bridge; take a left at Q and 3rd, then an almost immediate right into the alley.

or CALL (707) 602-7551


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Musical Action!


FLASH MOB! We are really excited about the song we've written, a parody of "We Got the Funk" by Parliament. Here's the version BEFORE we changed the words to be all about the road widening plan through Richardson Grove and the resistance to it!

For those of you who haven't been involved in the flash mob so far, know that the routine is: very easy to learn, a lot of fun, and very informative. Our lyrics are in the link here: If you are a musician, than by all means bring your instrument. If you don't think you have any talent at all- no worries, it's very simple!

Some examples of other flash mobs:
Don't Get Caught in a Bad Hotel
Target Ain't People

Funky song and dance to prevent the road widening thru Richardson Grove! Let's bust out in this song and dance action where it counts. Takes about an hour to learn!!

Call Richardson Grove Action Now at 707.602.7551 or email

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Richardson Grove State Park Placard "Secrets of Survival"

And this is why CalTrans puts out so much propaganda trying to fool people into thinking that excavating and cutting the ancient redwood root system won't harm or kill the trees.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May 4, 2011 Lumberjack Article

Caltrans STAA Juggernaut Stalls at Richardson Grove

by Emma Nation

The Arcata-based Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) announced on April 20 that Caltrans agreed not to bid the Richardson Grove Improvement Project or otherwise move forward on their plan to widen Richardson Grove before July 1.

EPIC and a coalition of environmental groups and individuals filed a lawsuit against Caltrans for violations of the California Environmental Quality Act in the California Superior Court in San Francisco in May 2010, and the case was transferred to Eureka in November 2010.

“We are intent in seeing that the merits of our case are heard before Caltrans attempts to implement the project, and this development is an important step in achieving that objective,” said EPIC executive director Gary Graham Hughes.

Hughes cited “environmental democracy” as one reason for the legal case, stating that Caltrans has “largely ignored” complaints about the project from citizens throughout the county and state. The legal challenge is based on procedural grounds because, Hughes says, “It is the precise and correct facilitation of the environmental review process that guarantees democracy.”

The Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), passed by Congress in 1982 and implemented in California the following year, set the maximum limit for trucks on the national highway system. The largest rigs include sleeper cabs which, when coupled with the largest legal trailer, puts the overall length of the truck over the California legal limit going through Richardson Grove.

Caltrans terms their Richardson Grove STAA-access project as “a long-standing transportation priority” for Humboldt County.

California law allows maximum-length STAA moving vans and cattle transports through Richardson Grove, and these vehicles pass through the grove daily.

David Spreen of Kneeland has been following the issue since 2007. He points out that the largest STAA rigs are not the industry standard, but routinely referred to as “industry standard” to create an argument for imperative road widening through Richardson Grove and on all major routes into the region. He says the largest STAA trucks are not appropriate for Humboldt County.

“If we’re going to become a de facto part of the national highway system, what are the overall implications of that for the county? They’ll put a lot of wear and tear on the county roads once they’re off the highway,” he said.

Spreen says Caltrans asserts that the improved access for the big rigs will not result in more trucks, just fewer loads in larger trucks.

“To my knowledge, there has never been a project allowing larger trucks to travel through an area that resulted in no increase in truck traffic,” he says.

In a letter to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, Spreen asked the agency to consider the cumulative watershed impacts of road building the same way it reviews the cumulative impacts of timber harvesting.

Spreen cites a November 17 article in the San Francisco Chronicle by Peter Fimrite, reporting that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warned Caltrans that its storm runoff management is inadequate throughout the state.

Fimrite quoted EPA enforcement officer Greg Gholson: “At any given construction site the problems may not have required enforcement, but taken as a whole the agency was very concerned with the deficiencies that were seen.”

The Chronicle article said EPA documents revealed storm water discharges of metals, sediment, oil, grease, pesticides and trash from numerous Caltrans construction sites along California’s 50,000 miles of highway and freeway.

Spreen urged Water Board members to deny Caltrans a permit and send the matter back to Water Board staff to conduct a cumulative impact analysis to be completed by December 31, 2011, after Caltrans releases its upgraded storm water management plan.

Luis Rivera, executive at the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, said Caltrans' 401 water permit for the Richardson Grove project has been approved and sent to Sacramento for attorney review before it will be signed.

Although the agency is suing Caltrans for numerous 401 permit violations during the Confusion Hill Bypass Project (completed several years ago a few miles south of the Humboldt/Mendocino border), Rivera says the agency can’t deny a permit application based on Caltrans' past work performance because the water board has no power to effect reprisals for shoddy work. That matter would be up to the California Legislature, he said.

Answering concerns about excavating and severing old-growth redwood roots in the Richardson Grove plan, Caltrans says it won’t cut roots over two inches, and discounts environmental concerns that the work will harm the trees.

Caltrans states, however, that similar work on the Weott Four Bridges Project (in the planning phase) is “likely” to harm the old-growth redwood trees at that location.

The smallest, “hairy roots,” are the main water uptake organs for redwood trees.

Caltrans also states that it will work around the nesting season of the marbled murrelet in Richardson Grove, where potential nesting exists. However, the agency says in the Four Bridges project proposal that it can’t avoid working during marbled murrelet nesting season because it has to take advantage of the good weather.

Caltrans’ road widening project for Highway 199/197 may face similar problems to the Richardson Grove project, because the road through Jedediah Smith State Park also narrowly twists through old-growth forest.

The Middle of Buckhorn Project, a portion of Caltrans’ Highway 299’s proposed modification, has 17 curve improvements and is entirely earthwork—no bridges or major structures are in the plans—and could represent a major threat to the health of the Trinity River during construction and afterwards, as erosion often accompanies deforestation and mountain removal.

Chris Harvey, Caltrans District 2 Project Manager, calls the $11 million Middle of Buckhorn “a great project,” and says it’s funded by the agency’s safety program because of the accident history there.

Not everyone shares Harvey’s enthusiasm for the project, however.

Joseph Orozco, manager of tribal radio station KIDE-FM in Hoopa, and founder of the 7-Rivers Radio Network, says if Highway 299 and other roads were good enough to get the timber out of the region, they should be good enough for other exports. “If it wasn't for the roads, the logs wouldn't have gotten out of here,” he said.

Orozco says improving conditions for the big rigs would enable all traffic to go faster. He says Highway 96, which bisects Hoopa Valley, just off the 299, makes it difficult to develop the region's economy.

“People come in at a high speed and unconsciously go by at a high speed, making it unsafe for kids and others,” he said. “It's very easy to be in harm's way here.”

Orozco said fuel prices should be enough to discourage adopting transnational trucking as economic policy. “Keep the roads the way they are,” he advised. “They’ve been serving us for years. Keep commerce within your geographic area.”

In 2009 the Humboldt County Planning Commission disbursed grant money from the Headwaters Fund, which it oversees, to the Office of Economic Development to promote the Caltrans Richardson Grove Project to the public. The OED reportedly spent some of this money contracting a public relations firm to help prominent locals, including Caltrans executive Charles Fielder, write and edit six “My Word” columns in the Eureka Times-Standard, all promoting the Richardson Grove STAA project.
The OED supervises a branding scheme called Humboldt Made, and reportedly used some of the Headwaters grant money to produce a series of commercial videos featuring local products from the county's largest local exporters, including Sun Valley Floral, Lost Coast Brewery, and Cypress Grove Cheese.

These companies complain about the current cost of trucking their products out of the area, but critics of the STAA-access project say there is little evidence that their cost savings from using STAA trucks would translate into more jobs in the county.

Cypress Grove was bought last August by Emmi Holding Company, a Swiss conglomerate.

There have been 20 arrests for civil disobedience at recent demonstrations at Caltrans and before the Board of Supervisors.

Some say Humboldt County should develop sea and rail commercial routes because increased truck traffic sacrifices programs of economic sustainability and compromises the health of the region’s remaining natural resources.

Others say Humboldt County’s slow pace, quality of life, and natural beauty is what attracts tourists, some of whom see old growth redwood trees for the first time driving north on Highway 101 through Richardson Grove.

Wed, 2011-05-04