That appears the be the question Caltrans is asking with its latest project proposal, which would widen four bridges along the Avenue of the Giants to accommodate non-motorized traffic.
According to the Times-Standard report, Caltrans acknowledges the project could have a variety of environmental impacts. And they’re not kidding.
Construction of the bridges would occur in habitat for protected marbled murrelets and northern spotted owls, and would not be stopped during nesting season in order to complete construction during dry weather, the notice reads. The project would involve working in the root zone of redwoods, or placing paving over roots.
Additionally, Caltrans would divert four tributaries of the South Fork of the Eeel River “for one to two seasons,” with obvious impacts to habitat and salmon.
Now, we’re not ones to go teary-eyed at the thought of a tree or two getting its feelings hurt. Nor do we think for a minute that the disingenuous hoopla over the Richardson Grove project has shit to do with the environment. It is instead a transparent attempt to continue to obstruct business development in Humboldt County. Period. There’s more environmental damage right now on the Northcoast Environmental Center’s property in Arcata than the Richardson Grove project would ever cause.
But the Avenue bridges project sounds like it could have very real impacts, and we hope the review process is both thorough and transparent.
On that score, sadly, Caltrans may not be getting off to the best start. John Driscoll notes,
The initial study was not attached to the notice, and an e-mail to the project manager was not returned by deadline. Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbee said that more information on the project will be made available on the Caltrans website on the day of the February meeting.
Yeah. Not cool, Caltrans. Get your story straight on this, or your bridges project won’t have a spotted owl’s chance in hell.