Court rules Caltrans not planning to go all crazy on big trees

If the Progs felt the end of the world was nigh when Walmart opened in the area’s largest retail mall last month, today’s revelation is all four Horsemen of the Apocalypse giddyupping right over their tree-hugging backs.

Although there is some federally ordered remapping of trees to be done, the Humboldt County Superior Court ruled in favor of Caltrans and gives the go ahead for the Richardson Grove Improvement Project to move forward. It might be the final straw that forces the environmental and job-hating groups to commit a Heaven’s Gate-style mass suicide. Oh no, slightly larger trucks are coming!!!

We kid. But seriously. In his 30-page decision, Judge Dale Reinholtsen said the court determined that Caltrans isn’t the Devil and doesn’t hate trees. Particularly really big, old redwood trees. And not surprisingly, he found that Caltrans followed California’s environmental laws just fine. Desperate appeals from oddly named people or groups to follow no doubt.

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Trees or trails?

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.

Coastal Commission slams brakes on highway fix

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Sign of the times

We wonder whether the starry-eyed enthusiasm that greeted the formation of the California Coastal Commission in 1972 might have been less radiant had proponents known then how broadly the protection of  California’s coastal resources would come to be defined.

What began as an ad hoc group with a four-year charter has, in the past almost four decades, turned into what some consider the most powerful–and imperious–land use authority in the U.S.

A recent case in point is the Eureka-Arcata Corridor Project, a Caltrans project demanded by residents following a series of horrific car accidents in the early part of the decade.

For the past six years, Caltrans has been working on a range of options to make driving the 4-mile stretch of road from the north side of Eureka to the south side of Arcata less, you know, fatal.

That was until last month when supervisors Neely, Lovelace and Clendenen abruptly decided they couldn’t move forward with the preferred alternative.

Now it’s apparent why. In a letter dated October 5 and addressed to the board, Coastal Commission District Manager Bob Merrill made clear his agency will approve none of the plans proposed to date. According to Merrill, Caltrans still needs to address a couple things, such as:

  • global warming
  • whatever level of sea rise may or may not occur within the next 100 years
  • greenhouse gases produced by the the machinery that would rebuild the road
  • greenhouse gases produced by cars which, presumably, would use the road
  • the dependency on roads that leads to the need to rebuild this road
  • the “intense traffic bottleneck” in Eureka
  • the need for “a guard-rail separated multi-modal corridor” (translation: trail)
  • safety precautions that might have saved the life of a man who died bicycling on a different highway
  • the “growth-inducing impacts” of using an interchange to cross a highway
  • the possible Historic Landscape status of roadside vegetation
  • the “community character and heritage” of same
  • the Commission’s rather precise requirements related to speed limits, signal placement, median width, headlight use, enhanced law enforcement and law enforcement funding
  • the “relatedness” of Highway 101 to other roads, and the bicycle safety, congestion, speed limits, etc. of those roads

Among the commission’s other demands is that Caltrans work with Humboldt County to pursue Scenic Highway status–with the obvious environmental and life safety protections that designation would bring. Additionally, Caltrans must help the county “provide attractive coastal visitor-serving amenities,” possibly including a light rail system. Also, the billboards need to be removed, and anyone doing business in the corridor should be “encouraged” to relocate.

Did we miss anything?

Maybe just this: It’s worth repeating that the commission’s current chairperson is Supervisor Neely who–for those keeping track at home–represents two agencies involved in this project, whether or not their interests coincide. About the only group she isn’t representing are the residents of this county who demanded that stretch of highway be made safe.

Neely has long proven she’s not above playing games with jobs, businesses, industries, economies, permitting processes, development regulations, zoning ordinances, housing opportunities, property rights, tax dollars, grants, committee memberships, public records requests, etc., etc., etc. It’s really not much of a stretch to add people’s lives to the list.

Caltrans project hits political road block

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Unsafe highways make excellent soapboxes.

After six years of studies, reports, environmental analyses, public input, modifications and multi-agency approvals, the Eureka-Arcata Corridor Project ran smack into a wall of silence Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors meeting.

Supervisor Jill Duffy proposed accepting the staff report and moving forward with the least environmentally damaging alternative for making necessary safety improvements–but couldn’t get a second for her motion.

Why not? Well that depends on who you ask.

Supervisor Bonnie Neely needed more analysis and findings.

Supervisor Mark Lovelace wasn’t “comfortable” making a decision.

Caltrans reps didn’t seem to know what to think, and asked the supervisors to identify specific concerns.

They couldn’t come up with anything, but fortunately Lovelace’s buddies over at Green Wheels have their talking points lubed up and ready to roll.

First–and who knew?–it turns out that cars produce greenhouse gases. Evidently Caltrans is supposed to do something about that if it wants its road repair projects to move forward.

Second, the preferred alternative calls for improvements to Indianola Road, which could lead to sprawl.

Finally, that alternative costs a lot of money and will reduce Caltrans’ ability to build trails for bikes and bums, which is what it really should be doing in the first place.

Brilliance!! We wonder how much it would have cost had the project not been cock-blocked every step of the way, and also how much more it will cost after another several years of studies and reports.

By now it’s probably irrelevant to recall that the impetus behind this project was to make a dangerous road safe. The only purpose it seems to serve now is to provide another platform for the lunatic left to spout its mad shit about the evils of rural living and the internal combustion engine.

Photo stolen from here.