Hank Sims / @ 3:41 p.m. / Infrastructure

Caltrans Relaunches Richardson Grove Project; Agency Issues New Environmental Documentation For Controversial Highway 101 Realignment at the South End of the County


A big rig sidles through the grove. Photo: Caltrans.

The local Caltrans office just announced, via Facebook, that it is once again ready to move forward with its longstanding plan to reroute a little over a mile of Highway 101 through Richardson Grove State Park — a controversial proposal that occasioned lawsuits and protests when it was first proposed nearly 10 years ago.

Caltrans has issued new environmental documentation associated with the project — which is designed to make Humboldt County accessible to industry-standard sized big rigs from the south — and, as before, they have found that the project is expected to have no significant environmental impact. (This finding and other Caltrans documentation on the project can be downloaded at this link.)

The “no significant impact” finding is essentially the same one that Caltrans made during the project’s first pass through the regulatory steeplechase. It holds, again, that its plans to smooth out some of the curves through the Grove, so that the big trucks may safely negotiate them without the need for lane closures, will have no impact on the health of the old growth trees flanking the roadway.

Still, Caltrans has made a few adjustments to the plan since a court ordered more study on the topic back in late 2014, in response to a lawsuit brought by the Environmental Protection Information Center and others. The total number of trees that will need to be cut for the project to move forward has been reduced — again, none of those trees are old growth — and the revised plan calls for slightly fewer square feet of pavement.

No word yet on whether the Grove defense coalition that assembled to battle Caltrans will be appeased by these changes, but given the vitriol last time around — it included billboards, an extensive media campaign and naked photo shoots, in addiction to the legal case —  it seems doubtful. Stay tuned.

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