Your Redwood State Park:
Richardson Grove, gateway to redwood country
BIG TRUCKS or BIG TREES?
What do YOU want?
Traveling north on Highway 101, there is a place where the term “Gateway to the Redwood Country” resonates as the canopy suddenly shades the pavement, the Eel River rounds the bend and there is green as high up as you can see. As the roadway twists and turns, it meanders through Richardson Grove, which has been protected as a State Park since 1922. It is a California treasure and world-class park.
Read on to see how you can help to keep it that way.
Why does Caltrans want to widen highway 101 through this beautiful stretch of forest?
Caltrans states in their EIR that they regard widening and re-aligning the highway an “improvement” (their name for the project is “Richardson Grove Improvement Project” or R.I.P.) that would allow for accommodation of larger trucks carrying goods to and from the retail industry.
HOWEVER, the larger trucks (called STAA trucks, permitted by the Surface Transportation Administration Act) already travel that stretch of 101, via state exemption. They just have to slow down when passing through the area of tight turns. Doesn’t slowing down in the presence of these majestic beings that have lived well over a millennia make sense?
>> Caltrans tries to argue that the ancient redwoods and forest that surround them will suffer no adverse impacts, even though they plan to cut at least 54 trees and excavate around the roots of over 100 trees, many of them the redwood giants.
HOWEVER, Joe McBride, professional forester and PhD Professor of Forestry and Landscape Architecture at UC Berkeley, studied the CalTrans documents on the project to assess the impacts resulting from the proposed changes in road alignment and associated proposed actions including cut and fill of soil, culvert work, and tree removal. Dr. McBride walked the project and did a tree-by-tree analysis.
Significant among his findings is that Caltrans failed to adequately identify all trees that would be impacted by the project and neglected to describe or adequately address the extent of soil cutting and fill in the vicinity of each old growth tree. Caltrans failed to give accurate size of the trees, or even correctly count the impacted trees. Dr. McBride submitted to the federal court his conclusive opinion that substantial, irreparable damage would occur to the trees in the project area as a result of the proposed project, in a declaration attached to lawsuits filed against Caltrans. Humboldt County-based EPIC and the Center for Biological Diversity has challenged Caltrans’ “R.I.P” in state and federal court, along with other plaintiffs. The next hearing is expected in Dec. 2011. Join our alert list to get notices.
Old growth redwood tree roots extend laterally as much as 500 feet to communicate with neighboring trees. They have no deep, anchoring taproots, and absorb water from fog drip via their extensive roots in shallow soil. Root compression and exhaust will degrade the grove, as they have the trees all along the Highway of Giants. Richardson Grove is federally designated Marbled Murrelet critical habitat, and other species of concern are at risk, including the Northern Spotted Owl.
>> Won’t the project to widen the road help the local, rural economy, which is already hurting with the decline of the timber industry?
THE TRUTH IS, the tourist industry is one of our greatest local economic drivers for the north coast communities, and Caltrans did not consider impact on those local businesses. Moreover, Richardson Grove State Park and other redwood parks are known the world over, and draw visitors from all over the globe. We need to preserve and protect our parks, coast and forest ecosystems if tourism on the north coast is to support the rural economy.
If we continue our dependence on diesel trucking, trucks will continue to get bigger and heavier and freeways will expand to accommodate them–not for us or the forest ecosystem. Supply lines will continue to extend further. Focusing on localization and sustainability are better routes.
>> The “engine” behind this boondoggle project—the trucking industry—says “STAA” trucks are more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly.
HOWEVER, All trucks must comply with the same air quality regulations. Smaller trucks, filled to the weight limit, are more efficient than larger, heavier trucks with a load that is at weight capacity but still leaves the truck partly empty. STAA trucks are inefficient carriers of heavy loads. For large, but relatively lighter loads, using smaller tractors to pull longer trailers is more efficient than employing the larger, heavier truck assemblies. All highway trucks are allowed the same maximum gross weight of 80,000 lbs. However, the larger the truck, the heavier its empty weight, allowing it to carry less product weight. For example, food products are heavy and reach their maximum weight before they fill their cubic space. This is why Safeway and Costco use 48’ trailers and Winco uses 53’ trailers.
The planet is experiencing climate change—glaciers melting, sea rise increasing—and whatever the cause, no one can argue that our way of life is wasteful in the extreme with our emphasis on the unending marketing and consumption of consumer goods to fuel the economy.
>> Caltrans gave short shrift to alternatives to bigger trucks for goods movement.
However, although CalTrans offers no alternative to STAA trucks to move goods in and out of the County, there are preferable options available. For example, short-sea shipping, especially powered by locally generated, non-fossil fuels, is far more fuel efficient per ton-mile than long-haul trucking. A maritime highway servicing coastal communities from Seattle to the Mexican border, home-ported in Humboldt, is a feasible alternative that could meet almost all the needs of local businesses while developing our port facilities appropriately, without flooding our highways with large diesel trucks.
Road widening is irreversible, why rush into anachronistic approaches that foreclose modern alternatives?
We Say SLOW DOWN! Help Us Stop Caltrans! Respect the Redwood Elders!
Caltrans project to bring heavy equipment into the redwoods of Richardson Grove State Park is EXPENSIVE, NOT NECESSARY and a DISASTER FOR THE ANCIENT TREES.
Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters www.HeadwatersPreserve.org (510) 548-3113
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