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Droves for the Grove

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Editor:
Cristina Bauss' basic premise in her "Roads and Redwoods" article is that EPIC has taken up the Richardson Grove defense to keep "the gateway" to the Redwood Curtain "locked" ("Roads and Redwoods," April 8 & 15). This is a serious misrepresentation, one with the poisonous power of a half-truth. EPIC has taken up the defense of Richardson Grove to defend Richardson Grove. For Bauss to further claim on that mistaken basis that EPIC's advocacy for the Grove "raise[s] difficult questions about the direction of the local environmental movement" is as irrational and offensive as any of the far-out statements made in the Grove's defense.
EPIC's central concern with respect to the Richardson Grove project, from the outset, has been and remains the integrity of the grove and the state park itself. EPIC has come to question official justifications for the project not least because those justifications have been presented with an intensity and inconsistency which demands critical review. To paraphrase a well-read local political observer, something smells off.
Arguments for the Grove project now center on claims about the economic necessity of securing somewhat cheaper truck-based transportation for some export-focused Humboldt businesses. Any reasonable analysis requires that costs and benefits be assessed fairly. In the Journal's coverage, as in the breathless public relations campaign still being waged by the county using Headwaters Fund and corporate money, benefits are carefully tabulated while potential costs on both the environmental and economic sides are largely dismissed. Certainly, the claims about transportation costs that Bauss references were not presented in Caltrans' DEIR, where they belonged.
Even a cursory review of EPIC's achievements in the "post-Headwaters" era (whatever that means) puts the lie to Bauss' egregious assertion that EPIC has "struggled to redefine itself." Just the high points, quickly: halting the LPG proposal for Humboldt Bay; preventing the City of Eureka's illegal attempt to develop Waterfront Drive; ensuring water board jurisdiction over logging impacts on water, and a precedent ruling on application of the Clean Water Act to ditches and culverts along logging roads; serving for more than a year on the creditors' committee during the Pacific Lumber bankruptcy and providing crucial support for the Humboldt Redwood Company bid to acquire those lands (some might even call that proactive, or realist); setting aside forestry regulations which authorized the killing of coho salmon; and building a record as the most successful litigant in the nation in challenges to US Forest Service decisions. Oh, and a unanimous state Supreme Court decision. EPIC's current docket alone includes a dozen cases in project areas that include public lands, industrial forestry, biodiversity and clean water.
Bauss apparently wishes we had the wherewithal to fight more battles. It's not clear how turning our back on a key fight in Humboldt's front yard would help in that regard.
*Scott Greacen, Executive Director, EPIC *

Editor:
The North Coast Journal's attack on EPIC's efforts to defend Richardson Grove State Park goes to great length to lay out proponents' arguments, while steering clear of some essential information readers need. One key point, mentioned only in passing at the beginning of Bauss' first article, is the fact that Richardson Grove is a state park. No consideration whatsoever is given to why this fact might matter, much less why it's a central issue in EPIC's approach to the proposed Richardson Grove "Improvement" Project.
The reader is not told that federal law bars the use of federal highway funds for any project that might harm a public park or other recreation area without a showing that the action is both necessary and without practical alternative. No mention is made of the California State Parks Foundation's strongly-worded opposition to the project as presented by CalTrans, to the harsh critique by local state parks staff, or to the many efforts EPIC has made on behalf of other beleaguered outposts of our threatened state parks system. Not even a sentence takes up the question why environmental advocates might be concerned about Caltrans seeking to widen a highway through a state park, thereby placing at risk the roadside ancient trees that are the reason for the park's existence and its most important assets.
Another fact the article steers around is that so far EPIC and the Save Richardson Grove coalition has been quite successful in our advocacy for Richardson Grove. Due to these efforts, Caltrans backed down from proceeding with a negative declaration under CEQA; extended public comment on the DEIR due to failure to follow the law; and appears to have abandoned the giant retaining wall, one of the worst ideas in the original draft. In other words, the Caltrans changes, cited by Bauss as concessions by an environmentally conscious agency, came because EPIC and the community have held Caltrans' tires to the fire.
EPIC has seen attacks of this tenor before. If we had an intact ancient redwood grove for every lawsuit we had to file challenging the inadequate review and arbitrary decisions made by our state agencies, we'd all be a lot better off.
Cecelia Lanman, Redway

Editor:
The Richardson Grove highway realignment project has triggered one of the most important and divisive debates about local roads since the California Division of Highways began blazing freeways through protected ancient redwood forests beginning in the 1960s.
Next month Caltrans is expected to release a final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Richardson Grove project. The failings of the draft EIR — including inadequate consideration of impacts such as potential damage to old-growth redwood roots, increased truck traffic and growth inducements — have been well documented by others. That the Journal could expend 7,300 words on the subject and almost completely miss the boat on these failings is unfortunate.
Speaking of boats, let's change the subject. Let's move away from what we can't or shouldn't do to what we can and should do. That would be short-sea shipping.
If folks don't want to risk the health of one of the most important "gateway" forests in the world, and open up Highway 101 in our area to industry standard ("STAA") trucks, how can we otherwise support the many small North Coast businesses that rely on cost-effective shipping to sustain their slim margins and avoid relocation?
Support for these "niche market" businesses is essential. The financial solidity they provide makes sprawling real estate developments less attractive as an economic anchor. Most of these businesses could take advantage of short-sea shipping. Moving freight by barge from Humboldt County to the Bay Area is almost as fast as by truck, and it's up to 500 times more efficient.
It's also incredibly timely. Just two weeks ago the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a new program to "expand use of America's marine highways." According to a DOT press release, the new program "will help identify rivers and coastal routes that could carry cargo efficiently, bypassing congested roads around busy ports and reducing greenhouse gases."
Hey, that's us! We should be collaborating to take advantage of this wave of progress trickling down from the feds, and up from a growing cadre of our business and political leaders.
A vibrant short-sea shipping port can provide hundreds of solid, good paying jobs. Humboldt Bay is well suited for home-porting a West Coast marine highway that serves communities up and down the coast, much like UPS or FedEx. We have a centrally located dredged port with under-utilized facilities. Upgraded docks and a tugboat captain are ready to go. Federal stimulus funding to develop short-sea shipping is available. What a perfect combination! (For more on short-sea shipping check out siskiyouland.wordpress.com.)
Needed now is our own little Manhattan Project: A collaborative brainstorm and implementation effort involving the boat-building and affiliated industries, the great minds at HSU and College of the Redwoods, local cities, counties, and business and environmental leaders. Let's not think small. This is our chance to work together on transportation issues while providing infrastructure support that our local businesses need, and deserve.
Greg King, Arcata

Editor:
Why were there no interviews with many businesses that oppose the project, or with businesses that might be hurt by this project — such as our local trucking firms?
Why no mention of the opposition of the Intertribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council or the concerns of the Native Americans about their cultural sites?
Three of the four public meetings convened by Caltrans occurred before the DEIR was released and all four were sparsely attended. I was refused entry to a Caltrans "stakeholder" meeting because the public was "not a stakeholder"!
The county funded a propaganda campaign through the Headwaters Fund that included six "My Word" articles in the Times-Standard favoring the project. When we appealed to the Headwaters Fund for use of some of the remaining grant funds to educate the public and facilitate constructive discourse on the downsides and possible alternatives to the project, we were told by Kirk Girard that the county has no obligation to disclose all the consequences.
Caltrans has funded HCAOG to plan for future transportation needs related to land use, and the county has funded the Harbor District to evaluate the impacts of the MLPA, yet this STAA project has enjoyed no such public scrutiny or debate. When we have asked the Supervisors to engage the public about this transformative project, they pass the buck to Caltrans, while actively lobbying for STAA access not only through Richardson Grove, but also 299 and 199.
Your shabby articles, like Caltrans and the County, obscured or ignored important relevant facts and concerns.
Barbara Kennedy, Weott

Editor:
Some local companies feel that the services offered by local trucking firms add additional costs that inhibit them from competing outside the area. This is confirmed by the Gallo report, which also notes that these "extra costs" go into local trucking firms, and support wages earned by their employees and local truck drivers.
When the project is completed, local freight services will be bypassed to deal direct with nationwide STAA carriers, so jobs with local freight companies will be lost. For example, the lily industry will reduce its use of local trucking services, but since they already control their market, expansion decisions are not related, which is also confirmed by Gallo. So the net effect will be a loss of jobs in the local trucking industry.
Sun Valley states they could save 166 trips annually by switching to bigger trucks. The Gallo report says total annual truck trips saved by all firms in Humboldt and Del Norte will be 758 trips. This means over 20 percent of the gain will go to a company that will not be directly adding any jobs as a result, but we know will be using about 1,000 fewer trips annually from local trucking firms services. This translates into the loss of eight full-time drivers, plus support staff.
I've enjoyed working with the local folks involved in freight and believe they provide valuable services to many local businesses that deserve far more consultation and consideration in the process.
*Dave Spreen, Kneeland *

Editor:
Truck traffic. I looked everywhere in all that ink for some discussion of this most obvious and alarming consequence of allowing STAA trucks to freely use 101 as a commercial corridor on their way not only to, but also through, our county.
Sleeper cabs added to truck tractors should have triggered journalistic curiosity rather than blinders to this inevitable increase in big trucks on our roads, as has happened everywhere STAA access has been allowed.
Why are the undisputed consequences of ever-increasing STAA large truck traffic on 299, 199 and 101 completely ignored in your articles, and dismissed by Caltrans and the County?
Besides noise and air pollution, there is safety: Large trucks comprise 3 percent of vehicles, but are involved in 14 percent of fatal crashes, killing involved car passengers.
And congestion: Arkley's Marina Center predicts 16,000 additional daily vehicle trips in Eureka, but increased truck traffic (serving the Home Depot) is never considered, despite Caltrans' 2003 warnings: "Traffic congestion on US 101 in Eureka's commercial and retail areas due to heavy overlapping uses for trucking, through traffic, and local traffic [is a significant constraint on economic development.] ... The county's relative geographic isolation has spared it from some of the sprawl and growth pressures that have impacted many of California's coastal communities, lending the area a quality of life cherished by residents."
Gold, salmon, timber all had heydays, leaving us begging for something sustainable and wonderful. Large diesel trucks are neither, but a maritime highway is both.
Ken Miller, McKinleyville

Editor:
Where do I begin, Hank? I'm flattered as well as perplexed as to why you believe that I am the spokesperson for not just SRG (Save Richardson Grove) but for the entire coalition, including CBD (Center for Biological Diversity), Intertribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, North Coast Environmental Center (NEC), Sierra Club North, Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters, Humboldt Watershed Council, Trees Foundation and, most contradictory for Ms. Bauss, the California State Parks Foundation ("Town Dandy," April 15).
The most ironic and universal qualm about Bauss' "fair and balanced" series is that she did in fact omit all of the above groups also working to save Richardson Grove, aside from a few dishonorable mentions regarding EPIC. SRG is only one of EPIC's current campaigns.
Is removing 87 trees up to 24 inches and cutting, filling, compacting and paving the root systems of up to 40 ancient redwoods in a state park "a tiny little piece of roadwork"? How does anyone, particularly an expert as yourself, know which trees were affected by the original 101 construction and how many trees are still left standing roadside after a near century?
Is it not ironic that the local businesses that advertise in the North Coast Journal are the same businesses that will be negatively affected by the RIP? I anticipate your advertisers questioning the NCJ's duplicitous stance against local businesses and invite your readers to implore NCJ advertisers to choose an alternate route in promoting their unique local contributions that create the sustainable character of Humboldt County.
Jeffrey "Muskrat" Musgrave, Trinidad

Editor:
As a somewhat conservative person with traditional, old-fashioned values, I am not sure if I qualify as a "Grovie," even though I have been following the Richardson Grove proposed Caltrans project with great interest for the past three years.
I hold two jobs, one of which involves helping others find jobs. I am a financial contributor to The Gyre Cleanup Project, dealing with the plastic garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean, and my daughter is the producer, in conjunction with Sundance, of the documentary film currently being made to raise public awareness of this gyre.
I don't think I fit your profile as a "grovie" ("just hates jobs," not working on anything important environmentally). Nevertheless, I would like to address your question "is there anything that hasn't already been asked or answered." There is one essential question that no one is asking, not even your thorough reporter. I am surprised she missed it: "How is it that any business, large or small, is allowed to determine the fate of a California State Park, land that belongs to everyone in the entire state?"
Why is a state park -- which is, by definition, held in trust for all the people of the State of California -- being altered for the benefit of a small portion of one county's business population?
At a public forum in Bayside on Feb. 17, the Humboldt County representative for Economic Development mentioned that there are 15 Humboldt County businesses that need the road "improved" through the Grove so that they can have bigger STAA trucks. Cutting the tree roots allows them to cut their business expenses and make more money. That's nice for them, but what about the rest of the people in the State of California?
Where does it say in our state laws that a state park can be rearranged to suit the business needs of any one particular section of the state? Does this mean that any state park in California can be rearranged to suit the business needs of any local community? Think of all the State Parks you know and what it would be like if they are subject to the whims of the personal needs of any portion of the local population.
No matter how deserving (or desperate) they are, local businessmen do not have the right to disturb trees held in public trust just to better their own, individual profit/loss margins, particularly when their personal gain is the public's loss. When these giants die because their roots have been severed in the attempt to "improve" the road, everyone in the State of California will be the losers.
This wrong-headed "proposed project" is not in the highest good for the greatest numbers. It represents the kind of short-sighted thinking that has, in the past, resulted in impoverishment for all.
Glenda Hesseltine, Eureka

Editor:
Cristina Bauss reports: "The opposition has successfully convinced thousands of people that the process has been veiled in secrecy, no meetings have been held and opportunities for public input have been limited."
I wonder how you fact-check that one.
Oona Smith, Arcata


Sweet Spot: Oona Smith wins a Bon Boniere sundae for sending our favorite letter of the week.

Editor:
Robert Sutherland's criticism of Cristina Bauss' article ("Roads and Redwoods," April 8) would be more credible if he could keep his facts as straight and clear as she does. He begins by misspelling her name and pronouncing her work "disappointing," without exactly saying why. Perhaps because her report included views other than his own? Or facts that may not support his position? He goes on -- in the same sentence -- apparently to blame her for some dead tree tops somewhere else, presumably the ones on the Avenue of the Giants that were mentioned in the article? But he ignores Ruskin Hartley's statement that the Save-The-Redwoods League believes that damage was most likely caused by misplaced culverts that disrupted the natural hydrology.
In the same paragraph Sutherland seems to confuse his anger at Caltrans for not studying redwood roots and crowns with what Bauss actually reported, which was that there are apparently no scientific studies available for Caltrans to draw from on the question of impacts to redwood roots by cutting. Really. I Googled "redwood roots: impacts from cutting" and I got -- wait for it -- Cristina's article! (Add "soil deposition" and you'll get 19,000 more hits. Mostly, they like that.)
Worst, though, was the xenophobic and disgraceful attack on Cypress Grove, which he now blames for the havoc he knows Caltrans is going to wreak. Shame on you, Woods! So beneath a person of your intellectual stature. This is exactly the kind of rhetoric that has undermined opponents' credibility.
Finally, if the real issue is keeping Mammon out, perhaps The Man Who Pontificates In The Woods could better preach to my neighbor about that 50kW generator that never shuts off?
Signed: Former EPIC president and continuing supporter, and Cristina's life partner,
David Bergin, Piercy

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