Home > Humboldt County, Lawsuits, Richardson Grove > Judge grants Preliminary Injunction on Richardson Grove project

Judge grants Preliminary Injunction on Richardson Grove project

The US District Court for Northern California granted a preliminary injunction on the Highway 101 widening project through Richardson Grove in an opinion filed Wednesday.

The lawsuit was filed by Plaintiffs Environmental Protection Information Center, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, the Center for Biological Diversity and several individuals.

The Court cited a laundry list of reasons for granting the preliminary injunction.  Below are some excerpts.  Read the 14-page opinion here.

“The construction calls for cut-and-fill techniques. In other words, Caltrans would cut the soil and fill it with sturdy, compact material suitable for highway foundation. This, however, is a main point of contention. (This poses a risk for the root system, which needs loose soil, not compact soil.)”

“A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must show (1) that she is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction, (2) that she is likely to succeed on the merits, (3) that the balance of equities tips in her favor, and (4) that an injunction is in the public interest.”

“Plaintiffs have demonstrated that irreparable harm is likely. They submit a convincing analysis by Dr. Joe McBride, a professor of forestry and landscape architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. After reviewing the [Finding of No Significant Impact], the two arborist reports, and performing an on-site tree-by-tree analysis himself, Dr. McBride determined that “substantial, irreparable damage would occur to the trees in the [p]roject area as a result of the proposed project.”

“Indeed, McBride clarified that 37 trees — 8 of which are old-growth redwoods — ‘would be severely impacted,’ and those severe impacts would “likely include . . . deaths [of trees].” Plaintiffs have provided sufficient information that harm is likely.”

“Nonetheless, at the preliminary injunction stage, plaintiffs must demonstrate irreparable injury and, in this case, they have done so.”

“Plaintiffs’ strongest argument on the merits is that Caltrans violated [National Environmental Policy Act] by (1) not
adequately evaluating the potential environmental impact, and as a result, (2) not completing an EIS. In allegedly miscategorizing the project as having ‘no significant’ effect, Caltrans ended its environmental review with a mere [Environmental Assessment] instead of creating a full [Environmental Impact Statement] analysis.”

“Plaintiffs have raised serious questions concerning whether Caltrans’ statement of reasons was arbitrary and capricious. For example, in its final EA, Caltrans issued a FONSI — a finding of no significant impact. There is too much evidence, however, that the impact would be significant.”

[Photo credit: CalTrans]

  1. Pitchfork
    July 6, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    It’s good to see sanity prevailing in the courts (ie coastal commission and Richardson Grove) unlike the wacko local government (Eureka)

  2. 06em
    July 6, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    I love that Caltrans issued a FONSI. That’s like a Fonzi: “Aaaaaaaay”

  3. Just call me Guest
    July 6, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Hmm, looks like that photo was scraped from the CalTrans web page!

  4. July 6, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    What a waste of time and money!

  5. July 6, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    I could switch it out for a a similar shot from the EPIC website, but who cares?

  6. Anonymous
    July 6, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    I have to agree with Charles Bean on this one. More often than not I would be on the “other side” but just can’t get on board with the objections to this project.

  7. July 6, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Too bad the judge didn’t get to hear your compelling(?) argument.

  8. July 6, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    Honestly, I would have been amazed if the judge didn’t grant this injunction. They clearly met the criteria necessary to grant one, and the order explains exactly why. It doesn’t take much.

    However, I will be surprised if EPIC et al. win this one. My money’s on Caltrans winning on summary judgement, if their legal team gets their act together in time. Will definitely be fun to watch. :)

  9. Misty
    July 6, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    This is great news, since Caltrans keeps promising to start every month, despite two lawsuits going on. Caltrans keeps telling the press they will start, and telling the Judge they will not start until after the final hearing. How can anyone believe Caltrans, when they lie so much?

    This state park is supposed to already be protected, and it seems counter productive that people have to go to court to protect something that should already be protected. Thank goodness Judge Alsup sees through all the lies from Caltrans to the truth that this is a very serious issue. Cutting the roots of the ancient old growth redwoods, after pulling off the old toxic asphalt, then smothering the roots with new toxic asphalt, and logging supporting trees is not ok.

    We already pay the price for shipping at the cash register, so if these companies are so hell-bent on damaging a State Park to make more money that will not trickle down, they should move to Santa Rosa, Redding, or Texas. Enough of this moving up here to get a better deal on property, and then cutting away anything in the way. Finally, truth prevails.

  10. Anonymous
    July 7, 2011 at 12:38 am

    A good example why Cali is in the toilet. The loons are in charge of the assylum.

  11. July 7, 2011 at 1:06 am

    Misty, I wouldn’t put too much faith in judges. They know which side their bread is buttered on.

  12. Ponder z
    July 7, 2011 at 6:15 am

    What about the threts to the contractors in this project, HH? You dont report that because it is negative to your cause? The letter of thret, claims a majority of Californians are agaist this project. That is just not true. The truth is that thouse againt it are are all protesters. A few hundered. They will remove some trees, widen the road. Big deal. Its not adding eight lanes.

  13. Walt
    July 7, 2011 at 6:17 am

    “The loons are in charge of the asylum.” Is that, like, democracy or somethin? Hope it doesn’t spread. . .

  14. High Finance
    July 7, 2011 at 8:19 am

    California is insane.

  15. sidestepper
    July 7, 2011 at 9:36 am

    More like over 15,000 people from all over are against this project :


  16. skippy
    July 7, 2011 at 9:48 am

    and how insane will that become?

    An anti-Richardson Grove project activist group is threatening a “PR nightmare” to any company working on the Caltrans U.S. Highway 101 road widening project. Letters signed by Richardson Grove Action Now — the same group that led protests at Caltrans’ office and the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors chambers — were sent out to local and out-of-the-area contractors in early May, but have recently caught the attention of the FBI, according to a local contractor.

    “The letter discourages contractors from bidding on the project, indicating that members of the group would physically stop the project and obstruct their businesses by stopping machines, blocking work, and tying up phone and fax lines. The project involves cutting down several trees for the realignment of the road, culvert improvements and the construction of a retaining wall to allow for the passing of larger cargo trucks. No redwood trees are slated for removal.

    We’ve seen this before. Passionate environmental activism? Eco terrorism? Oh, the insanity, the horror, and the wacky fun of it all…

    More of this– and the RGAN group’s full letter– in Donna Tam’s Times-Standard article today, ‘Richardson Grove Activists Threaten Disruptions for Potential Project Contractors.’

  17. William Verick
    July 7, 2011 at 10:08 am

    I don’t get why these private trucking companies keep insisting on a handout from the government.

    I’m in favor of private enterprise. If trucking companies and their customers want to have giant trucks running to Humboldt County, let them negotiate easements with each individual private land owner along the way and then build their own damn highway.

  18. Decline To State
    July 7, 2011 at 10:44 am

    With the longer trucks will they need to re-engineer the corner of Broadway and Fifth as well?

  19. July 7, 2011 at 11:15 am

    LOGIC__Calm presentation of possibile pending problems in a State Park–and a judge examines the problem and acts.Thanks!!

  20. eurekite
    July 7, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    There is no legitimate need for this project.

    Meanwhile, there are significant transportation projects not being considered that would benefit the region.

    Moreover, Caltrans tried to sneak this one by the law. EPIC should be applauded for forcing them to at least pay lip service to the law of the land which dictates what type of study must be done before widening a highway. It’s egregious that Caltrans would try and blow this requirement off in any instance, but ridiculously so that they would make that attempt in a fucking state park.

    The burden of proof on the necessity of this project is on those who want to pursue it.

  21. mighty Joe 'Papa'
    July 7, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    just say NO to FONZI schemes

  22. funnygirl
    July 7, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Ok – its a state park. It is also a federal highway. My wife thinks that it shouldn’t be done. I don’t see the problem as it is not going to significantly affect the redwood trees. It is already a highway. There are 2000 acres of redwoods. They are not cutting any. What this issue is really about is big trucks coming to Humboldt county and somehow ruining our marijuana growing way of life.

  23. Plain Jane
    July 7, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    It’s easy to not see a problem if you don’t read the court’s opinion.

  24. tra
    July 7, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    I don’t see the problem as it is not going to significantly affect the redwood trees.

    You state that as if it were fact, but in reality this is exactly what the dispute is about.

    Personally I, too, have tended to doubt that the impact would be all that significant (because I see lots of healthy-looking Old Growth trees right by the edge of the pavement along the existing Richardson Grove roadway, and along the Avenue of the Giants, etc.), but there does appear to be some credible science that suggests otherwise.

    And the judge’s ruling, granting the injunction, states that the plaintiffs are “likely to succeed” on the issue of whether CalTRANS has failed study the issue adequately, as required under the law.

  25. funnygirl
    July 7, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    Explain the Drive-Thru-Tree. Why isn’t it dead?

  26. Anonymous
    July 7, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    this is an abuse of the system, these people should be ashamed and flogged

  27. tra
    July 7, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Apparently the judge disagrees with your learned opinion.

  28. Epaminondas
    July 8, 2011 at 7:19 am

    9:27 where does “stealing elections” stand in your world? Above or below “abuse of the system”? Just curious. Thank you.

  29. Plain Jane
    July 8, 2011 at 7:55 am

    My inexpert explanation for the Drive-Thru-Tree is that for many decades cars didn’t weigh nearly as much as they weigh now and the tree had time to establish new roots which grew away from the area impacted by the weight of cars.

  30. Lightnin' Lloyd
    July 8, 2011 at 9:41 am

    The problem is not only the impact on the trees in Richardson Grove, but also the physical impacts on Hwy 101 and the effects that a massive increase in truck traffic will have on the mellow rural lifestyle we came here for. When that corridor opens up, it will swing wide the floodgates to interstate trucking right through our communities, and OMG – just imagine the impact on traffic through Eureka.

  31. Anonymous
    July 8, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Plain Jane manipulates once again! Cars are more plastic today than metal…plastic is lighter than metal. PJ is a known liar, nothing new. The Herald is falling deeper into the abyss.


  32. tra
    July 8, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Actually, Jane, cars used to weigh quite a lot back in the 60’s and early 70’s before they got a lot lighter in the late 70’s and 80’s. I suppose the advent of lots of SUVs in the 90’s and ’00s has probably moved the trend back in the other direction.

    The better response to the Drive-Through Tree question is that it’s a lot like pointing to one heavy smoker who lived to age 90 and asking “if smoking is bad for you, why did so-and-so live to age 90?” One exceptional case, or even a handful of them, does not make the case that a particular factor is not deleterious to health.

  33. tra
    July 8, 2011 at 10:32 am

    When that corridor opens up, it will swing wide the floodgates to interstate trucking right through our communities

    I have yet to hear it explained where all these trucks will be coming from, and where they will be going to — the massive metropolis of Crescent City in Del Nortre?

    The fact is, we’re not really in the middle of any desirable interstate trucking route. No trucking company, and no trucker in their right mind is going to take hilly, curvy, out-of-the-way 101 instead of just taking I-5 to get from the Bay Area or Sacramento to Portland or Seattle.

    There are good arguments against the RG project, but this is a pretty stupid one.

  34. Ed
    July 8, 2011 at 10:45 am

    I agree with the floodgates analogy. Khyber Pass also comes to mind. Big boxes love big trucks and we all can see what happens next. What? You don’t think developers aren’t drooling over the north coast?

  35. Bolithio
    July 8, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Once again, people distort the science of forests and trees to advance their agenda. I could care less about this project. So I wont speak to that, other than there are some valid points as to why it shouldn’t happen.

    Saving the trees is not one of them.

    While it doesn’t always suite peoples commonly held beliefs, it turns out that redwoods are much more resilient than originally thought. Infact, this amazing tree is tough as nails. They resist fire due to their think and fibrous bark. They resist insect attack from their chemical make up at the cambium. They also resist damage from flooding by evolving to reproduce roots rapidly. Naturally, wind throw is generally their greatest cause of mortality. Even then, they tend to hang on, growing as twisted suckers until their new shoots take over the nutrient production and ultimately become trees themselves.

    Yes its terrible that the pioneer era saw the removal of most of the late successionial resource. In many parts of the county this practice caused serious shifts in vegetation regimes and in some cases actual deforestation. Fortunately for us however, redwoods have survived and continue to thrive.

    There is no credible study, report, or anything else that suggest redwoods are fragile, weak, or in anyway harmed by … lets say a year round camp ground with 50 or so buildings, power lines, buried pipes and gas lines, a freeway passing through it, with hundreds of people tramping though it daily year round. Richardson Grove in allot of ways is the perfect example of how generally perceived impacts to the tree are simply not true.

    The reason the Chandelier Tree shows absolutely no signs of damage after almost a century of intensive tourism and compaction, is becuase redwoods are one of the toughest, most resilient trees on earth.

  36. Anonymous
    July 9, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    EPIC just keeping it real. Billable hours must be found. My God there’s an enviro corporation to run!

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