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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Humboldt County's Biggest Developer Uses His Daily Newspaper to Push Highway 101 Widening Through Ancient Redwoods

"Big Trees or Big Trucks"

From EcoNews, the monthly newspaper published by the NorthCoast Environmental Center.

December 2007

By Greg King, Executive Director

The November 23 issue of the Eureka Reporter con­tains an editorial that condemns the NEC’s comments to CalTrans on the agency’s plan to widen Highway 101 through Richardson Grove. That’s on page four. On page five, taking up the entire right column, is an incoherent and fallacious hit-piece against me by former Pacific Lumber president and current mayor of Fortuna, John Campbell.

The one-two punch was unexpected, but its origins are clear.

My comments to CalTrans challenged the agency’s unfortunate plan to widen Highway 101 through what is the first ancient redwood grove seen by anyone heading to Humboldt from the south. I had asked the agency to produce an Environmental Impact Report, rather than the planned “negative dec­laration,” in order to more fully explore the unknown environmental impacts to the grove, as well as to Hum­boldt County as a whole, by widening the road. CalTrans’ sole justification for the widening project was to allow longer trucks into Humboldt County (You can find the NEC’s comments at

Click here to read Greg's letter to CalTrans,

And for the Eureka Reporter's articles:

Why the need for longer trucks? Why threaten the very existence of these rare Southern Humboldt ancient redwood trees just for an extra seven feet of trailer space?

The answer, it turns out, is development.

About four months ago I spoke with someone close to operations at the county level who told me that big box stores and chain franchises were hesitant to com­mit to developing both the Balloon Track, owned by Robin Arkley,Jr., and his Security National Company, and the former Pacific Lumber mill in Fortuna and other large, flat spaces unless they could get their big trucks through Richardson Grove. Their profit margins were that slim. Then, a couple of months later, a state official told me, “Wid­ening 101 through Richardson Grove is about a lot more than cattle trucks. It’s about development. It’s about strip malls and box Stores. It’s about port development. They don’t need the rail to develop the port. They need the big trucks. The governor’s behind it.”

On November 26, I called the Reporter’s new editorial page edi­tor Peter Hannaford. Hannaford is a curious addition to the Hum­boldt County community. He’s been here a month, fresh from a failed attempt to resurrect the ultra-right-wing Committee on the Present Danger (CPD) which is pushing for a US invasion of Iran. Apparently, in 2004, Hannaford was forced to resign just one clay after taking up the CPD’s chairman po­sition, because, according to the Center for Media and Democracy) he had “lobbied for the Austrian Freedom Party which is headed by nationalist Joerg Haider. Haider once commended the ‘orderly employment policy’ of the Third Reich and paid a ‘solidarity visit’ to Saddam Hussein in 2002.” He worked for Ronald Reagan when Reagan was governor and later when Reagan was president. What’s he doing at a Eureka newspaper?

I asked Hannaford why the Reporter never ran an article on the NEC’s Richardson Grove comments. “Because they had ‘obstruc­tionism’ written all over them,” he said. “Why don’t you come up with a solution to get Our trucking problem solved?”

I told him I didn’t think there was a problem. And if there was, it wasn’t up to me to solve it, it was up to people like State Senator Pat Wiggins, who two months ago apparently already solved the prob­lem by passing a bill that allows oversized cattle trucks through Richardson Grove.

The real problem, it seems, is the Richardson Grove roadblock that disallows sending more profits out of Humboldt County. We need, and in large part already have, a sustainable economy that keeps profits in the community. Why jeopardize our economy and the health of Richardson Grove by bringing in big trucks?

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