Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition


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Hello Paradise Ridge Defenders!
The PRDC annual meeting was Tuesday, May 2, 2018. All who were running for election to the board for the coming year were elected. Thanks to all who came to the meeting!

You can now donate to PRDC online, through Network For Good!

Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Their View: Headline, editorial about PRDC were inaccurate

Diane Baumgart, Cass Davis, Stephan Flint, David Hall, Al Poplawsky, and Pat Rathmann
The Daily News serves a very important role in our communities. It has the responsibility of providing factual, unbiased information allowing its readers to make informed, rational decisions.

Overall, we feel it does a pretty good job with this. However, when misleading, false headlines and incorrect information are printed – as was the case in the recent article headline and the editorial regarding the rerouting of U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow – the public is not well-served.

On Nov. 1, the Daily News ran the following headline in reference to the U.S. Highway 95 realignment project south of Moscow: "Group files appeal to stop Highway 95 realignment, widening."

The "group," Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition, whose 100-plus membership includes citizens throughout Latah County, including Moscow small-business owners, does not want to stop the project. While PRDC has always recognized that this section of highway needs to be reconstructed to modern safety standards, we have always been opposed to the Idaho Transportation Department's preferred alternative, E2.

Because this eastern alternative is the most environmentally damaging in 15 of 16 environmental categories, and because we believe that it will be less safe, we support the central alternative, C3. ITD justifies its preference for E2, which is much higher and bisects high quality big game habitat, because they predict that it will be 0.09 mile shorter and slightly safer than C3, despite the fact that more severe weather and more frequent wildlife collisions on the E2 alignment were not considered in their safety calculation.

In the Nov. 7 editorial entitled "Driver safety is more important than a few backyards," several factual errors need to be corrected. PRDC agrees that safety is more important than a few backyards.

The editorial incorrectly states that E2 will eliminate all of the dangerous curves, whereas the other alternatives will not. Actually, all proposed alternatives fully meet the stringent, safety design criteria used to build the four-lane from Thorncreek Road to the top of the Lewiston Grade. However, the most dangerous curve (at the bottom of Reisenauer Hill) will remain as a county road with E2. Only construction of another alternative will remedy this dangerous curve. This is important because Eid Road residents will have to traverse Reisenauer Hill to gain highway access if E2 is constructed.

The editorial incorrectly states that E2 will affect a wetland and possibly remnants of the Palouse Prairie. ITD's Environmental Impact Statement concluded that E2 will destroy several high quality wetlands (3.5 times more than C3) and 24 of the last remaining remnants of Palouse Prairie will be negatively impacted.

Finally, the editorial also incorrectly states that the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative that also provides the most safety must be selected. It is correct that the Army Corps of Engineers must not grant a permit under the Clean Water Act for any alternative other than the LEDPA. "Providing the most safety" does not factor in.

ITD's own documents show that all three alternatives are practicable, meet federal highway safety standards, and that C3 is clearly the least environmentally damaging of the three. The regulations state that the permit may be granted only to the LEDPA - period.
Diane Baumgart, Cass Davis, Stephan Flint, David Hall, Al Poplawsky, and Pat Rathmann are current or former board members of PRDC. None owns property on or near Paradise Ridge. None has a financial interest related to any of the alternatives.

Patagonia grant awarded to PRDC


Oral arguments presented

On July 31, 2017, oral arguments were presented in Boise before Judge B. Lynn Winmill by attorneys representing PRDC, and by the Federal Highway Administration and the Idaho Transportation Department on issues regarding NEPA and the Environmental Impact Statement.

Fund for Wild Nature grant!


On May 17, 2017 ITD and FHWA filed a Joint Permit Application with the Walla Walla office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their Clean Water Act section 404 permit to disturb Waters of the U.S. The 30-day public comment period for that application ended June 16; however, the Corps may schedule a public hearing to accept further public input. The Thorn Creek to Moscow project requires an individual Clean Water Act section 404 permit.

The Army Corps is reviewing the permit application, getting more information from the Idaho Transportation Department, and making a determination on the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative. A determination is not expected before December 2017.

"Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act requires state certification for any permit or license issued by a federal agency for an activity that may result in a discharge into waters of the U.S." [www.deq.idaho.gov/water­quality/surface­water/standards/401­certification] Thus, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) must be consulted. The Idaho DEQ states that "No lowering of water quality will be allowed unless deemed necessary..." [DEQ: 516305-401-certification-guidance-0811.pdf] Idaho DEQ has posted a draft copy of their decision.

Public comments were accepted by Idaho Department of Environmental Quality on their draft comments until July 10. Currently DEQ proposes to certify the 404 permit with conditions, to ensure project activities and restoration work in waters of the state meet Idaho water quality standards. At the close of the public comment period, DEQ will consider any comments received and will make a final 401 certification decision. The final certification decision will be posted on DEQ’s web site.

As was expected, ITD's permit application to the Corps brought forward their preferred alternative, E-2. In that application, they provided further engineering data (such as culvert placement and sizing) for E-2, and no equivalent data for the other alternatives. They are deferring determination of the "least environmentally damaging practicable alternative" (LEDPA) to the Corps. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maintains quite a bit of influence at this step, and they have been steadfastly opposed to ITD's preferred alternative.

The Army Corps says that it may be several months before they decide whether to hold a hearing, and, if so, it will be several months beyond that before one is held.
'Arctic' Scene: Jan. 29, 2017, sunny, no new snow, a mild breeze in town, but fierce winds coming off Paradise Ridge once again build 10 foot drifts across an access road on the shoulder of Paradise Ridge – colossal drifting on the access road just above where E-2 would run. Photo by M. Ullrich


Legal Complaint filed August 18, 2016

On Thursday, August 18, the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC, paradise-ridge-defense.org) filed a legal complaint against the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in US District Court for Idaho, Central Division, challenging the Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision recently issued for reconstructing, relocating and expanding 6.5 miles of US 95 immediately south of Moscow.

The PRDC has been protecting Paradise Ridge from inappropriate highway reconstruction since 2003. Paradise Ridge is home to some of the best remnants of native Palouse Prairie vegetation. Reliable estimates of the remaining extent of Palouse Prairie vegetation type are less than one percent of the original.

ITD and FHWA propose constructing a new route for US 95 high on the shoulder of Paradise Ridge (alternative E-2) while PRDC believes the needs of the traveling public and the conservation of natural resources could be better met by a central route (alternative C-3) that straightens and expands the highway using more portions of the existing right of way.

The greater environmental impacts of the E-2 route proposed by ITD, as compared to the C-3 route, are not in dispute. Documentation from ITD shows that E-2 would destroy more than three times as much wetland acreage, take twice as much prime farmland out of production, and provide more disturbed ground for potential weed establishment (36% more excavation, and road cuts more than twice as high). Because E-2 is closer to more native Palouse Prairie remnants and on-going restoration activities, the threat of weed invasion of the remaining prairie is greater.

Regulations regarding wetlands specifically state that projects impacting them must select the "least environmentally damaging practicable alternative". Both proposed alignments would be four lanes, would be designed to current specifications for new construction, and are clearly "practicable". While they are designed for similar levels of safety, any realistic assessment which takes into account the potential increased weather- and animal-related accidents on E-2 (it is higher and crosses areas with more big-game movement) would conclude that C-3 is the safer route.

The shortcomings and lack of benefits of the E-2 route, as compared to the C-3 route, have been described by local citizens for years. It is unfortunate that ITD and FHWA have stubbornly remained committed to the controversial E-2 route rather than selecting the non-controversial C-3 route that could have been expeditiously constructed years ago.

All dontions to help with this legal challenge are welcome; you may send them to the address at the bottom of this page.

Thorncreek to Moscow Record of Decision published April 1, 2016

The ROD specifies that the eastern-most proposed alternative alignment, E-2, is the preferred Agency alternative. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) accepted that alignment. ITD reponses to the public and agency comments regarding the Final Environmental Impact Statement are included in the ROD.
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Highway Administration
Notice of Final Federal Agency Actions on Proposed Highway in Idaho


AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Department of Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Notice of limitation on claims for judicial review of actions by FHWA.

SUMMARY: This notice announces actions taken by the FHWA that are final within the meaning of 23 U.S.C. 139(l)(1). The actions relate to a proposed highway project, US-95 Thorncreek Road to Moscow in the County of Latah in the State of Idaho, FHWA Project # DHP-NH-4110(156); Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) Key #9294.

DATES: By this notice, the FHWA is advising the public of final agency actions subject to 23 U.S.C. 139(l)(1). A claim seeking judicial review of the Federal agency actions on the highway project will be barred unless the claim is filed on or before August 29, 2016
...
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Notice is hereby given that FHWA has taken final agency actions by issuing approvals for the following highway project in the State of Idaho: US-95 Thorncreek Road to Moscow Project No. DHP-NH-4110 (156), Latah County. The project involves improvements and realignment to section of US-95. The highway will be improved from milepost 337.67 to milepost 344.00 to improve safety and capacity of this section of US-95. The existing two-lane undivided highway from Thorncreek Road to the South Fork Palouse River Bridge will be replaced with a four-lane divided highway with a 34-foot median through the majority of the corridor. A four-lane highway with center turn lane, curb, gutter and sidewalk will be constructed at the northern end of the project. The actions by the Federal agencies, and the laws under which such actions were taken, are described in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Final Section 4(f) Evaluation US-95 Thorncreek Road to Moscow (FHWA-ID-EIS-12-01-F) for the project, approved on July 28, 2015, in the FHWA Record of Decision (ROD) issued on March 21, 2016, and in other documents in the project records.
...
The FEIS and ROD can be viewed and downloaded from the project Web site at http://US95Thorncreek.com. Select the link labelled "ROD" near the top of the page.
...
Issued on: March 25, 2016. Peter J. Hartman, FHWA Idaho Division Administrator, Boise, Idaho.
[FR Doc. 2016-07412 Filed 3-31-16; 8:45 am]

Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 63 / Friday, April 1, 2016 / Notices 18933
https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-04-01/pdf/2016-07412.pdf
https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/04/01/2016-07412/notice-of-final-federal-agency-actions-on-proposed-highway-in-idaho

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Idaho Transportation Department's US 95 Thorncreek Road to Moscow project was released August 14, 2015. This started a 30-day comment period.

The FEIS is available on an ITD-associated web site, us95thorncreek.com. In the FEIS, both ITD and the Federal Highway Adminstration recommend the E-2 alignment.
The US-95 Thorncreek Road to Moscow project is located in Latah County, Idaho. The project begins near Thorncreek Road and continues north for approximately 6.34 miles, ending at the South Fork Palouse River Bridge. The purpose of this project is to improve the safety and capacity of this segment of US-95. The FEIS analyzes the benefits and effects of the No Action and three Action Alternatives (Modified W-4, C-3 and E-2) on the natural and human environment. It makes corrections to the DEIS, presents new inforrmation and responds to public comments. It also identifies the Agencies' Preferred Alternative (E-2) and preliminary mitigation measures.

The Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition works to ensure and enhance the public safety, environmental integrity, and natural aesthetics of Paradise Ridge and its environs.
Coalition members:
Palouse Broadband of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness ~~ Wild Idaho Rising Tide ~~ Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition ~~ Palouse Group of the Sierra Club


Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition
P.O. Box 8804
Moscow, ID 83843
May 1, 2018