A lawsuit filed by conservation groups Tuesday seeks to stop a Caltrans widening and straightening project in Del Norte County on routes 199 and 197 due to concerns about its effect on the Smith River Canyon.
The lawsuit claims that Caltrans did not fulfill its environmental analysis requirements under state law for the 197/199 Safe STAA Access Project. It would open the routes to longer and wider trucks, which the groups claim would lead to environmental degradation of the Smith River basin.
The lawsuit cites impacts to old-growth redwoods, protected salmon habitat and the drinking water source for most of Del Norte County that could come from more potential spills and accidents with larger trucks. The suit says that the environmental analysis failed to legally and adequately address these and other concerns under the California Environmental Quality Act.
The suit was filed jointly by the local group Friends of Del Norte, the Arcata-based Environmental Protection Information Center and the national Center for Biological Diversity.
“For more than five years our organization has been identifying water quality and safety issues with this ill-conceived project,” said Don Gillespie, president of Friends of Del Norte, in a press release, “but our comments have fallen on deaf ears. It is really a sign of Caltrans’ intransigence that public interest organizations have to resort to the courts to protect motorist safety and our treasured Smith River.”