Thu. Apr 18th, 2024

Commentary and Opinion by Samuel Strait – March 10, 2023

For years the County of Del Norte has been plagued by the religion of
Environmentalism at great cost to the entire community for little in the
way of any reason.  The most recent example of this extreme philosophy
is found in a recent Federal Court decision where an injunction fostered
by “Friends” of Del Norte, the Environmental Protection Information
Center (EPIC), and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) was found
to be arbitrary and capricious.  A summary judgement was granted in
favor of Caltrans and the National Marine Fisheries Service against the
plaintiffs lifting a nearly decade old injunction which prevented
construction on highways 199 and 197 to improve safety and bring both
roads up to Federal trucking standards (STAA).

Prior to 2014, funding from the Federal government was acquired to
conduct a series of seven highway safety projects which in addition to
making both roadways safer, allowed for certain kinds of trucks formerly
prohibited from accessing the roads until the completion of this series
of projects.  In 2014, Friends of Del Norte, EPIC and CBD sought to halt
construction by filing for and was granted an injunction to halt the
projects on grounds that environmental studies and safety  concerns were
not met.  In the following three year period, Caltrans revised the
environmental and safety assessments mainly concerning the Oregon side
for potential impacts and found the evaluations to be both reasonable
and supported by evidence.  Thus a decade long injunction has been
lifted, allowing for all construction projects to move forward.

While this appears to be a win for the County, a long time coming, the
project in the interim will likely not move forward with the
construction phase for some time to come.  Originally funded at $34
million, nine years have passed and the cost will have in all likelyhood
to have doubled or more in cost.  What is truly sad about this whole
affair is that the cause of this delay, Friends of Del Norte, EPIC, and
CBD will unlikely be held to account for the increased cost, the legal
cost, or the costs in human life that have occurred during the nine year
period.  Costs which should be concerning, but most importantly during
the past ten years time period, twenty five people died at just two of
the locations of the planned safety improvements.  Safety improvements
which will now be delayed a minimum of three to five years and likely
more avoidable traffic fatalities had the safety projects gone forward
in 2014.

For years, the citizens of this County have suffered the machinations of
“Friends of Del Norte” and other deep pocket environmental organizations
that greatly affect the ability of locals to move forward economically
and develop a sustainable community.  Frivolous lawsuits and injunctions
with very little in the way of reasonable care for the environment
litter our local landscape at the behest of organizations such as
Friends of Del Norte with no consequences directed at the malfeasant
party.  With this recent example of duplicity, it must be time for local
citizens to take action against this cancer in our community. Those that
have had their lives ruined and have lost loved ones by actions taken by
Friends of Del Norte should take a page out of their play book and sue
for damages.  It is well past time when the consequences of their
actions should rest on the backs of this unholy group of perpetrators. 
Once there are consequences for this kind of extreme advocacy only then
perhaps the environment will benefit.  Until that time the damages
incurred will very likely exceed any benefit to this community.

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