In early January 2013, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) released its U.S. 95 Thorncreek Road to Moscow draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) and technical reports on three alternatives for proposed realignment of the dangerously accident-prone 6.5-mile stretch of Highway 95 just south of Moscow. Its preferred E-2 alternative mirrors 10A of the 2002 ITD environmental assessment that the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition and its allies successfully challenged, secured a federal injunction, and forced ITD to complete the current DEIS review process. The purportedly shorter and safer E-2 eastern route would climb 400 to 500 feet up the western, exposed shoulder of scenic Paradise Ridge, while compromising weather-related highway traveler safety, area aesthetics and noise levels, wetland preservation, and protection of rare remnants of native Palouse Prairie habitat and wildlife. It would also inflict the greatest detrimental effects on pine stands, ungulate conservation and collisions, endangered species, and ecosystem restoration, as it imposes more stream tributary crossings, impervious surfaces, pollution runoff, and weed infestations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the Idaho Department of Fish and Game have strongly recommended against this eastern Highway 95 corridor, likely advanced by ITD to accommodate international industrial traffic like tar sands megaloads.
The Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, and concerned Moscow area citizens and groups welcomed public involvement and discussion at the Highway 95 Forum and Field Trip, a knowledge-sharing session in the 1912 Center Great Room in Moscow, followed by E-2 realignment site visits on Saturday, January 19, 2013. Between noon and 2 pm, community members Al Poplawsky, Cass Davis, Tim Hatten, and Brett Haverstick summarized the DEIS, presented arguments in opposition to the eastern alternative, and opened the informational meeting to questions and insights. From 2 until 5 pm, event organizers and participants carpooled and staged a field trip to locations along and near the proposed eastern Highway 95 route described in the DEIS. Several Paradise Ridge residents hosted pertinent site explorations and talks off Eid and Paradise Ridge roads in the sunny, early evening light. For further information about the Highway 95 Forum and Field Trip, see the event descriptions on facebook and on the Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) website. Ongoing issue updates, articles, and interviews appear in the Highway 95 Re-Route section of the WIRT website.