Please excuse the lateness of this message, but Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) could not miss this chance to alert you to the opportunity to comment on and support resistance to the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) on the U.S. Highway 95 Thorncreek Road to Moscow project. On Friday, August 14, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, published a notice of availability of the FEIS for the Highway 95 realignment and expansion project in the Federal Register, starting a 30-day public (citizen and agency) review period. After myriad delays during a decade of concerned citizen contentions and “intense review and study,” ITD and FHWA have again indicated their preference for the easternmost route, E-2 along the flanks of Paradise Ridge, from among the no action and three action alternatives (modified W-4, C-3, and E-2) of the FEIS.
The Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC), to which WIRT contributes as a member organization and board member, received this news from its attorney a few days before FEIS release. The huge document, accessible electronically on an ITD website and available for public viewing through printed paper copies at various locations like libraries, city halls, and chambers of commerce, offers corrections to the January 2013 draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) and thousands of pages of combined public comments on the DEIS, ITD responses, appendices, and technical reports (some presenting new information). Its size alone, not to mention its numerous shortcomings, warrant an extension of time to review its analyses of project effects on natural and human environments. Nonetheless, PRDC board members and their lawyer have been urgently scrutinizing the FEIS, applying their greatly appreciated, collective expertise, diligence, and doggedness, to identify and develop legally defensible arguments refuting multiple aspects of the FEIS. They have recently held a special and regular monthly meeting, and intend to submit final comments before the September 14, 2015 deadline.
At an unknown time after the 30-day review period, FHWA will issue a record of decision (ROD) for the highway improvement project purportedly improving the safety and capacity of the 6.3-mile segment of U.S. 95 between mileposts 338 and 344 – Thorn Creek Road to the South Fork Palouse River Bridge in Latah County, Idaho. PRDC and WIRT will send updates on the situation and opportunities for your involvement, as PRDC and its lawyer review the FEIS and consider as quickly as possible potential litigation and supporting actions such as membership meetings and recruitment of impacted residents, fundraising events and mechanisms to cover legal costs, and effective public protests.
PLEASE HELP BY MONDAY!
1) Write a Brief Comment.
In its letter accompanying CD copies of the FEIS sent to participants in the 2013 DEIS public process, ITD writes “Please send comments by September 14, 2015 to Adam Rush, Public Involvement Coordinator, ITD Office of Communications, 3311 West State Street, Boise, Idaho 83703” or call 208-334-8119 or email email@example.com. Citizens across the Palouse – in both Idaho and Washington and beyond – can also contact ITD at 208-799-5090 with any questions about the project or its progression.
Although ITD has no obligation to address any issues raised by public comments on the FEIS, and agency staff will probably not read long, detailed comment messages, PRDC suggests that everyone concerned about highway safety and remnant Palouse Prairie protection write and together send a great number of brief statements to ITD by email or mail, simply expressing disagreement with its choice of E-2. The Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition website and PRDC-produced Highway 95 DEIS Color Brochure provide plenty of guidance on talking points for your comments. Invite and encourage your friends, co-workers, and relatives to also send to ITD a quick response: The more the better! Without the nuisance of a large quantity of non-in-depth public input, ITD could falsely but uncontestably claim no marked objection to its dangerous scheme. Just a couple sentences or paragraphs from hundreds of individuals and groups could inundate ITD with the clear message that regional citizens are neither apathetic about the FEIS nor accepting of ITD’s preferred Highway 95 realignment. For example:
“We disagree with your preferred E-2 alternative. It is unnecessary and irresponsible to choose this alignment, which negatively impacts the sensitive environment of Paradise Ridge, when other alternatives exist for better meeting federal highway safety standards.”
2) Join PRDC as a Member.
If the ITD decision to implement the proposed E-2 realignment of Highway 95 could adversely affect your interests or injure your wellbeing regarding highway safety, Paradise Ridge recreation, Palouse Prairie preservation, home and business use and enjoyment, or other concerns, please become a PRDC member soon by mailing a donation as small as $5 to the enclosed PRDC address at P.O. Box 8804, Moscow Idaho 83843.
3) Fund a Possible PRDC Lawsuit.
While PRDC explores potential litigation donations and partnerships with supporting organizations and individuals, please contribute generously to any PRDC fundraising and membership events or drives that may arise after a still undecided group resolution to advance a lawsuit against the ROD. Contact PRDC to ascertain how you can help with these initiatives.