Pave Paradise?

Group files lawsuit to stop U.S. 95 realignment over environmentally sensitive area

A group of citizens has filed another lawsuit against the Idaho Transportation Department for its project that aims to realign and expand part of U.S. Highway 95.

The Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition alleges the transportation department produced a “deeply flawed” environmental impact statement that downplays or ignores the environmental repercussions of construction planned from Moscow to Thorn Creek Road, according to a 23-page lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Idaho. The lawsuit calls for the withdrawal of the statement and an order prohibiting the project from being implemented.

Steve Flint, a board member for the nonprofit, said the group’s concerns have not been quelled since members last took legal action against the state in 2003.

“One of the biggest concerns is that the eastern route that they proposed is closest to the prairie remnants,” he said.

In March, the Idaho Transportation Board unanimously approved the eastern route alternative for the 6.34-mile stretch of highway, and the formal record of decision was published in April in the Federal Register. The project will expand the highway from two to four lanes, including a 34-foot median and center turn lanes, as well as curbs, gutters and sidewalks at the northern end of the project, just south of Moscow.

The eastern alignment, one of three options considered, is nearest to Paradise Ridge. The area contains some of the last remnants of the Palouse Prairie, Flint said, including the endangered Spalding’s catchfly.

The lawsuit argues environmental damages caused by the eastern route, along with mitigation efforts, have not been adequately analyzed.

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Complaint Filed over Proposed U.S. 95 Route

Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition wants agencies to choose different route for highway realignment

The Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition filed a legal complaint Thursday against the Idaho Transportation Department and the Federal Highway Administration in the Central Division of U.S. District Court for Idaho over their plans for widening U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow.

According to a news release from the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition, the 23-page complaint challenges the Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision issued for realigning 6.5 miles of the highway from Moscow to Thorncreek Road over Paradise Ridge.

The FHA signed the formal Record of Decision on March 21 authorizing ITD to purchase land and begin construction of the project as early as the fall of 2017.

The FHA and the ITD evaluated other alternatives for highway realignment, including western, central and eastern routes, before choosing the easternmost route after years of an environmental review process, according to information on ITD’s website.

PRDC has said the proposed route would lead to loss of wetlands, remnants of Palouse Prairie, farmland and conservation reserve; and the removal of acres of pine stands and related habitat. It also would cause more noise, have a wider visual effect and it is not the safest route for travel because it is at a higher elevation than other routes and is used by large game for crossing.

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