Protect Palouse Prairie Wetlands from Highway Expansion
For the fourth time in 20 years, the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) is challenging the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and now also the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), in an ongoing citizen attempt to force selection of the least environmentally disruptive, central C-3 route for proposed U.S. Highway 95 realignment south of Moscow, Idaho. PRDC filed a legal complaint in the U.S. District Court of Idaho on March 22, 2022, against the Thorn Creek Road to Moscow highway project. This ITD scheme plans to reroute and expand to four lanes a six-mile segment of Highway 95, along the easternmost E-2 alternative route highest on Paradise Ridge. The E-2 alignment would significantly impact some of the few remaining tracts of native Palouse Prairie and several critical wetlands.
PRDC disputes ITD’s assessment that the E-2 route would not destroy essential wetlands larger than the half-acre threshold of the Clean Water Act. Smaller wetland sizes along E-2 would allow the project to proceed under a “nationwide” permit, with fewer restrictions and no further public input, while wetlands larger than a half-acre require the Corps to issue a more rigorous “individual” permit. If PRDC can prove that some wetlands along the E-2 route each surpass a half-acre in size, ITD may be forced to stop commenced construction, re-apply to the Corps for an individual permit, and defend its preferred E-2 alternative as the “least environmentally damaging, practicable alternative” (LEDPA), which it is not.
After negotiations among opposing attorneys, the federal court let PRDC bring two wetlands scientists and a licensed surveyor into the E-2 right-of-way. These experts found more than a half-acre of wetlands near the southern end of the project. Subsequently, the ITD wetlands consultant sent back to the contested site confirmed the prior ITD determination. Now, the Corps intends to study the area and decide whether the assessments of ITD, PRDC, or neither are correct.
On July 27, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), a member organization of the PRDC coalition, launched a crowdfunding site for PRDC, to help cover the work of attorneys and experts that could cost up to $20,000, during this expensive phase of current litigation. To win this federal case and protect native Palouse Prairie on Paradise Ridge from Highway 95 expansion, PRDC and WIRT are relying on contributions from concerned citizens and the regional community.
Please support these earnest efforts by generously donating soon toward the $4,000 target of this publicly transparent crowdfunding campaign on the GiveButter platform, or by mailing a check to PRDC. You can further assist WIRT and PRDC reaching this goal by posting this crowdfunding page and PRDC website and facebook page updates to social media, sharing issue information and articles with your friends and family, and encouraging participation in giving to PRDC. Thanks in advance for your gracious contributions!
P.O. Box 8804, Moscow, ID 83843