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Protect Palouse Prairie WetlandsProtect 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!

Protect Palouse Prairie Wetlands from Highway Expansion

Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition website

Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition facebook page

P.O. Box 8804, Moscow, ID 83843

PRDC Donations, Earth Day, Ren Fair, & WIRT Opportunities


North Idaho Earth Day Climate March FlyerDefend Paradise Ridge: Fund PRDC!

As you may have read in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Lewiston Tribune, or Spokesman-Review, the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) is challenging for the fourth time in federal court the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and now also the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), in an ongoing attempt to force selection of the central route for U.S. Highway 95 realignment south of Moscow, Idaho, rather than the eastern route higher on Paradise Ridge [1-3].  PRDC filed another legal complaint in the U.S. District Court of Idaho on Tuesday, March 22, against the Thorn Creek Road to Moscow highway project, planned by ITD to reroute and expand to four lanes a new, six-mile segment of Highway 95 [4].

Several years ago, ITD applied for a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit, to discharge fill material into Paradise Ridge wetlands for highway construction, and many Palouse and Northwest region residents sent comments against this project proposal.  ITD realized that it could not satisfy the stringent environmental requirements of a CWA “individual” project permit, which involves public input and a comparison of the different alignments.  So ITD requested and USACE granted a less rigorous, CWA “nationwide” permit for wetland impacts, intended for smaller, non-controversial projects and allowing ITD to begin ground work on its chosen, easternmost route, the E-2 alternative.

PRDC asserts that USACE incorrectly issued this CWA permit to ITD, because nationwide permits require that affected wetlands cover a half-acre or less.  In its earlier environmental impact statement (EIS), ITD not only described some of these wetlands as larger than a half-acre, but also documented the E-2 route as the most environmentally damaging of the three EIS-considered routes, which all meet the highway project’s safety and transportation goals.  But E-2 would inflict more significant harms on plants and wildlife of the Palouse Prairie, an ecosystem reduced by agriculture and development to less than one percent of its original extent, with remnants on Paradise Ridge.  Intact wetlands are crucial to this vanishing ecosystem, especially during the worsening droughts of the current climate crisis.  PRDC claims that the state agency improperly and arbitrarily reduced the documented size of several wetlands to less than a half-acre, to obtain this nationwide permit.

In three previous cases, PRDC has successfully argued that this project requires an EIS, instead of the less detailed environmental assessment prepared by ITD, and has alleged National Environmental Policy Act violations by the final EIS.  To win this current lawsuit, PRDC has hired wetland experts to analyze and help dispute ITD’s changes in its wetland determinations.  Along with attorney fees, this expensive phase of legal efforts, seeking an injunction against destroying essential wetlands, could cost at least $20,000.  Without enough advance time to secure funding from prior grant sources, PRDC is reliant on generous contributions from concerned, regional citizens.  Please send your check to the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition at P.O. Box 8804 in Moscow, Idaho 83843, or contact PRDC via its website or facebook pages, for information on donating stocks through its brokerage account [5].  PRDC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, public interest organization that works to ensure and enhance the public safety, environmental integrity, and natural aesthetics of Paradise Ridge and its environs.  The coalition includes the member groups Palouse Broadband of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, Palouse Group of the Sierra Club, Wild Idaho Rising Tide, and individual members.

Participate in Earth Day Events!

On Earth Day weekend, April 22 to 24, join Moscow, Sandpoint, and Spokane climate marches and a Moscow concert hosted by 350 Spokane, Friends of the Clearwater, KRFP Radio Free Moscow, Palouse Extinction Rebellion, Palouse Group of the Sierra Club, Spokane Falls Community College Environmental Club, and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT).  From 1:30 to 4 pm on Friday, April 22, meet at the Pavilion in Riverfront Park, 574 North Howard Street in Spokane, Washington, and bring your friends, family, signs, chalk, and optional costume, mask, prop, or float depicting an animal, plant, insect, or organism, for a Gathering of Species leading a climate march that starts at 3 pm [6-8].  After music by performers, a rally by speakers, and information sharing by a variety of organizations, participants will voice their concerns and march on numerous blocks of downtown Spokane streets, demanding urgent action in preparing for climate crises and a cleaner, greener, safer world.

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PRDC, WIRT, & Sandpoint Council Meetings, #No2ndBridge Updates, Regional Railroad Snafus


PRDC ANNUAL MEETING

Join Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) members and the current board at the annual, membership meeting on Wednesday, November 6, at the Yellow House next to the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse, 420 East Second Street, near Van Buren Street in Moscow, Idaho. Please visit anytime between 5 and 7:30 pm, to enjoy hors d’oeuvres and drinks, talk with and vote on the board of directors for the coming year, continue support with $5 annual dues and greater donations, and learn and ask questions about the PRDC campaign against the Idaho Transportation Department’s plan for relocation and four-lane expansion of U.S. Highway 95 over the shoulder of Paradise Ridge (alternative E-2, which is not a “done deal”).  As an organizational member of PRDC, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) encourages you to see the PRDC website and attached event flyer for further information, contact PRDC if you are interested in serving on the board (secretary@paradise-ridge-defense.org or 208-301-0202), attend this worthwhile gathering, and send tax-deductible contributions to this 501(c)(3) non-profit organization at P.O. Box 8804, Moscow, ID 83843 [1].  We hope to see you at PRDC’s annual, membership meeting!

SANDPOINT LETTER TO COAST GUARD

The City of Sandpoint is drafting a letter to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), requesting an environmental impact statement (EIS) and reconsideration of USCG’s September 5, 2019, final environmental assessment (EA) and appendices and finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s Sandpoint Junction Connector Project — proposed construction of two permanent, parallel, rail bridges and two temporary, work spans across Lake Pend Oreille and Sand Creek, during three to five years. This lead, federal agency regulating the project that would also build a second rail structure over Bridge Street has provided neither an administrative appeal process nor an optional, 30-day, public comment period for its final decision.  As offered by WIRT and requested by the Sandpoint city clerk in early October, we compiled information and supplied documents and recommendations, to support the formal, but only symbolic, city letter for the Coast Guard record [2, 3].

In response to our October 31 inquiry ascertaining progress on the proposed letter and the Sandpoint City Council resolution adopting it, the city clerk graciously sent to us both files and the city’s March 2019 comments to the Coast Guard and May 2018 resolution requesting an EIS, which would accompany the city’s correspondence with USCG [4]. Please show your appreciation of city officials and staff upholding their constituents’ interests, by attending and encouraging your associates to participate in upcoming, regular, council sessions considering the BNSF EIS/EA issue, between 5:30 and 7:30 pm on Wednesdays, November 6 and 20, in Sandpoint City Hall council chambers at 1123 Lake Street.  Also see the meeting agendas and watch the recorded, video livestream of council and public deliberations [5].

NOVEMBER WIRT MEETINGS

While under siege by reckless development and resister repression, volunteer, grassroots, WIRT organizers would greatly appreciate your efforts in arranging upcoming presentations, training workshops, demonstrations, outreach, and #No2ndBridge litigation. We urge you to participate in November 2019, potluck gatherings, enjoy climate action documentaries, talk about tactics and strategies, and offer your unique advice and assistance, as we together relentlessly confront the fossil fuel causes of climate change, through direct resistance and frontline solutions.  The WIRT, climate activist collective welcomes opportunities to talk with you about critical issues, and to share images, dispatches, and actions with the regional, environmental, and indigenous community, while we continue our grueling opposition and vigil on the north Idaho, fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails, and #No2ndBridge frontline.

Join activity-planning conversations on the first and third Thursdays (now instead of Wednesdays) of every month, starting at 6 pm (not the usual 7 pm) on Thursday, November 7, at The Attic, up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street in Moscow, and on Thursday, November 21, at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint [3]. Meanwhile, please check WIRT website and especially facebook pages for posts and pictures, and listen to WIRT’s weekly, Climate Justice Forum radio program, for updates about recent, ongoing, and emerging, Northwest and continent-wide, fossil fuel infrastructure invasions and protests, and share this information among your associates and contacts.

#NO2NDBRIDGE UPDATES

Attorney Search

WIRT has been talking with allies, attorneys, and government officials about BNSF’s Sandpoint Junction Connector Project document and process discrepancies, and determining whether the Coast Guard’s final EA and FONSI sufficiently comply with relevant laws. Meanwhile, we have been witnessing massive, ongoing construction without all permits for BNSF’s bridge and track expansion, enduring noise- and dust-spewing, downtown Sandpoint, street reconstruction outside the WIRT office, dismissing criminalization attempts by released, federal investigation files and international media articles, and observing and reporting water-polluting, disaster-risking, westbound, BNSF, unit trains of coal and black tanker (presumably oil) trains, for the #IDoiltrainwatch and #WAoiltrainwatch, all while continuing regional outreach via various modes, to WIRT’s 3,200-plus contacts and beyond [3]. Continue reading

May 2 PRDC & WIRT Moscow Meetings, #No2ndBridge Updates


PRDC Annual Membership Meeting

The Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) invites its supporters and members of PRDC affiliated, environmental groups (Palouse Broadband of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, Palouse Group of the Sierra Club, and Wild Idaho Rising Tide) to attend the PRDC Annual Membership Meeting on Wednesday, May 2, at the Yellow House next to the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse, 420 East Second Street (near the 1912 Center and Van Buren Street) in Moscow, Idaho.  Please come to this casual event anytime between 5 and 7 pm, to talk with PRDC board members Cass Davis, Steve Flint, David Hall, Al Poplawsky, Pat Rathmann, Mary and Steve Ullrich, and Helen Yost, ask questions, vote for board candidates, enjoy hors d’oeuvres and drinks, and pay $5 annual dues.  If you cannot participate, please send donations and dues to this 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, via mail to P.O. Box 8804, Moscow, ID  83843, to assist its lawsuit efforts to protect native Palouse prairie remnants from U.S. Highway 95 expansion onto Paradise Ridge, and to “ensure and enhance the public safety, environmental integrity, and natural aesthetics of Paradise Ridge and its environs” (PRDC mission statement).

Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition website, Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition

Moscow WIRT Meeting & #No2ndBridge Presentation

Invite your friends and families, and join the regional, climate activist community, #No2ndBridge group members, and WIRT organizers for the May, first-Wednesday, monthly, WIRT gathering at The Attic, up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street in Moscow, Idaho, at 7 pm on Wednesday, May 2.  Discussions and action plans include Farmers Market outreach in Moscow and Sandpoint, an oil and gas waste injection well protest and petition presentation in Boise, and ongoing, dirty energy transportation monitoring and reporting.  We especially need your participation in work on a #No2ndBridge petition, brochures, banners, a peaceful, public, Sandpoint protest, regional attendance and expert testimony at May 23 hearings and rallies with speakers in Ponderay and Sandpoint, and a summer, direct action training camp, all opposing Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway track and bridge expansion of the coal, oil, hazmat, and possibly tar sands pipeline-on-wheels across Lake Pend Oreille and north Idaho.

At this WIRT convergence, we are starting to present #No2ndBridge information sessions with slide shows in Moscow, Sandpoint, Missoula, Spokane, and other, inland Northwest locations.  All are welcome to bring their creative ideas and energies and potluck food and beverages, to share current, issue updates and background, and to explore strategies and tactics in support and solidarity with grassroots, Northwest resistance to the power and pollution of the fossil fuel and railroad industries.  Contact WIRT via email or phone, with your questions and suggestions about potential meeting topics and activities, and to coordinate overlapping campaigns and upcoming events among allies.

#No2ndBridge Updates

On February 26, 2018, the public received notices of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s joint application for “individual” (not more lenient, “general”) permits to double 2.2 miles of tracks west of its existing, main line through Sandpoint, Idaho, and to construct three permanent, parallel, rail bridges and two temporary, work spans across Bridge Street, Sand Creek, and almost a mile over Lake Pend Oreille.  This $100 million, five-year, “Sandpoint Junction Connector” project would begin in fall 2018 and degrade human and natural environments from the BNSF-Montana Rail Link track convergence, near the historic, Sandpoint, train station still utilized by Amtrak, to the North Algoma siding track across the lake, south of Sandpoint. Continue reading

Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition Benefit Concert with Tom Neilson


tom-neilson-moscow-concert-flyer

Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition Benefit Concert with Tom Neilson

7 pm, Saturday, October 8

Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse,

420 East Second Street, Moscow, Idaho

$10 suggested admission donation

Several north Idaho groups are co-hosting the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition Benefit Concert, offered by singer-songwriter and long-time activist Tom Neilson, in Moscow on Saturday, October 8. Dubbed the Jon Stewart of folk music, Tom offers inspiration through his music to effect change [1].  He has performed his award-winning songs of humor and compassion in 21 countries on five continents.  His songs about historical and current events reflect his travels, intertwined with his farm roots and his fervent commitment to social justice.  Audiences celebrate Tom’s lyrics for their political astuteness, sophistication, and wit.

Concert co-sponsors Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition (PESC) and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) gratefully welcome everyone to participate in this community event providing a gathering place for people supporting the legal expenses of the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC), of which PESC and WIRT are grassroots, allied, member organizations. On August 18, PRDC filed a legal complaint against the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and the Federal Highway Administration in U.S. District Court for Idaho, challenging their environmental impact statement and record of decision issued for reconstructing, relocating, and expanding 6.5 miles of U.S. Highway 95 immediately south of Moscow [2-6].

Protecting nearby Paradise Ridge from inappropriate highway realignment since 2003, PRDC is disputing these agencies’ studies and selection of E-2, the easternmost of three proposed Highway 95 routes. ITD’s stubborn commitment to building the controversial E-2 route over the shoulder of Paradise Ridge threatens some of the best remnants of the estimated less than one percent of remaining, native, Palouse Prairie vegetation with weed invasion, wetland and prime farmland destruction, and wildlife habitat reduction.  The higher, 2,800- to 3,000-foot elevation of E-2 would subject highway travelers to more accidents during inclement and winter weather conditions, when 57 percent of mishaps on the current highway section occur, and would also risk more big game collisions closer to their habitat.

For this Saturday, October 8 opportunity for the Moscow-Pullman and greater Palouse community to support PRDC, the doors open at 6:30 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse, 420 East Second Street in Moscow, Idaho. Activist musician Tom Neilson begins his performance at 7 pm, for $10 suggested admission donations.  See the enclosed descriptions of Tom Neilson’s background and Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition concerns, and peruse the websites and facebook pages of Tom, PRDC, PESC, and WIRT, for further information about these endeavors [1-5].

Please print and post the linked, color, letter-sized, PDF version of the Tom Neilson Moscow Concert Flyer (tom-neilson-moscow-concert-flyer), invite your friends and family through the email messages and website and facebook links about this event, participate in this Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition Benefit Concert, and enjoy the rousing music of Tom Neilson! Continue reading

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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Feds Choose Easternmost Route for U.S. Highway 95 Realignment


In spite of years-long efforts to persuade transportation officials not to realign U.S. Highway 95 from Moscow to Thorncreek Road over Paradise Ridge and through an untouched area of the Palouse Prairie, the federal Record of Decision was signed this week verifying the choice to do just that.

“It’s a great day for the public,” said Ken Helm, project manager for the Idaho Transportation Department.

“It’s kind of what we expected,” Steve Flint, one of the board members of the Palouse Ridge Defense Coalition, said about what the group considers a disappointing choice.

In 2003, the coalition and other groups successfully argued the ITD failed to adequately examine the environmental effects of its plans for U.S. Highway 95, and a judge ordered a full environmental impact statement process be completed.

Last year, the group announced it was willing to take legal action based on the latest project documents, specifically the FEIS, if they appeared inadequate.

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Help Stop ITD Paving Paradise by Monday!


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! Continue reading