Defend 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 .
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 . 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.