cross-posted from Wild Idaho Rising Tide
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 30, 2022
Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition
Army Corps of Engineers Halts Highway 95 Construction near Moscow
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspended its authorization of the U.S. Highway 95 Thorn Creek Road to Moscow rerouting project, in a letter sent to the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) dated August 29, 2022. Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires an Army Corps permit for the realignment, because it would destroy wetlands along a six-mile stretch of Highway 95 proposed for expansion to four lanes, south of Moscow.
On March 9, 2021, the Corps granted ITD a Nationwide Permit 14 (NWP 14), a general, national permit for wetland impacts under the Clean Water Act, which applies to transportation projects that would destroy no more than a half-acre of wetlands at any one site. The Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) hired two experienced wetland scientists to determine the accuracy of the wetland acreage that would be impacted by the easternmost E-2 alignment of U.S. 95 preferred by ITD. PRDC’s contracted scientists determined that ITD omitted wetlands that would be destroyed at Site 1 on the southern end of the E-2 route. Considering those wetlands, the E-2 alignment exceeds the half-acre limit of maximum wetland destruction. As a result, the overall project does not qualify for a Nationwide Permit 14.
The Corps has now suspended all ITD project construction for 60 days or longer, at Site 1 and all 13 wetland crossings along the E-2 alignment. In the attached letter to ITD, Kelly Urbanek, Regulatory Division Chief of the Army Corps in Boise, wrote, “It is unclear what type of Department of Army authorization will be required to construct ITD’s proposed (or any revised) highway improvement plan at Site 1. For example, if expected losses to aquatic resources at Site 1 exceed 0.5 acre and cannot be authorized under NWP 14, an individual permit may be required. …Effective immediately, you must stop all activities… This suspension will remain in effect until the authorization is reinstated, modified, or revoked.”
In response, PRDC board member David Hall said, “This decision by the Army Corps should encourage ITD and the Corps to compare alignments and choose the least environmentally damaging alternative for this new highway section. Public comments overwhelmingly support the central C-3 route and the stricter standards and public involvement of an individual, rather than a nationwide, Clean Water Act permit.”
Helen Yost of regional, climate activist collective Wild Idaho Rising Tide added, “Considering E-2’s higher elevation weather conditions, wildlife crossings, larger wetlands, and proximity to rare, native, Palouse Prairie remnants, the lower C-3 alignment is safer for drivers and healthier for the environment than E-2, and best utilizes current U.S. 95 infrastructure, as recommended by federal regulations.”
Spokesperson for the Palouse Group of the Sierra Club, Al Poplawsky, stated, “ITD knew they were building a highway on a house of cards. Environmental laws benefit all living things, including people, and not following them is ultimately damaging and counterproductive.”
Zachary Griefen of Bricklin and Newman, legal counsel for PRDC, noted that, “We are pleased that the Army Corps has acknowledged, as PRDC has argued all along, that ITD misrepresented the extent to which the proposed route will destroy wetlands. The Corps’ suspension of authorization for the project is a good first step toward reconsideration of this ill-conceived highway project.”
The Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition of Moscow, Idaho, is a non-profit, public interest organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of Paradise Ridge and the native biodiversity of the Palouse region that surrounds Paradise Ridge. With a mission to ensure and enhance the public safety, environmental integrity, and natural aesthetics of Paradise Ridge and its environs, the coalition includes the Palouse Broadband of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness, the Palouse Group of the Sierra Club, Wild Idaho Rising Tide, and individual members.
Our comrades with Wild Idaho Rising Tide have been fighting fossil fuels in their region for over ten years. Their campaign began with blockades and arrests of people fighting Exxon’s “megaloads” hauling tar sands mining equipment through Idaho to Alberta during 2011 and 2012. But the group has over the past decade taken on all fossil fuels in northern Idaho and other parts of the Northwest.
This includes persistent monitoring and documenting of coal and oil trains traveling through the region.
They also host a weekly radio show on local community radio station KRFP called “Climate Justice Forum” that describes continent-wide grassroots opposition to fossil fuel projects, the root causes of climate change and many local issues.
Here’s details on a recent episode about the monitoring of Northwest fossil fuel trains:
“The Wednesday, April 7, 2021, Climate Justice Forum radio program, produced by regional, climate activist collective Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), features news and reflections on our tenth anniversary, volunteer opportunities, and recent, social media absence, north Idaho railroad-blocked road access and fossil fuel train increases during March and from tar sands pipeline opposition, a Wyoming river locomotive fuel spill settlement, Montana chlorine train crash remembrances, federal rejection of a potential Colorado oil train corridor, and indigenous and allied actions against pipelines and lithium mines. Broadcast for nine years on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow, every Wednesday between 1:30 and 3 pm Pacific time, on-air at 90.3 FM and online, the show describes continent-wide, grassroots resistance to fossil fuel projects, the root causes of climate change, thanks to generous, anonymous listeners who adopted program host Helen Yost as their KRFP DJ.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 30, 2020
Media contact: Helen Yost, Wild Idaho Rising Tide. firstname.lastname@example.org, 208-301-8039
Saturday Protest of Fossil Fuels Train Pollution
February 1, 10 am rally & carpool at Sandpoint City Beach Park, & 11 am march from Bonners Ferry Visitors Center
Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), #No2ndBridge, and regional climate activists are hosting a Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest in Bonner and Boundary counties on Saturday, February 1. Participants are gathering at 10 am around the City Beach Park pavilion in Sandpoint, Idaho, for a brief, information sharing rally. Carpoolers are next traveling to the Gateway Visitors Center in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, to march at 11 am and return to Sandpoint by 1 pm.
This community event commemorates the one-month anniversary of the January 1, rockslide derailment and January 26 removal and current disassembly of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway, mixed freight train locomotive that submerged and leaked at least 2,100 gallons of diesel fuel and engine oil into the Kootenai River near Moyie Springs, north Idaho. Resistance to ongoing, coal, oil, and hazardous materials train pollution and derailment risks and impacts to public and environmental health and safety is increasing across the Idaho Panhandle. Rural, rail corridor residents continue to oppose bridge, track, and operations expansions that compound these threats, such as BNSF’s inherently perilous, present and proposed, fossil fuels pipelines-on-rails across north Idaho, along the Kootenai River, and almost one mile over Lake Pend Oreille.
After dozens of derailments along waterways and deadly and injurious railroad collisions in north Idaho and western Montana during the last decade, frontline activists are demanding that multiple government agencies provide to the public and enforce several measures, to prevent and remediate the ecosystem and economic devastation imposed on rural communities by the Kootenai River wreck and similar disasters. Through comment letters, they are requesting derailment oil spill information, independent water quality and environmental monitoring, protection of native and endangered fish and wildlife, a Federal Railroad Administration incident investigation and penalties, and railroad operation revisions and locomotive recovery plans.
Protest organizers ask that participants dress for winter warmth and dryness, bring friends, family, and creative, relevant signs and banners, assist with event transportation, and sign the Petition to Deny and Revoke Permits for the BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector Project . Contact WIRT for further event and emerging issue information, also described through the linked event flyer and announcements  and compiled photos and updates  on WIRT facebook and website pages.
 Petition to Deny and Revoke Permits for the BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector Project
 Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest
 BNSF Kootenai River Wreck and Spill 1-1-20