Caltrans’ Sediment Disaster At South Haehl Creek

f140226_BJT_dp_Caltrans_Willits_NOV_AttA.pdf - Adobe Reader

CalTrans’ erosion control system, designed to keep sediment from washing into Haehl Creek, failed badly this past  February. It’s revealing that rain caused the system to fail, even in a year of light rain.  CalTrans received a violation for excessive sediment from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, only the latest addition to its mountain of permit violations.

We have obtained the photos that state regulators gathered in the area and are are posting them below.

As the Water  Board’s cover letter states, there was “an inadequate level of site preparation and erosion and sediment controls in place in the South Haehl Creek watershed.”  The Water Board goes onto say that the habitat of federally endangered and listed species of fish may have been greatly impacted by the erosion.

For 11 straight days, according to the violation notice, the amount of sediment detected in the creek was more than 20 percent above normal levels.  The Ph in the creek was above 8.5 for two of those days.  Such conditions are perilous for fish.

Sediment fills in spawning pools of fish and suffocates fish juveniles (called “fry” in the case of salmonids).

It is interesting to consider the implications of Caltrans’ using this same slippery soil, which has now eroded into the creek, as fill for its freeway. Check out more pictures below. Continue reading

“Setting The Record Straight” by Rosamond Crowder

The following appeared in The Willits News on April 11th.  It explains in detail some of the information surrounding the destruction that is being caused by construction of the Caltrans Willits Bypass’ northern interchange.

COPSI’d like to set the record straight on some of the facts surrounding the Willits Bypass.

The “northern interchange” consists of everything north and west of the railroad tracks. A document called a LEDPA (Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative) Analysis put out by Caltrans to the agencies in 2012 described the impacts of the bypass by section. The northern interchange is listed as having 31 acres of wetland impacted. The interchange is a good deal larger than the wetlands. The roundabout area is not wetland. You may remember the farm with the big barn that once was there. This area is easily 9 acres. Thus the interchange is easily 40 acres. Continue reading

Downsize The Willits Bypass? WeDecide! (please vote)

WeDecide is a crowd sourcing service integrated with Facebook and Twitter that engages people in policy discussions.  The web site currently features the following question: “Should Caltrans downsize the northern interchange of the Willits Bypass?

The northern interchange bootprint.  The overwhelming majority of WeDecide respondents don't want this.

The northern interchange bootprint. The overwhelming majority of WeDecide respondents don’t want this. And you?

As of this writing, 90 percent of respondents are saying “yes” in response to that question.  The more people who vote, the bigger the statement.

To chime in, take the following steps:

1.     Click onWeDecide  or click onhttp://www.mywejit.com/#!5fd5f667b2fcad0bc2b7ebd8cf50df0b 
2.     In upper right hand corner select “Sign In
3.     Go to the upper right hand corner and select “Sign up”
4.     Enter you email address
5.     Create a password [minimum of 6 characters] Remember it in case you want to return later  OR you can sign in usingyour Facebook or Google password
6.     To access the letter from the Water Board to Caltrans click on “Water Board recommended a reduction in the size” and it will take you to the letter.
7.    
Click on “YES” or “NO” to cast your VOTE.  You will see your vote added to the total.
8.     If you wish to SHARE this campaign click on the SHARE BUTTON to go to email or social networks like Twitter & Facebook.

Please Note: Continue reading

One Year Later…

Carrying away "Eagle" after extraction

Carrying away “Eagle” after extraction

It’s been a little more than a year since the extraction of the original tree sits that were blocking part of the Willits Bypass‘ initial construction phase.  On April 2nd, 2013, a contingent of around 50 California Highway Patrol officers — including several SWAT team members from Sacramento — spent all day conducting an operation to take “Warbler,” “Caspian,” “Celsius,” “Eagle,” and “Falcon” out of their trees.

It is now a little over one year later.  One of the tree sitters, Mark “Falcon” Herbert, continues to face charges in relation to his tree sit (and alleged probation violation).  Herbert next appears in court on April 23rd.

Click here to listen to a dramatic interview on KPFA Radio’s Flashpoints program last year, featuring Herbert and tree sitter “Eagle,” immediately before they were extracted.  “Eagle” was just about to lock down when host Dennis Bernstein spoke with him.

Caltrans Not Allowed to Resume Building Bypass Until…?

SOLLV has gathered at two recent Water Board meetings.

SOLLV members and supporters have gathered at two recent Water Board meetings.

The Willits News has reported on the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s recent letter to Caltrans announcing that construction of the Willits Bypass will not be allowed to resume until Caltrans either reduces the size of the Bypass or implement a combination of new mitigation that possibly includes purchase of new lands for additional mitigation (a process that would perhaps take years).  This web site reported first on the Water Board’s letter last week.

The Water Board letter is in response to Caltrans’ delays in implementing its Mitigation and Monitoring Plan (MMP), which the transportation agency is required to carry out under state and federal environmental law in exchange for destroying such a vast area of wetlands, harming fish-bearing streams, cutting trees, etc.

It would probably take around two years for Caltrans to conduct the process of purchasing new lands, conducting studies of project “mitigations” on those lands, generating project proposals, and receiving approval from relevant resource agencies for said proposals.  So, if the Water Board’s executive staff is actually seriously about upholding the edict in their letter, and unless Caltrans reduces the size of the Bypass, the Bypass’ construction will be delayed by at least a few years.

Granted, that would entail the Water Board actually standing firm, which is unlikely (if experience is a guide). So, we caution against anyone who is opposed to the Bypass getting their hopes up too much.

The Willits News story kicks off: “With the CalTrans mitigation activities associated with the Highway 101 bypass around Willits nearly two years behind schedule, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board issued an advisement to CalTrans that it would expect either reductions in project impacts or additional mitigation. A third option, to get the mitigation project back to the agreed upon timeline was discounted, based on delays in seed procurement and propagation needed for the remediation work.”

Click here for the full Willits News story. >>

In other recent news, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 this past Tuesday to allow, essentially, for Caltrans to haul 900,000 cubic yards of soil to dump on the Little Lake wetlands for Bypass construction.  Supervisor Dan Hamburg cast the lone vote against the soil hauling blitz, pointing out that approval of the soil hauling runs counter to downsizing the northern interchange of the project (where much of this 900,000 cubic yards would be dumped).  The Water Board has just asked Caltrans to consider downsizing the northern interchange for the first time.

Mark Herbert’s Court Proceedings Resume April 23rd

Mark Herbert, aka "Falcon"

Mark Herbert, aka “Falcon”

Mark “Falcon” Herbert’s March 28th hearing was postponed to April 23rd at 1:30 p.m. in Courtroom “A.” 

Herbert received a plea offer from the DA that featured 25 hours of community service but required that he admit to violating the “obey all laws” clause of his pre-existing probation.

Herbert has consistently rejected any plea bargain that requires him to admit trespassing, as he asserts he is not guilty of trespassing.

The DA has still not followed up on a single piece of Herbert’s attorney’s “discovery” request for evidence, which was originally made last November 13. The Deputy DA in the case related to Ed Denson, Herbert’s attorney, that the CHP has “lost” their copy of the video of Herbert’s arrest.

Click here and here for some of our previous posts regarding Herbert’s case.