California Indian Tribes v. Caltrans — Excerpt From The Official Complaint

Photo15Following is an extended excerpt from the complaint the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians and Round Valley Indian Tribes filed against CalTrans in federal court last week. Click here to download it as a Word document. Continue reading

Lawsuit Media Round-Up

The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo and Round Valley Indian Tribes lawsuit against CalTrans, filed last week in San Francisco federal court, has made a big splash. Following is some of the media coverage.

And here is news coverage from ABC-7 in the Bay Area, which has done a very good job covering the manifold controversies surrounding the Willits Bypass for more than two years.

Coyote Valley Band and Round Valley Indian Tribes Sue CalTrans in Federal Court


Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians and the Round Valley Indian Tribes sue Caltrans over “Willits Bypass Project” for violations of National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act

BURLINGAME, CA – OCTOBER 29, 2015 – According to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco today, two Northern California Indian Tribes contend that Caltrans, as well as various federal agencies, have destroyed known archaeological sites and failed to properly protect historical sites during construction of the Willits Bypass.  The action was filed by the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians and the Round Valley Indian Tribes for violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. The Willits Bypass Project is a 6 mile long rerouting of Highway 101 through Little Lake Valley, near the city of Willits, in Mendocino County.

Phil Gregory of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, counsel for the Tribes, confirmed: “Caltrans must not be allowed to demolish historic properties, cultural resources, and sacred sites simply to build a highway bypass. Imagine Caltrans treating a church with such disrespect.  This case challenges Caltrans’ ongoing failure to properly protect the Tribes’ ancestral sites in constructing the Bypass. Caltrans’ ground-disturbing activities are devastating ancestral Native American sacred and cultural sites.” Continue reading

After Demonstration, CalTrans Protesters Meet with Water Board Representatives Outside CalTrans Office

Protesters demonstrating at Caltrans’ main office on Thursday, October 15th eventually succeeded in meeting with North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (WB) staff, who were in Willits to conduct an end-of-season inspection of the Willits bypass mitigation lands, to express concerns about the giant project’s Mitigation and Monitoring Plan (MMP).

Caltrans initially refused to allow the demonstrators access, but just as the demonstration ended, Water Board staff members, including Executive Officer Matthew St. John, were spotted walking towards the Caltrans building. The crowd of about twenty hailed the three men as they disappeared into the building. After some time and persuasion, CHP Officer Nellis conveyed the group’s request to meet before leaving on the tour, to which they acceded.

The impromptu half-hour meeting was held under a shade tree outside the Caltrans office. Activists conveyed their concerns about the both the biological and cultural impacts of the Bypass MMP, including the abysmal treatment of cultural sites, the potential for flooding, erosion and sedimentation from disturbed soil on creek banks and scraped wetlands, lack of planting, overgrazing and monitoring records. Continue reading

Coyote Valley Tribe’s Full Protest Letter to CalTrans!

coyote-valley-tribeSeptember 2, 2015
Charles C. Fielder
District 1, Director
California Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 3700
Eureka, CA 95502-3700

On behalf of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians Tribal Council, I wanted to both explain why we are not signing the current proposed Programmatic Agreement, Post Review and Discovery Action Plan. We would also like to express our extreme disappointment in Caltrans for allowing this process to extend well into the construction phase. We are as well continuing to insist on face to face government to government consultation regarding our concerns, a request that has gone unheeded by Caltrans for several months.

Introduction: Over two years ago, Caltrans commenced construction activity on the Willits Bypass and Mitigation Project. Given the extensive construction activity to date, it is inauthentic and insincere for Caltrans to ask our Tribe to now sign off on a Programmatic Agreement and Post Review and Discovery Action Plan, when these crucial documents should have been in place through government to government consultation with the Tribes prior to the beginning of ground disturbing activities.

A Failure of Responsibility: Caltrans has completely failed to be pro-active in its responsibility to the Tribes. It took tribal and public outrage over the grossly negligent destruction of CA MEN 3571 in the Northern Interchange area of the Project to trigger Caltrans’ PA and PRDMP consultations with the Tribes.  On September 18, 2013, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation instructed Caltrans to enter into a MOU with the Tribes’ concerns for the protection of cultural sites within the Willits Bypass Project. Nearly two years have elapsed since this mandate from the National Advisory Council, two years of intense earth disturbing activities by Caltrans on the Willits Bypass Project, yet the Tribes and Federal and State Agencies have not agreed to terms in order to avoid further destruction of our heritage and to ensure protection of our ancestral cultural and archaeological sites. Continue reading

Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Reject CalTrans Programmatic Agreement

coyote-valley-tribeIn a major development in local Indigenous people’s efforts to secure justice in CalTrans’ treatment of their cultural resources in Little Lake Valley, the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians have rejected CalTrans’ “programmatic agreement,” a document which is supposed to establish mutually-approved procedures for cultural resource management between Caltrans and the consulting tribes.

Click here to read the full letter!

The Willits News features a very good story this week about this subject.  It reads:

“A multi-year negotiation between local tribes and Caltrans officials concerning the identification and management of cultural resource sites located on the Willits bypass project and its mitigation area has reached another impasse, as one local tribe announced its refusal to sign an agreement over how such sites will be handled.

In a Sept. 2 letter from the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, Chairman Michael Hunter details various reasons the tribe withdrew from discussions regarding the “programmatic agreement,” (PA) a document which is supposed to establish mutually-approved procedures for cultural resource management between Caltrans and the consulting tribes.

Reasons listed include issues with adequate tribal consultation, disagreement over standards to identify and protect sites, conflict over proposed mitigation measures to manage and compensate for the multiple site damages that has already occurred, and a general lack of adequate communication and good faith in consultations.

The letter states: “We firmly believe that it would be an insult to both our heritage and our integrity to sign off on the proposed Programmatic Agreement and Post Review and Discovery Action Plan. These documents do not provide a genuine means for protecting our ancestral sites in the future, let alone compensate us for destruction and desecration we have experienced. For the past two years our Tribe has attempted to engage in genuine government to government.  Click here to read more. >>



Moonscaping in the “Mitigation” Wetlands — Please Act Now

Although CalTrans withdrew their plan to use herbicides to eradicate blackberries in riparian areas, their excavation and denuding of wetlands in various parts of Little Lake Valley for their “mitigation” plan — a plan horribly warped by political pressure — continues exactly as you read this. Following is an amazing, though, and heartbreaking video produced by Maria Gilardin of TUC Radio.

From Maria Gilardin:

“As you may know, a second crime wave is hitting the Willits Bypass area.  How can it be legal to bulldoze wetlands in an archeological district in order to come up with mitigation credits for destroyed wetlands?? This video shows the moon-scaping of the Willits mitigation wetlands – it’s 14 minutes short – the record of a community event on August 13.”

SOLLV is STILL working to stop this desecration. You can help! Contact your elected officials to call for a temporary stop to all ground-disturbing activity in the mitigation lands while resource agencies, tribes, and CalTrans meet to agree on cultural site protection. Also, ask for a community meeting with CalTrans to explain their mitigation and consider public comments! Make phone calls ASAP. Time is critical!

Here are contact numbers:

  • Congressman Jared Huffman c/o Heather Gurewitz – (707) 962-0933
    Washington, DC – (202) 225-5161
  • State Senator Mike McGuire – (916) 651-4002
  • Assemblymember Jim Wood – (916) 319-2002
  • District 3 County Supervisor Tom Woodhouse – (707) 463-4221

 More actions will be posted on the website as they are developed.