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.
Another serious concern was the possibility of toxics remaining in the soil at a “wetland creation” site along highway 101 north of Willits where a wood waste dump has been excavated leaving a very deep pit. The soil has been trucked out of county to a Class III disposal site, presumably for hazardous materials. SOLLV is calling for further testing before backfilling is approved. The site is the subject of a previous Water Quality violation.
Water Board E.O. St. John offered to meet with those concerned at the agency’s offices in Santa Rosa but the group insisted an on-site tour with the knowledgeable citizens and press access must take place first in the interests of transparency and accountability. At the end of the day, Caltrans’ Phil Frisbee agreed to provide a tour for one member of the media and is expected to confirm requests from other participants.