Save Little Lake Valley

Stop the Caltrans Willits Bypass!

After all this time, CalTrans still insists on seeking criminal restitution fees from Will Parrish for his occupation of the “wick drain stitcher” in Little Lake Valley, which occurred in the early summer of 2013! After countless delays, the restitution hearing is scheduled for Friday, October 10th at 9:30 a.m. at Mendocino County Courtroom “B” in Ukiah.

CalTrans seeks $154,733 in restitution fees from Will, down from their original claim of $490,002. This is in spite of the fact that Will already settled the criminal charges related to his non-violent action in Jan. 2014, with the Mendocino County DA agreeing to two misdemeanors, which become infractions on Will’s record in Jan. 2016, and 100 hours of community service (which Will has already completed).

Your presence at the hearing helps make a powerful statement. This case provides a measuring stick for the validity of CalTrans’ utterly absurd claims that protesters caused $12 million in taxpayer burden by delaying the project in 2013.  Let’s stand behind someone who has stood up for all of us! Let’s put CalTrans’ greed on trial!

– Live in Willits? Carpool by meeting at Bountiful Gardens in Evergreen Shopping Plaza at 8:30
– Restitution Hearing at 9:30
– Rally at noon on the courthouse steps

Click on the Continue Reading link for an overview and updates on Will’s case.

Recent Developments

The Mendocino County District Attorney and Will (with help from attorney Omar Figueroa) settled the criminal charges connected to his case this past January.  Click the link to learn more of the details.

The settlement left the issue of criminal restitution fees partially unresolved.  At the time, CalTrans was seeking $481,155 as compensation for the project delays they said Will’s action had caused (CalTrans has submitted three different restitution claims to the DA’s office regarding the Parrish case).  While a member of the DA’s Office acknowledged this figure to be “inflated,” the official position is they do not have the Constitutional authority to limit the amount of restitution CalTrans can pursue.  Only a judge, they say, can set limits on the restitution request.

The DA’s office subsequently announced that CalTrans would have to prosecute the restitution claim themselves, and that the DA would no longer be involved.

CalTrans, however, has thus far refused to send their lawyers — who would have to come from Sacramento — to handle the case.   And the DA’s office has not responded to the Parrish camp’s efforts to mediate the case, even though Mendocino County Superior Court Judge John Behnke has requested in two of the case’s various open court sessions that such mediation occur.

As a result, the case has been in a stalemate, which has dragged on for several months.  How the various messy aspects of the relationship between the DA and CalTrans will be resolved is anyone’s guess. It appears, though, that the hearing on criminal restitution will, in fact, finally take place.  The stage is set for October 10th at 9:30 a.m. in Courtroom “B.”

Overview of Will Parrish’s Case

Will Parrish is a journalist and activist who lives in Ukiah.  Last year (2013), from June 20 to July 1, Will occupied a “wick drain stitcher” that CalTrans contractor DeSilva Gates Corp. was using to install 80-foot-long vertical tubes into the wetlands of Little Lake Valley, as part of a process called “wick draining,” which drains water from the earth to accelerate soil compaction and thereby stabilize the ground for infrastructure.

Will’s action generated a great deal of attention, particularly after he was able to remain on the stitcher, without food, in the midst of an unseasonal rain for several days.  CalTrans installed perhaps one-quarter as many wick drains as planned during the 11.5-day period will was on the stitcher. Ultimately, the wick drains were fully installed, but direct actions such as Will’s have generated important political consequences.  They have turned the Willits Bypass a widely-acknowledged symbol of waste and misguided planning, for which California’s state transportation agency is becoming increasingly known (with concomitant efforts to create reform), also keeping alive the possibility that the Bypass will be downsized to a somewhat more reasonable size.

All other Bypass protester cases have been resolved.  The last case, against tree sitter Mark Herbert, was thrown out entirely by Judge Ann Moorman on May 29, 2014.