Eliminating invasive blackberry on Willits Bypass mitigation parcels

image012aLetters were recently sent to three local tribes in Mendocino County notifying them of a need to use herbicides to remove non-native invasive Himalayan blackberry plants from Willits Bypass mitigation parcels.  Caltrans had anticipated using manual methods to eradicate 32 targeted invasive plants growing on mitigation parcels.   Included in those targeted plants is Himalayan blackberry, but the accelerated time schedule negotiated with the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) as part of the reinstatement of a permit no longer makes this possible.  It would require a minimum of 5 to 7 years to eradicate the invasive Himalayan blackberry growing on 67 acres using manual methods, but Caltrans does not have that long to complete the establishment of native plants to meet our commitments to the Corps. Continue reading

Caltrans goes above and beyond bypass mitigation requirements in the Little Lake Valley

A logjam along Outlet Creek mixed with accumulated trash.

A logjam along Outlet Creek mixed with accumulated trash.

Last fall (2013), Caltrans Maintenance crews and Environmental staff, working with California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff, removed log jams in two areas along Outlet Creek to the north of the Willits Bypass Project area. The logjams totaled about 400’ in length, and the cleanup required hundreds of cubic yards of logs, brush, and trash to be removed from the streambed. The logs and other woody debris were then ground up into mulch by a large grinder brought onsite to be used for the bypass project. It is likely these logjams had prevented fish from reaching spawning grounds within the Little Lake Valley for years.

A logjam forming a dam along Outlet Creek.

A logjam forming a dam along Outlet Creek.

Continue reading

October 2014 Willits Bypass Update To Willits City Council

Caltrans staff provided a written update to the Willits City Council on October 22 on the status of the Willits Bypass.  The complete text is provided below.

WILLITS BYPASS PROJECT

2014 CONSTRUCTION SEASON

OCTOBER 2014 UPDATE

The south interchange, looking southwest towards existing US Highway 101

The south interchange, looking southwest towards existing US Highway 101

The following is a summary of the construction activities that have been completed up to October 17, 2014 (Refer to Attachment No. 1 for Project Map).

  • Contractor has completed approximately 50% of the work.

Southern Segment (Beginning of Project to Center Valley Road) – STA”A”96+00 to 149+00 (3.3 miles):

  • Rock blanket on excavated slopes (U1 slope) is complete.
  • Construction of crossover detour for northbound freeway traffic to U1 line is complete.
  • Haehl Creek realignment and fish passage improvement work is complete.
  • 101/20 Separation and Haehl Creek Bridges foundations are complete, abutments are complete, 101/20 superstructures anticipate November 2014 completion. Due to short work window and temporary suspension of Corps permit in June 2014, work on Haehl Creek Bridges is suspended and will resume next June 2015 and be complete in October 2015.
  • Northbound onramp E20/N101 Connector Bridge is complete, except for concrete barrier rails.
  • North Haehl Creek Bridge is complete, work on approaches is suspended until spring 2015.
  • Pond relocation at Rutledge property is complete.
  • Baechtel Creek retaining wall is complete, backfill and embankment will be completed in 2015.
  • Embankment between Haehl Creek and Center Valley Road started, but is suspended until 2015.
  • Erosion control is being installed at all locations.

Continue reading

Traffic Changes on South End of Willits Bypass Project; Expect Major Delays on US Highway 101

willits_bypass_detour

 

HOURS UPDATED

On Thursday, October 9, traffic on US Highway 101 on the south end of the Willits Bypass Project will be diverted to a long-term detour.  In order to tie the detour into the existing highway, one-way traffic control with a pilot car will be in effect from 4AM 2AM to 9PM on Thursday only.  Motorists should anticipate major traffic delays which could reach one hour or more during peak traffic times, with southbound traffic on US Highway 101 backing up into the northern end of Willits.  Continue reading

Latest Willits Bypass Update to the Willits City Council

Caltrans staff provided a written update to the Willits City Council on September 24 on the status of the Willits Bypass.  The complete text is provided below.

WILLITS BYPASS PROJECT
2014 CONSTRUCTION SEASON
SEPTEMBER 2014 UPDATE

IMG_9699

At the south interchange looking north across Haehl Creek.

The following is a summary of the construction activities that have been completed up to September 18, 2014
(Refer to Attachment No. 1 for Project Map).

  • Contractor has completed approximately 48% of the work.

Southern Segment (Beginning of Project to Center Valley Road) – STA”A”96+00 to 149+00 (3.3 miles):

  • Rock blanket on excavated slopes (U1 slope) completed.
  • Construction of crossover detour for northbound freeway traffic to U1 line continues.
  • Haehl Creek realignment and fish passage improvement work is started and will be completed by the end of September 2014.
  • 101/20 Separation and Haehl Creek Bridges foundations are complete, abutments are complete 101/20 superstructures anticipate November 2014 completion. Due to short work window and temporary suspension of Corps permit in June 2014, Haehl Cr. Structures will suspend then resume next June 2015 and be complete in September 2015.
  • Northbound onramp E20/N101 Connector bridge is complete, except for concrete barrier rails.
  • North Haehl Creek bridge is also complete, work on approaches will begin this week.
  • Pond relocation at Rutledge property is complete.
  • Baechtel Creek retaining wall is complete.

Continue reading

Caltrans Provides Willits Bypass Project Update to Willits City Council

IMG_9276On Wednesday, July 23, Caltrans Project Manager Mauricio Serrano and Senior Resident Engineer Geoffrey Wright provided the Willits City Council with a Willits Bypass Project update.  The update included the following:

The realignment of Haehl Creek and fish passage improvement work has begun and is anticipated to be completed by mid-September. Continue reading

Corps Lifts Permit Suspension on Willits Bypass Project

CT_logoPress Release:

Today’s Date:          July 10, 2014
District:                     1 – Eureka
Contact:                    Phil Frisbie, Jr.
Phone:                      (707) 441-4678

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CORPS LIFTS PERMIT SUSPENSION ON WILLITS BYPASS PROJECT

EUREKA – After Caltrans committed to accelerate work on the extensive mitigation for the bypass project and develop a plan to add additional mitigation to compensate for delays in beginning the mitigation work, today the US Army Corps of Engineers lifted the permit suspension for the Willits Bypass Project.

The Willits Bypass Project will relieve congestion, reduce delays, and improve safety for both traffic and pedestrians along U.S. Highway 101 through Willits in Mendocino County. This $210 million project, now under construction, is primarily funded ($136 million) by Proposition 1B, a 2006 voter-approved transportation bond.

For the latest information about the Willits Bypass Project, please visit willitsbypass.wordpress.com.

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Caltrans Meets With Corps and Sends Summary Letter; Corps To Rule Today On Suspension

IMG_9219On July 9, Caltrans meet with the US Army Corps of Engineers to discuss their July 8 letter modifying our permit and outlining three conditions Caltrans must complete before the suspension will be lifted.  Caltrans explained how the first two conditions will be completed by August 2, 2014, and how the third could take many months, and would increase the project costs and impacts to the environment.  Caltrans outlined a plan to accelerate work on the mitigation properties, and to update the Mitigation and Monitoring Plan to incorporate additional mitigation for temporal  losses. Continue reading

Corps Sends New Letter; Willits Bypass Work Suspension Delayed One Day

Aerial photo of Little Lake Valley from Google MapsCaltrans received a letter from the US Army Corps of Engineers outlining modifications to our permit to build the Willits Bypass Project.   The letter maintains the conditional suspension of our permit, clarifies work that may and may not be performed without further authorization, and outlines three things Caltrans must complete before the suspension will be lifted.  Caltrans will be meeting with the Corps July 9 to discuss this latest letter. Continue reading

Willits Bypass Project to go into suspension

IMG_9143On June 20, 2014, the US Army Corps of Engineers suspended Caltrans’ permit to construct the Willits Bypass Project.  The costs to keep contractor crews on standby and other delay costs have added an estimated $800,000 to the Willits Bypass Project from June 20 through July 7, and are accumulating at about $100,000 per day.  Due to these costs, Caltrans has notified our contractors that we intend to suspend work effective July 8 at the end of the day’s work until the Corps permit suspension is lifted.  This was not an easy decision, but with the mounting costs and uncertainty from the Corps of when they might lift the suspension, Caltrans had to reduce the escalating costs to taxpayers. Continue reading