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.
On 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
Caltrans 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
On 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
On June 20, just one week after State agencies approved the Willits Bypass Mitigation and Management Proposal, The U S Army Corps of Engineers notified Caltrans that their permit was conditionally suspended, and that all ground disturbing work within wetlands and stream beds was to halt. Caltrans staff were disappointed and surprised by the Corps decision to suspend the permit. Caltrans meet with the Corps on June 24 to discuss their suspension letter to better understand the Corps needs and clarify points in the letter that Caltrans believed to have already been completed. As a result of that meeting, Caltrans drafted and sent the Corps a reply on June 27. The entire text of the letter is provided below, and a scanned/signed PDF version is available to download.
Caltrans continues to work with the Corps to resolve these issues and get the suspension lifted as quickly as possible. Each day the cost to taxpayers goes up due to delays in work, and if there is no resolve soon the project could be delayed a full season which would cost many millions of dollars. Continue reading
Today, both the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) approved the Final Mitigation and Monitoring Proposal (MMP) for the Willits Bypass Project. This MMP is the result of years of negotiations between Caltrans and these two agencies, and its approval allows Caltrans to continue forward with the construction of the bypass and mitigation projects.
The Regional Water Board also stated that additional mitigation measures already incorporated into the mitigation project by Caltrans, along with mitigation recently added to the MMP, were sufficient for the delayed start of the project. Continue reading
Beginning Wednesday, May 14, at 8PM and continuing through Thursday, May 15, at 5AM, East Commercial Street in Willits (also known as Hearst-Willits Road) will be closed to through traffic between South Lenore Avenue and Bray Road. This closure is needed in order to place metal beams above the road for the construction of the viaduct section of the Willits Bypass Project. Residents should seek an alternate route.
Temporary piles being delivered on April 8 at the south end of the viaduct. These piles will help support the falsework (concrete form) that shapes the various parts of the viaduct.
This week work began to ramp back up at the Willits Bypass Project. Work is beginning to construct the southern half of the viaduct and eight bridges south of the viaduct which includes the six bridges that help form the southern interchange. Work will include driving piles and constructing more viaduct columns. There will eventually be traffic control required on some local streets which run under the bypass, and Caltrans will release details in advance to alert the public. Continue reading
Aerial photo of Little Lake Valley from Google Maps
On January 29, 2014, an article was published in The Willits News (TWN) written by Linda Williams titled Groundwater in Little Lake Valley. Caltrans would like to expand on some of the facts in this article and relate them to water usage at the Willits Bypass Project. The above article seems to draw much of its information from a California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) document last updated in 2004.
Groundwater reserves in the Little Lake Valley (LLV) have been determined by past state and federal studies to be “substantial and mostly untapped” as TWN article puts it. These studies have estimated the LLV contains from 35,000 to 91,000 acre-feet of water. An acre-foot of water is equal to about 325,851 gallons. Using the most conservative estimate of 35,000 acre-feet means there are at least 11 billion gallons of groundwater available in the LLV. The Willits Bypass Project used about 4 million gallons of groundwater last season, which is about 0.04% of the estimated available groundwater in the LLV. Continue reading
SACRAMENTO–In response to today’s decision by U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White ruling in favor of Caltrans in a lawsuit that challenged construction of a highway bypass project near Willits, California, Caltrans director Malcolm Dougherty issued the following statement:
“Caltrans takes seriously its responsibility to preserve the species and habitats on these lands and we are pleased that the judge rejected this lawsuit. This project eliminates a chronic traffic bottleneck while enhancing fisheries and hundreds of acres of local wetlands.”
For the latest information about the environmental improvements and the Willits Bypass Project, please visit willitsbypass.wordpress.com.
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A copy of the ruling is available for download