A cultural resource was unintentionally disturbed recently at the Willits Bypass Project, and Caltrans takes this occurrence very seriously. When Caltrans staff became aware that a cultural site was within our construction area, work at that location was immediately stopped, and the disturbance is under investigation. The Sherwood Valley Rancheria Chairman and their consultant were notified and provided with details of the steps taken to secure the area from further disturbances. Here’s what we know so far: nothing has been removed except for a core sample used in originally identifying the site.
Caltrans works hard statewide to protect cultural resources on all our projects. Our employees are upset by this disturbance since they work so hard, and go to such great lengths, in their effort to ensure this does not happen. For this project, there are six cultural monitors working alongside active construction, with authority to temporarily halt work if required, to protect cultural resources.
Immediate steps by Caltrans to protect cultural resources at the Willits Bypass include the enhancement and daily inspection of sensitive area fencing, enhanced communication regarding sensitive areas at morning construction meetings, the installation of more signage along sensitive areas, synchronization of the pace of construction for heightened monitoring for cultural resources, and, in working with the Tribe, cultural resource identification by the project archeologist to assure that all cultural resources of importance to the Tribe have been identified.
Caltrans is also investigating the steps that lead to the imprecise mapping of this site, as found in some documents. Once the investigation is complete, information will be shared with the Sherwood Valley Rancheria.
Caltrans is working closely with the Sherwood Valley Rancheria and other interested Tribes to honor, respect and protect their cultural resources and history. All sites in our project work area are mapped and fenced for protection from construction activities. Both Caltrans field staff and contractor personnel are aware of the importance of protecting cultural resources. Caltrans has initiated changes in staff communications that will lead to stronger onsite communications between Sherwood Valley Rancheria, Caltrans, and our contractor.