Caltrans addresses inaccurate information in tribal news release

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[Updated on 11/2/15 to clarify participation by Round Valley Indian Tribes, that cultural resources are avoided if possible or mitigated for, and add more detail to (c)]

On October 30, 2015, Caltrans was notified by the media that the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians and the Round Valley Indian Tribes sent out a press release outlining tribal complaints regarding the Willits Bypass project and announcing their intention to file suit against the Department. The Tribes allege that Caltrans knowingly destroyed historic cultural sites in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

These statements are factually inaccurate, and are damaging not only to this project – which will link Californians north of Willits to the rest of the state with a safe, reliable, and efficient route through Mendocino County – but also to the taxpayers of California, who will ultimately end up footing the bill for this unnecessary legal action. Continue reading

Herbicide meeting cancelled: Herbicide use on blackberries pulled off the table for now

image012aCaltrans has been in discussions with the Willits Bypass Mitigation contractor this past week over the plan to control non-native invasive Himalaya blackberry. It had been anticipated our contractor would include the herbicide option in order to ensure meeting mitigation timeline and performance goals for site preparation and establishing native wetland plants, but instead they recently submitted a plan to attempt to use mechanical/manual methods. As a result, the herbicide meeting scheduled in Willits on August 13 has been cancelled. Continue reading

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

Caltrans Responds to Corps Conditional Suspension of Bypass Permit

willits_childrenOn 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

Caltrans Will Target $26 Million To Protect Environment

CT_logoEUREKA – Caltrans will direct $26 million in funding to make significant environmental improvements on more than 2,000 acres of lands it purchased for the Willits Bypass Project.

“Caltrans takes seriously its responsibility to preserve the species and habitats on these lands,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “We will protect these wetlands and fisheries in the Little Lake Valley while preserving grazing on much of these lands.” Continue reading