Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians
Save Our Little Lake Valley
Earth First!
Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters
For immediate release

Ceremony and Demonstration to Be Held on Caltrans’ Willits Bypass Mitigation Lands to Protect Native American Sites

A prayer ceremony will be held today, July 23, at 10:00 a.m., at a site just off highway 101, north of Willits, where the northern interchange of the Willits bypass is being built, to ask for protection of the many Pomo ancestral cultural sites being discovered and destroyed by Caltrans on bypass mitigation lands. The ceremony will be led by Fred Short, spiritual leader of the American Indian Movement in California.
Concerns about the destruction of Native American cultural sites on the mitigation lands have been raised by local Pomo tribes in recent visits and letters to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and Army Corp of Engineers, agencies in charge of Caltrans’ 401 operating permit and the Mitigation and Monitoring Plan (MMP)
Testifying before the Water Board on June 18, Priscilla Hunter, Coyote Valley Tribal representative, stated: “The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians objects to Caltrans’ use of the current requirements of the mitigation plan on the Willits Bypass Project as a rationale for not avoiding our ancestral cultural sites…due to the requirements of the Mitigation Monitoring Plan (MMP) approved by your agency”.
In a July 15, 2015 letter to Coyote Valley Tribal Chairman Hunter, from the Water Board, Mike Bartlett, Environmental Project Manager for Caltrans, responding to the concerns about the destruction of cultural sites, stated:
“…there are known sites where construction impacts are unavoidable due to [the] limited number of areas where the creation and rehabilitation of new wetlands is possible in Little Lake Valley”.
Acknowledging “…the possibility of uncovering previously unknown cultural resources during the creation and rehabilitation of wetland areas” Bartlett concluded that “Because Caltrans’ obligation is to create a certain amount of wetlands habitat…”, the destruction of cultural sites is “an unfortunate circumstance of the situation”.
The Coyote Valley Tribal Council responded in a letter of July 20th to Water Board Chair John Corbett, that “We consider this to be not just an “unfortunate circumstance” but a violation of the law. Caltrans is pointing the finger at the Water Board, saying the requirements of the MMP mandate them to side step CEQA and NHPA requirements to avoid and protect of ancestral sites. “
The letter documents a history of CEQA/NHPA violations by Caltrans in their wetlands creation activities in the Willits Bypass Project and provides numerous examples of sites discovered and destroyed “by bulldozer blade”. Since the EIR/EIS was approved in 2006, thirty culturally significant sites eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in the Bypass alignment and Mitigation parcels have been discovered.
In 2012 and 2014, Caltrans submitted revised MMPs to decrease the net harm the Bypass caused to the plants, animals, and water in the Little Lake Valley without addressing Native American cultural resources. The MMPs call for substantial environmental impacts of their own, including roughly 100 acres of topsoil disruption to replace existing vegetation with native plants. …in an area…known to have housed more than 5,000 Pomo in seven villages up until the 1830s.
The letter alleges Caltrans knew there was “a high likelihood that these ancestral lands hold Pomo artifacts and, quite possibly, Native American human remains”, but began construction regardless, without performing proper surveys or considering impacts on Pomo cultural resources.
The letter alleges that Caltrans has changed the rules on the amount of lithic concentrations used to signify a potential culturally significant site. This deviation from professionally accepted standards is “… an apparent attempt to avoid further site identification and protection”. It concludes: “Caltrans…should not deviate from adequate efforts to identify and protect ancestral cultural sites due to their tardiness in complying with mitigation requirements”.
The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians is calling for a temporary halt to construction until a supplemental EIS can be completed and approved.
Ceremony and Demonstration to Be Held on Caltrans’ Willits Bypass Mitigation Lands to Protect Native American Sites