Save Our Little Lake Valley
Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians
Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters
For immediate release
Oct. 15, 2015
Demonstration at Caltrans’ Willits Office
Thurs. Oct. 15th 9:00 a.m.
Save Our Little Lake Valley to Water Board: “Hold Caltrans Accountable on Bypass Mitigation Lands”
Willits CA–Caltrans is set to complete work on its bypass mitigation lands today, Oct 15, barring extensions they may receive as they did last year while the dry weather lasts. According to bypass liaison Brendan Thompson, the Regional Water Quality Control Board staff, including Executive Officer Matt St. John, will be in Willits Thurs. Oct 15 to conduct a field inspection of the bypass mitigation lands for compliance with “best management practices” (BMPs).
Save Our Little Lake Valley (SOLLV) had requested that members of the public, the press and elected officials be included on the inspection tour, so they could get a firsthand look at the mitigation lands, asserting the need to know what the public’s tax dollars have bought and what to expect this winter.
Responding to SOLLV member Madge Strong who made the request, Caltrans’ public relation officer, Phil Frisbee refused, saying: “The site inspection would not be an appropriate time for either media or public.” According to Strong, Frisbee described the inspection as “an on-site, closed-door meeting between the agency and Caltrans reps”. Asked about transparency or public input throughout the process, Frisbee said “that’s the way they usually do things to get it done”. He offered to arrange another time for media to be given a tour, possibly including Strong, as a Willits City Council member, and perhaps a few other knowledgeable members of the public.
A demonstration will be held at the Caltrans office on 300 Easthill Rd. to urge the Regional Water Quality Control Board to include the public and to hold Caltrans accountable for the destruction of Native American ancestral sites, the condition of grazing lands under the Mitigation Plan and the loss of wetlands for which the mitigation lands are supposed to compensate.
Save Our Little Lake Valley’s specific concerns include:
1) Possible toxics at a large, deep-pit “Wetland Creation” site just off highway 101 north of Willits, a former wood waste landfill site opposite the old mill (now owned by Mendocino Redwood Co.)
2) Likelihood of sediment entering streams from creek bank vegetation removal and runoff from topsoil scraping: Contractor De Silva Gates’s history of failed BMP’s does not inspire confidence. (At the Southern Interchange the first year 150 times more sediment entered creeks than is allowed, yet no violation was issued!)
3) Archaeological destruction: The amount of destruction and abysmal consultation history is unacceptable. Post Review discovery of artifacts has been extensive and no supplemental EIR was performed. Consequently there are NO protections or directions in the Mitigation and Monitoring Plan regarding protection of cultural material.
4) Grazing: Areas currently visible show disturbing evidence of overgrazing. There is no Grazing Report and no way to know what is happening on the lands the public cannot view.
5) Possible flooding caused by soil compaction and changes to topography and stream bank cover affecting drainage; possible wick drain malfunction
“The public needs a comprehensive tour, to assure that there is improvement in wetland functions and to familiarize ourselves how one third of the land in our valley is being treated. Accountability and transparency are essential to the agencies’ ability to assure compensation for destroyed wetlands” said Rosamund Crowder, long-time Willits area resident familiar with bypass matters who will speak at the demonstration.