Natural Resources and Science
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The protest against the Willits Bypass Project is escalating, and according to the KMUD Local News Broadcast, aired by News Director, Terri Klemtson, Thurs., March 21, 2013, the California Highway Patrol stepped up their presence at the project site, and as of 2:30 pm eight people had been arrested.
Use the player below to hear more including:
- An interview with a CHP Officer
- An interview with a Caltrans spokesperson
- Opinions from a tree sitter ("Warbler")
- An interview with a spokesperson from the Environmental Protection and Information Center(EPIC)
- Information on the planned nude photoshoot
Links to more information:
Caltrans Willits Bypass Web Page
Previous KMUD News post Willits Bypass update
KMUD News Post detailing the background of this project and protests against the project
Related information contributed by Dan Roberts
The press release below dated, March 21, 2013 was jointly released by three environmental groups: Center for Biological Diversity, Willits Environmental Center and EPIC.
SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Two-dozen conservation and community organizations are joining together to take on irresponsible and damaging highway-widening projects around the state by the California Department of Transportation. The Caltrans Watch coalition cites wasteful spending, institutionalized disregard of environmental regulations designed to protect natural resources, and a pattern of refusal to address local community concerns. A dozen of the groups are calling on Caltrans to halt construction on the controversial Willits Bypass project in Mendocino County.
“With devastating budget cuts to education, health and social services and the state park system, how can Caltrans squander $350 million on five unnecessary highway widening projects in Northern California, with severe environmental impacts?” asked Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Someone needs to give ’em a brake. Where’s the oversight and accountability to rein in the pervasive problems at Caltrans, like refusal to consider reasonable alternatives to massive highway projects, shoddy environmental review, no transparency, faulty data and disregard for public input?”
"The Willits community is coming to realize what a disaster the Willits Bypass will be for our environment and our town,” said Ellen Drell of the Willits Environmental Center. “The project should be stopped until Caltrans adequately evaluates less damaging alternatives. We want our transportation dollars and construction jobs directed toward locally appropriate infrastructure that doesn't bankrupt the state, further trash our natural resources or ignore the $300 billion highway maintenance backlog.”
“From the wild canyons of the Smith River, through the redwood parks of Humboldt, to the wetlands headwaters of the Eel River at Willits, Caltrans is running roughshod over the North Coast,” said Natalynne Delapp of the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Local communities are trying to engage the agency to develop appropriate transportation solutions, but Caltrans continues to bulldoze us with archaic projects straight out of the 1950s, that benefit only a limited group of economic interests.”
Despite a pending lawsuit filed by conservation groups challenging the Willits Bypass — a proposed four-lane freeway to be built through sensitive wetlands around the community of Willits — Caltrans has stated its intention to cut down mature oak forests, remove brush and destroy riparian vegetation along critical salmon streams before the case can be heard in federal court this summer. State Sen. Noreen Evans earlier this month sent a letter to Caltrans echoing community concerns over whether there is a need for a four-lane project, why other alternatives or routes were not seriously examined, and if less environmentally destructive solutions to address local traffic congestion were feasible. For now, protestors and a tree-sitter in the path of Caltrans’ proposed superhighway have prevented tree and vegetation removal.
The Caltrans Watch coalition includes: Alameda Creek Alliance, Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters, Campaign for Sensible Transportation, Center for Biological Diversity, Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge, East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, Environmental Protection Information Center, Friends of Coyote Hills Committee, Friends of Del Norte, Friends of the Eel River, Local Ecology and Agriculture Fremont, Mendocino Group of the Sierra Club, Northcoast Environmental Center, Pacificans for Highway One Alternatives, Piercy Watersheds Association, Redwood Chapter of the Sierra Club, Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment, Save Little Lake Valley, Save Niles Canyon, Save Our Sunol, Save Richardson Grove Coalition, Tri-City Ecology Center and Willits Environmental Center.
Caltrans has consistently refused to consider less expensive and ecologically damaging alternatives to highway widening projects that could accomplish safety and transportation objectives, and has ignored public concerns, input and opposition. The coalition points to half a dozen highway-widening projects being pursued by Caltrans that are not needed to achieve the stated safety or transportation access purposes:
* The $10 million Richardson Grove project to widen and realign Highway 101 through Richardson Grove State Park in Humboldt County, damaging prized old-growth redwoods to supposedly increase access for large commercial trucks;
* The $210 million Highway 101 superhighway the size of Interstate 5 around Willits, not needed for local traffic volumes, requiring the largest wetlands fill permit in Northern California in the past 50 years and running through headwaters of salmon-bearing streams and habitat for endangered plants;
* The $19 million Highway 197/199 widening projects in Del Norte County along the “wild and scenic” Smith River to accommodate oversized commercial trucks, with impacts to old-growth redwood trees;
* The $76 million Niles Canyon highway-widening project in Alameda County, a “safety” project stopped by a citizen lawsuit. Caltrans now admits the widening is not needed and the Federal Highway Administration recently concluded it is not warranted by the state’s safety data. It would have cut 600 riparian trees and added four miles of cement retaining walls and rip-rap along a regionally significant stream for steelhead trout;
* The $50 million Calera Parkway project to double the width of Highway 1 in Pacifica, in San Mateo County, with impacts to endangered frogs and garter snakes.
The coalition supports safe roadways and sensible transportation planning. For each of these projects the organizations have expended considerable effort through the available public review processes to encourage Caltrans to pursue reasonable and effective safety or access upgrades that would avoid needless environmental destruction. These efforts have largely been frustrated by Caltrans’ refusal to even evaluate viable alternatives proposed by the affected communities.
The pattern of flawed decision-making and inadequate environmental review by Caltrans has forced community organizations to resort to litigation as the only remaining avenue to seek redress. The coalition cites systemic problems within Caltrans, beginning with the manner in which transportation infrastructure needs are identified, the proposed solutions to address those needs, incomplete and inadequate review of environmental impacts, and disregard for concerns of local communities.
In a letter addressed to Caltrans Director, Michael Dougherty, dated March 5, 2013, California District 2 Senator, Noreen Evans, communicated concerns and asked a number of questions, on behalf of her constituents, regarding the current Willits Bypass Project.
- Click here for a pdf copy of Senator Evan's Letter to Caltrans. (Thanks to KMUD News Correspondent, Christina Aanestad, for providing the Evans Letter.)
- New ~ Click Here for the Caltrans Response to Senator Evan's letter.
- Click here for a KMUD News Post detailing the background of this project and protests against the project.
- Click here for the Caltrans Willits Highway Webcam.
KMUD News Director, Terri Klemetson, aired the piece below on the KMUD Local News, Tues. March 12, 2013, featuring a report on the Evans letter by Jennifer Poole, Editor of the Willits Weekly and KMUD News Correspondent.
According to KMUD News Director, Terri Klemetson:
"New research shows rat poisons killing 25 different animals in California. Scientists and environmental groups are putting pressure on agencies and manufacturers to stop distributing the second-generation anti-coagulents."
Use the player below to hear more about this issue in a story aired by Terri Klemetson on the KMUD Local News on Thurs., Feb 21, 2013.
Click here for more info from Center for Biological Diversity.
Info on the Lawsuit Launched to Protect Endangered California Fox, Other Wildlife From Rat Poisons.
EPA Limits Most Toxic Rat Poisons in Homes But Still Leaves Wildlife at Risk
SF Gate article on the rodenticide issue
Previous KMUD News Posts:
Greenleaf Power, the current owner of the Eel River Power plant in Scotia, Calif., is a California-based company which describes itself on its web page as: "...committed to providing reliable green power for North America." The Eel River Power plant in Scotia has been in temporary shut down since Oct., 2012 but is scheduled to reopen in May.
Use the player below to hear interviews and more details related to the Eel River Power Plant, Geenleaf Power, biomass power production, pollution issues and more. This story was aired on Wed. Feb. 20, 2013 by KMUD News Director, Terri Klemetson.
Greenleaf Power-click for website
Eel River Plant - Scotia
Rewood Coast Energy Authority-website
Final Comprehensive Action Plan for Energy (CAPE)
Repower Humboldt-A Strategic Plan for Renewable Energy Security and Prosperity;links to documents
The Eel River plant is based in California's North Coast region about 30 miles south of Eureka. The plant was built in 1988 with Greenleaf Power taking ownership in 2010. See photos below:
According to a press release from the Cailfornia Department of Fish and Wildlife, dated Feb., 21, 2013:
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is announcing several changes to recreational groundfish regulations that apply to state waters, zero to three miles from shore. The new recreational regulations were adopted by the Fish and Game Commission and will take effect on March 1, 2013. “Department staff worked closely with the public for more than four years to implement this change,” said Marci Yaremko, State/Federal Fisheries Program Manager. “Allowing retention of shelf rockfish inside the CCAs when the groundfish season is open will reduce discarding without impacting cowcod. It also simplifies regulations by allowing shelf rockfish take and retention both inside and outside the CCAs.” Additionally, anglers will now have the ability to retain shelf rockfish while fishing inside the Cowcod Conservation Areas (CCAs) in waters shallower than 20 fathoms. Take and possession of bronzespotted rockfish, canary rockfish, cowcod and yelloweye rockfish will remain prohibited statewide.
Other changes to regulations pertain to bocaccio rockfish and include:
- An increase in the sub-bag limit to three fish within the 10-fish Rockfish, Cabezon, Greenling (RCG) complex bag limit.
- Removal of the minimum size limit and fillet length limit.
The open season dates and allowable fishing depths for the recreational Groundfish Management Areas are as follows:
- Northern – open May 15 through Oct. 31, in 20 fathoms (120 feet) or less.
- Mendocino - open May 15 through Labor Day, in 20 fathoms (120 feet) or less.
- San Francisco - open June 1 through Dec. 31, in 30 fathoms (180 feet) or less.
- Central- open May 1 through Dec. 31, in 40 fathoms (240 feet) or less.
- Southern – open March 1 through Dec. 31, in 50 fathoms (300 feet) or less.
For more information about recreational groundfish regulations and to stay informed of inseason changes, please call the Recreational Groundfish Hotline at (831) 649-2801 or check the CDFW Marine Region website at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine.