Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Indigenous Nations shut down California CALTRANS construction project to save their Sacred Sites

"Pomo Leaders, AIM elders and Activists Shut Down Caltrans Construction"
2014-09-23 by Karen Pickett [https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/09/23/18762010.php?show_comments=1] [archive.org], for more info, visit [http://savelittlelakevalley.org]:
* Tribal Pomo Representatives, AIM elders and Environmentalists Take Action for Ancient Native Sites and Wetlands.
* Trucks Dumping Fill are Shut Down at the site of the under-construction Caltrans Willits Bypass in Mendocino County.
The Native participants, from Coyote Valley, Sherwood Valley, Potter Valley and the American Indian Movement entered the construction site with the AIM flag, banners and drums for prayers and direct action in conjunction with local environmental activists. (photo by Steve Eberhard, Willits News)
Native American Tribal members, including direct descendants of the Pomo peoples who once populated the Little Lake Valley where Caltrans is currently building an oversized freeway Bypass, joined environmental groups in a powerful protest on the north end of the highway project today. Protestors entered the construction zone north of town in the early morning hours, stopping the fast and furious flow of dirt-filled, double-belly dump trucks that have been working from dawn to dusk to cover the wetlands and archeological sites the activists seek to protect.
Elders and spiritual leaders from local Pomo Indian Bands and the American Indian Movement (AIM) lead the way to threatened cultural sites where prayers were offered for the ancestors. The AIM flag and drum were present near the construction area where Native American cultural artifacts have been discovered. The sites have been documented and fenced off by Caltrans, but are still slated to be destroyed by being permanently graded and buried under the Bypass as currently designed.
“I hear and feel our ancestors cry to save our villages from destruction. The white man’s history repeats itself. We pray that the Creator will hear our prayers”, said Priscilla Hunter, tribal representative for the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians. “Caltrans placated the interests of local ranchers by giving them permanent grazing rights on the mitigation lands and built the viaduct over the railroad track to preserve it, but yet they don’t listen to the Indians’ concerns for protection of our ancestors’ culture or to our call for downsizing the northern interchange to avoid a large village site.”
The Coyote Valley Tribe requested government to government consultations with the Army Corps of Engineers in June, but to date has received no response. Hunter stated that Caltrans was likely in violation of the Clean Water Act 404 Permit General Condition # 3 which specifically references the protection of archeological sites and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. At this time, Caltrans has refused to provide any further information about the recent cultural findings to Hunter.
The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians letter to the Army Corps of Engineers and their Resolution for Government to Government consultation can be found here.
Over thirty additional sites and more than one hundred artifacts have been identified since Bypass construction in the valley began. One site is thought to be the ancient village site of Yami. After initially assuring the Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo that construction on this large, known site would be avoided, Caltrans destroyed the village completely in the summer of 2013. Equipment operators did not stop work and did not notify the Tribes, as required. Caltrans admitted the destruction months later, calling it "accidental” and blaming faulty maps. Artifacts in Little Lake Valley are so plentiful it has been described by archeologists as an Archeological District.
Some of the cultural sites being “discovered by bulldozer” are on the so-called mitigation lands, acres Caltrans is relying upon to compensate for environmental damage to public values, called “temporal loss”. When cultural sites are identified, the area is set aside, reducing the acreage available for mitigations. Caltrans needs every acre of scarce mitigation land to make up for the temporal losses already incurred by its chronic failure to perform mitigation measures now two years overdue.
Bypass opponents have proposed a smaller, lower impact design to reduce the amount of mitigation lands needed to satisfy requirements that would also save time money as well as some 30 acres of wetlands while avoiding cultural sites. Caltrans had committed to finding ways to reduce the amount of fill used on the northern interchange as one of the conditions of reinstating its previously suspended 404 Operating Permit under lead agency Army Corps of Engineers. Caltrans has proposed only a minimal 3.5 acre reduction carved from minor design adjustments, without evaluating other, less destructive options.
The Coalition to Save Little Lake Valley and others including Earth First!, the Willits Environmental Center and Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters are demanding an immediate halt to all fill activities on the northern interchange pending a significant reduction of impacts to protect both wetlands and cultural sites.
Redwood Nation Earth First!, the Coalition to Save Little Lake Valley and Bay Area Coalition to Save Headwaters said activists would return to the site early Wednesday morning.

"Stops and Starts for Caltrans on Willits Bypass While Native Site Protocol is Scrapped"2014-09-19 from "Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters (BACH)" [http://headwaterspreserve.org/2014/09/✥-buffalo-campaign-show-in-berkeley-sept-26-✥-✥-native-archeological-sites-at-issue-in-caltrans-willits-bypass-campaign-update-✥/] [archive.today]:
A Temporary Stop Order issued in August had prevented Caltrans from excavating fill from a questionable site, but the court failed to grant a Preliminary Injunction continuing that action on Sept. 8. Meanwhile the Coyote Valley Band of Pomos has been petitioning the Army Corps of Engineers to consult with the Tribes. At issue is Caltrans’ non-compliance with the 404 permit issued by the Corps. A condition of that permit specifically references the protection of archeological sites and references the National Historic Preservation Act. The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, whose members include lineal descendants of the Little Lake Pomo people aim to prevent any further destruction of known ancestral archeological sites. More collaborative action is planned with Bypass activists and Native Americans, including the Pomos from Coyote Valley and elders and spiritual leaders from the American Indian Movement.
“What good does it do for Indian People to record our history in some books and store our cultural artifacts in boxes in a Caltrans warehouse, then to destroy the site anyway by pouring tons of dirt, concrete and asphalt over it?” asked Priscilla Hunter, tribal representative for Coyote Valley.
Most demands at this juncture focus on the oversize nature of the northern exchange of the Bypass, being built for 4 lanes when the Bypass is 2 lanes. Proposals made to Caltrans, the Army Corps of Engineers, elected representatives and other agencies make the case that downsizing the northern exchange would prevent destruction of significant portions of wetlands and archeological sites now slated for destruction and burying.
Check out the newest issue of Forest & River News, published by the Trees Foundation in Humboldt County [.pdf link at archive.org]. We have a short update on Caltrans in the magazine, and a photo of the AIM Spirit Run drummers stop in Willits is on the cover. It’s a great publication for news from the north coast!

"Put the Brakes on Caltrans Before We Lose Wild Rivers, Redwoods, Wetlands, and Sacred Sites Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters"
by Karen Pickett for "Forest & River News" [.pdf link at archive.org]:
We have reported earlier on Caltrans’ projects on California’s North Coast, and the links between these projects—that is, Caltrans’ grand agenda to site an I-5 style interstate on the coast. In Mendocino County, Caltrans is building an overly large Bypass on Hwy. 101, destroying rare wetlands and archaeological sites; in Humboldt, Richardson Grove State Park would see damaging excavation around the roots of ancient redwoods if Caltrans has its way, and a similar “realignment” of the 199/197 highway in Del Norte is planned next to the Wild and Scenic Smith River, the last undammed river in California.
In a move that was welcomed by but that stunned long-time opponents of the Bypass project and stung Caltrans, the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) suspended the permit for the Willits Bypass on June 20th. ACE regulates impacts on federally protected wetlands and waterways. Disappointingly, ACE conditionally reinstated the permit on July 10, but presumably accompanied by greater scrutiny regarding wetlands mitigation. Downsizing of the northern end of the Bypass to reduce wetlands destruction is still the goal for us.
Th e two other projects are held up in the courts—the Federal Court in San Francisco issued a Preliminary Injunction on May 5th halting any work on the Smith River Project until the case fi led by EPIC, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Friends of Del Norte goes to trial in November. Environmental groups have won positive decisions in State and Federal Court for Richardson Grove, and after submitting updated documents as per court requirements, Caltrans’ timetable is not entirely clear. Despite a comprehensive independent review of Caltrans released in January 2014 that found Caltrans to be stuck in a car-centric archaic culture needing serious reform, the state has not acted. Th e North Coast is suff ering from this inertia.
Over 50 people were arrested last year in protests to stop Caltrans construction of the Bypass in Willits and advocate for alternative plans. In addition to the issues of wetlands destruction, a long list of missed deadlines and violations of the Migratory Bird Act, Clean Water Act, numerous permit violations, and other habitat threats, it came to the attention of local Tribes that archaeological sites were buried under new fi ll without Tribal consultation, as required by law.
Dumping on archaeological sites first came to light in September 2013, months after the Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo Indians repeatedly asked Caltrans to “plot all known cultural resource locations onto existing project plans ... ensure responsible in-field monitoring of these locations,” and to place barriers around seven known archaeological sites. None of these things were done, and the issue was subsequently also taken up by the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians with action that included a resolution in opposition to the Bypass.
Most recently, it was learned that another archaeological site was damaged by construction crews on June 12th, 2014. The damage occurred in the area where Caltrans is carrying out “environmental mitigation.” The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians is currently involved in government-to-government consultations with Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration regarding damage done to ancestral sites. Tribal Representative Priscilla Hunter said, “There are so many archaeological sites in the construction area that the California Office of Historic Preservation has declared that the entire area of the Bypass could be designated an ‘archaeological district,’ and thus our Tribe has called for a downsizing of the Project’s footprint in order to protect these sites.”
Photo caption: Priscilla Hunter, representative of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians with Fred Short, spiritual leader of AIM, as the AIM Spirit Runners are welcomed into the park in Willits where they stopped to offer solidarity with Caltrans Bypass opponents. (Ree Slocum photography)
At a June 8th rally at the site of destroyed wetlands and desecrated archaeological sites, Native representatives from Coyote Valley, Round Valley Indian Reservation, and elsewhere joined environmentalists for speeches, ceremony, and prayers. In a show of solidarity with local Tribes, the annual American Indian Movement (AIM) Spirit Run made a stop in Willits on June 26th to oppose the Bypass, with a run down Main St. and ceremony in the downtown park with the community.
Put the Brakes on Caltrans! We must not allow unnecessary highway expansion to threaten northern California’s ancient redwoods, salmon runs, state parks, wild rivers, and remaining wetlands. The ecological
cost is too high and we don’t need it.
For more information:
* Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters (BACH) [headwaterspreserve.org]
* [SaveOurLittleLakeValley.org] (SOLLV)

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