More protests over Willits bypass project

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Protester Robert Chevalier locked himself to a Caterpillar to protest a Caltrans bypass construction project.
PHOTO COURTESY EARTH FIRST!


Controversy over the Willits Bypass continued Monday, as Willits protesters sought to block Caltrans contractors from continuing work on the highway construction project. Protester Robert Chevalier, 66, locked himself to a Caterpillar tractor used for hauling felled logs using a steel “lock box.” At another location, four other protesters unfurled a banner to block work trucks that were preparing for pile-driving tests. Chevalier was arrested along with protesters Sara Grusky and Ellen Faulkner, who is 75.

Meanwhile, a new tree-sitter took to the branches of a rare wetland ash earlier this month. The protester, who goes by the name Condor, stationed himself at the northern end of the bypass on May 2. Since then, Condor has been replaced by a tree sitter who goes by the name of Hawk. “Part of the message of the medium is that birds move around,” explained Naomi Wagner, a spokesperson for Redwood Nation Earth First.

Condor was the eighth tree-sitter to protest the bypass. The first five were forcibly removed by CHP with cherry pickers on April 2. Two others decamped more recently before being arrested.

In the meantime, construction on the six-mile, four-lane highway continues, albeit with a few setbacks. On April 9, an inspector for the North Coast Water Quality Control Board visited the site and found that Caltrans had violated its permits by disturbing ground within 50 feet of streams and failing to follow statewide practices designed to prevent streamside runoff.

Critics maintain that it’s typical of Caltrans to go ahead with construction, even if that means violating the conditions of their permits. Jamie Chevalier of Earth First said, “Caltrans will just do what they’re gonna do and pay a fine.”

According to Caltrans spokesperson Phil Frisbie, however, the inspection was “normal routine business.”

“[The infraction] was an oversight on Caltrans and the contractor’s parts because the vegetation is so dense you can’t actually see the creek.” said Frisbie. “It won’t happen again.”

Last week, the California Transportation Commission approved an additional $26 million for the creation and rehabilitation of approximately 2,000 acres of wetlands. Many of those mitigation projects are years down the road, said Frisbie, a fact that alarms Chevalier and other opponents of the bypass.

Frisbie also said they were aware of the new tree-sitter, and were monitoring the situation.

When the Guardian reached Condor by phone last week, the tree sitter said he’d experienced minimal contact with Caltrans employees so far. “Yesterday they limbed an oak tree about a 100 feet from me,” he said. “I guess that was their response to my presence.”

Chevalier, the protester who locked himself to the Caterpillar, is a retired commercial fisherman who worked for years in Alaska.  He said he felt compelled to take a stand: "One thing we learned from fishing is that taking care of our rivers and forests creates a booming economy that will last. These big make-work projects leave the locals and the taxpayers worse off than before. It's just a waste,” he said. “This project is trashing the land, water, and local jobs that we really do need."

Comments

These protestors are selfish and seem uninterested in the majority of voters who clearly approve of this construction.

They will of course be arrested, removed and the road will continue. These idiots should pick their battles, and only act where they know they have local, majority support. They do not.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2013 @ 11:48 am

The huge, destructive, expensive Willits freeway bypass these people speak of will do nothing to serve inter-regional traffic to Highway 20. That will continue to go through Willits in order to get to the north coast tourist sites. It will do nothing to detour trucks from the north, which will go through Willits to get to Highway 20. It will do nothing to relieve the congestion through the town, which cannot make use of the northern freeway exit off-ramp without causing a catastrophic back-up on the off-ramp at night and the on-ramp at morning. In short, Caltrans is building the $500 million freeway (including interest on the bond) for a traffic density of 8,000 vehicles--which could be covered two and half times over, 20,000 vehicles, by a simple at-grade truck route costing a tenth of that figure. Why have they forced this monstrosity, which will destroy the outlet drainage and fishery in the Little Lake Valley? --We suspect the big boys want it, as a non-stop-light and non-stop-sign venue to transport nuclear waste, which is said to be coming by ship into the Eureka bay, then south to the desert. And it will not be a four-lane road as the article states, but a two-lane, with no barrier and no access to services in case of an accident. Sorry gents, it is not selfish to oppose this wasteful, unnecessary, obscenely ill-planned roadway. It is the citizens' duty to oppose it, those who have the courage to do so. 90% of the businesses are against it, knowing the rip-off will damage a fifth or so of their number. No one in Willits praises such awful vision, and such destruction of the peace and contentment that makes this valley a blessing to all living forms which inhabit it. Even tourists driving through have signed the petition against it in the thousands. They recognize corporate/governmental crime.

Posted by Guest--William Ray on May. 24, 2013 @ 8:52 pm

The huge, destructive, expensive Willits freeway bypass these people speak of will do nothing to serve inter-regional traffic to Highway 20. That will continue to go through Willits in order to get to the north coast tourist sites. It will do nothing to detour trucks from the north, which will go through Willits to get to Highway 20. It will do nothing to relieve the congestion through the town, which cannot make use of the northern freeway exit off-ramp without causing a catastrophic back-up on the off-ramp at night and the on-ramp at morning. In short, Caltrans is building the $500 million freeway (including interest on the bond) for a traffic density of 8,000 vehicles--which could be covered two and half times over, 20,000 vehicles, by a simple at-grade truck route costing a tenth of that figure. Why have they forced this monstrosity, which will destroy the outlet drainage and fishery in the Little Lake Valley? --We suspect the big boys want it, as a non-stop-light and non-stop-sign venue to transport nuclear waste, which is said to be coming by ship into the Eureka bay, then south to the desert. And it will not be a four-lane road as the article states, but a two-lane, with no barrier and no access to services in case of an accident. Sorry gents, it is not selfish to oppose this wasteful, unnecessary, obscenely ill-planned roadway. It is the citizens' duty to oppose it, those who have the courage to do so. 90% of the businesses are against it, knowing the rip-off will damage a fifth or so of their number. No one in Willits praises such awful vision, and such destruction of the peace and contentment that makes this valley a blessing to all living forms which inhabit it. Even tourists driving through have signed the petition against it in the thousands. They recognize corporate/governmental crime.

Posted by William Ray on May. 24, 2013 @ 8:58 pm

Forcing all northbound highway 101 traffic to go through Willits is cruel and unusual punishment, just like it was for Coverdale years ago.

Posted by Rob Anderson on May. 15, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

Agreed

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

The huge, destructive, expensive Willits freeway bypass these people speak of will do nothing to serve inter-regional traffic to Highway 20. That will continue to go through Willits in order to get to the north coast tourist sites. It will do nothing to detour trucks from the north, which will go through Willits to get to Highway 20. It will do nothing to relieve the congestion through the town, which cannot make use of the northern freeway exit off-ramp without causing a catastrophic back-up on the off-ramp at night and the on-ramp at morning. In short, Caltrans is building the $500 million freeway (including interest on the bond) for a traffic density of 8,000 vehicles--which could be covered two and half times over, 20,000 vehicles, by a simple at-grade truck route costing a tenth of that figure. Why have they forced this monstrosity, which will destroy the outlet drainage and fishery in the Little Lake Valley? --We suspect the big boys want it, as a non-stop-light and non-stop-sign venue to transport nuclear waste, which is said to be coming by ship into the Eureka bay, then south to the desert. And it will not be a four-lane road as the article states, but a two-lane, with no barrier and no access to services in case of an accident. Sorry gents, it is not selfish to oppose this wasteful, unnecessary, obscenely ill-planned roadway. It is the citizens' duty to oppose it, those who have the courage to do so. 90% of the businesses are against it, knowing the rip-off will damage a fifth or so of their number. No one in Willits praises such an awful vision, such destruction of the peace and contentment that makes this valley a blessing to all living forms which inhabit it. Even tourists driving through have signed the petition against it in the thousands. They recognize corporate/governmental crime in the name of service.

Posted by William Ray on May. 24, 2013 @ 8:56 pm

The huge, destructive, expensive Willits freeway bypass these people speak of will do nothing to serve inter-regional traffic to Highway 20. That will continue to go through Willits in order to get to the north coast tourist sites. It will do nothing to detour trucks from the north, which will go through Willits to get to Highway 20. It will do nothing to relieve the congestion through the town, which cannot make use of the northern freeway exit off-ramp without causing a catastrophic back-up on the off-ramp at night and the on-ramp at morning. In short, Caltrans is building the $500 million freeway (including interest on the bond) for a traffic density of 8,000 vehicles--which could be covered two and half times over, 20,000 vehicles, by a simple at-grade truck route costing a tenth of that figure. Why have they forced this monstrosity, which will destroy the outlet drainage and fishery in the Little Lake Valley? --We suspect the big boys want it, as a non-stop-light and non-stop-sign venue to transport nuclear waste, which is said to be coming by ship into the Eureka bay, then south to the desert. And it will not be a four-lane road as the article states, but a two-lane, with no barrier and no access to services in case of an accident. Sorry gents, it is not selfish to oppose this wasteful, unnecessary, obscenely ill-planned roadway. It is the citizens' duty to oppose it, those who have the courage to do so. 90% of the businesses are against it, knowing the rip-off will damage a fifth or so of their number. No one in Willits praises such awful vision, and such destruction of the peace and contentment that makes this valley a blessing to all living forms which inhabit it. Even tourists driving through have signed the petition against it in the thousands. They recognize corporate/governmental crime.

Posted by Guest--William Ray on May. 24, 2013 @ 8:49 pm

The huge, destructive, expensive Willits freeway bypass these people speak of will do nothing to serve inter-regional traffic to Highway 20. That will continue to go through Willits in order to get to the north coast tourist sites. It will do nothing to detour trucks from the north, which will go through Willits to get to Highway 20. It will do nothing to relieve the congestion through the town, which cannot make use of the northern freeway exit off-ramp without causing a catastrophic back-up on the off-ramp at night and the on-ramp at morning. In short, Caltrans is building the $500 million freeway (including interest on the bond) for a traffic density of 8,000 vehicles--which could be covered two and half times over, 20,000 vehicles, by a simple at-grade truck route costing a tenth of that figure. Why have they forced this monstrosity, which will destroy the outlet drainage and fishery in the Little Lake Valley? --We suspect the big boys want it, as a non-stop-light and non-stop-sign venue to transport nuclear waste, which is said to be coming by ship into the Eureka bay, then south to the desert. And it will not be a four-lane road as the article states, but a two-lane, with no barrier and no access to services in case of an accident. Sorry gents, it is not selfish to oppose this wasteful, unnecessary, obscenely ill-planned roadway. It is the citizens' duty to oppose it, those who have the courage to do so. 90% of the businesses are against it, knowing the rip-off will damage a fifth or so of their number. No one in Willits praises such awful vision, and such destruction of the peace and contentment that makes this valley a blessing to all living forms which inhabit it. Even tourists driving through have signed the petition against it in the thousands. They recognize corporate/governmental crime.

Posted by Guest--William Ray on May. 24, 2013 @ 8:50 pm

The huge, destructive, expensive Willits freeway bypass these people speak of will do nothing to serve inter-regional traffic to Highway 20. That will continue to go through Willits in order to get to the north coast tourist sites. It will do nothing to detour trucks from the north, which will go through Willits to get to Highway 20. It will do nothing to relieve the congestion through the town, which cannot make use of the northern freeway exit off-ramp without causing a catastrophic back-up on the off-ramp at night and the on-ramp at morning. In short, Caltrans is building the $500 million freeway (including interest on the bond) for a traffic density of 8,000 vehicles--which could be covered two and half times over, 20,000 vehicles, by a simple at-grade truck route costing a tenth of that figure. Why have they forced this monstrosity, which will destroy the outlet drainage and fishery in the Little Lake Valley? --We suspect the big boys want it, as a non-stop-light and non-stop-sign venue to transport nuclear waste, which is said to be coming by ship into the Eureka bay, then south to the desert. And it will not be a four-lane road as the article states, but a two-lane, with no barrier and no access to services in case of an accident. Sorry gents, it is not selfish to oppose this wasteful, unnecessary, obscenely ill-planned roadway. It is the citizens' duty to oppose it, those who have the courage to do so. 90% of the businesses are against it, knowing the rip-off will damage a fifth or so of their number. No one in Willits praises such awful vision, and such destruction of the peace and contentment that makes this valley a blessing to all living forms which inhabit it. Even tourists driving through have signed the petition against it in the thousands. They recognize corporate/governmental crime.

Posted by William Ray on May. 24, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

Sorry for the repetitions. Website rejections. The point, a sad one, about big power over small citizenry, remains the same.

Posted by William Ray on May. 24, 2013 @ 9:05 pm

Don't pay too much mind to the trolls here either. Most of the time -- to say the least! -- they write what they write not based on any personal knowledge or core beliefs, but only because their innate sense of what will be most outrageous; they aim to displease, and that is the long and short of it.

As for what is to come and what is the motivation of this bypass, I can claim no local, inside, or outside knowledge besides what I've read here, but isn't the typical scenario that development money flows in wherever exit ramps are located... if not the other way around?

I'd expect this plan to culminate in a soul-sucking mall outside of town, but then again I'm a confirmed pessimist. I think it was from reading a Stanley Aronowitz book that I first learned the dark truth behind the relationship of public expense and private profit which stems from roadway construction.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 25, 2013 @ 7:45 am

To say that the majority want this bypass is an assumption, one I strongly question - I have met very few people who want this bypass. Most people weren't invited to have a voice, and regardless, Caltrans disregarded any voice that didn't support their agenda. This bypass won't ease Main St traffic by any significant degree. There won't be any in-town exits, and almost everyone is needing to go through town. Caltrans plans to restripe the bottleneck back to the way it was before they created the current back up situation, which will solve the minor hold up at the hospital and Safeway. Waiting a few minutes to get through a stoplight is hardly cruel and unusual punishment. These protestors deserve respect, whether you agree with them or not. They care about the beauty of this valley and are not willing to be passive and allow big money and big politics to pave what they value, not without a strong statement of opposition. It's also important to realize that the protestors DO want an alternative route, one that has been designed already and provides a through bypass as well as in-town access, and won't destroy wildlife habitat and this beautiful valley. Caltrans won't even consider this very appropriate alternative route. The bigger question is what is this bypass actually for and why is Caltrans lying to us?

Posted by Jack S on May. 25, 2013 @ 7:22 am

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