Will Parrish

Will Parrish: Willits Bypass Timeline

w
From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

“Each solitary story belongs to a larger story.” — Susan Griffin, A Chorus of Stones

In Willits, many people have not taken kindly to the California Department of Transportation’s asphalt imperialism, which entails spreading more than 140,000 dump truck loads of fill in Little Lake Valley, building bridges, disturbing creeks, killing fish, covering up wetlands, cutting down riparian forests, removing roughly 2,000 oak trees, taking away farm land. It is likely that even more overall harm will be done by a politically stilted mitigation plan that centers on excavating wetlands soils in the name of creating wetlands.

Opposition continues to the present. Some of the more persistent protectors of Little Lake Valley continue to attempt to downsize the project’s northern interchange — arguably its most destructive feature. Now that the US Army Corps of Engineers has lifted its suspension of the project, thanks to pressure from Willits Bypass supporters such as Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson, though, it appears highly unlikely that any aspect of the project’s design will be changed.

Many people have criticized Bypass opponents for failing to speak up prior to construction. But the opposition to the Willits Bypass has persisted for more than 20 years. What follows is a timeline that emphasizes opposition to the project prior to January 2013, when direct action against the project kicked off.

Will Parrish: Jared Huffman — CalTrans Errand Boy

j
From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

“I think this is the district in the state that can and should serve up a real environmental leader in a time of great need and urgency — and that’s why I’m running.” — US. RepJared Huffman (D-San Rafael), 2006

Last week, the US Congressional representative for California’s North Coast, a former Natural Resources Defense Council attorney named Jared Huffman, threw the full weight of his legislative power behind the most environmentally destructive project in the recent history of Mendocino County, the California Department of Transportation’s Willits Bypass. This more than $300 million project, as presently designed, requires the largest filling in of wetlands in northern California in more than 50 years.

Update: Hearing Postponed… Support Willits Bypass Activist Will Parrish in Court Thursday Morning 7/17/14…

wWill Parrish and his attorney, Omar Figueroa. [Photo courtesy of Michael Hardy, Posterity Productions]

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

[Hearing Postponed]

New details have come to light regarding the US Army Corps of Engineers’ June 20th decision to suspend the Willits Bypass’ US Clean Water Act permit (404 permit): the first time the Corps has ever suspended a northern California project on Clean Water Act grounds.

The timing of the suspension was linked to CalTrans’ efforts to resume importing soil from the Mendocino Forest Products (ie, Mendocino Redwood Company) mill site north of Willits, which is Big Orange’s preferred source of fill to create the massive berm on which the freeway would be perched north of its roughly one-mile viaduct past Hearst-Willits Road.

Will Parrish: Bypass Stopped — For Now

w

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

When it comes to large, earth-destroying projects of the sort rapidly unraveling this planet’s life support systems, efforts by corporations and nation-states to “remediate,” “mitigate,” or “compensate” (the specific jargon depends on the specific project, agency, and part of the world) for their ecocide has become a macabre custom under modern environmental law.

For example, arguably the world’s most destructive industrial project, the Athabascan Tar Sands of Northern Alberta, features an extensive mitigation plan. The various tar sand oil producers, in conjunction with Canadian resource agencies, are required to invest in forest restoration and “carbon dioxide offset” projects to make up for polluting the earth’s atmosphere perhaps beyond redemption, and for desolating a stretch of northern Alberta’s forest and wetlands as large as Florida.

Will Parrish: The Politics of the World’s Most Hydrologically Altered Landmass…

sd
From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

California is the most hydrologically altered landmass on the planet, a distinction it first attained in the early-mid-20thcentury. The Hoover Dam (on the Colorado River), which began operation in 1936, was the largest dam in the world at the time of its completion. With regard to the world’s biggest concrete river plugs, Shasta Dam (upper Sacramento River) rated second only behind Hoover when finished in 1945.

The US federal government and California state governments capture more than 60 percent of the water run-off within the state’s 1,585 square miles, exporting roughly 80 percent to the state’s $44 billion dollar agribusiness sector. Many of these monocrop plantations — unrelenting swaths of sameness – improbably span the desert and semi-desert landscapes of the San Joaquin, Coachella, and Imperial Valleys. Were it a country, the Golden State would be the sixth leading agricultural exporter in the world.

Will Parrish: California’s Water Lords vs. The Winnemem Wintu Tribe

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

When it comes to California’s gargantuan system of dams, reservoirs, power plants, pumping plants, canals, aqueducts, siphons, tunnels, gates, and other infrastructure for capturing and exporting water to agribusiness, industry, and people, Chief Caleen Sisk of the Winnemem Wintu tribe has pretty much seen and been through it all. California’s largest reservoir, Shasta Lake, inundates a vast stretch of the Winnemem’s aboriginal territory. The reservoir is formed by Shasta Dam, one of the world’s largest dams, which the US Bureau of Reclamation constructed during World War II to hold back the waters of the McCloud, Pit, and upper Sacramento Rivers.

Despite promises from the federal government, the Winnemem have never received compensation for the flooding and dislocation. In the years immediately following construction of the 602-foot-tall, 3,460-foot-wide concrete plug that is the Shasta Dam, hundreds of thousands of salmon died at its foot, repeatedly battering themselves against it while trying to reach their ancient spawning grounds. The salmon have been the cultural foundation of the Winnemem and other Indigenous people of the area for countless generations.

Will Parrish: The Politics of Hypocrisy

w
From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

In February 2013, Mendocino County Supervisor John McCowen visited the now-famous tree sit of Amanda “The Warbler” Senseman south of Willits. Senseman, a 25-year-old goat and vegetable farmer who now works growing produce for Willits-area elementary school children on a one-acre plot at Brookside Elementary School, was then living 71 feet above-ground in a ponderosa pine, in the path of the California Department of Transportation’s planned Willits Bypass destruction swath.

Senseman’s action — which she sustained for 65 days — had created a significant shift in the political climate surrounding the $300 million-plus, six-mile freeway. Media scrutiny of Big Orange’s boondoggle was growing. The direct action wing of the Bypass opposition had carried out several successful blockades of construction equipment, which helped stave off the initial mowing down of trees and gobbling up of vegetation. State Senator Noreen Evans (D-Sebastopol) came tepidly out against the project.

Salmon and Sovereignty: Indigenous perspectives on water and cultural survival in California this Saturday 4/19/14 Ukiah…


s

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah

“We were born from water, we are of the water, and we fight to protect it.”
—Chief Caleen Sisk

Retaining a concept of sovereignty based on deep ancestral ties with place, indigenous people are on the front lines of critical environmental battles everywhere. Their voices and actions are leading the way forward.

Saturday, April 19th
Start: 4:30pm
Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse
107 S. Oak St., Ukiah
$5-20 donation; no one turned away
Proceeds will benefit the Winnemem Wintu tribe
*Dinner will be provided*

SPEAKERS
:

* Chief Caleen Sisk, Winnemem Wintu Tribe

Strongly rooted in their traditional practices, the Winnemem Wintu of Northern California are engaged in ecological, cultural, and spiritual restoration, including bringing salmon back to their home river, the McCloud. Chief Sisk will speak about the tribe’s struggle for survival and their current work of restoring natural water systems and stopping disastrous proposed megaprojects such as the Delta Twin Tunnels and the Shasta Dam raise that would flood large portions of sacred Winnemem land—for the second time.  Sisk is also an outspoken opponent of fracking.

Will Parrish: The Weight of The Water Board


b
From WILL PARRISH
TheAVA
Ukiah

A year ago this week, the California Highway Patrol conducted its mop-up of the five Willits tree sits that had been blocking portions of CalTrans’ Willits Bypass freeway construction. The April 2, 2013, operation began with an extraction of Amanda “Warbler” Senseman at 7am. In the late morning came the first instance in These United States of a cop shooting a tree sitter, when a CHP officer unloaded three bean bag pellets (“less-than-lethal ammunition”) on a difficult-to-corral tree platform dweller named Martin “Reign” Katz. The final tree sitter, Mark “Falcon” Herbert, was removed in a manlift from a stately oak on the western hill opposite The Warbler’s tree just after 5:30 p.m.

The CHP described this large mobilization’s personnel, equipment, and objectives in a 14-page document entitled “Tactical Plan – US 101 Willits Bypass Protests,” of which I am revealing some of the contents for the first time, here.

Will Parrish: Fracking On The North Coast…


f

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

Across geologic time, rainwater sculpts the land into cradlelike entities that comprise a watershed. For the vast majority of inland Mendocino County, the basin that collects the water that the land first cradles is the collection of forks and stems that make up the mighty Eel River. Running 192 miles from south to north, the Eel drains all the land surface from south of Willits and east through the mountains above Potter Valley and Upper Lake, thence running northwest through Humboldt County, with land and water meeting the ocean outside of Ferndale: one low ridge south of Eureka and Humboldt Bay.

The large delta and estuary where the Eel’s journey culminates is an area of giant ferns glades, redwood forests, swampy lands and windswept prairies. It has been populated since the beginning of time by the southern Wiyot people, among these people’s subsistence practices have been to catch Lamprey eels, Salmon and Sturgeon in iris-leaf fish nets, and to collect shellfish along the river and in its estuary.

The Wiyot have known how to live on this land without severely depleting it. By the beginning of the 21st century, by contrast, the geologists and engineers who work for the United States of America’s energy corporations and investment bankers had figured out how to do something altogether different. They had figured out to blast enormous quantities of water, mixed with sand and toxic chemicals

Will Parrish: California’s Water Pathology


w
From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

Speaking at the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s once-every-other-month meeting in the north Santa Rosa burbs on January 30th, California State Water Resources Board member Steven Moore characterized California’s drought as a natural disaster of epic proportions.

“This is our Hurricane Sandy,” he told the North Coast’s five regional board members.

In spite of a few solid drenchings in the past week, as well as a relatively wet February across much of California, the drought is indeed leading to some serious dislocations in many areas of the state, especially for farmers.

We have San Joaquin Valley almond farmers pulling thousands of acres of trees and chipping them to sell to power plants.  Cattle ranchers in Bakersfield and elsewhere in the region are selling their stocks en masse as grasslands dry up and hay prices stratify.  Fields across the US’ most prolific agricultural region lie fallow.

Will Parrish: Mendo’s Secret Water Meeting


20140228-120313.jpg

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

This past Monday, elected officials and public services staff people from throughout inland Mendocino County met with at least five of the State of California’s highest ranking regulatory officials who deal with water issues. It was heralded as a “listening session” regarding a topic foremost on everyone’s minds in Mendo-land: the drought.

The ‘listening session,’ which took place at the Ukiah Valley Conference Center on School St., actually involved ‘listening’ only to a carefully-selected and well-placed group of people, by a carefully-selected and well-placed group of people, for a carefully-selected and well-placed group of people (in the grand spirit of American democracy). The meeting was not publicly advertised. Those not on the 100 person-or-so invite list were prohibited from attending.

Apparently, the “listening session” is part of a “listening tour” whereby these same high-ranking officials will blow through numerous California towns, receive oft-contrived statements from local officials about the water problems local residents face and how they are addressing them. If Monday’s proceedings in Ukiah are an indication, the officials will also pause long enough at each stop to issue a handful of generic statements designed to garner platitudes from the corporate press about how much they care about us and admire our resilience in the face of adversity.

Will Parrish: Defense Of Necessity


w

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

As you have read elsewhere in the AVA, the Mendocino County District Attorney’s office and I agreed to a settlement recently. I was represented in these negotiations by my attorney, Omar Figueroa of Sebastopol, who has represented me pro bono through eleven different pre-trial hearings and numerous settlement negotiations in the past six months. I consider the deal to be bittersweet, though certainly more lenient than any the DA’s office had previously offered.

During the settlement negotiations, Deputy District Attorney Shannon Cox told my attorney she doesn’t mind if I write whatever I want about the settlement negotiations. So, here are a few reflections on the plea deal, most of which Mendo’s other major media oultets have already reported in some fashion.

After I was first hauled into court in shackles and chains last July 3rd, Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster offered me a plea deal that included three trespassing infractions, “uncapped restitution fees,” and an order to remain at least 100 yards away from “Willits highway construction.”

I’ve maintained all along that any laws I may have violated in the course of protesting the Willits Bypass

Will Parrish: CalTrans’ Toxic Cover-Up?


t
From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

Let’s start with penta. A pesticide and wood preservative that timber companies applied liberally at mill sites from the 1960s until it was banned from most uses in 1987, penta (or pentachlorophenol — PCP) is a notorious toxic carcinogen. It harms the kidney, liver, blood, and lungs, as well as the nervous, reproductive, digestive, and immune systems, causing cancer and birth defects. And it breaks down into perhaps the most deadly chemical known to humankind: 2,3,7,8-TCDD, Dioxin.

Dioxins are a group of chlorinated compounds that are an unwanted byproduct of the manufacture of chemicals, especially pesticides and wood preservatives, as well as of combustion processes such as incineration. Dioxin is shorthand for the deadliest form of these compounds. It is extremely long-lived. It bioaccumulates in the tissues of fish. It biomagnifies (ie, becomes more deadly) as it moves up the food chain.

Due to background exposure rates, Dioxin is present in at least very trace amounts in every mother’s breast milk. Suffice it to say that the last thing any mother or child, or other person, or other creature, needs is to have Dioxin dumped into their watershed in large quantities.

Will Parrish: Living in a Wick Drain Stitcher, Part 3 — Unseasonal Rain


Life in a wick drain stitcher.

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

The past 160 years have involved the utter destruction of the vast majority of perhaps the most ecologically important natural communities there are here in California: its wetlands. Most of this destruction has involved the pursuit of various myths, whether it be a mythic vision be agricultural empire in a land where summer rains are absent, or the development of one of the world’s most monolithic concrete settlements, smack-dab in the middle of a vast desert ecosystem, where 18 million people now live and drink and water their lawns (Los Angeles and its suburbs).

Initially, California’s wetlands ecosystems were drained and diverted by channelizing the waters that fed them. Enormous dams then further tamed the state’s rivers, preventing them from overflowing their banks and recharding the wetlands. California now has more than 1,400 state and federal dams, which collectively capture 60 percent of average annual runoff in the entire state. No other state can boast of anything resembling California’s system of dams, reservoirs, powerplants, pumping plants, canals, aqueducts, siphons, tunnels, gates, and other water control structures that convey the Blue Gold from its natural strongholds to civilized humanity’s urban and agricultural centers.

For a time, California’s wetlands were headed toward the same fate as Grizzly bears, wolves, and jaguars; countless birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates; the Xerxes butterly; and innumerable plant species in this state: they were on the verge of being extirpated altogether. Think of the wetlands as an endagered species.

Of course, California is not the only area of the United States where wetlands have been utterly destroyed. For the first hundred years of California’s existence, US government policy was to promote the destruction of the land’s kidneys.

Will Parrish: Valley Oak, Tree of Life…


w(inspired by Polaris, a mighty valley oak that stood at the northern end of Little Lake Valley)

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
Save Little Lake Valley

Valley oaks grow precisely in areas where the dominant society insists on erecting its cities and industrial empires, and its freeways: in valley bottom lands, where these long, flowing, almost vine-like oaks thrive in moist loamy soil ranging between the Inner Coast Ranges and across the Transverse Ranges, in much of Central Valley, and in various other pockets of California.

It is said that valley oaks never grow without a wild water source within 70 feet. Some Indigenous people have called them “Water Oak.”

As with coast redwoods, it is likely that 97-98 percent of old growth valley oaks have been destroyed in the past two hundred years throughout their native range.  They have often met this fate in a manner even less dignified than the redwoods.  Millions of them have been hacked to the ground like trash, often merely because they stood in the way, not even to be milled or used for any specific purpose.

But valley oaks are nothing if not dignified.  These regal trees are thought to be the largest and longest-lived oaks in the world.

For thousands of years, they have been a “tree of life” for Indigenous people who dwell in California interior valleys.

Their leaves have provided tinder, earth oven lining, and fodder for stock.

Their galls have provided material for hair dyes, medicines, and basketry.

Their burls have provided bowls, cups, dippers, ladles, and mortars.

Their sprouts have provided material for basketry, digging sticks, arrows, boats, traps, fire drills, cooking tongs, stirring sticks, clothing and games.

Will Parrish: Celebrating Indigenous People’s Day


pomo1

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

Statements From Front-Line Indigenous Struggles in Lake, Mendo, and Sonoma Counties

Last year, I wrote an article published in the October 15th edition of the AVA called “The Struggles of Local Sacred Sites,” which kicked off as follows: “It was 520 years ago this week that a lost Italian seaman flying the Spanish flag washed ashore on the Bahama Islands, three-quarters of a world away from where he thought he was, and became known as one of history’s greatest navigators. When Christopher Columbus and the other crewmembers of the Pinta, Nina, and Santa Maria arrived in the Western Hemisphere, roughly 100 million people lived here, dwelling on landbases from the tip of Alaska to the tip of South America. Their cultures were as staggeringly diverse as the lands they inhabited.

Thanks in no small part to Columbus

Will Parrish: CalTrans, A Rogue Agency…


CalTrans

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

My piece below describes how Caltrans has appeared to violate Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, consistently and repeatedly, in its dealing with the Sherwood Valley Rancheria of Willits, leading to the grading, wick draining, and filling in of a village complex in the wetlands of northern Little Lake Valley. Caltrans’ legal failures in this case fit with consistent patterns.

One of those is the long-standing pattern of US government abrogation of its legal commitments to First Nations people in general. The US federal government enacted more than 400 treaties with American Indian nations between 1787 and 1871 but has meaningfully observed none of them. Here in California, federal agents negotiated 18 treaties with California’s native nations that would have encompassed roughly 10 percent of state in 1851, only for the US Congress to claim to have “lost” the treaties, even going to the extraordinary length of placing the treaties under seal.

Not until 1905, when First Nations activist recovered these treaties, did the US government acknowledge their existence, which set the stage for the development of what is called the Rancheria System. Eleven rancherias, which typically consist of only about fifty acres of land, exist here in Mendo. Sherwood Valley Rancheria is one.

Another of those patterns is Caltrans’ failure to abide by many of its own basic agreements with other government agencies in the process of constructing the Willits Bypass. For more than two decades, Big Orange worked intensively to secure approval of all regulatory agency permits that establish the protocol they are to follow in constructing the Willits Bypass. So, you might think Big Orange would now actually be in compliance with the law now that construction is well underway.

Yet, on the very first day of construction of the Willits Bypass — February 25, 2013 — Caltrans and its contractor were forced to call off the work they had planned

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,535 other followers