Poisoning Little Lake at the Liar’s Ball, Hosted by Caltrans.


Mike Sturm: Foreman of Summer Breeze Ranch (Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese), and surrounded by Caltrans’ mitigation lands on three sides:
“If they do any spraying on the ditch fence there,” Sturm said, “I’m going to get overdrift. And it’s going to pollute the water. I never thought I would be an environmentalist,” he added. “Our farm has been certified by the state as being organic, and if they do that, it’s going to mess up our organic status bigtime. And as a former user – I’ve used all these chemicals – they stay in the ground, they don’t go away, and they all cause cancer. I don’t want to see them out there, and if there’s some way we can stop it, I’d sure appreciate it.” Willits Weekly, Thursday, March 19, 2015

Caltrans’s industrial scale poisoning campaign is coming to Little Lake starting this summer and there is nothing you can do about it. It is a brand new component of the $50,000,000 mitigation package. Caltrans broke the news last year during Thanksgiving. Yeah.

For the first stage, almost 70 acres of poison will be applied, three times a month for five months for several years, a.k.a. fifteen times a year. The Valley has never been subjected to this amount of poison ever! Compared to the usages of poisons in other valleys in the county, Little Lake can be regarded as a virgin. And it is going to happen just in time for Football practice, rodeos and the Kinetic Carnival.

And this is just for the Roundup/Glyphosate for the intrusive blackberries. These are going to be poisoned so that precious indigenous plants can replace them. In addition, there are bee-killing insecticides and rodenticides to protect the precious plants so they don’t get eaten by vermin. So from the very outset, these precious plants – the reason for this green-mitigation-turned-chemical-carnage – are going to be planted in pre-poisoned ground, and continue to be dosed with poisons for years until they get established. That’s insane. It was never supposed to be this way. It was supposed to be the exact opposite.

Previously, not a drop of poison was going to be used. Instead, Caltrans was going to dispatch the blackberries by covering them with plastic tarps. The mitigation was heralded as a magnificent green experiment: terra-forming new wetlands to replace wetlands that were destroyed for the bypass freeway, skewered by 55,000 wick drains.

Caltrans biologists prated this mitigation project as a virtue as often as they could. No herbicides. Ever. After all, it made sense. Herbicides would be the last thing you would want to use on an experimental wetlands terra-forming project, right? Caltrans biologist Chris Collison certainly thought so.

The Caltrans Biologists are excited. They are going to get to make new wetlands to replace the one they said was okay to destroy. It was NorCal’s biggest wetlands destruction since WW2. The Biologists said, So? We’ll just build new wetlands, and make the valley more efficient than ever before.

This ecological feat has never been attempted before, but the Biologists have the weight of the Army Corps of Engineers behind them, and a budget of $50,000,000,000! Who wouldn’t be excited? It is probably the hugest ‘never before’ attempted eco-experiment ever. And the Biologists know just what it will take to get those new wetlands humming after they manufacture them, and herbicides were not included. Ever. From May 2013:
“Caltrans believes that the agency has done an outstanding job creating a project that is environmentally sensitive. Biologist Chris Collison says, “I’m quite proud of the work we’re doing for the salmon.” He says with satisfaction that the “wetlands are actually going to be improved.” Caltrans, he argues, is reducing invasive species, promoting the growth of native species, and helping sensitive species to survive in the area around the bypass.
“To offset impact,” he says, “we worked on ways to help species survive…. So that [this species] can’t wink out, [Caltrans] purchased from willing sellers eight acres of habitat [for the grass], which is a 25-to-1 mitigation. Forever, now, no one can use herbicide on that area. […] We now control how to use those lands for the health and well being of that species. Before we bought the land, people didn’t even know [the grasses] were there.” Now he says the land around the bypass has a conservation easement.
“Collison describes an attempt by the agency to protect the land around the bypass as if the area were a park. He says the agency is doing all this by “buying lands and controlling what is going on on them, like keeping cattle from depositing waste in streams”; restoring the natural gradients of streams so fish can access “miles” of former habitat; and providing a long term endowment of $5 million to “run the system” — management, policing, working with the ranchers, etc.”

Around the same time, we were assured once again by CT Spokesman Phil Frisbie.
“Willits Bypass FAQs
Common questions and misconceptions
Last updated 8/8/2013
— I heard there will be herbicide spraying on the bypass property.
—“There will be no herbicide spraying used on the bypass project.”

As if to hammer it home nine years ago, the 2006 Caltrans Final Report included this firm and unambiguous county-wide ban that leaves no room for doubt.

“Herbicides would not be used since Caltrans does not use herbicides in Mendocino County.” [p10: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist1/d1projects/willits/signed_rod_for_willits_bypass_project.pdf ]


Everything is just sunshine. “Forever, now, no one can use herbicide on that area.”

Epilogue: [squeezed in just before Thanksgiving 2014]
Willits Bypass FAQs
Common questions and misconceptions.
Last updated 11/25/2014
“I heard there will be herbicide spraying on the bypass property.”
“There will be no herbicides used on the bypass project right of way, but there will be limited use of herbicides on mitigation parcels to eliminate the non-native invasive Himalayan blackberry.” [No mention about the pesticides for rodents and insects.]

The Biologists have been silent for maybe a year since they found out that their bosses were ordering a massive poisoning campaign to be added to their heroic terra-forming project. This huge mitigation plan was crafted around, and touted as, a non-herbicide, non-poison approach too fabricating wetlands; an approach that would foster the “health and wellbeing” of these new wetlands. … But not a word. Not even a request for a biological impact study:
How will this poison campaign alter their mitigation designs, methods and projections?
How will their vulnerable indigenous transplants be effected by the poisoned environment?
Will runoff affect the Salmon biota? Anything else?

What are the projections of the poisonous residues traveling beyond their application points – like when the pasture becomes a lake?

In general, how will this massive poisoning of the still-virgin mitigation lands contaminate the Biologist’s population projections for the salmon, birds, indigenous plants, my dog Spot, and on down to the bacterias and other microbes that dwell in this area? What is the impact that this poisoning program will have on their great experiment?
Do Biologists even have a baseline from which to examine and assess the Before-and-After effects on Little Lake Valley from these massive amounts of poison? I would imagine probably not; it was never discussed during planning because “Herbicides would not be used since Caltrans does not use herbicides in Mendocino County.”

Silence means you get a paycheck. Anyway, it’s only Willits.

But it’s not. It is Little Lake Valley, the Heart of Mendocino County. Well, the heart is getting a bypass operation. And now Caltrans wants to top it off with a massive poisoning campaign that will last for years. And there is nothing you can do about it except breathe and obey and pretend the poison does not matter? Meanwhile, another generation is on the way.

Mendocino Board of Supervisors
(707) 961-2696
(707) 463-4441

Willits City Council
(707) 459-4601


One Comment

Since it’s inception decades ago, the enormously expensive Willits 101 bypass project has been a study in obfuscation, deceit, and outright stupidity on the part of the state and federal agencies involved, along with some loud local voices demonstrating a craven ignorance and/or complicity. Now we can add wholesale poisoning of the landscape to the mix of disasters. And should it ever actually be opened, two undivided lanes of opposing elevated traffic at freeway speeds will keep the emergency crews busy day and night. The whole thing just keeps getting worse.