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Regional Water Board Should Issue Cease & Desist Order on Caltrans for Permit Violations

 

Please write to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB) and urge them to put the issue of Mendocino wetlands being drained and filled without a mitigation plan by Caltrans on their March 13 agenda, and act on Caltrans’ intransigence in carrying out the Willits Bypass project.

Caltrans, as part of their contract for their Bypass project in Willits was required to have an approved mitigation plan funded, in place and staffed before proceeding with the draining of the wetlands. The lack of a mitigation plan is a violation of Caltrans’ 401 permit. Because of this, the Water Board should issue a cease and desist order to Caltrans, as is their authority and responsibility.

You can use the sample letter below, excerpt from it, or write your own.

The loss of these wetlands has become more of a flashpoint since the severity of California’s drought has become evident. Gov. Jerry Brown called for “serious groundwater management” and cited the need for “wetlands and watershed restoration”. We agree. With a state policy of no net loss of wetlands, it becomes Caltrans’ responsibility to ensure that in the course of their highway projects. Send your letter to the Water Board as soon as you can to ensure they put it on the March agenda!

Sample letter to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB):

Send to Patti Corsie <patti.corsie@waterboards.ca.gov>, Board Secretary, and ask that she distribute to Board members:

To: John Corbett, Geoffrey Hales, Greg Giusti, David Noren, William Massey, Board Members; and Mathias St. John, executive director of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board:
 
I am writing to you to urge you to place the issue of the Caltrans Willits Bypass project on your March 13 Board meeting agenda so that the issue of Caltrans draining of wetlands without a mitigation plan may be fully discussed in a public hearing, and action taken by the Board.  I also urge you to issue a “Cease and Desist” order on Caltrans for their flagrant violation of their 401 permit.
 
The value of our wetlands in California is immeasurable, and that has come sharply into focus during this time of drought in California. As you know, wetlands recharge groundwater, filter out toxins, hold water in reserve, are habitat to numerous species, and other ecological services; and have mostly disappeared from the California landscape.
 
I find it wasteful, ill-advised and impractical that Caltrans should be draining such a large area of wetlands in the Willits area in Mendocino County for a highway project that is over-sized, based on very outdated models of traffic needs, largely unpopular, and hugely expensive. At the very least, Caltrans should downsize their Highway 101 Bypass project to accommodate the two-lane road they are building (rather than a four-lane road that will likely never be built) and allow half of the wetlands they are planning to drain and fill to survive. You probably know that a smaller round-about interchange has already been approved, but Caltrans continues to refuse to consider it.
 
The opportunity is now. The time for waivers, extensions and exemptions for Caltrans is over. The NCRWQCB must act on the failure on the part of Caltrans to produce, fund and staff the wetlands mitigation plan they are required by law to do. The NCRWQCB has notified Caltrans of its need to fulfill its obligation to produce a mitigation plan and get it approved prior to any more fill being dumped on the wetlands. There has already been loss of anadramous fish habitat and significant wetlands. Frankly, I do not believe the loss of 90 acres of wetlands can be mitigated, but Caltrans has not even made a good faith effort in this regard, and this violation of the conditions of their 401 permit is only one of many missed deadlines and permit violations Caltrans has piled up since this project began. It is time to put the brakes on Caltrans.
 
The Water Board has the power and responsibility in its oversight role to issue a Cease and Desist order for Caltrans’ Bypass project. I strongly urge the NCRWQCB to do just that at its March 13 meeting. The time is now.
 
Thank you for your attention in this matter.
 
Sincerely,
 
Your name and address; include email response if you’d like an emailed response.
 

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