Categorized | Environment, Local, State

Pomo Archaeological Site Destroyed by Willits Bypass Construction

 

Federal Agency Slams Caltrans for Failing to Protect Historic Properties

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

By Jennifer Poole
Willits Weekly

The Sherwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians (SVR) got a notice from Caltrans on Friday, September 13 that an archaeological site with Pomo cultural resources known to Caltrans in the Little Lake Valley has “been destroyed by construction activities,” said SVR Tribal Chair Mike Fitzgerral in a statement given to the Willits Weekly.

As per the September 13 notice from Caltrans: “Caltrans has discovered that one of the sites” – CA-MEN-3571 – “is actually located within the area of direct impact” of the Little Lake Valley project.  “As you know,” the notice continues, “wick drains have been installed in that area and 3 feet of fill has been placed.”

The exact location of CA-MEN-3571 and specific descriptions of cultural resources found there and at other known archaeological sites – discovered before and after construction started in the bypass area – is not public information.  Federal and state law keeps this information confidential due to the potential for theft or vandalism.

According to the tribe’s statement, CA-MEN-3571 was identified by Caltrans in 2011, during archaeological investigations of the area, as part of the bypass footprint’s “area of potential effects,” but: “later, in 2012, Caltrans claimed that changes for the project (i.e., changes to the bypass route) resulted in the site no longer being located in
the project footprint.”

“However,” the statement from the tribe continues: “Caltrans has just confirmed that the site does indeed exist within the project and has, over the last four months, been severely impacted by the removal of topsoil and the installation of 1400-1500 wick drains.  What little, if anything, remains of CA-MEN-3571 is now inundated with 3 feet of fill.”

A September 18 letter to Caltrans from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency in Washington, D.C., characterizes this destruction of CA-MEN-3571 as a “major breach of the protection of a historic property that Caltrans committed to protect as part of its determination of ‘No Adverse Effect’ in the project’s environmental impact statement.”

The Advisory Council is charged with administering the National Historic Preservation Act’s review process for agency projects, which includes identification and analysis of historic properties, analysis of the proposed project’s effects, and exploration of ways to avoid or mitigate those effects.

In the environmental impact statement for the bypass project, Caltrans states: “If buried cultural materials are encountered during construction, it is Caltrans’ policy that all work in that area must halt until a qualified archaeologist can evaluate the nature and significance of the
find.”

The Willits Weekly asked tribal chair Fitzgerral and consultant Lee Rains, who’s been working with the tribe since May on bypass issues, why the Caltrans notice about CA-MEN-3571 came so long after topsoil was removed, with wick drains already installed and the fill process well underway.

“That’s the $20 million question,” said Rains, who consults on historic preservation law and regulatory compliance.  “What actions took place, or didn’t take place as far as what Caltrans is calling ‘an error,’ we don’t know,” chairman Fitzgerral said.

The tribe hopes to get “a thorough accounting” in an upcoming meeting scheduled with Caltrans staff.  But, the tribal council has been “frustrated” by previous meetings with Caltrans, Fitzgerall said, “where a lot of words were said,” but nothing seemed to change as far as consultation with the tribe or actions on the ground.

The tribe has asked Caltrans repeatedly since May to “plot all known cultural resource locations onto existing project plans so as to avoid damaging the resources” and to ensure “responsible in-field monitoring of these locations.”

The tribe has also requested that Caltrans place protective barriers around seven known archeological sites, including CA-MEN-3571.  These requests have been “summarily dismissed” by Caltrans, the statement says.  Requests for explanation have gone “unanswered.”

The Caltrans draft environmental impact report for the Willits bypass project reads “Once a preferred alternative is selected, and if that alternative is one of the ‘build’ alternatives, Caltrans will conduct a detailed examination of archaeological properties.  The Final EIR/EIS will report the findings of this examination and determine the level of impact and if further mitigation is required.”

But in the final environmental impact statement, that paragraph is struck out, with this sentence added under it: “Mitigation Measure is no longer required.  This has already been accomplished.”

The letter from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation also reports three and potentially four “post-review” discoveries of “NR eligible” historic properties that have occurred during construction of the bypass project.  “NR eligible” means the sites are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The undertaking is being carried out in a way in which historic properties that were supposed to be avoided are now substantially affected,” the letter states, “and the undertaking activities are affecting NR eligible historic properties” within the bypass area.

The Advisory Council is recommending that Caltrans “re-open the consultation” and work with the Sherwood tribe, the California State Historic Preservation Officer and “other …consulting parties” on “appropriate steps to resolve the adverse effects of the undertaking on historic properties and to resolve concerns.”

Re-opening the historic consultation process, the letter states, could result “in an outcome that would sufficiently address all of the historic property concerns with this project to avoid further delays.”

Tribal council members believe “the unnecessary destruction of
CA-MEN-3571 serves as a powerful illustration of what non-
compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act can reap,”
the statement reports.

“SVR can only hope that this stark realization will now compel Caltrans to heed the tribe’s long-voiced call for the agency to re-open consultation under the national Historic Preservation Act, review their previous identification efforts, revise their Finding of Effect, and create a Memorandum of Agreement for this project that would, from this point forward, ensure that injuries like that experienced by CA-MEN-3571 are not repeated,” the statement said, “and that the history and the homeland of the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Little Lake Valley are treated with all due respect and protection.”

(Via Jennifer Poole, Willits Weekly Facebook page, and slightly abridged)

 

Cropped map image courtesy Chris Hardaker.  This image shows detail of a map of Little Lake Valley Pomo village sites and dialectic subdivisions, from the 1908 book by S.A. Barrett, “The Ethno-Geography of the Pomo Indians” from UC Berkeley’s collection.

Thank you for following us
on Twitter and Facebook and
sharing the Humboldt Sentinel 
with others.

One Response to “Pomo Archaeological Site Destroyed by Willits Bypass Construction”

  1. William says:

    It really a shame that these sites have to be destroyed or covered over with freeways or buildings.But that is just progress.The Indians were scattered out all over those areas how are we to expand anywhere if we have to worry about what may have been here years before.I am for preserving as much as posssible but we do have to be realistic.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks


Leave a Reply

HumSentinel on Twitter

RSS Progressive Review

  • Graduation speech
    From 50 years of our overstocked archives[From a graduation speech delivered at Washington's John Eaton public elementary school in 1977. At the time, the school went through the 8th grade.] Sam Smith, 1977 – The title of my speech is “The Future Lies Ahead.” This pretty much sums up what people are meant to say at graduations, so I thought I would take […]
  • Giuliani's misleading black crime statistic
    Washington Post:Rudolph Giuliani [recently cited]a statistic from a 2010 Bureau of Justice Statistics report which did, indeed, conclude that 93 percent of black homicide victims from 1980 through 2008 were killed by black offenders.As our colleague Philip Bump at The Fix noted, Giuliani omitted the comparable statistic in the report for white homicide victi […]
  • World Bank Warns on climate change
    Environmental News Network - As the planet continues to warm, heat-waves and other extreme weather events that today occur once in hundreds of years, if ever, will become the “new climate normal,” creating a world of increased risks and instability, a new World Bank study warns. The consequences for development would be severe as crop yields decline, water r […]
  • Chuck Schumer says something right for a change
    National Journal - Sen. Chuck Schumer upbraided his own party Tuesday for pushing the Affordable Care Act through Congress in 2010.While Schumer emphasized during a speech at the National Press Club that he supports the law and that its policies "are and will continue to be positive changes," he argued that the Democrats acted wrongly in using thei […]
  • What it takes to get Hillary Clinton to speak
     Rosalind S. Helderman and Philip Rucker, Washington Post -   When officials at the University of California at Los Angeles began negotiating a $300,000 speech appearance by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the school had one request: Could we get a reduced rate for public universities?The answer from Clinton’s representatives: $300,000 is the “special university rat […]
  • Obama's "targeted killings" killed 28 people for each target attempt
    Guardian  A new analysis of the data available to the public about drone strikes, conducted by the human-rights group Reprieve, indicates that even when operators target specific individuals – the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls “targeted killing” – they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times. Attemp […]
  • Enquirer says HRC has booze problem
    Those sceptical of the Enquirer should bear in mind that it was the pub that broke the John Edwards sex story. National Enquirer - A  “boozed-up” Hillary Clinton suffered a secret collapse during a recent vacation – and now worried advisers want her to do a secret stint in rehab before her White House run!Sources close to the former First Lady and ex-Secreta […]
  • Coffee & Copious Co-authorship & Causation & Correlation
    Improbable Research - this new study has plenty of something for lots of everyones:“Genome-wide meta-analysis identifies six novel loci associated with habitual coffee consumption,” The Coffee and Caffeine Genetics Consortium, M C Cornelis, E M Byrne, T Esko, M A Nalls, A Ganna, N Paynter, K L Monda, N Amin, K Fischer, F Renstrom, J S Ngwa, V Huikari, A Cava […]
  • How police body cameras work
    HuffingtonPost:[Police body] cameras, which can be worn on sunglasses or clipped to a shirt, have won the backing of both civil libertarians and police groups. Civil liberties advocates argue that video records prevent cops from abusing their authority, while law enforcement groups note that a person cannot falsely accuse an officer if their encounter is rec […]
  • Wilileaks releases more anti-constitutional trade deal info
    Common Dreams - WikiLeaks has released a second updated version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Intellectual Property Rights chapter, charging that it will hinder affordable access to medicines globally, increase online surveillance, and impinge on civil liberties while benefiting Big Pharma and other corporate interests."Our first impression in readin […]
  • Great moments in research
     Improbable Research “Forming Impressions: Effects of Facial Expression and Gender Stereotypes,” Tay Hack, Psychological Reports, vol. 114, no. 2, 2014, pp. 1-15. The author, at Angelo State University, writes:“In conclusion, the present research adds to existing knowledge of how people form impressions of men and women…. The findings suggest that women may […]
  • Apology to young Americans
    From 50 years of our overstocked archivesSam Smith, 2003 - In observance of the approaching 66th anniversary of my arrival on this planet I would like to apologize to you on behalf of my generation. Even members of Confederacy had the grace to secede from the union; my generation has remained within like a deadly virus, subverting it, shaming it, screwing it […]
  • Want a four day week? Run for Congress
    Washington PostHouse Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday released the 2015 congressional calendar, which sets up the weekly voting agenda for the 114th Congress.The new session of Congress will convene Jan. 6. And that four-day week sets the pace for the rest of the year: By my count, the calendar has no five-day voting weeks and 18 weeks in which ze […]
  • Police 'justifiable homocides' reach record high
    Global Research:FBI data released over the past month reveals that so-called “justifiable homicides” reached a record high last year, while the number of officers killed in the line of duty fell to its lowest level in decades.According to the data, which appeared in a Monday article on the Washington Post web site, 461 American civilians were killed by on-th […]
  • Russia has ban on imports of GMOs
    Global Research - There have been marches, vocal demonstrations, petitions, and laws banning GMOs, but the US is still lagging in the ‘democratic’ freedoms it has promised its people. Russia, on the other hand, has completely banned GMOs, placing a moratorium on their imports for 10 years. The nation rejects GMOs due to numerous dangers, while the US continu […]