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

  • Furthermore. . .
    Marijuana legalization didn't eliminate racial disparities in Colorado's pot arrests It's OK to leak government secrets - as long as it benefits politiciansChris Hedges  Here's an oldie. "Friendly Fascism" by Bertram Gross (1980). Basically, every prediction in this book came true. Seymour Hersh returns to My Lai, forty-seven ye […]
  • Things that suggest to TSA that you may be a terrorist
     82 other TSA tips discovered by the patriots at Intercept […]
  • US takes ownership of a new Iraq war
    Daily Beast - Don’t hold your breath for a formal announcement, but the U.S. just declared ownership over the war in Iraq. The newest round of airstrikes take American military power out of a supporting role and into the lead.Wednesday’s Pentagon statement that the U.S. would begin conducting airstrikes to support an Iraqi military campaign was a high-water […]
  • Two of the most misguided men in America trade ideas
    Via Eric Margolis […]
  • Hipsters; The dead end of western civilization
    Douglas Haddow, Adbusters - Ever since the Allies bombed the Axis into submission, Western civilization has had a succession of counter-culture movements that have energetically challenged the status quo. Each successive decade of the post-war era has seen it smash social standards, riot and fight to revolutionize every aspect of music, art, government and c […]
  • Indiana governor signs bill legalizing discrimination against gays
    Huffington Post - Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) quietly signed legislation Thursday that could legalize discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.The Religious Freedom Restoration Act would allow any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party. But many opponents of the bill, […]
  • Walker in trouble
    Crooks & Liars - Last year, court documents revealed that prosecutors said that Scott Walker was at the heart of a "criminal scheme," in which he, his campaign and top lieutenants were trying to skirt campaign finance and election laws. The gist of the scheme was that Walker would help raise funds for conservative groups, especially Wisconsin C […]
  • Why the right is so powerful in Israel
    Daniel Kurtzer, Foreign Affairs - Benjamin Netanyahu's victory in Israel’s election last week has been declared a triumph of security over economics. Netanyahu exploited Israelis’ fears about terrorism and regional instability, virtually ignoring the growing economic and social problems in the country. His opponent, Isaac Herzog, fashioned himself as th […]
  • Cities have a tough time in state legislatures
    Governing - Big cities have long had a hard time getting their way in state legislatures. But in a more partisan era, the lobbying job for mayors has gotten even harder.The reason is that partisan divisions have become more aligned with regional ones. Most urban delegations are dominated by Democrats, while most rural and many suburban representatives are Re […]
  • Atlantic City in deep financial trouble
    Governing - Financially beleaguered Atlantic City is at risk of defaulting on millions in debt, a new credit analysis warned. The city faces a $40 million loan repayment at the end of March and needs access to the credit market to refinance that loan. Its credit rating is at junk status, which will make it difficult for the city to find reasonable refinancin […]
  • Obituary of the day
    Homer Tribune - Captain Donald Alexander Malcolm Jr., 60, died Feb. 28, 2015, nestled in the bosom of his family, while smoking, drinking whiskey and telling lies. He died from complications resulting from being stubborn, refusing to go to the doctor, and raising hell for six decades. Stomach cancer also played a minor role in his demise.  Don cherished fami […]
  • Links; Women
    Women's news   MEDIA MS MAGAZINE WOMEN'S E-NEWS WOMEN'S REVIEW OF BOOKS SINGLE WOMEN MS MAGAZINE WOMEN'S E-NEWS FEMINIST NEWS Groups FEMINIST ACTIVISM FEMINIST ECONOMICS FEMINIST MAJORITY FOUNDATION INTNL ASSN FOR FEMINIST ECONOMICS MS FOUNDATION NARAL NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR RESEARCH ON WOMEN NATIONAL WOMEN'S LAW CENTER NOW UN DEVELOPM […]
  • Word
    Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable - John Kenneth Galbraith […]
  • Just a suggestion: Texas license plates
    Sam Smith - My right of free speech does not allow me to put a political sticker on my neighbor's car. It does not allow me use a portable microphone in the balcony of the Senate or the House during a session of Congress. I can't scream my free speech into my neighbor's window at 2 am. Most people would accept that.So why is it necessary, or e […]
  • Obama suggests mandatory voting
    Christian Science Monitor -  During a town hall meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, President Barack Obama floated the idea of making voting in America compulsory. Mr. Obama suggested compulsory voting in the context of speaking about ways to counteract the role of money in politics."It would be transformative if everybody voted," Obama said."That wou […]