AM News for Monday, 12.23.13
U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White has rejected the environmental lawsuit aimed at halting the CalTrans bypass around Willits.
“Once large amounts of earth start getting moved, it's really pretty much impossible to stop a project,” said Gary Hughes, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center.
Bypass critics are not giving up hope of at least altering the project to reduce its effects on wetlands in the Little Lake Valley adjacent to Willits, he said. Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit included the Willits Environmental Center, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Mendocino County chapter of the Sierra Club.
Caltrans officials also had anticipated the ruling and were relieved it was finally issued. The bypass will eliminate the last traffic signals on Highway 101 between San Francisco and Eureka.
Bypass opponents say it's unnecessary and that it will destroy wetlands, harm fish and irrevocably change the rural nature of the Little Lake Valley.
“This is a painful lesson in how Caltrans operates with impunity to justify building unnecessary and oversized projects,” said Ellen Drell of the Willits Environmental Center. “Caltrans made false claims to permitting agencies and the courts saying that only a four-lane freeway bypass, with two enormous interchanges, would solve the traffic congestion in Willits"
The lawsuit sought to force Caltrans to consider a two-lane bypass alternative that would have fewer effects on wetlands.
Thanks to Glenda Anderson at PD
The Fort Bragg Planning Commission has denied a use permit to convert the old social services building on South Franklin Street to a Dollar Tree store. Public sentiment voiced at the meeting was split, with some expressing support for a new local source of affordable merchandise for low-income residents. Others opposed the project, citing concerns about the economic impacts of a low-wage "formula" store, traffic and noise impacts on the immediate neighborhood and impacts on the general small-town character of the city.
Commission Chairman Derek Hoyle cast the sole dissenting vote.
The property owner, Robert Affinito, said after the meeting that he was surprised by the vote. "It's turned my property useless," he said. "If they don't want retail here, they should rezone it."
In light of the continuing water shortage & lack of any significant rainfall forecast, City of Willits expects to declare a Phase three water shortage emegency at the CC meeting Jan 8th, 2014. Now, they are asking the community to implement the steps voluntarily as soon as possible.
All commercial & industrial users should reduce use by 15%; residential use is limited to 250 galloons a day.
Prohibition of all nonessential usage including washing sidewalks, vehicles, filling swimming pools & spas.
Christopher Skaggs, the driver accused in a high-speed chase during which his passenger shot at the pursuing deputy's car has replaced Public Defender Linda Thompson as his attorney with private attorney Patrick Pekin of Fort Bragg.
Christopher Skaggs, 30, of Redwood Valley, is accused of attempted murder and a "vicarious arming charge" of assaulting a peace officer with a firearm because his passenger, Walter K. Miller, shot at Sheriff's Deputy Darren Brewster's patrol car. Miller was found guilty on all counts and is facing twenty years to life.
Skaggs is accused as an accessory in those charges, and also faces charges of recklessly evading a peace officer, reckless evasion and first-degree burglary.
Prosecuting attonet Mendocino DA David Eyster said he made a written offer to Pekin, who has until New Year's Eve to accept or reject it. Skaggs is due back in court that day for a pretrial conference.
Thanks to Tiffany Revelle and the UDJ for that story.