Morning News for Monday, November 26th
Federal Judge Jeffrey White set June 7 for the main hearing on the lawsuit to stop Willits Bypass as currently designed.
Judge White will hear summary judgment motions from all sides. It is likely this will be the main "trial".
In a summary judgment hearing, the judge determines whether he has sufficient evidence to rule in favor of either the plaintiffs or defendants on each count. This hearing could resolve the suit, or substantially narrow the issues left for resolution.
Environmental groups must file opening briefs by April 5. This triggers a CalTrans rebuttal; then counter arguments by the plaintiffs; finally leaving CalTrans with the last word by May 17.
The losing side is then free to file an appeal.
The Mendocino Supervisors have directed staff to write the California Farm Bureau and seek its support in a legal battle with the Masonite Corporation.
Masonite, a door manufacturer which still owns land north of Ukiah after closing its plant there years ago, is suing the county of Mendocino, the Board of Supervisors and Granite Construction Company over a 65-acre terrace mining operation proposed on Kunzler Ranch Road land neighboring its property.
The company claims the county's approval didn't comply with Environmental Quality Act requirements, didn't properly evaluate the impacts the mining operation would have on Russian River quality and failed to notify the public of the impacts.
Masonite says Granite's proposed mining operation would eliminate 45 acres of "prime farmland." The County argues that the land in question has been zoned for industrial use since 1981, but the state Department of Conservation mapped the land as prime agricultural land, so the environmental impact report for Granite's project wasn't acceptable.
Mendocino Supervisor Carre Brown -- who worked for the Mendocino Farm Bureau for more than 20 years - argues that the lawsuit "stops a perfectly good project from going forward." She called the California Farm Bureau's support of masonite"very disappointing," and said she hopes the entity will reverse its position.
Fort Bragg resident, James Soderling, allegedly played a major role in supplying marijuana to a Kansas drug ring, according to federal court documents.
Investigators, however, have shed little light on the role played by six other longtime Coast residents also accused of conspiring to sell marijuana, all of whom have plead not guilty.
Mendocino contractor Jeff Wall and fellow Mendocino residents John Paul McMillan, McMillan’s wife Erin M. Keller, Henry "Hank" McCusker and Richard Smith Jr. are named along with 36 other people in a 103-count indictment outlining a scheme that allegedly raked in nearly $17 million.
The defendants are familiar names on the North Coast, with ties to logging, construction and the volunteer fire department in Mendocino.
The investigation has unleashed an outpouring of support from the suspects’ families, their friends and colleagues in letters to the judge.
Fort Bragg resident James Soderling and his wife, Sarah, face the most serious charges. James Soderling is “a known high grade marijuana distributor and a high grade marijuana broker,” according to court documents. He is accused of delivering marijuana in a wooden crate to Hayward, where the drugs were shipped to Kansas.
The judge released the couple from custody but required them to live apart and not discuss the case.
The other Mendocino residents, including parents of young children, are at home with their families.
Two of the defendants, McMillan and Keller, have returned to duty at the volunteer fire department in Mendocino.
A tentative trial date is set for June 2013.