In a ruling signed Thursday, Dec. 19, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White rejected a lawsuit filed by four environmental groups against Caltrans and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers aimed at stopping the U.S. Highway 101 bypass around Willits.
Construction began in January 2013 and is considered about 30 percent complete, according to the project manager.
The lawsuit, filed in May 2012 by the Willits Environmental Center, the Redwood Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Protection Information Center, sought to stop bypass construction until Caltrans prepared a supplemental environmental impact statement considering two-lane alternatives, addressed design changes created by the project’s phased approach and incorporated current information about traffic volumes and environmental impacts.
”The irregularities of the review and permitting process for this massive project have undermined the legitimacy of the Willits Bypass project,” Gary Graham Hughes of EPIC said in a release. “It is a disappointment that the court did not hold Caltrans accountable for playing fast and loose with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act, two of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws.”
White ruled the project’s environment reviews were adequate and neither Caltrans nor the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acted in an “arbitrary and capricious manner” in reacting to project changes.
”Caltrans takes seriously its responsibility to preserve the species and habitats on these lands and we are pleased that the judge rejected this lawsuit. This project eliminates a chronic traffic bottleneck while enhancing fisheries and hundreds of acres of local wetlands,” Caltrans director Malcolm Dougherty said in a release.