Native American Tribes Face Rocky Highway Fight

The Native Americans’ path may get much steeper in their legal effort to block a Highway 101 expansion in Mendocino County  over assertions the highway would damage archaeological sites during construction.

A federal judge during a hearing Friday indicated during a hearing he may dismiss the lawsuit by two tribes but also suggested he may give the tribes the opportunity to amend their complaint, according to a report by CourthouseNews.com.

The tribes have asked U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White to ask the federal government to take the highway project away from Caltrans, the state’s transportation agency, and order consultation between the tribes and federal government.

The state planned to build a four-lane bypass of Willets, a town of 5,000, to ease rush hour commutes in the area. Willets is roughly halfway between Santa Rosa and Eureka and is in northern Mendocino County.

The lawsuit brought in 2015 by the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians and Round Valley Indian Tribes of California accused the federal Highway Administration and US Dept. of Transportation and Caltrans of failure to consult with tribes on cultural heritage protection and archeological sites prior to starting work on the $300 million Willets Bypass.

White is expected to issue a written ruling shortly.

Case: Coyote Valley Bank of Pomo Indians v. US Dept. of Transportation, No. 15-cv-4987

 

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