Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Farm group challenges environmental review of Willits Bypass Project

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According to a Press Release from the California Farm Bureau Federation, dated July 23, 2012:
Saying that a highway project has turned into a farmland-conversion project instead, the California Farm Bureau Federation filed documents requesting that state and federal agencies review and reduce the impact on agricultural land. The case involves a planned Highway 101 bypass around the city of Willits.

Acting in federal court in San Francisco, CFBF filed a motion to join in an existing lawsuit that challenges environmental review of the Willits Bypass Project; defendants include the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Transportation.

In its motion, Farm Bureau notes that the bypass originally would have affected 150 acres of farmland. But now, more than 2,000 acres of land will be affected-with at least 400 acres removed permanently from agricultural use-as government agencies seek agricultural land to mitigate for wetlands affected by the bypass.


"Farmland plays an important role in the economy and the environment, both in
Mendocino County and statewide," CFBF President Paul Wenger said. "All too often,
public agencies try to convert farmland as a convenient way to address other issues.
But that comes at an environmental cost, and the agencies in the Willits bypass
project didn't work hard enough to review that."

Much of the farmland that would be taken out of production for the bypass would be
converted to wetlands, to make up for loss of existing wetlands in the path of the

"We don't oppose the bypass, but we do oppose the potential for an extraordinarily
high loss of farmland that the agencies would require to build it and to mitigate
for its wetlands impacts," CFBF Associate Counsel Kari Fisher said. "For every acre
of wetlands the agencies want to mitigate, they would impact 30 acres of farmland.
That significant impact would have a ripple effect on the area's agricultural-based
economy, particularly for the farming and ranching families who would lose their

In its motion, Farm Bureau asks the court to require the agencies to conduct
adequate environmental review of the impact on farmland and to prohibit action on
the project until the agencies complete that review.

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on
behalf of more than 74,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of
more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.

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