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Four protesters arrested as supervisors affirm support for Willits bypass

Four people were arrested for trespassing at the construction site of the Willits bypass Tuesday, while the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors narrowly voted to reaffirm support for the project.

Construction of the $210 million bypass around Willits started Feb. 25, but has stuttered over the discovery of a bird's nest and consistent interference from protesters.

The controversy ignited a number of demonstrations last week, causing eight to be arrested for trespassing and inspiring more than 80 construction workers to rally downtown in a call for an end to bypass delays.

The four arrested Tuesday were Naomi Wagner and Ellen Faulkner of Willits and two unidentified men. The four had stepped in front of construction machinery before ascending a small hill near one of three trees in which protesters are camped out. Holding yellow caution tape, the four stood in front of several oak trees in line to be felled, said Will Parrish, who watched the arrests.

Prior to the arrests, around 150 people showed up to a Mendocino County Board of Supervisors meeting to protest the bypass. The board had posted an entry on its agenda to renew their support for the bypass, and chairman Dan Hamburg put forward a letter to Caltrans for approval.

The supervisors voted 3-2 in favor of reaffirming support, with Hamburg and Gjerde opposing the bypass.

Public testimony over the bypass lasted nearly four hours and was primarily negative, said John Wagenet, an anti-bypass Willits resident who attended the meeting. More than 60 people testified before the board.

"There were some really poignant comments here today, and it would really surprise me if the supervisors agreed to move forward with their approval of this," said Wagenet.

Around 10 left the meeting just before noon, after news came from protesters at the construction site that oak trees were being felled near one of the tree-sitters.

CHP Capt. George Peck confirmed the arrests of four individuals Tuesday afternoon, but declined to release their names until after processing.


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