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Noyo Headlands Work Group Challenges and Goals for 2023

The Noyo Headlands Working Group of the GrassRoots Institute is working along three parallel tracks. Each track strives to build public awareness and community engagement.

The first track, at this time, is to align the Community, the City, and the Coastal Commission with a positive view of the future for the Headlands. This must begin with the mitigation of the contaminated ponds, soils, and, as much as possible, the groundwater left with dioxins, heavy metals, chlorinated solvents, and petroleum wastes. Removal of the contaminated sediments from the ponds and the failing dam and berm, day-lighting the creeks and beginning the estuarial restoration will ensure the health and resilience of the community and wildlife in the central parkland area. This would be complemented by wildlife corridors and well-planned development of blue economy research and small businesses, appropriately scaled and environmentally sound housing, and the other uses the community has been planning and seeking for several years.

The most active track currently is the legal one. The once-loved Skunk Train was bought, out of bankruptcy, by Mendocino Railway. Mendocino Railway was created by Sierra Railway, which is owned by Sierra Energy. They claim the right of eminent domain and refuse to obey the laws of basic community oversight common to all other businesses.

We oppose the use of eminent domain to unlawfully seize property on the Headlands and in the Pudding Creek Watershed. We demand that Mendocino Railway obey the law. We are following numerous lawsuits and court maneuvers that are underway. Mendocino Railway has taken property from local families. They are attempting to take a property in Willits. They refuse to get permits for work they do on their properties. They brag about how they are above the law. A summary of the legal activity can be found here.

The third track is historical. How did we get to this confusing and frustrating standoff? What has it meant for a small rural community to be up against Koch Industries/Georgia Pacific (Koch-GP) – one of the most despotic and environmentally backward corporations on the planet? Twenty years of delay, dissembling, and legal maneuverings. Many have likened it to a "David and Goliath" struggle against the deepest imaginable pockets, an obsession with profits over people, and an unbelievable amount of political influence and control. KOCH Industries is a tough adversary. Although technically in the hands of Mendocino Railway, from our perspective Koch-GP is still a big player in this struggle. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has made it clear that Koch-GP is still considered a Responsible Party for the cleanup of the site with Mendocino Railway.

In summary, we have a small rural community, recovering from abandonment by an irresponsible corporation–motivated by greed and corrupt corporate logic. The Fort Bragg City Council has tried to make them be fair and obey the law. Now we are being scammed by a new corporate bad actor. Same as the old bad actor . . . and perhaps in cahoots.

We are not alone in this effort. The California Coastal Commission has joined Fort Bragg in one of the lawsuits. The Attorney General of the State of California, Rob Bonta is watching this closely. Mendocino Railway is failing in one case after another, at the local, state, and federal levels. The story is getting out to a larger and larger number of folks. Email us at to get involved.

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