Jan. 16, 2003
by GEOFF S. FEIN
The well-publicized dispute between the Environmental Protection Information Center and the city of Eureka over a proposed Target store at the north end of town boils down to differing interpretations of the city's General Plan.
EPIC says the city is allowing Target to build closer to the Eureka Slough than is allowed by its own guidelines. The city says those same guidelines allow for greater flexibility than EPIC is claiming.
EPIC is hoping the California Coastal Commission will consider its challenge to the city's decision. City officials say additional hearings could delay the project for weeks or months.
Target is planning to build a 138,700-square-foot store and garden center with 452 parking spaces at 2525 4th Street. Target will demolish the existing 86,253-square-foot Montgomery Wards store.
The retailer is hoping to open the store in 2004. It has yet to obtain demolition or building permits.
The distance between the bay and the Target property will range from 40 feet to 250 feet with an average of 100 feet.
Christine Ambrose, "coastal advocate" for EPIC and author of the appeal, said small business owners in Eureka encouraged her to file the appeal. Some of those owners have expressed anxiety that Target could hurt their businesses.
"We are not opposed to Target, but we have enough businesses like Target," Ambrose said.
Ambrose said the city was not doing enough to protect the fragile wetlands environment near the property. "Why are [city officials] insisting on building 100 feet from the bay? I haven't heard a good reason why it has to be 100 feet. This is Humboldt Bay. [We] want to make sure it's protected."
In her appeal, Ambrose said that "new construction should require improving existing onsite conditions. The Target store is not dependent on coastal resources. The Target store is poorly situated on Humboldt Bay, and should be re-oriented."
In addition, Ambrose claimed the city has inadequately addressed storm water runoff.
Ambrose cited a section of the city's General Plan as grounds for the appeal to the coastal commission.
That section states, "The city shall require establishment of a buffer for permitted development adjacent to all environmentally sensitive areas. The minimum width of the buffer shall be 100 feet..."
But a closer read of that section appears to favor the city's position: "...unless the applicant for the development demonstrates on the basis of site specific information, the type and size of the proposed development, and/or proposed mitigation (such as planting of vegetation) that will achieve the purpose(s) of the buffer, that a smaller buffer will protect the resources of the habitat area."
The city could also require a buffer of greater than 100-feet, the section adds.
City officials said flatly that the appeal has no merit. Environmental planner Lisa Shikany insisted that the City Council unanimously approved the project in accordance with Eureka's coastal permitting process.
"The city determined that the project is in compliance with the General Plan," Shikany said. "We disagree that a 100-foot buffer is required on every project."
Shikany cited several projects
that have less than a 100-foot buffer, including several along
City Councilman Jeff Leonard met with Ambrose back on Dec. 16, the day before the council approved Target's plan and prior the the filing of the appeal.
Leonard felt Ambrose was satisfied with the results of the environmental impact report. He said he was surprised when he learned that EPIC had turned to the coastal commission.
Leonard said that as far as he is concerned, the project meets the city's requirements.
"It is going to be a step forward in terms of environmental quality for that site," he said. "Currently there are no setbacks. The project will improve that site." (A setback is the distance between the bay and Target's property).
When Montgomery Wards built its store in the 1960s, the company paved the area for its parking lot almost up to the shore of the Eureka Slough. The store was built before the California Environmental Quality Act went into effect in 1970, so no environmental impact reports were ever done on the site.
Today, a chain-link fence separates the deteriorating property from the slough. Residents and city officials who favor a new store say the derelict Montgomery Wards store is an eyesore. Graffiti decorates the boarded-up building. The site is more appropriate for a run-down industrial area than for the northern gateway to Eureka. Weeds are sprouting up through the asphalt paving. There is nothing to prevent waste and garbage from running off the property and into the slough, and there are no buffers in place.
Setbacks are important for wildlife and for keeping garbage out of the bay, Ambrose said. "The city doesn't get it."
But the buffers will be strictly for aesthetic purposes, Shikany said.
"The buffer is not designed to mitigate water quality," she said. "[Target is] not planning to send anything through the buffer."
Target plans to put in a water treatment system to remove upwards of 81 percent of suspendible solid wastes (oil, trash and silt), Shikany said.
"We are exceeding what the coastal commission asks," she said. "It will treat double the volume as required by the coastal commission."
But in her appeal, Ambrose states that removal of only 80 percent of water pollutants is insufficient, and that "additional measures should be required."
Even though EPIC's appeal may raise some valid issues, it is up to the coastal commission's staff to recommend whether the board should accept the appeal.
Humboldt County Supervisor John Woolley is the area's representative to the coastal commission. There are 12 voting members from across the state.
"Staff has [the appeal]. They will put together an analysis and then we judge it by the virtue of the report," Woolley said.
The coastal commission probably won't decide whether to review the project until February or maybe March, if at all, Woolley added.
If the commission opts to review the project, hearings would be held in San Diego.
by SETH ZUCKERMAN
A new scientific report last week linked Pacific Lumber's logging to increased silt and flooding in North Coast streams, and sparked renewed calls to restrain the company's rate of cutting.
The study, commissioned by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, concluded that current forestry rules will probably not bring streams back to health. The seven authors -- five academics and two private consultants -- were selected from a list approved by Pacific Lumber and its long-time critic, the Humboldt Watershed Council. The panel's unanimous verdict adds weight to its conclusions.
"The report confirms that if you have an excessive rate of harvest, it leads to cumulative watershed effects," said Nathan Quarles, acting head of the water board's timber division.
The $85,000 report is the latest -- and perhaps most definitive -- salvo in a six-year battle over Pacific Lumber's rate of logging. Since 1997, high water has repeatedly ravaged homes and farms along Freshwater Creek and Elk River.
Residents lined up expert testimony to tie the company's logging to these floods. The company denied any blame and insisted that its cutting would improve the situation by funding restoration work to reduce the danger of erosion from old logging roads.
The new report derides Pacific Lumber's approach, referring to the "untested promise" of the firm's restoration efforts, and faulting PL for exaggerating the benefits of those projects.
Pacific Lumber did not return repeated calls from the Journal by press time, but spokesman Jim Branham told the Los Angeles Times that the report erred in confusing past logging practices with current methods. "The way we harvest trees today is very different than in decades past," he told the Times.
The California Department of Forestry -- which has approved PL's accelerated cutting -- also took exception to the report's findings. "We keep being presented with models that tell us the sky is falling," said John Munn, a soil and water scientist for CDF. "We just don't see it."
Freshwater Creek resident Alan Cook was incredulous. "Homes that have stood in the floodplain for decades are now getting water inside the house for the first time," he said. "The creek becomes muddy and remains muddy well beyond what anyone recalls."
Local activists hailed the report as a vindication of the charges they've leveled against PL's brand of rapid timber harvest. "Pacific Lumber is saying that falling trees doesn't discharge waste into creeks -- and this report says exactly the opposite," said Ken Miller, a board member of the Humboldt Watershed Council. "If the recommendations in this report are followed, we would see a dramatic reduction in logging" in Elk River and Freshwater, Jordan, Bear, and Stitz creeks, he added.
Quarles and his colleagues will ask the water board to act on the report at its meeting in Santa Rosa January 23. The board could put new rules in place limiting PL's rate of harvest within one to two months if it chooses to do so, he said.
Prompt action, in fact, is one of the report's recommendations. "It is essential that corrective actions be started soon and not postponed awaiting research and monitoring that would take place over a period of years," the authors said. Upcoming meetings of the water board will tell whether the science in the report can stand up to the political storm that is sure to follow.
Freelance writer Seth Zuckerman used to live in Petrolia. He is now a resident of the Puget Sound area.
by GEOFF S. FEIN
Next month's Redwood Acres Fair Show, the largest poultry exhibition in Humboldt County, has been cancelled due to the outbreak in Southern California of Newcastle virus, a fatal disease that has led to the quarantine and destruction of millions of chickens in six California counties.
The disease is 100 percent fatal to birds, but does not pose a threat to people. It usually hits commercial chicken and turkey farms the hardest, but this time state agricultural officials are finding more backyard fowl infected with the illness. That could spell trouble for poultry farmers and 4-H projects on the North Coast, where backyard operations predominate.
"There is always a concern over a statewide issue like that," said John Falkenstrom, Humboldt County agriculture commissioner.
The Redwood Acres event would have showcased 1,400 birds brought in by about 100 exhibitors. The annual show typically raises $2,000.
If the disease is not eradicated, this year's poultry exhibit at the Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale -- held in late summer -- could be cancelled as well. "I have a feeling we will have to cancel it," said Harry Majors, president of the Humboldt Poultry Fanciers Association.
"We hoped [the disease] would have ended by Jan. 1, but [it] is getting bigger than [state officials] had thought."
The state has also put restrictions on the shipment of birds into and out of Humboldt County, he said.
Just how many birds in Humboldt County could be affected by the disease is unknown.
"There are so many backyard people raising chickens [in Humboldt County]," Majors said. "I don't know how many poultry people there are."
Ducks, geese, doves, pigeons, grouse, swans, pheasants, quail, emus and ostriches are also susceptible to the virus, he said.
This isn't the first time the Redwood Acres event has been cancelled by Newcastle. Poultry farmer Agnes Wilson, 56, recalled that the 1972 exhibit was cancelled because of a Newcastle outbreak in Southern California.
Wilson has been raising poultry for show since she was a child. She has seen chickens die from Newcastle.
"It's serious. I don't want it to happen here," she said.
Wilson, a "Grand Master" (there have been less than 200 so designated since the 1800s), raises Rhode Island Reds in Blue Lake.
She and her daughter have exhibited chickens up and down California. At times, Wilson has had more than 300 chickens, but this year her flock is down to about 75. Birds are often sold for as much as $75 apiece.
"[Newcastle virus] can hit people hard who have been raising birds all their lives," Wilson said.
Wilson knows a breeder in Southern California who had to kill all of his fowl because of the outbreak.
"I feel sorry for [him]," Wilson said.
The virus could also have an impact on the price of eggs and other food items as more and more chickens are destroyed, Wilson added.
Humboldt County poultry farmers haven't reported any instances of the disease yet. That's because the disease typically requires a warm climate in order to spread.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the disease can "survive for weeks in a warm and humid environment on birds' feathers, manure and other materials."
Nonetheless, Falkenstrom said Humboldt County takes any report of dead chickens seriously.
Symptoms of the disease include sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, diarrhea, listlessness and sudden death.
The disease is spread primarily through direct contact between healthy birds and the bodily discharges of infected birds.
Poultry can die without any sign of having the disease. But once the disease is found, all of the birds in a commercial or backyard farm must be destroyed and all equipment and material must be thoughly disinfected.
"You have to depopulate [the farm], disinfect the area and bring in new healthy birds, and then see if they are disease-free for 30 days," Falkenstrom said. "It's a hellacious, labor-intensive quarantine."
State officials are also concerned that soil could be contaminated with Newcastle virus for up to a year, Majors said.
Newcastle disease has been traced back to fighting birds brought in from Mexico, Majors added.
Amazon parrots smuggled into the United States from Latin America also pose a significant risk of transmitting the virus.
There have been no reported cases of the disease north of Santa Barbara County. Information on the deadly disease has been sent out to pet stores and the state's regional veterinarian has been sent down to Southern California to help in the eradication efforts, Falkenstrom said.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture had already suspended all poultry exhibits in Southern California and all bird owners are being asked to stop the movement and sales of backyard birds.
Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, Riverside, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties have all been quarantined by the state. Last month Gov. Gray Davis declared a state of emergency in Southern California in order to control the outbreak of the disease.
The last known outbreak of Newcastle occurred in 1971. Almost 12 million birds in Southern California had to be destroyed. It cost taxpayers $56 million to eradicate the disease.
Historian, and photo archivist Peter Palmquist, 66, died Monday morning in a Bay Area hospital from injuries received Saturday in a hit-and-run accident in Emeryville, just east of San Francisco.
According to investigating officer Jason Bosseti of the Emeryville Police, Palmquist was crossing the street while walking his dog, Max, Saturday evening when he was struck by an unidentified driver. Witnesses on the scene said the vehicle may have been a Ford Taurus or a Mercury Sable, either silver or light blue in color.
Born in Oakland and raised in Ferndale, Palmquist was a world renowned authority on 19th-century photography and a collector of photographs and photo memorabilia.
He served in the U.S. Army as a photographer and was the official photographer for Humboldt State University for 23 years. On the side he amassed an amazing archive, around a quarter million images by photographers of the Western United States, including 85,000 images by Humboldt County photographers.
The vast majority of that collection was purchased by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University in Connecticut to become part of its Western Americana collection. (See Journal cover story, "A photographer's obsession," Jan. 24, 2002.)
Palmquist also compiled extensive notes on the images and was preeminent as a biographer of 19th-century photographers. He published more than 60 books on the subject ranging from his first, Fine California Views: The Photographs of A.W. Ericson, a profile of the Arcata photographer, to his masterwork, Pioneer Photographers of the Far West: A Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865, the first volume in a colossal biographical dictionary compiled with assistance from Thomas Kailbourn.
More recently Palmquist shifted his focus to the Women in Photography International Archive. He and his partner, Pam Mendelsohn, commuted between Palmquist's home in Arcata and her place in Emeryville while working on what he described as an effort "to identify, collect, preserve, and disseminate information about women photographers."
-- reported by Bob Doran
Further hikes in student fees are a likelihood as Humboldt State University prepares for the impact of state budget cuts.
Gov. Gray Davis is proposing to cut the budget for the entire California State University system by $326 million, roughly equivalent to three times HSU's annual budget.
The budget shortfall, also a major problem last year, has already led to $69 million in cuts and a 10 percent student fee increase.
Davis' new budget authorizes the Trustees of the CSU system to increase student fees by another 25 percent, a move they are likely to take.
"Unless something changes that will have an impact on them, I don't think [the trustees] are going to be very reluctant to increase fees," said John Travis, HSU's representative to the California Faculty Association.
The CFA is concerned that the budget cuts will lead to teacher layoffs, increased class sizes, and over-burdened schools as the children of the Baby Boomers graduate from high school.
"To say we're worried is putting it mildly," said Liz Taiz CFA's vice president, speaking from her home campus at CSU Los Angeles.
She said they had to avoid the mistakes made in the last round of budget cuts, in the early '90s, which led to layoffs, program cuts, and a 50 percent increase in student fees. She added that the student fee increases may restrict access to higher education. She said that the last fee hike led to more than 20,000 students dropping out because they couldn't afford it.
"We've belt tightened before," she said. "But I'm always afraid that the belt is going to slip up around our neck."
Since December 2001, David Kenneth Huffman, 29, has allegedly been posing as a 14-year-old boy dying from brain cancer. He used the ruse to develop online relationships with teenage girls from as far away as Massachusetts to get them to send him nude photos of themselves.
On Monday, Fortuna police, along with agents from the FBI, the U.S. Marshall's Office and the Northern California Computer Crimes Task Force, arrested Huffman at his Campton Heights Drive home. Huffman was arrested for violating federal law involving the possession, receipt and attempted production of child pornography.
Huffman is suspected of adopting an alternative identity to lure girls as young as 13 to send him nude photos of themselves so that he could see a naked girl before he dies. Police said Huffman transferred the images as well as hundreds of images of child pornography from the Internet onto compact disks, according to police.
The investigation began last summer when a detective with the West Virginia Sheriff's office notified Fortuna Police that a 17-year-old Fortuna teen, going by the name of Jeff Singleton, had asked a teenage girl to send him nude photos.
The girl took the photos of herself and e-mailed them to Singleton, who according to police was actually Huffman. It was later discovered that Huffman was posing as several people on the Internet.
Huffman and the girl had also sent each other items through the mail. Huffman's was found because his return address was on an envelope.
If convicted of the charges, Huffman could spend up to 20 years in prison.
Beginning next month, as many as 200 Humboldt health care professionals will be inoculated against smallpox so that they will not be incapacitated in the event of an outbreak.
Dr. Ann Lindsay, a Humboldt County public health official, announced the formation of the "smallpox response teams" at a Tuesday press conference.
It was dubbed as phase one of the federally mandated small-pox program. The effort is being undertaken to increase preparedness in the event of a "bio-terror" attack using the deadly virus.
Phase two will involve the inoculation of a wider range of health care and emergency professionals, possibly followed by phase three, vaccination of the general public to come no earlier than 2004.
"We're just being careful," Dr. Lindsay said. "This is a very preliminary preventive measure."
Presently there are only two places in the world where small pox is known to be present, Atlanta, at the headquarters of the Center for Disease Control and at its equivalent in Russia.
For the second week in a row the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors declared a local emergency due to millions of dollars in storm damage to roads and bridges throughout the county.
Early estimates show the county could be facing a $5 million price tag to repair damage from the December storms.
Humboldt County public works officials estimate it will cost at least $1.57 million for road repairs alone. That's less than the $2.1 million Eureka is expecting to pay to repair streets. Ferndale may have to dish out $120,000 and Rio Dell is anticipating $63,000 in road repairs.
The Howe Creek Bridge, west of Rio Dell, is expected to cost $250,000 to repair.
"It will be a costly project," said Allen Campbell, director of public works.
Making matters worse, the county's road maintenance fund will most likely be depleted by the costs of all the repair work. That is because the state is cutting the amount of money it gives to Humboldt County by $1.2 million.
With only $600,000 in reserves, Campbell said it is likely the fund is going to be running in the red.
Reported damage to homes in Humboldt County has surpassed $430,000, while in Eureka the cost is expected to exceed $100,000, according to Loretta Nickolaus, county administrative officer.
The Humboldt Bay Harbor District has also reported $1.5 million in damage from silt runoff.
Officials from the state Office of Emergency Services will begin inspecting Humboldt County later this week. Their findings could help Humboldt County receive state and possibly federal assistance to offset some of the repair costs.
The Primo Brusco, a 99-foot tug boat pulling a 260-foot barge loaded with one million board feet of logs from Aberdeen, Wash., to Eureka, sank off the Oregon coast late last month leaving one crewman dead.
The tug was on one of its three monthly trips to Eureka when it sank in 30-foot seas in the early morning of Dec. 30. Monty Nelson, 47, of Washington State, one of five crewmen aboard the tug, died. The remaining survivors were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard.
According to a company report, an alarm on the Primo Brusco began ringing at 10:30 p.m. indicating that there was flooding in the rear compartment of the tug. The tug's engineer began pumping the water out and the crew believed the problem had been taken care of. About four hours later the crew awoke to find the ship listing heavily with the stern section under water.
Attempts were made to release the barge from the tug but those proved unsuccessful. Within five minutes the crew were then given orders to abandon ship. Three crewmen got into the tug's life raft. The two remaining crewmen donned immersion suits and jumped into the water.
Two Coast Guard rescue helicopters arrived, picking up the three men in the life raft and one crewman in the water.
Nelson's body was recovered on Dec. 31.
The barge loaded with lumber was taken by another tug boat to Coos Bay, Ore.
According to a company press release this was the first incident like this in the company's 19 year history.
Brusco Tug & Barge, headquartered in Longview, Wash., operates 50 tugs and barges from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico. The company employs 175 workers and has facilities in Sacramento, Stockton, Port Hueneme and Eureka.
Humboldt County activists are heading to San Francisco to join a worldwide demonstration against the looming war with Iraq.
Other anti-war demonstrations on the same day -- Jan. 18 -- will take place in Washington, D.C. as well as 25 other countries around the world including, England, Japan, Canada, Italy, France, South Korea, Egypt and Russia.
About 70 people from Humboldt County are taking charter buses from Arcata to San Francisco. The buses will leave from the Arcata Co-op at 3 p.m. on the day before the event.
Other demonstrators plan to carpool or take Greyhound buses to San Francisco. A third charter bus will leave from Southern Humboldt County.
The protest will begin Saturday, Jan. 18 at 11 a.m. at Market Street and Embarcadero. Demonstrators will march to the San Francisco Civic Center on Market Street (adjacent to City Hall), where a rally will take place at 1 p.m. The buses will return to Humboldt County that evening.
This will be the second anti-war rally in San Francisco in four months. In October approximately 80,000 people turned out for an anti-war demonstration, said Mary Ann Lyons of Arcata.
Lyons is helping to spread the word about this month's demonstration.
"I'm excited to be doing what I can," she said.
Lyons attended the October rally. She said she became involved because "what is happening isn't right."
The event is being organized by A.N.S.W.E.R. - Act Now to Stop War and End Racism - an international peace organization headquartered in New York.
Among the speakers expected at the rally are former U.S. Attorney General Ramsay Clark.
For more information contact Lyons at 826-1506.
Kmart Corp. will close at least 300 stores nationwide by the end of the January. Whether the Eureka and McKinleyville stores will close is an open question.
Shelley Clark, manager of the McKinleyville store, said she has not received any notification that her store or the Eureka store will be closed.
But the final list of stores closings won't be made available until Jan. 17. That list will be filed with the bankruptcy court on Jan. 28. The court has to approve any store closings.
Kmart officials announced the closings on Jan. 10 as part of its bankruptcy reorganization plans. The retailer filed for bankruptcy a year ago.
It's official. Worthington School will cease to exist come the end of the school year in June.
Last week, the Eureka City Schools' Board of Education followed Superintendent Jim Scott's recommendation to close the school, making it official in their newly approved facilities plan.
School closure was deemed necessary due to a 900-student drop in enrollment in the district over the last seven years, which translates into $4.5 million less in funding from the state.
Scott had suggested closing another school as well, but the board decided against it.
To help first-time home buyers in Eureka overcome the increasing cost, and lack of housing the City Council, Tuesday, approved a plan to increase the maximum purchase price to $150,000 and increase the city's down payment to $50,000.
The aim is to jump-start the program after five months of inactivity. For fiscal year 2003-2003, the city's first-time home buyers program has lent only $30,000 out of $300,000 set aside for the program.
The problem: the program was limited to homes that cost $110,000 or less and there were no such homes.
City Manager David Tyson will be responsible for approving loans.
Since the program's adoption in 1991, the city has issued 108 loans totaling about $1.380 million.
The Henderson Center branch of Humboldt Bank has set up a memorial account for the Medina family, whose three sons -- Rico, Hoyce and Faustino -- died in a Christmas Eve fire at their Blue Lake home.
The boys ranged in age from five to eight. The boys' mother, Jennifer, 28, and another woman escaped the blaze.
The family is in need of women's and toddler's clothing as well as blankets and groceries.
For more information contact Yvonne Baird, 442-8354.
The Jacks preserved their perfect season with two more home wins last week, bringing their record this season to 12-0 and their home-game winning streak to 25 in a row, the second longest in NCAA Division II history.
The weekend double header started off with a bang Thursday night as the Jacks came out fast against Northwest Nazarene's Crusaders, maintaining a commanding lead throughout and winning 94-70.
On Saturday, facing the Redhawks of Seattle University, the Jacks started out slowly, leaving the score disturbingly close at half time. But they pumped up their defense in the second half and cruised to a 70-56 victory.
This week the Jacks are on the road, facing Saint Martin's College in Lacey, Wash., on Thursday, followed by Central Washington in Ellensburg Saturday night.
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