Feb. 10, 2005
ARCATA TO LAX: Perhaps the redwood-guarded North Coast won't
seem so remote come springtime when direct flights to Los Angeles
International Airport take off from the Arcata/Eureka Airport.
Twice daily, beginning April 25, Horizon Air -- a sister of Alaska
Airlines -- will make the one-hour and 40-minute hop to SoCal
in 70-passenger Q400 planes, bypassing its competitor's stop
in San Francisco (though some LAX flights will go through Redding).
Through June 10, special deals for the 1,200-mile round-trip
flight will cost $140. After that, County Public Works Director
Allen Campbell said that "hopefully it will create a little
competition and all the flights will come down [in price]."
The Federal Aviation Administration fronted a $500,000 grant
to Horizon Air to start the ACV to LAX service, with the Eureka
City Council and Redwood Region Economic Development Commission
pitching in $5,000 each.
by EMILY GURNON
Marijuana cultivation has been a widely accepted part of the rural Humboldt economy for years. But the practice has gotten a black eye for one of its lesser-known impacts: the environmental mess caused by diesel fuel and motor oil spills.
"Indoor marijuana cultivation is not environmentally friendly," said Humboldt County Sheriff's Sgt. Wayne Hanson, head of the Drug Enforcement Unit. That doesn't surprise him. "If you're committing felonies, why do you care?"
Indoor growing requires a source of electricity for the lights, and -- in rural areas off the grid -- that power is supplied most often by diesel generators. While such generators can be run responsibly, the pot growers too often rig them with questionable wiring and install no containment tank around them in case of spills.
The results can be disastrous.
"If [diesel is] not properly contained and stored in a safe place, it can have harmful environmental impacts, affect aquatic species and affect public health," said Melissa Martel, senior hazardous materials specialist with the Humboldt County Environmental Health Division. "It's definitely a concern for us."
In an effort to educate the public about the problem, Beginnings Inc. in Briceland has organized a radio call-in forum, scheduled for 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 11, on KMUD 91.1 FM, 88.3 FM in Northern Humboldt.
It's a touchy subject in an area where a look-the-other-way attitude prevails when it comes to pot.
Peter Ryce, executive director of Beginnings, said the forum's organizers are not condemning marijuana growers. "I don't know who they are. I don't really care. I just don't want them polluting my environment, my watershed."
"What we're going to try to do is come up with a range of solutions: how to install a generator safely, how to deal with your diesel containment. That might encourage people to take steps on their own to alleviate the problem."
Large-scale pot growing started to move indoors after the state's CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) helicopters buzzed rural parts of the county en masse beginning in 1983, finding huge outdoor weed plantations.
Growing indoors not only gives cover to the illegal activity, it also increases its potential profit: Indoor pot farms can produce three or four crops every year, Hanson said. Humboldt County now ranks No. 1 in the state in marijuana seizures from indoor grows: 40 percent of all indoor seizures come from here, he said.
The diesel generators supplying power for the 1,000-watt grow lights can be as big as a small pickup truck. They are sometimes buried underground, which can be a fire hazard, or rigged with plastic water tubing instead of proper fuel lines. They are often placed in dubious locations, such as right beside creek beds -- greatly increasing the potential for contaminated water -- because the depth and the surrounding trees help to muffle the machines' drone. Some growers even use water tanks to store the diesel fuel, officials said.
One of the reasons people are talking more about the issue lately may be because the smaller, mom and pop pot growers don't want law enforcement sniffing around, said Larry Bruckenstein, the warden in the Garberville office of the state Department of Fish and Game, who has responded to a number of diesel spills affecting streams.
"If you've got a little grow going in," he said, "the last thing you need is the cops showing up in the area."
by HANK SIMS
The effort to name a new member to the Eureka Planning Commission is no closer to resolution after last week's 3-2 Eureka City Council vote rejecting Mayor Peter La Vallee's second nominee to the seat.
At its regular meeting, the council rejected the nomination of Robert Fasic, a former attorney with a specialty in land-use issues and current owner of southern Humboldt's Heartwood Institute. Councilmembers Chris Kerrigan and Mary Beth Wolford voted to approve Fasic.
In December, the council turned down La Vallee's first choice for the position -- Xandra Manns, a retired urban planning professional who worked in the Bay Area. On that occasion, a majority of the council sided with Councilmember Mike Jones, who expressed concern that Manns -- a member of the Green Party -- was politically not a good fit for the commission.
At last Tuesday's meeting, Councilmember Jeff Leonard laid blame for the politicization of the normally nonpartisan position at the feet of the mayor, and decried the effect the brouhaha was having on the council and the community.
"I'm worried that this council that we're going to have a split down the middle -- the same kind of split you see in Sacramento, the same kind of split you see nationally -- where people don't talk issues any more, they don't share ideas," Leonard said at the meeting. "They just count up the number of players on their team."
In a follow-up discussion, Leonard accused La Vallee of trying to "bully" the council and decried La Vallee's guest editorial in the Times-Standard the previous weekend. The editorial accused local developers of organizing an effort to keep La Vallee's appointments off the commission and called upon citizens to support his choices.
Leonard said that although he thought Fasic a qualified candidate, the political atmosphere was now such that he could not in good conscience support his appointment.
La Vallee countered that he was not to blame for "politicizing" the appointment process, as his nominees were being rejected for something other than their professional qualifications.
"I have offered this council two candidates who I think clearly have the skills," he said.
In previous interviews, La Vallee said that Jones and Leonard -- who together form a council subcommittee that reviews La Vallee's appointments -- indicated that they would have preferred to see developer Steve Strombeck named to the commission. The Eureka Reporter, a newspaper owned by local businessman Rob Arkley, editorialized in favor of Strombeck last month. Strombeck withdrew his name from consideration last week.
Despite Leonard's wishes, there are indications that partisan politics stand to increasingly become part of the debate. The executive board of the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee will discuss whether the organization should take a position on the standoff at its meeting Tuesday.
Committee Chair Patrick Riggs said Monday that he didn't follow the arguments against approving Fasic put forth by Leonard -- a fellow Democrat -- and wondered how Leonard's actions would tone down the "politicization" of the office.
"I don't understand why voting to reject the mayor's candidates would solve that," Riggs said.
One current member of the Planning
Commission who wished not to be named said that while the city
council standoff was disturbing, it had no effect on the commission's
regular business. Outgoing Commissioner David Edmonds has agreed
to continue serving until a new member is appointed.
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