by KEITH EASTHOUSE
Making things better
When the Environmental Protection Information
Center challenged the design of a Target store proposed for the
north end of Eureka late last year, the powers-that-be cried
foul. EPIC, it was claimed, was venturing into a realm in which
it had no business: a planned retail outlet within the city limits
That overlooked the fact that the store's
location near Humboldt Bay placed it under the jurisdiction of
a body with an environmental protection mandate, the California
In February, the commission upheld EPIC's
appeal, ruling that the city had inadequately studied the project's
potential environmental impacts. Of particular concern, the commission
said, was the city's decision to allow the store to be located
as close as 40 feet to the Eureka Slough, a biologically rich
and fragile area that borders the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife
Rather than seeking a way out of the impasse,
city officials merely changed their target, so to speak: now
it was the commission that was improperly interfering with the
city's business. Fortunately, officials with the Target Corp.,
anxious to move the project ahead, were of a more practical mind.
They decided to shrink the size of the store a bit so that it
would leave a vegetated buffer zone of sufficient width -- 100
feet -- to satisfy the commission.
That modification, along with rerouting
a pedestrian path further from the slough and some other more
minor changes, has been endorsed by commission staff (see story
page 8) and will almost certainly be approved by the commission
at its next meeting on April 9.
So Eureka is going to get a Target store
after all, which we believe the majority of people want. And
EPIC's challenge did not kill the project, the outcome predicted
by those hoping to bully EPIC into withdrawing its challenge.
Instead, lo-and-behold, the project has been improved. We think
that's called a win-win, and the community has one of those pesky
environmental groups to thank for it.
Speaking of environmental groups, there's
another one that deserves praise, the Ecological Rights Foundation,
which, like EPIC, is based in Garberville.
Three years ago, the group filed a lawsuit
against Sierra Pacific Industries over its Arcata Mill near Manila.
The suit spurred the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control
Board to more vigorously regulate the mill, site of a groundwater
plume contaminated with high levels of a now banned wood treatment
chemical called pentachlorophenol. That was a concern because
Penta, as it's called, is usually associated with dioxin, one
of the deadliest of all synthetic chemicals.
Alarm bells went off last spring when the
Ecological Rights group, using its own funds, collected and analyzed
shellfish near the plant and found low but still potentially
hazardous levels of dioxin. Later tests conducted by an SPI consultant
found dioxin in commercial oysters out in the bay, but there
is disagreement about whether those levels pose a health hazard.
State health officials are studying that
issue and hopefully there will be more clarity soon. Meantime,
the Ecological Rights group has scored a couple of impressive
victories. Last fall, a federal magistrate judge upheld the group's
main contention: that the Arcata Mill had been in chronic violation
of the Clean Water Act for years. And last week this newspaper
revealed another development: SPI's decision to settle the case
for $1.2 million.
The agreement requires the company to clean
up contaminated soils and groundwater at the mill. Depending
on the results of a study of pollution levels in aquatic life
in Mad River Slough, a popular fishing spot near the plant, the
company may also be forced to dig up and haul away tons of contaminated
sediment -- not just in the slough, but possibly out in Humboldt
Bay. Additionally, almost half of the settlement -- $500,000
-- will go to the California Fish and Game Department for wetlands
restoration and acquisition around Humboldt Bay.
Who says environmental groups are just
by JUDY HODGSON
The shadow of war
We go about our daily lives in the shadow
of this war that has already pitted friend against friend, family
against family, if my e-mail this past week is any evidence.
"Don't be depressed," a good
friend wrote. "There is more than one way to peace. The
goal is to rid the Iraqi people of a cruel, despicable, murderous
tyrant." Then she challenged: "Do you think this it
really about oil? About imperialism?"
No, I answered. This war is not about something
simple enough to fit on a placard. It is about something more
visceral. The answer to what this war is about will come
when historians more closely examine when Bush made the
The seeds of this war were surely present
before he took office. The U.S. will not be pushed around under
this president. We will not be thought of as weak (think
President Carter). Then came 9/11 -- on his watch. We were Goliath
with a bloody nose. That is when Bush began this march to war,
and Saddam allowing the U.N. inspectors back in, or crushing
a few warheads -- or the fact that he was not even responsible
for 9/11 -- wasn't going to stop Bush.
It is because of this fact -- that Bush
made up his mind so long ago and kept it from the American people
because we are apparently too stupid to know what's good for
us -- that my initial reaction of sadness at the failure of diplomacy
has turned to anger.
I am angry that Bush said he was working
on a peaceful solution, a diplomatic solution, all these long
months when he wasn't. I am angry about the $74 billion price
tag for the war when we have a health-care system on the ropes,
no prescription benefits for Medicare, no money for schools.
I am angry because this country's basic principles, like
due process and a Congress that is supposed to declare war, have
It's bad form right now to talk about Bush's
failings, but forgive me for being impolite. He has eroded our
civil liberties. He has intimidated the press. He has put the
government in financial peril. He has done great damage to two
political giants -- Colin Powell and Tony Blair. He has driven
a wedge between the U.S. and Europe. He's made an enemy out of
the United Nations. And now he is threatening world stability
with the invasion of Iraq. Point any of this out in the wrong
company and you're likely to be declared unpatriotic.
Here's another e-mail excerpt from a friend
who has been temporarily living in London:
"The `war' has already been lost.
It has been lost in regard to the deeply tarnished image of America
as viewed by most of the rest of the world. It has been lost
in regard to breeding even more hatred of America. It has been
lost by unleashing the dogs of war around the world in such places
as North Korea, India and Pakistan. It has been lost at home
by the erosion and erasure of civil liberties and the censorship
of free speech. It has been lost by actions of those who crushed
Dixie Chicks CDs because one singer dared make anti-Bush comments.
(Did this not remind you of the book-burning scene in Fahrenheit
These are all the wounds of war from which
we will not easily recover.