North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

APRIL 12, 2001

Breast-friendly mammograms

Beach access for fishermen

Auto-ban kaputt?

Casino plan called inadequate

Medical pot withheld

Freshwater analysis reviewed

Small hospitals get exemption

Power co-op for Humboldt?

Klamath River bad/good news

Don't mess with these women

Mattole blockade broken

HAF to break ground

Breast-friendly mammograms

Mad River Hospital has introduced a method for reducing the discomfort of mammograms.

Mammograms, in which the woman's breasts are X-rayed between clear plastic pressure plates to look for cancer, can be very uncomfortable. The new technology, called the MammoPad, is a foam pad that cushions the breast.

Mad River is the first hospital in the country to use the MammoPad. The technology is the most recent in a string of innovations in breast cancer diagnostic technology in Humboldt County. (See the Journal's "New Tools for Cancer," Jan. 18.)

Beach access for fishermen

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors has stepped into a fight between beach fishermen and the Redwood National Park over access to the parts of the coast under park ownership.

The board voted March 27 to create a subcommittee to try and convince the park to amend its general management plan, which calls for vehicle access to the beaches to be phased out. Fishermen who have permits for beach access will be able to keep them, but the permits will expire upon their retirement. The restriction will mostly affect smelt fishing, one of the few remaining industries for the town of Orick.

Redwood Park officials have said that changing the rules is unlikely, as the beaches provide habitat for the endangered snowy plover and certain rare plant species, all of which might be damaged by vehicular traffic.

Auto-ban kaputt?

Recent reports of the demise of cars on the Arcata Plaza during farmer's markets have been greatly exaggerated.

The Arcata City Council authorized the North Coast Growers' Association to renegotiate its permit for use of the Plaza to exclude vehicular traffic. The idea was to increase the safety and space during the Saturday morning markets.

Some businesses along the Plaza protested that their customers will be unable to reach them.

So far, it's a moot point, said Arcata City Manager Dan Hauser. He said the association hasn't tried to renegotiate its permit. And if it was to do so, several city departments would have to approve it.

Casino plan called inadequate

The Blue Lake Rancheria has released an environmental review for the proposed construction of a casino, and it is less comprehensive than Blue Lake's government had hoped.

The document is an "Environmental Assessment." Blue Lake councilmembers and others had been hoping for an Environmental Impact Statement, a much more detailed study. Assessments are typically used during the permitting process to argue that a proposed project will have no significant environmental impacts.

City Council members said at their March 27 meeting that the casino will likely add lighting, traffic and noise to the small city ("Gambling on Casinos," June 15). According to a report in the April 3 Arcata Eye, council members are advocating a lawsuit if more environmental study is not completed.

Members of the public can find the environmental assessment at the Blue Lake City Hall or Blue Lake branch library.

Medical pot withheld

Humboldt County Sheriff Dennis Lewis has sparked a new controversy around Proposition 215 by refusing to return one ounce of marijuana to a medical marijuana patient.

Lewis was ordered to return the marijuana to Chris Robert Giauque by Judge Bruce Watson Jan. 18. Watson ruled that Lewis had confiscated marijuana that Giauque was legally entitled to as a medical marijuana patient. Giauque is threatening to file a motion to declare Lewis in contempt if the pot is not returned.

Lewis has said he fears federal prosecution if he returns the pot because of federal statutes which define marijuana as contraband.

That apparent contradiction between Proposition 215 and federal drug statutes was already the subject of the state court hearing, said J. Bryce Kenny, one of the attorneys representing Giauque.

"It's pretty clear under the law and the state court's decision that there is no conflict" between the federal law and the court's order to return the marijuana, Kenny said.

Giauque plans to renew his attempt to have Lewis declared in contempt at an April 24 hearing.

Freshwater analysis reviewed

It was supposed to be a point where everyone involved could reach consensus, but it's turning into yet another battleground. Pacific Lumber Co.'s long-awaited watershed analysis for Freshwater Creek, which the timber company calls "the most comprehensive review ever undertaken on private timberlands in California," has been strongly criticized by two agencies.

Pacific Lumber has presented the analysis as proof that the watershed is in good health. According to a PL brochure entitled "Watershed Analysis: Questions and Answers," PL's land in the watershed supports "abundant fish populations," habitat is good and fine sediment in the creek is not especially harmful to fish. And, the report continues, even if sediment were harmful, it couldn't be traced back to PL logging; it's the result of "past natural and management related activities."

The report good news for the company, who will base its management plan for the watershed on the analysis. A healthy watershed means that additional harvesting can be done and PL has concluded that Freshwater's bill of good health will "result in additional management activity."

Patrick Higgins, a fisheries biologist who worked on the analysis on behalf of Freshwater residents who don't want their watershed to be logged further, said that rosy picture doesn't correspond with reality.

Higgins said he worked for a year and a half trying to make the analysis a more accurate document, but he has not seen his work "reflected in the document that's out there right now at all."

"The number of fish is down, the number of bugs they eat is down, the downstream populations are in a downward trend and the pools are filling up with silt," he said.

He's not the only one who has questions. Two agencies are questioning conclusions in the analysis. The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board completed its own review of the analysis and requested that the Redwood Sciences Lab, part of the U.S. Forest Service, do a separate review.

Both agencies came up with the same problem: Some of the conclusions presented in the analysis aren't supported by the data.

Ranjit Gil, division chief of the water board's regional watershed management unit, said the analysis contained "conclusions not justified by the data they had... There should be an acknowledgement that the data is limited and the conclusions drawn should take that into account."

As an example, it's not yet possible to tell whether or not all the sediment in the creek is the result of historical and natural processes, said Robert Ziemer, director of the Redwood Sciences Lab. In order to determine if that is the case, an analysis of the sources of sediment and how it is transported would have to be done. "And that was not adequately done in this survey," he said. But Ziemer said he doesn't want to be portrayed as hostile to the process or the company behind it.

"When a scientist is required to do a technological review, the objective is to identify places of possible weakness and provide suggestions" for improvement, he said. But when people outside of the scientific culture see such a review, they assume it is "an attack on the document or its authors.

"I didn't get the flavor that the individuals who put this together [Watershed Professionals Network of Idaho] were manipulating the data," he said.

The water board was much more blunt in its critique of the analysis, saying in a written statement, "It appears the Freshwater Creek watershed analysis has been developed with a preconceived plan to arrive at a predetermined outcome ... ignoring any comments or suggestions which would cause a deviation in the planned course."

The watershed analysis is available for inspection at the Humboldt County Library's main branch in Eureka.

Pacific Lumber did not respond to queries for this report.

Small hospitals get exemption

The Public Utilities Commission voted April 3 to extend an exemption for hospitals from rolling blackouts to small, rural facilities.

Hospitals with more than 100 beds have been exempted from rolling blackouts since the regulations guiding the emergency measure were written more than 20 years ago, but small hospitals were left exposed to the outages. After letters from hospital administrators, the Regional Council of Rural Counties and State Assemblymember Virginia Strom-Martin, the PUC opened the exemption to all hospitals providing critical health services.

Exempting hospitals has put some strain on the PUC, however. Initial estimates are that only 40 percent of the blocks in the electronic grid will now be eligible for blacking out, said Johnathon Lakritz of the PUC in a phone interview from San Francisco.

The PUC called at the same meeting for studies of how blocks could be reconfigured to make a broader portion of California's electricity consumers eligible to share the inconvenience of blackouts without endangering critical services.

Power co-op for Humboldt?

The ongoing power crisis soap opera climaxed last week as PG&E declared bankruptcy, leaving the market for electricity in disarray. If you are growing weary of the debt-ridden utility drama, Patrick Shannon of Willow Creek has a suggestion: divorce yourself from PG&E and hook up with a nice hometown utility.

Shannon plans to purchase the Blue Lake power plant and run it as a cooperative. The plant, which burns wood waste, has been idle for a year and a half. It was closed because fuel was scarce and the prices for the power produced low.

But Shannon is confident he can operate the 10.5-megawatt plant successfully. He said the plant "has been very well-cared for and maintained" in the interim and that he could produce energy at a reasonable price.

"Our plan is to acquire this plant so that we can have the financial backing to support other projects," Shannon said.

Interested parties should call Shannon at 530-629-2401.

Klamath River bad/good news

The Pacific Northwest is in a drought year, with the region receiving only half of the average amount of rainfall this winter. This is bad news for the salmon population in the Klamath River, which need plentiful water to thrive.

But the good news is that because of the drought, the Bureau of Reclamation has decided not to divert water from the Klamath River for agricultural irrigation.

The decision came at the request of two federal agencies. The Fish and Wildlife Service requested that water be kept in the lakes that feed the Klamath for two endangered fish species, the Shortnose and Lost River suckers. The National Marine Fisheries Service made the same request for coho salmon living in the Klamath River.

A federal court ruled April 4 that the bureau must heed the agencies' opinions. The bureau had previously flouted the agencies and delivered water to farmers in dry years.

There may not be enough water to maintain healthy conditions for all three species even without diversions, said Tim McKay of the Northcoast Environmental Center.

"It's so tight this year," he said. "I anticipate there might be fish kills."

But the bureau is listening to the experts on endangered species, and McKay said that's a positive change.

"They have stonewalled us for a long time," he said.

Don't mess with these women

Women's rugby may only be a club sport at Humboldt State University, but it is a very successful one: The team is ranked 15th in the country and is going to the national championship tournament in Orlando at the end of the month.

Of course, that takes money --$11,000, to be precise. Donation jars have netted about $2,000 and team members plan to have a T-Shirt printed on which they will sell space to sponsors. April 14 there will be a car wash at Wildberries Marketplace and a rummage sale Saturday near the farmer's market on the Plaza.

Then there's mud wrestling. April 13 team members will have what club president Liz Osberger described as a "mud wrestling event," with tickets going for $5. Contact Osberger for details at 826-9267 or

Mattole blockade broken

There were further clashes on Pacific Lumber Co.'s holdings in the Mattole River watershed this week. The timber firm, accompanied by the Humboldt County Sheriff's department, cleared blockades protesters had set up to halt timber harvesting on the land. The blockades had been up for 133 days.

Four people had been arrested as of press time Tuesday, two of them after being removed from "lockboxes," devices which secured them to the roadbed. Josh Brown of the Mattole Forest Defenders said that there are still 15 or 20 protesters in the woods but the blockade is down.

"It's not clear what our next step will be," Brown said.

PL spokesperson Mary Bullwinkel said weather would probably prevent logging within the next few days. A lawsuit was filed against the protestors by PL and others involved in the planned harvest April 6 seeking financial restitution for lost income.

HAF to break ground

After a two-year delay, the Humboldt Area Foundation plans to break ground next month on a 6,500-square-foot building at the intersection of Indianola Cutoff and Indianola Road between Arcata and Eureka.

The project was put on hold after a series of legal challenges filed by descendants of Vera Perrott Vietor, who founded HAF in 1972.

Vietor's nephews, John Perrott of Texas and Bill Perrott of Oregon, claimed their aunt created a 14-acre "nature preserve" in her will that was altered in 1996 by current HAF officials when they removed trees and added a parking lot. In addition, they claimed her architecturally significant home, which serves as HAF headquarters, was altered. They also claimed the new building and expansion on the Vietor property would violate the intent of her will. (See Journal story, Sept. 30, 1999).

Humboldt County Judge J. Michael Brown ruled against the Perrotts who were later turned down at the appellate and state supreme courts. The Perrotts also tried and failed to stop an extension for the HAF building permit. An appeal to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors was unanimously denied at a meeting in March.

Lane Strope, chair of the HAF board, called all the Perrott claims "bunk."

Alterations to the building were the result of federal and state requirements regarding disability access, he said. And before plans for the new building were drawn up, HAF sought and received permission to expand on site from the state attorney general who oversees community trusts. The attorney general later said the Perrott case was "utterly without merit."

The new building -- a three-level structure with a 4,000-square-foot footprint and 65 new parking spaces -- will look "like a nice custom home" matching the original Vietor house, Strope said.

Strope said the delay and public confusion have been frustrating. While the case was in the courts, the HAF board did not respond in public to charges leveled by the Perrotts. Once the State Supreme Court upheld the lower courts in March, the board sent a letter to 6,500 HAF donors that read, "Because the lawsuits and accompanying publicity have raised concerns within the community, they deserve to be addressed openly and candidly."

HAF's new community resource center will provide space for organizations to meet and have access to a resource library, training and assistance on topics ranging from financial management, fund raising and board development.

HAF was founded with $2.4 million from Vietor and the donation of her home and land. Assets today top $52 million.


Comments? E-mail the Journal:

North Coast Journal Weekly

© Copyright 2001, North Coast Journal, Inc.