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April 27, 2006

The Weekly Wrap

HSU's CCAT mourns cuts in its redwood grove

6 Questions for Randy Robertson

The Weekly Wrap

IN THE HENHOUSE: The Eureka Republican Women, Federated, #1426, sponsored a debate Friday at the Red Lion between between Fourth District supervisor candidates Bonnie Neely (incumbent) and Nancy Flemming, both Republicans. Neely and Flemming dressed their parts: Neely in a conservative but feminine pastel suit; Flemming in a feisty black long-sleeved T-shirt with words typed across the chest in white letters:

After the room filled up and people had carried plates of buffet food back to their round tables, and after the invocation -- "Heavenly Father, thank you for blessing this meeting This country was founded on your principles, and let us continue to let you guide us Amen" -- and the Pledge of Allegiance, ERW President Leslie Craig went table by table, calling for a show of hands of "visitors."

"This table here, any visitors?" Craig asked. A couple of hands wavered up. "Thank you for coming," she said, and the room pattered with applause. "Over there?" Same routine. "That table there?" "Welcome, all of you," she said at the end of the exercise.

After a bit of business, Craig started talking about the ERW -- but interrupted herself to exclaim: "Oh! I forgot to mention the presence of another person! Richard Marks is also running for this position." She pointed him out, said, "Welcome, Richard. Now, we only have speakers who are Republicans. So, if you want to change your party, Richard --"

"No thanks," said Marks.

"-- the registration forms are on the table," Craig concluded.

And then the debate began. There were questions about Republican values, promoting public sector-generated jobs, Measure T and caps on contributions, public safety, the Balloon Track. Neely's responses relied upon her 20-year experience as supervisor; Flemming's leaned heavily on her golden days as Eureka's mayor. Now and then, they got plucky.

Neely: "I'm proud to say I have the support of Sheriff Philp."

Flemming: "Gary Philp is terrific and I get along great with Gary, as well. Gary quietly supports me as well." (Laughter)

Neely, not amused: "Yes, we've all worked together. But I'm proud to have received the official endorsement of Gary Philp."

When they rapped about the Balloon Track, Flemming said she had supported rezoning the site for years. But Neely had already gotten in a swift jab: "I would say, if my well-dressed opponent got her way then, we would have a Wal-Mart there now."

And so on. Meanwhile, in the back of the room, Bill Odonnell sat beside an array of books and DVDs he'd brought for people to peruse: George W. Bush: Faith in the White House. Ronald Reagan: An American Hero. Ronald Reagan: A Remarkable Life. Odonnell, a videographer who specializes in the St. George Reef Lighthouse up north and also runs the online Creation Family Bookstore out of Arcata, is sort of an auxiliary member of the club, you might say: He does the ERW's newsletter. He looked like he was having a good time at the debate.

-- Heidi Walters

KLAMATH RALLY: Not very many people showed up at an impromptu rally at the courthouse in Eureka Monday to support fishermen, but that wasn't for lack of interest. Many local fishermen, tribal members and others had gone for the bigger rally in San Francisco. Here and in SF, protestors were demanding that the federal government grant disaster relief to fishermen and fishing communities suffering from ocean and river fishing cutbacks as a result of low numbers of Chinook salmon in the beleaguered Klamath River. At the SF rally, Rep. Mike Thompson said he would introduce a bill on Tuesday, with Rep. Lynn Woolsey, that promises $81 million dollars in federal assistance, a jump-start on a recovery plan for the Klamath River -- where low flows and warm water caused massive fish die-offs in 2001 and 2002 -- and $45 million after recovery to further conservation.

At the Eureka rally, the California Department of Fish and Game's Sara Borok said she'd come to show her support. She's in charge of counting the sport fishing quotas on the Klamath River, so she's been on the front lines in that regard. "The farmers [in the upper Klamath Basin] are getting subsidies for not producing, and the water's subsidized, so why shouldn't the fishermen be getting subsidies for not fishing -- especially the commercial guys?" she said. As for the long-term fixes, she put it simply: "We need better water quality. Fish need water -- fish need good water."

One of the signs held up at the rally cried, "Un-dam the Klamath." It's become a familiar refrain. But after the rally while waiting for the crosswalk light to change so he could cross the street, sport fisherman Clyde Haight said he knew it sounded funny, but he thinks they should keep the dams. "What happens if we get three years in a row of dry weather?" he said. "And what about all the mud" piling up behind the dams?

-- Heidi Walters

WATER BOARD: Pacific Lumber Co. officials butted heads again with North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board staff in a two-day hearing in Eureka over proposed permits that would dramatically cut Palco's logging in the Freshwater Creek and Elk River watersheds. The water board says reduced logging would alleviate flooding it says has been exacerbated by years of heavy logging and resultant sedimentation. Palco differs on the causes of flooding -- scientists on both sides are duking it out. The hearing was scheduled to continue on May 8 in Santa Rosa.

-- Heidi Walters

FERNDALE FOODIE: The recently announced winner of reality TV show contest "The Next Food Network Star," Guy Fieri, got his culinary start as a kid pushing pretzels at the county fair in Ferndale. Fieri, 38, left Cow Town at 18, went to college in Nevada, moved from carnie food to more elaborate fare like barbequed sushi, and has since opened four restaurants in the North Bay Area.

But fame clearly hasn't fogged his HumCo memories. In an interview with San Jose Mercury News in March, Fieri had this to say about his childhood: "My parents -- they're ex-hippies -- were going through the macrobiotic thing, and I had enough steamed rice and fish to kill a person My mom said, `You don't like it? You make dinner then.'"

The rest is history. Over the past few months of Sunday night air time, the charming, camera-confident cook with the spiky 'do and punky attire has cultivated an Internet following. Take, for example, this April 18 post on "The Next Food Network Star is currently accepting voting from its viewers to determine who the winner of this show is. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE Guy Fieri. I am oddly attracted to him and I really like his personality." Or this one, "At this point, my pick to win is Guy Fieri, and I'll pick the bald guy (Todd?) as runner-up."

It took others longer to get on the bottle-blond Italian's bandwagon: " and yes, I did view almost everything on the food network star site. everything down to the last useless detail ... im such a loser. and i really hope that jess dang will win, because if you look at the site, you can tell that shes asian, and cool." Fieri's cooking show is set to premier on Sunday, June 25. One possible title pitched for the show is "Off the Hook." Keep watching.

-- Helen Sanderson

SUPES ASK FOR TIME: Following a report from St. Joseph Hospital nurses, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to send a letter to the non-profit hospital's parent chain in Orange County, asking for time before layoffs occur so that community input on the problem can be solicited.

The nurses requested that the board help organize community forums and complained of poor working conditions and deficient communication between administrators and staff. If there was a silver lining to the unhappy dialogue it came from Connie Stewart, a representative for Assemblymember Patty Berg, who cited the resurrection of Trinity County's hospital from near financial ruin four years ago as a hopeful sign that St. Joe can see a turnaround, though she said that community financing -- the model Trinity County used -- is a "tricky business." Berg has met with hospital administrators and is "committed to helping any way she can," according to Stewart. Layoffs of approximately 10 percent of the hospital's workforce were initially proposed for May.

-- Helen Sanderson

AN HONOR: The Environmental Protection Agency last week bestowed a momentous honor upon the Karuk Tribe's Natural Resources Director Sandi Tripp and Karuk Water Quality Coordinator Susan Corum for their quick action upon discovery of the presence of toxic blue green algae blooms in the reservoirs operated by PacifiCorp on the Klamath River. The two Karuk employees were among three dozen groups and individuals dubbed "Environmental Heroes" by the EPA -- among them some interesting, even famous, personae: Willie "On the Road Again" Nelson is a hero for opening the first biodiesel station in California; Patagonia's a hero for 30 years of enviro-thought and action.

And there are some less famous, though locally influential, heroes -- everyone from the Laguna Beach High School Surfrider Club (for its weekly testing of ocean water quality) to the Conservation Society of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia (for slowing rainforest clear-cutting and managing the watershed) to Harvey Whittemore of Coyote Springs Investment, LLC, in Nevada.

Wait a minute -- isn't he that big, influential lobbyist in the Silver State who's convinced a number of other influential sorts that building a brand-new city of, oh, maybe 200,000 homes and a dozen golf courses in the parched southern half of the state, in a pristine valley home to threatened species, miles from any other city, is a damned fine idea?

Yes, it is. And he's doing it in an environmentally sensitive manner, says the EPA. This is the Bush EPA, after all. Not to cast aspersions on the other heroes, of course.

-- Heidi Walters

SPEAKING OF BIODIESEL: It's been about a year since we last checked in with Andy Cooper and the crew at Footprint Recycling, the innovative Arcata firm that chemo-magically turns gacky old, vomit-inducing restaurant grease into natural, sweet-smelling automobile fuel. But with gas prices being what they are, and while Congress makes busy feigning concern over the issue, we thought we'd give a ring.

This time last year, plenty of people were paying Footprint a big premium to fill their tanks with the good stuff. That hasn't been the case for a while. Last summer, Cooper told us, the price of petro-diesel spiked up into the over-$3.50/gallon range at a time when Footprint was selling the good stuff for $3.75 per. "People were lined up outside our door when we arrived in the morning, and we sold out by 10 or 11," he recalled. "So we tried upping the price to $3.99 -- trying to bring in some of that supply-and-demand -- but it didn't matter. We still sold out.

Nowadays, a gallon of diesel costs about $3.20. Footprint's biodiesel is still at $3.75. Not that it much matters -- the price on the big boys' stuff would have to fall pretty far to threaten Footprint's sales. Right now, it can be assured that it will sell every drop of the 75,000 gallons of fuel it produces annually. The company's biggest problem is supply. There's only so many deep fryers in Humboldt County, and even though Footprint has added grease pick-up routes as far away as southern Oregon, it's getting nowhere near enough to feed its market.

Humboldt County uses about 3 million gallons of diesel each month, Cooper says. Footprint's regular customers -- about 200 of them, Cooper estimates -- purchase the company's entire run, with none left over. Lots more people are going to want to make the switch to biodiesel in the coming months, especially if it doesn't cost much more. Footprint's temporary solution: To install a petro-diesel tank and offer custom blends of fuels -- 5 percent biodiesel, 20 percent biodiesel, 50-50 mix. That should help the company stretch its supply.

-- Hank Sims


HSU's CCAT mourns cuts in its redwood grove

story and photo by HEIDI WALTERS

At 9:26 a.m. last Thursday, April 20, somebody called the HSU police department to report that there were people in the construction zone of the university's new Behavioral and Social Sciences building. Unhappy people. So the department sent three officers over, and the yellow caution tape went up.

The unhappy people were current and former directors of the university's Campus Center for Appropriate Technology -- they were shooed to the sidelines. And as the morning wore on, more former CCAT directors and other employees, past and present, wandered up the hill along the narrow, winding path through the CCAT gardens to stand behind the police tape and peer through a chain-link fence into the shadows of the adjacent redwood grove. There, tree-trimmers crawled up and down tree trunks sawing and lowering limbs. Up in the metal-and-concrete boughs of the emerging BSS building, some construction workers looked down on the tableau while others wielded saws that whined and drew sparks from metal. Down in the redwood grove, the chainsaws bit into redwood flesh. A fresh-sap fragrance wafted through the air.

By mid-day HSU Interim Police Chief Tom Dewey was on guard, standing a few paces from the shifting group of dismayed students. The CCAT students hugged, ranted softly -- "We're trying to be polite about this," said one -- and watched the tree-trimmers. One crying student, Liz Kimbrough, walked over to Dewey and spoke quietly to him for a moment.

"We know that [Dewey] is not the enemy," Kimbrough said, after returning to stand by the fence and watch the activity in the grove. "I was telling him why we're upset, that it's not just a bunch of hippies that's sad a tree's going to be cut down. It's -- we call it Sacred Grove. Classes were held there. People fell in love there. Teachers would go there just to have peace. It's just a holy place."

Kimbrough, a junior majoring in botany, was a co-director of CCAT in 2004-2005. She said during the planning years for the new BSS building complex, she and others formed the belief that the grove wouldn't be touched. Looking again at the trees, intently, she said, "I'm fully prepared to be arrested. I can try to run and jump the fence and climb a tree to protect it." She paused, choking up again. "But I'm pretty small. I don't think I'd succeed. So I can just sit here and cry."

Kimbrough finally sat against the large trunk of a tree on the CCAT side of the caution tape. Current co-director Zach Mermel and former co-director Jeff Adams joined her. Other students hovered around. Mermel said that while the redwood grove is not officially on CCAT's grounds -- which have shrunk considerably since construction began on the new BSS building -- it has been part of CCAT life for 28 years. He and others were shocked, therefore, when at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, the day before, they'd received notification that six trees would be coming down the next day. Apparently, construction of a mandated Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant accessibility path and retaining wall would require cutting into some trees' roots, making them unstable.

Earlier that morning, as the first tree fell, Mermel secured a last-minute meeting with HSU president Rollin Richmond and two other administration officials. To no avail. Richmond explained to Mermel that if the building contractors, Danco-Swinerton, didn't build a proper ADA path to take people from the ADA parking lot (to be built) to the soon-to-be-constructed Native American forum building (part of the BSS complex), the university could face a $6 million fine.

Another student, James Keller, stood near the big tree where the others sat, smoking a cigarette. "I think they totally timed it," he said. "It's kind of funny that it's 4/20 -- they probably think we're all gone getting irie and stuff."

Adams, sitting by the big tree, said while the property belongs to the university, the administration had "violated multiple years of dialogue" with CCAT employees. He noted the irony: Not only is the grove next to CCAT -- which is all about intentional planning, cooperation and walking softly on the earth -- but the BSS complex that necessitated the tree cuts is being touted as HSU's first "green" building project.

Kimbrough said the university administrators "are so focused on enrollment now, that what they don't realize is that we come to HSU for the sciences and its reputation for being an environmentally and socially responsible school. I came here from Alabama for CCAT."

"I came here from Massachusetts for CCAT," chimed in Adams.

"I came here from West Virginia for CCAT," said another guy.

"I came here from Hawaii for CCAT," said Mermel.

Chief Dewey, standing arms crossed a few paces away, alternated between watching the distraught students and staring off down the little trail. "This is an unusual situation to have this miscommunication," Dewey said. "Meaning, that students are expressing surprise to me. And that's a frustration to me and to the administration. We don't like to have a situation in which people express surprise and disappointment. I didn't know trees were getting cut, and I didn't know students were going to be upset. That's a disappointment to me -- we like our students to know what's going on."

By day's end, the six trees were cut. And a couple more were possibly doomed for removal. The next day, Bob Schulz, HSU's associate vice president for facilities management, said he was baffled at how the students came to believe no trees would be cut.

"I honestly don't believe the university ever made such a commitment," he said.

In the final plans for the BSS construction, he said, there's a note next to the designs for the ADA ramp and retaining wall that says tree removal would be evaluated as the project progressed. And once the plans went from one-dimensional paper to the actual ground, it turned out the slope of the hillside factored in significantly. "By the time we staked it out, we were into the trees," he said. He only found out from the contractors that some trees would be cut within 24 hours of the students being notified.

Schulz also noted that these were the same students who were upset, awhile back, when the university decided not to cut some trees at the site of the new CCAT building. In that case, the students wanted more sunlight coming in. But the university decided to keep the trees there to provide a screen between the new building and the surrounding neighborhood. But Schulz acknowledged that for CCAT it's been a rough go of it, all in all. Original plans for the BSS building placed it right next to the little houses alongside the university. The city of Arcata sued, but lost. But Richmond, newly named president, decided to move the site anyway, to make good with the community. That put the squeeze on CCAT, as the new, 88,000-square-foot site, including the main five-story building, crowded in on CCAT's former, larger grounds.

Schulz said the university will try to keep as many trees as possible. A dozen or more remain in the redwood grove near CCAT. He added that CCAT is "a treasure to the campus." Why, even he came here for CCAT, he said. Sort of.

"Part of the reason I came here is because the university is so conscientious," he said. Still, he concedes, perhaps communication in this instance did fail. "Maybe we did set up expectations that we couldn't possibly meet. I don't know. I can't explain it."



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