May 11, 2006
PALCO PERMITS: After months of contention and a start-and-stop hearing process, which culminated in three days of hearings this spring, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has granted Pacific Lumber Company watershed-wide waste discharge permits to log this year in the Freshwater and Elk River watersheds. Voting 5-0, the Board said PL could log 382 acres in Freshwater (more than twice the 144 acres water quality staff had recommended) and 378 acres in Elk River (just a tad more than the staff-recommended 318 acres).
As part of the permits, the company will be required to monitor sediment entering the waterways. Some residents in the watersheds had complained since the early 1990s that sediment-induced flooding had increased ever since Palco ramped up logging in the watersheds starting in 1986. Palco has presented different theories on the flooding, and has proposed engineering fixes to correct for legacy logging practices, and clearing out channel-choking brambles, as a quicker, better means to clearing up the waterways than simply curtailing logging. The permits arrive at somewhat of a compromise.
"The permits are highly significant, in that they will have the effect of restricting Palco's rate of harvest as a means for measuring compliance with sediment limits," said Mark Lovelace of the Humboldt Watershed Council in a news release Tuesday. "Though they do not go as far as we would like in terms of recovery, they are still a huge step forward in regulating water quality."
Palco, meanwhile, sounded equally copacetic, at least according to a Times-Standard report Tuesday, which quoted spokesman Chuck Center as saying, "I think we came to some closure and what we want to do is work with the landowners and the watershed council and make this work."
— Heidi Walters
DELLAS CONVICTED: Former Manila Community Services District President Tim Dellas was convicted last week of manufacturing marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. His conviction on Thursday prompted him to resign as president of MCSD on Friday.
Dellas had been under investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office. He was arrested in 2003 after officials executed a search warrant at his Briceland residence. The search revealed over 5,000 plants, cloning facilities and 20 pounds of trimmed buds packaged for distribution. Officials also found papers in Dellas' truck documenting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of marijuana transactions, including one with estimated sales receipts totaling more than $1.6 million. The trial, which took place in federal court in San Francisco, lasted six days and it took the jury only five hours of deliberation to convict.
Tim's sister, local artist Joy Dellas, has sparred with her brother for years in Manila's political arena. She said Tuesday that the ordeal has been very trying for her family. "It's been hell for my family, especially my parents. I feel really bad that they have to go though this," she said. She said she does not approve of her brother's actions, and she wishes he had made better choices.
"I wish he would have used his position in politics to help lobby for changes in the law," she said. "I'm for legalizing all drug use, but now he can't even be in politics anymore."
Tim Dellas will be sentenced on Sept. 11 in San Francisco. He could face anywhere from 10 years to life in prison, and as much as a $4 million fine.
— Luke T. Johnson
BERKOWITZ VS. BIG OIL: Cliff Berkowitz was in good spirits after the first leg of his gasoline-boycott-turned-biking-odyssey. In response to the $3.50 milestone gas prices reached on the North Coast last week, the KHUM morning DJ vowed to spend this week with his Ford Ranger parked in his driveway. Instead, he will bike from his Eureka home to the station's Ferndale studios, a 40-mile round trip.
"It was a tough ride, but not as bad as I thought," he said about his Monday morning journey, which began at 4:30 a.m. to get him to work by 6 o'clock. "I didn't expect the fog drizzle, so I got a bit wet on the way. But it was pretty good."
Berkowitz said that while day-long gasoline boycotts are well-intentioned, avoiding gas stations one day when you'll just fill up the next does nothing to affect gas companies' bottom lines. He hopes spending an entire week gas-free will have a more noticeable effect on the oil market, and inspire people to kick nasty gas habits in the process.
"If a bunch of people do this, we can make an impact. Plus it's good for the environment and we'd all get in better shape," he said.
The gas-striking cyclist has received an "enormous" amount of support in his endeavor. In addition to the countless listeners who have called into the station with their support, several motorists honked their encouragement as they sped by Berkowitz on Highway 101, which he said surprised him. No one has been more supportive than Adventure's Edge in Arcata— they not only provided him with lights and reflectors to keep him visible during dark morning hours, but loaned him a new "styled-out" bike as well, "just because."
The nation's official "Bike to Work Week" doesn't start until next week (May 15-19), but Berkowitz hopes getting the wheels turning a little early will promote more participation.
"If I can do this and survive, other people may say, 'Hey, I can do this too.'"
— Luke T. Johnson
Half-way up the 299 grade toward Lord Ellis Summit, I almost busted into tears. I know, it's embarrassing, and certain social death to admit it: I was unhappy.
There wasn't any one thing I could pin it on. Maybe it was the birthday just around the corner — a generally happy event, except when one's old friends and family are all hundreds of miles away. Maybe it was the return, after a streak of sunny days, of the not-quite-fog/not-quite-sun haze that most days I still find exotic and refreshing, but in weak moments I tire of. Or maybe it was the fact that I couldn't pin my malaise on anything calamitous or terrible, which in turn made me feel guilty and stupid. But, mostly, I think I just wanted winter to be over.
My attitude had been dimming for days, so on Friday I decided to ditch work and drive inland toward the Trinity Alps. After that bad moment just before Lord Ellis, the gloom finally lifted, broke into lazy pieces and drifted off. The sun was out, the sky was blue — it was a wonderful moment. Higher and higher into the mountains I drove, noting every exploding-pink tree — red bud? — and delicate first flower on the side of the road, watching the trees shift from redwoods to firs to a jumbled mix of everything in every shade of green. And I remembered something I'd been told right after I moved here last summer: You want sunshine and heat, all you have to do is drive up and inland a dozen miles or so and there you have it. It's sort of a reversal of what I'd grown up with: Down in the desert, when it gets too hot, you drive up into the mountains to cool off.
I camped that night off Highway 3, along the first finger of Trinity Lake reservoir, at a hilly, deceptively unoccupied — oh, this'll be quiet — campground, out of whose red soil grew pines, firs, oaks, honey-scented shrubs abuzz with bees, and blooming manzanita with pale-pink flowers hanging like clusters of tiny hot-air balloons from red limbs. I could hear the creek falling out of the high country, spilling into the lake. The night was too warm for a down bag, but the mosquitoes were still sleeping. A bald eagle flapped low overhead along the edge of the lake at dusk. But as the night grew darker, it got noisier: Logging trucks whined and huffed up the grade on one side of the campground, sailed briefly, quietly over the bridge, then shudder-chugged in a gathering roar down the other side. One after the other. Just before morning light hit the snowy peaks in the near distance, a new sound erupted: A helicopter, purring like a giant contented lion, hovered and dropped and rose just this side of the wilderness boundary. The bald eagle, startled from the trees near the chopper, flapped again over the lake's edge, away from the commotion.
I packed up and headed down Highway 3 to 299 again. At Weaverville I stopped at a bakery. There, the ubiquitous round table of old men grumbled about the no-good world, as they do in every coffee and tea shop around the globe. "No one in this world is ever willing to take the blame," one of them said. The others shook their heads in agreement. "There's always someone down the line to pin it on." I shook my head, too, over at my own table, thinking about how gray skies, or trucks or helicopters, make good scapegoats for inner discontent. I read the May 5 edition of The Trinity Journal. The Trinity River was going to rise and rise and rise, to maybe 8,500 cubic feet per second by late May, as snowmelt brought Trinity Lake to the brink. A Poker Bar woodworker had carved a beautiful, celestial-themed mahogany chair fit for a palace. And a cougar had killed a deer on a Weaverville man's deck at 3:45 one morning — he'd watched it happen through the sliding glass door and, as the lion chomped down on the deer's neck, the man reportedly told his wife, "This is not something you want to see." The lion hung around the next few days, then finally dragged the carcass out of the neighborhood.
After coffee, I drove down to Junction City. A May Faire was going on in the woods just off the road to the dump, and people were selling homemade fudge, arm-wrestling on special padded pedestals and selling assorted fancifuls. Then, spring-hungry lions be damned, I drove a bit farther, turned onto Canyon Creek Road — an oddly familiar name, but I couldn't remember why — and drove 20 minutes to a trailhead into the Trinity Alps Wilderness. There, a couple was loading up backpacks, dithering whether or not to bring snowshoes. Some guys came out of the mountains and reported that the snow started about five miles up the trail, at the falls, but was rapidly melting. The couple threw in the snowshoes. I hiked past ponderosas, oaks, maples, firs, incense cedar and spindly, graceful dogwoods with giant four-petaled white flowers, until I got to the first creek crossing, where water frothed in great wheels over boulders and broke in waves across the skinny log that was the bridge. I quit taking chances while hiking alone long ago, so I turned around and went up a different trail until another creek crossing stopped me. I wandered downstream to a pretty spot where white granite boulders have tumbled into piles on top of slaty brown bedrock. I picked up a small chunk of the granite. It glittered with pyrite.
And then it dawned on me why the name of this canyon was familiar to me. Somebody was hoping to start up a multi-pit placer mine here to cull gold from the banks of the river. Scott Greacen of the Environmental Protection Information Center had told me about it last year. The prospective miner was a Texas businesswoman who dabbled in oil and race horses, he'd said. There was supposed to have been an environmental impact statement released on it months ago. But the whole issue had fallen into a no-news slumber. I shrugged it off, and wandered farther downstream to a meadow. There, I fell into a peaceful, eyes-open slumber myself, lulled by the heat and all-encompassing noise of the creek, gazing at the red trunk of a giant madrone tree. A rustling in the leaves at my feet startled me out of the stupor, and I looked down in time to see a skinny, sleek fallen red branch of the madrone flicker to life and slither away. No, it was a snake.
When I got back to the coast — so cool and lovely and nice — I phoned up the business partner of Gloria Marshall (the Texan), Cullen Thomas of Junction City. I said I was a reporter, calling about the mine. What about it, he said. Well, what about the EIS? I asked. "It's taking an unusually long time," he said. But, yes, the project was still on, although it's been dormant. He defended it, said they were already working another mine next to the proposed mine site with no trouble, and everything would be reclaimed. "It's not a very large scale mine. Trinity's a big county, so 22 acres is just a drop in the ocean." He grew wary, said, "The best thing you can do is let it die, don't write about it. If you stir up a mud puddle, you're going to get mud on you."
Well, but that's just what happens in the spring, isn't it? Things get stirred up, muddy, come awake.
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