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July 1, 2004

The Weekly Wrap

Arcata council losing veteran members

Rocket fuel chemical found in milk
Humboldt cows may be perchlorate-free

Klamath dams called harmful to fish
Eureka meeting draws protests


 T H E  W E E K L Y  W R A P

COBB NAILS DOWN NOMINATION: Eureka's David Cobb, an attorney and activist with Democracy Unlimited, beat back a last-minute challenge by Ralph Nader to secure the Green Party nomination for the presidency on Saturday. "I genuinely believe that the Green Party of the United States is the electoral arm of a growing movement for peace, racial and social justice, real ecology and democracy in this country," said Cobb at a press conference following his nomination at the Green Party convention in Milwaukee, Wis. Cobb and Nader differed over strategy: Nader advocated an active third-party campaign in all states (similar to his 2000 run), while Cobb presented a more Democrat-friendly strategy of not contesting "swing" states where President George Bush and Sen. John Kerry are closely matched. It took two rounds of voting, but Cobb prevailed in the end. Cobb, who formerly served as the party's general counsel, moved to Humboldt County from Texas early last year.

DOCTOR ARRESTED: The investigation into a bizarre incident that led to the arrest of a McKinleyville physician is complete and the case will be turned over to the District Attorney's Office this week, Arcata police said. At 5 a.m. on June 22 police were summoned to the 3400 block of Alliance Road. Residents told police there had been a prowler in their fenced backyard. A confrontation led to a fight and the suspect fled on foot, according to Lt. Tom Chapman of the APD. Later the suspect, Dr. Robert Mott, 53, was arrested on suspicion of stalking, a felony, and prowling, a misdemeanor. Mott is out on bail and charges have not yet been filed.

GMO MEASURE LIKELY FOR NOVEMBER: Humboldt Green Genes, a group that advocates a countywide ban on the growth of genetically modified organisms, last week turned in more than 6,600 signatures -- half again as many as were needed -- to qualify an initiative for the November ballot. County elections manager Lindsey McWilliams said Monday that his office should finish verifying the signatures some time this week. Voters in Mendocino County passed a similar measure last March, despite an expensive campaign by the agribusiness industry.

NICHOLS MISSES DRAFT: Humboldt County basketball fans were glued to their sets Thursday night, as the NBA conducted its yearly draft of new players. Despite their hopes, though, Austin Nichols, the star guard on Humboldt State's record-setting 2004 men's basketball team, wasn't among the 59 players chosen. It always was a long shot, given the large number of high school and foreign players in this year's crop of potential draftees, but Nichols had reportedly performed extremely well in tryouts with a number of teams. Don't count Nichols out, though: "I think this will be a blessing in disguise, because as a free agent he'll be able to find a team that will be looking for his specific skills," said HSU Coach Tom Wood.

WET WINTER, DRY SPRING: The annual rainfall for the year, which ended June 30, was 101 percent of normal for Eureka and vicinity, the National Weather Service reported. That doesn't mean it was a normal year, however. "We had a really wet winter and then a warm, dry spring," said Nancy Dean, meterologist in charge of the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Eureka. Many of the small creeks are already bone dry this year, but there is still some flow in the larger coastal creeks, according to Larry Preston, associate biologist for the state Department of Fish and Game. "What slow, low water causes is a little crowding, sort of like squashing into an elevator," he said of the coho and steelhead that have not already made their break for the sea. "They return to the sea from March through late June, but if the water gets low and the temperature warms up [like this year], they tend to push out faster," Preston said. It's too soon to tell if the dry spring will have a long-term impact on the fisheries, he added.

PLOVER BAN LIFTED: Biologists at Redwood State and National Parks announced last week that at least one of the snowy plover chicks born on Gold Bluffs Beach near Orick has sprouted feathers. Park officials lifted a month-long ban on dogs, vehicles and kite-flying at the beach as a result.

GRAND JURY AIMS AT COUNTY PERKS: The Humboldt County Grand Jury last week threw its weight into the drive -- first launched by the Humboldt Taxpayers League earlier this month -- to suspend annual bonuses paid to county managers and elected officials. In a report to the Board of Supervisors, the Grand Jury estimates that a temporary stoppage of the practice would save the county more than $846,000 per year, at a time when 14 people have been laid off and hundreds of county jobs eliminated due to the budget crisis. The Board of Supervisors is required by law to respond to the Grand Jury's report.

DUNES OFF-ROADER CONVICTED: The District Attorney's Office announced on Monday that 27-year-old Nathan Stancliff of McKinleyville pleaded no contest to causing damage to land, wildlife, wildlife habitat or vegetative resources with his pickup at Clam Beach dunes last November. Though vehicles are allowed on the beach at the park, the dunes -- home to snowy plover and other sensitive habitat -- are off-limits. Stancliff was ordered to pay a $660 fine, perform 40 hours of community service and serve 18 months on probation.
[NOTE 7/15/04: The above item has been corrected from the original version which contained errors.]

ONLY YOU: The Bureau of Land Management reminds all visitors to its lands -- including the South Spit, the Samoa Dunes and especially the King Range -- that fire season is upon us. On Monday, the bureau placed a temporary ban on all campfires within the borders of its lands, except in designated fire pits in official campgrounds. Hikers must also get a permit from the Arcata or Whitethorn office before hiking the King Range. Fireworks will be allowed on the Fourth of July only at Mattole Campground Beach, Black Sands Beach and the Samoa Dunes.

LOLLAPALOOZA CANCELLED: Lollapalooza, a nationally touring summer rock concert that began in the early 1990s, has been cancelled due to low-ticket sales. Last year, tour co-founder and Jane's Addiction lead singer Perry Ferrell used the concert as a venue to support environmentally sustainable living. Part of the eco-friendly education was a booth hosted by the Humboldt State University Schatz Energy Center. A former HSU engineering student, Nate Coleman, toured with the concert to show off the hydrogen fuel cell developed at the university. Coleman was scheduled to go on the road for the 16-city tour this summer until it was cancelled last week.

NEW HOME FOR EDUCARE: Humboldt Educare, a preschool with 25 years of history in Arcata, has a new temporary home in Pacific Union School. Formerly located in the Equinox school complex, Educare's lease was due to expire next spring. It is working with Danco Builders to construct a new facility across from Jacoby Creek School.

BIKERS BEWARE: The Fortuna Police Department begins a campaign against scofflaw bicyclists, especially youth, starting July 1. A few simple rules of thumb: All bicyclists under 18, and children riding as passengers, must wear helmets. Reflectors and night lights must be in working order. Stay on the right side of the road. No passengers on handlebars. Always obey stop signs and traffic signals. Questions? Call the FPD's Sandi Bertain at 725-7550.

ROGERS NAMED COMMUNICATIONS CHIEF: Jane Rogers, former newscaster for KIEM-TV, has been named director of the Office of Community Relations at Humboldt State University. Rogers was chosen from a field of 30 candidates in a nationwide search, President Rollin Richmond said.

AMERICORPS IS BACK: Straight Up AmeriCorps, a program of the Redwood Community Action Agency, has been funded for another three years, after nationwide AmeriCorps funded was halted last year. The program will fund 168 workers, placing them in schools, community centers and youth shelters throughout the county.

Arcata council losing veteran members


With three seats on the Arcata City Council up for election this November, two of the council's longest-serving members said this week that they plan to step down at the end of their terms rather than seek re-election.

Mayor Bob Ornelas, who has served on the council off and on since 1990, and Councilmember Connie Stewart, who has served since 1996, both said that it was time to move on -- though the always controversial Ornelas gave himself at least some wiggle room in the event he changes his mind.

"I could use a break, and there are probably several Arcatans who think they need a break from Bob," said Ornelas on Monday after estimating his likelihood of retiring from the council this year at "85 to 95 percent."

Ornelas said that the decision to step aside came after realizing that he needed a change of pace in his life. He said that he'd like to take a bicycle trip around Europe, which would take several months.

"It's a position that I'm honored to be elected and re-elected to, but I think Arcata deserves me at my best," he said. "If I'm not 100 percent involved in my city, I need someone else to be involved."

Stewart will be leaving to concentrate more fully on her job as an aide to Assemblymember Patty Berg and to reclaim her personal life, which has been squeezed out by two jobs in government. She said that she did not plan on leaving politics forever, though.

"I'm being very hush-hush about what my dreams are at this point," she said. "We'll see. I have some thoughts, but nothing I'm ready to spew about yet."

Counclimember Michael Machi, whose seat will also be up for re-election in November, said that he would "almost undoubtedly" seek a second term.

One challenger has announced that he will be seeking a position: Paul Pitino, a 58-year-old landscaper and member of the city's Transportation Safety Committee. Pitino said Monday that he's an average guy -- "Arcata average," he qualified -- eager to work on the nuts and bolts issues of city government.

"I'm not there to be a political activist," he said. "My focus is being on the City Council -- not bashing anybody, just getting in there and doing it."

Pitino said that if elected, he would work to provide public restrooms in the downtown area -- a "no-brainer" issue with wide support, he said. He also indicated his support of a citizen initiative to remove fluoride from city water.

Other rumored candidates, who could not be reached by press time, include educator Jim Sorter and Rondal Snodgrass of the Northcoast Regional Land Trust.

People wishing to run in city elections in Arcata, Eureka, Ferndale, Blue Lake, Rio Dell or Trinidad may pick up candidacy papers from their local City Hall beginning July 12. The deadline to return the papers is Aug. 6.

Rocket fuel chemical found in milk
Humboldt cows may be perchlorate-free


Some milk sold in California contains unsafe levels of perchlorate, a chemical used in rocket fuel, according to a study released last week by the Washington D.C.-based Environmental Working Group.

Ingestion of perchlorate in sufficient doses is believed to hinder the normal function of the thyroid gland, and puts fetuses and young children at risk of developmental problems, the group said.

Because Humboldt County milk was not tested in the study, the question of whether our local milk is safe may be difficult to answer.

Sonya Lunder, an EWG analyst, said Tuesday that her organization is working on the assumption that the perchlorate found in the milk samples originates from a closed defense manufacturing plant located in Henderson, Nev.

Chemicals from the plant have leeched into the Colorado River, water from which is used to irrigate agricultural crops in the Imperial Valley and elsewhere. The EWG believes that alfalfa grown with Colorado River water has been fed to dairy cattle, which have passed on the perchlorate contamination in their milk.

The average amount of perchlorate found in the EWG study was 30 percent greater than the level the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe.

The milk samples, taken from Los Angeles, Sacramento, Alameda, Orange and San Joaquin counties, were not identified by brand. Lunder said that given the breadth of the problem -- 31 out of 32 samples tested in the Los Angeles area, for instance, were found to be contaminated -- it would be unfair to single out particular producers.

"We feel that it isn't the individual dairymen or dairy women's responsibility," she said. "We feel that it's solely the responsibility of the Department of Defense and its contractors."

If the EWG's assumption that the chemical is spread through alfalfa is correct, though, it is possible that milk produced locally is more likely to be perchlorate-free.

Frank Giannini, sales manger for Humboldt Creamery, said Tuesday that local dairy cattle get "95 percent" of their food by grazing local pastures. Cattle are generally fed only when extreme weather conditions in the winter prevent grazing.

Though Humboldt Creamery butter is produced outside the county, Giannini said, all its liquid milk products come from local dairies.

"Milk that you buy in the store that has a Humboldt Creamery label comes from our local members," he said.

The Council on Water Quality, a group funded by past and present perchlorate manufacturers, denies that ingestion of the chemical in trace amounts is harmful to health or fetal development.

A spokesman for Safeway did not return the Journal's call.


Klamath dams called harmful to fish
Eureka meeting draws protests


Fifty years is too long for the salmon of the Klamath River to wait. That is the sentiment of local tribes, environmentalists, fishermen, scientists and local officials who want federal regulators to consider shutting down the dams that constrict water flow on the Klamath.

The power company that uses six hydroelectric dams on the mid-Klamath River has submitted an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to have its operating license, which expires in March 2006, reissued for another 50 years.

More than 150 people gathered in Eureka last week when FERC held a meeting seeking public comment on the issue.

"Enough is enough," said Leaf Hillman, director of the Karuk Department of Natural Resources in Orleans. "We need to end the suffering of salmon and people. We depend on those salmon."

The hydroelectric project owned by PacifiCorps, a Portland, Ore.-based power company, is spread across 45 miles of the river and generates 150 megawatts of power, serving approximately 77,000 people, according to the power company.

Plagued with low flows and diseases that have killed both juvenile and adult fish, the Klamath has been an epicenter of concern and debate. In 2002, more than 32,000 adult Chinook salmon and steelhead died in the lower Klamath River.

With PacifiCorps seeking a reissued license, attention has shifted from the rerouting of river water for irrigators to the storing of water by the power company. Recent studies by biologists have revealed that hot, shallow pools behind the dams harbor algae blooms, parasites and de-oxygenated water. When released to the lower stretches of the river, the water is harmful for the various species of fish that migrate upstream.

"This is a sterling example of a project that is minimal in terms of energy, but large in terms of the negative impacts that it has on the river," Tim McKay, executive director of the Northcoast Environmental Center told the Journal.

John Coney, a representative for PacifiCorps, told the Journal that the company has worked with tribes in the past and "went beyond what the Bureau of Reclamation was calling for" when they diverted water from the Iron Gate Dam to the lower-Klamath during the 2002 fish kill.

The poor water quality in the river, Coney said, is not the fault of the hydropower company, adding that the water in the upper basin, the river's originating source, is bad to begin with. "The notion that you pull the dams out and the water becomes cleaner and cooler is not necessarily true."

Another concern of environmentalists is that the dams prevent the passage of fish to the upper Klamath Basin.

Creating fish ladders to allow the fish through the dams, particularly the Iron Gate dam, located 20 miles east of Yreka, has been broached as an alternative to removal, but PacifiCorps said that the ladders would be to expensive to install: close to $100 million for the four lower dams, including the Iron Gate. Instead, they have suggested using a "trap and haul" strategy, meaning that fish would be caught and then driven to the other side of the dam.

The energy commission's Eureka meeting almost didn't happen at all. FERC had not scheduled a forum in Humboldt County until the Northcoast Environmental Center rallied other local organizations and officials like the Board of Supervisors, Rep. Mike Thompson and Assemblymember Patty Berg to write letters requesting a meeting here. Other forums were held in Yreka, Ashland and Redding.

Robert McConnell, 55, a cultural resources specialist for the Yurok Tribe, spoke about the lives of future generations of the Yurok Indians who live on the Klamath River.

"Someday I want to tell my grandkids a story about this river. Will it be of a disaster, or will it have a happy ending? That's where FERC comes into play: You can change a part of history that right now is not looking good," McConnell told federal officials.

FERC is scheduled to write an environmental impact statement on the license renewal by December 2005.

Written public comments will be accepted by FERC through July 22.



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