July 13, 2000
The regional economy is being caught in the tug-of-war between a thriving national economy and rising interest rates -- and local economic indicators are beginning to show it.
Recent increases in the discount lending rate set by the Federal Reserve Board hit the local manufacturing sector with force last month. It's ironic, said Humboldt State University economics Professor Steve Hackett, because in Humboldt County, "We don't need to cool off quite that much."
Hackett is the executive director of HSU's Index of Economic Activity. The June report shows decreased retail sales and help wanted advertising as well as increased claims for unemployment insurance -- all signs that the economy is slowing down.
The number of claims for unemployment insurance, which the index uses as an indicator of the number of newly unemployed, is especially troubling. They rose 55 percent over May's all-time low. But Debbi Keeth, managing director for the Index, said that it may not be as bad as it seems.
"Each month, there's a variation [in the number of unemployment claims]. What you want to look at are the overall numbers," and those numbers are stable. She pointed out that the numbers were similar to those of last year.
But when put together with other indicators, such as sluggish retail sales and decreasing sales of building supplies, the picture is one of a slowdown.
Nationally the economy continues to be buoyed by the growth in the technology sector, which so far only plays a minor role in the local economy.
"The basic economic forces that led to concerns about an overheated economy are not as important a part of our county economy," Hacket said. That means that as the Federal Reserve tries to slow down the country, "We'll probably cool down more than we need to."
It probably wasn't the heat or low oxygen levels that directly caused the death of about 1,000 fish per mile along a stretch of the Klamath River. The fish, which were first noticed last week, were most likely killed by diseases that they became susceptible to only after being stressed by high temperatures, unbridled algae growth and low oxygen levels, said Tom Shaw, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fisheries biologist.
"Diseases like ceratomy xosis shasta or columnaris," he said. "These are diseases that are out there all the time." But river temperatures have risen so much that they are weakening fish in the Klamath -- including, in all probability, the listed coho salmon. Coho have not yet been found, but Shaw said it was probably a matter of not having looked hard enough.
"And who cares if they're coho or not? Fish are dying," he added.
Water temperatures in the Klamath have been a source of controversy this year. The Klamath's flow is to a large extent dependent on the Klamath River Project, a series of dams and reservoirs run by the federal Bureau of Reclamation. The project delivers water to irrigators along the upper portion of the river, but activists maintain that the resultant lower flows can increase temperatures and fail to flush algae growth out to sea, killing fish.
"If you release more volume of water, it takes more time to heat up," said Shaw. He also said that pulsed releases of water could clear algae growth.
Bob Davis, chief of natural resources for the Klamath basin area office of the bureau, said, "At this point, to increase flows would not improve the temperature situation." He claims that water in Klamath Lake, the upstream reservoir, is too warm to do the fish any good.
The Bureau of Reclamation has already come under legal attack for its handling of the Klamath. A group of environmental and fisheries activists is suing the bureau for violating the Endangered Species Act.
They say that the ESA requires the bureau to have a biological opinion from the National Marine Fisheries Service. The bureau has no such opinion.
Joseph Blum, until recently the acting director of the Arcata office of NMFS, said, "The bureau is out of compliance with the ESA."
The plaintiffs are seeking a court order to force the bureau to increase flows to protect the coho.
That could still be important this season, Shaw said, because there is a long season ahead for the fish before fall rains and cooler temperatures arrive.
"We (never) documented fish kills this early before."
Alexander Berkowitz, 8, of Eureka,
has a new baby brother Michael born July 5. But Saturday morning he was
far more interested in the new book his parents had just bought for him.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the latest of British author
J.K. Rowling's four books about the adventures of a boy wizard.
In Humboldt County the story is the same, just on a smaller scale. Northtown Books in Arcata turned the book release into a midnight candlelight party with the staff dressed in costumes and 40 kids and parents lined up for copies. The store ordered 200 copies of "HP No. 4" and as of Monday had sold 150. Northtown already placed another order but was informed the distributor is out. With most popular books Northtown might keep five copies on hand. A book like Julia Hill's Legacy of Luna prompted a rather huge order -- 50 copies.
Costco in Eureka bought a full pallet, about 500 copies, sold all of them over the weekend and ordered another 330. Waldenbooks at the Bayshore Mall sold 250 copies over the weekend and, according to Assistant Manager Sue Winkle, "It's still going strong."
Winkle sees the Potter phenomenon as a positive thing that goes beyond book store receipts.
"Teachers have said that Harry Potter has kids reading who have never read before."
Courtney Blake, owner of Blake's Books in McKin-leyville, has mixed feelings.
"I love them. They are charming, truly wonderful books," she said. The problem is the price, which she feels amounts to "gouging." When the third book went on sale at $19.95 (suggested retail), the company raised the price of the first two books in the series to match. And after announcing the release of book No. 4, Scholastic increased the list price by $5, raising it to $25.95.
Only the first book is available in paperback. The soft cover edition of the second book was announced and then disappeared from the catalog.
"I think Scholastic is making a mistake because most parents can't afford to buy these books for their children," said Blake.
The College of the Redwoods embarked on its most extensive building project in nearly 30 years this week when construction began on a new Learning Resource Center -- otherwise known as a library.
The 39,143-square-foot building will cost $14.5 million, the majority coming from the state. It will more than double the size of the library and will include computer labs, a media service center, a writing center and a distance-learning classroom. Construction should be finished by spring of 2002.
Citizens who want a say in the long-term management for the Headwaters Forest Reserve have until Aug. 18 to do so.
Officials at the Bureau of Land Management, which is in charge of managing the forest, extended the deadline to give everyone a chance to provide opinions.
Comments can be mailed or e-mailed to the bureau. Call 916-737-3010 for instructions.
Humboldt County's rich logging heritage will be celebrated July 19 when KEET-TV hosts the Living Biographies Retired Loggers Forum.
This event is a chance for anyone who had a job in the forestry industry to share their personal timber history. Retired loggers are encouraged to bring photographs.
The forum, which takes place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Humboldt Senior Resource Center, 1910 California St., Eureka, will be filmed. Filmed interviews with Humboldt County seniors are the focus of the Living Biographies television series, which airs the first Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. on KEET-TV (Channel 13).
Call 445-4670 for more information.
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