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Sept. 2, 2004


The Weekly Wrap

Yurok: No compromise on fish
Long-term solution eludes Klamath watchers

 


 T H E  W E E K L Y  W R A P

[Corn field with fence and sign in front, sign reading "Hytest Seeds, HT7060"]ARCATA'S GMO CROP: A sign on the edge of dairy rancher John Mason's silage crop proudly announces the variety of seed that produced that stand of tall, dark green plants in the Arcata Bottom -- Hytest HT7060, a variety of Roundup Ready genetically modified corn. The corn is different from conventional corn in that it can be sprayed with Roundup, an herbicide, without harm to the corn. "I've got some good-looking corn this year," Mason said Monday evening. "We've grown corn for probably 20 years. This is probably the second-best crop we've had." Once processed into silage, the corn will be fed to the 100-head herd of dairy cattle that Mason runs in the Bottom. This year's bumper crop has made a believer out of him -- and he says that GMO is the more environmentally friendly option, too. "My knowledge is that the non-Roundup Ready seeds -- you can spray them too, but you have to use a 2-4-D base," which is a considerably stronger poison, Mason said. "Quite a few people use Roundup around their house. Not too many people use 2-4-D around their house anymore." He said he sells his milk to the Rumiano Cheese Company in Del Norte County. Genetically modified agriculture is, of course, one of the hottest political debates in the county at the moment, with an initiative that would ban the practice set for the Nov. 2 ballot. Martha Devine, one of the proponents of the initiative, said the news that GMO corn was being grown on the outskirts of eco-friendly Arcata was likely to cause a stir. "I think the citizens of Arcata would be shocked," she said. "People have asked me before, `They're not growing that in Arcata, are they?'" Devine said that there are too many unanswered questions about genetically modified organisms for the technology to be considered safe. But as the Journal went to press, backers of the initiative were wrestling over apparently unconstitutional flaws in its language -- which may cause some or all of them to withdraw their support before the November election.

AUGUST CASE UPDATE: Assistant District Attorney Tim Stoen filed a new document Tuesday in the case against Fortuna City Councilmember and real estate broker Debi August, who has been accused by the Grand Jury of conflict of interest in representing a developer before the City Council. In the memorandum, Stoen argued that the defense "minimized" in its latest filing the testimony of City Planner Liz Shorey, saying that Shorey testified she had several meetings with August as the agent for the developer, but that Shorey "did not feel that it was a big issue" On the contrary, Stoen wrote, August wrote an e-mail to Shorey, submitted to the Grand Jury, in which she admitted that if the Carmen Smith subdivision is completed she will be selling the parcels and therefore has a conflict. August also wrote an e-mail last summer to City Manager Duane Rigge, saying that she told Smith that her son could sell the parcels and then she would not have a future conflict. Shorey also sent August a San Francisco Chronicle story on a similar situation because she wanted August to "determine if she was doing the right thing," Stoen wrote. And Shorey sent a follow-up e-mail to August suggesting that there could be an appearance of a conflict, and that she would like to run it by the city attorney, Stoen wrote. August's attorney, William Bragg, said there was nothing wrong with what August did, since she recused herself when the City Council voted on the development and was straight with Shorey and other city officials on her role as agent. "[Shorey] always knew and always treated Debi August as being an agent of the developer; she knew that Debi was not acting as a City Council person," Bragg said. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 3.

ARCATA FIRE ASSESSMENT FAILS: Property owners served by the Arcata Fire Protection District have rejected that agency's plea for additional funding, while a similar measure by the Humboldt Fire District No. 1 has succeeded. "We are grateful and deeply honored that the public response was favorable to this," said Chief Dave Gibbs. Chief Dave White of Arcata said that with the failure of Arcata's benefit assessment measure, which would have increased the tax on businesses and residents based on the size and value of their lots, the district is looking at a $230,000 deficit in the upcoming year. The district will eat into its reserve funds for the time being, White said, but will have to cut services sometime in the next couple of months. The district will likely lay off three firefighters and take additional measures as needed.

CASINO ROYALE: The Blue Lake Rancheria is teaming up with a Mendocino County branch of the Pomo Tribe on plans to build a new 100,000-square-foot casino near the Sonoma County town of Cloverdale, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reported last week. The facility would be nearly twice the size of the Blue Lake Casino, and would house 1,500 slot machines. Under the terms of the deal, the rancheria would manage the new casino, the Press-Democrat said.

DA TURMOIL: Two prosecutors have resigned from the District Attorney's office, and a DA investigator has gone on leave after filing a civil suit against the county, DA Paul Gallegos, Assistant DA Tim Stoen, Personnel Director Rick Haeg and chief DA investigator James Dawson. Rob Wade, a veteran prosecutor with more than 18 years of experience in the office, will start a new job in Napa County on Sept. 27, and Ed Borg, one of the more recent hires, will move to a position in Lake County next week. Neither could be reached for comment. Meanwhile, Christine Cook, an investigator in the DA's office and a former sheriff's deputy, has filed suit against the county alleging discrimination based on her sex and ethnic origin (she is of Mexican descent). Her attorney, John F. Shields Jr. of Santa Rosa, said that Cook complained to Gallegos, Stoen and Haeg about her treatment by her supervisor, chief investigator James Dawson -- who allegedly referred to her as a "typical Mexican" who needed something to get motivated in the morning, according to the complaint -- but that nothing was done. "It reached a point where she finally said, `Enough is enough,'" Shields said. Gallegos did not return calls seeking comment.

EUREKA TEEN MISSING: A 15-year-old girl from Eureka was reported missing by her family on Saturday. Josephine West, whose nickname is "Josie," is described as Native American, 5'1, 125 pounds with long black hair. Eureka Police said she was recently in contact with people over the Internet and might be out of the area. Anyone with information is urged to call the Eureka Police Department at 441-4300.

HURRICANE KATE'S SOLD: One of Old Town Eureka's trendiest restaurants will soon change hands. Hurricane Kate's owner Barbara Zoellner agreed to sell the 4-year-old establishment to Abruzzi Catering employees Elizabeth Adams and Matthew Yadley. Zoellner, who was asking $200,000 for the restaurant, did not disclose how much she agreed to sell for, but said that the sale is in escrow and the change in ownership will not be official for close to two months. Kate Chadwick, the former co-owner of the restaurant who created most of the "world fusion" menu, relocated to Hawaii in February of last year.

RED AND GREEN: Local Republican poobah Mike Harvey is now in New York, adding his voice to the chorus of Bush supporters currently partying it up in Madison Square Garden. Harvey said last week that he was the first Humboldt County delegate to be sent to a Republican national convention in some time -- honors usually go to colleagues in Sonoma or Mendocino counties, down on the south end of the 1st Congressional District. "I feel honored to be selected. I feel I have a responsibility to promote the re-election of Bush," Harvey said last week, deadening for a moment the trademark glint in his eye to signal that he was being "serious." Madison Square Garden is like unto a watermelon this week -- Republican red on the inside, Green outside -- and Humboldt County has been well represented in both camps. "Dapper Dave" Meserve, the Fox News Channel's favorite Arcata City Council member, chanted down Babylon with hundreds of thousands on the streets of Manhattan, while Green presidential candidate David Cobb of Eureka debated the Libertarian Party's guy, Michael Badnarik, in a church near Times Square.

FREE STUFF: A new Internet group for county residents, called "Humboldt Freecycle," is designed to help reduce waste by connecting people who want to give away items with those who can use them. Members have posted e-mails offering such things as computer peripherals, appliances, even a 550-gallon diesel tank. To join, send an e-mail message to Humboldt-freecycle-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

SPEECH THERAPY DEGREE RETURNS: Since Humboldt State University discontinued its speech pathology program 12 years ago, area elementary schools have seen a pronounced decline in speech therapy services available to kids, according to HSU Child Development Professor Aimee Langlois. That's why Langlois has pushed to bring back the undergraduate program, though the classes won't actually take place here. By way of distance learning, students will be able to take classes at California State University at Fresno by observing lectures in real time on television monitors in HSU classrooms beginning in the fall of 2005. Students interested in speech pathology should contact Langlois ASAP at al2@humboldt.edu or 826-4535.

FOREST CAUTIONS : Six Rivers National Forest officials are advising visitors to camp with caution this Labor Day weekend. Recently increased flows on the Trinity River means the water is colder, higher and has faster currents than just a week ago -- good for fish but dangerous for people, especially children. Also, the forest service reported an increase in abandoned campfires this week, a double no-no considering that campfires have been restricted to paying campgrounds since July 23 -- just days before the Sims Fire began, which burned 4,000 acres in parts of Humboldt and Trinity counties. An added note of caution to hikers: The forest service warns those who trek deep into the woods to steer clear of marijuana cultivation camps. Officials recommend that anyone who happens upon such a garden -- some of which are surrounded by barbed wire or rigged with booby traps -- should leave the area immediately and report the discovery to Six Rivers Law Enforcement Patrol Captain Diane Welton at 441-3623.

SCAM WATCH: About two dozen Fortuna residents were victims of a phone scam last weekend, Fortuna police reported. The caller, who sounded female, told residents -- some of whom were phoned at 2 a.m. -- that they had an emergency call and asked if they would accept a collect call from AT&T. Once they agreed, an automated voice instructed them to provide a four-digit pin number for their AT&T phone card, or their credit card and pin numbers. Fortuna police said some people gave out the information but were not sure whether the victims had yet been swindled of any money. Police advised residents never to give out personal financial information or social security numbers over the phone unless they initiate the call. In another local scam, a nicely dressed man who went door-to-door asking for money and offering back rubs was arrested last week for an unrelated crime, Eureka police reported. Mark Anthony Francisco, 44, of Eureka was taken into custody Aug. 26 for failure to register as a drug registrant after he moved from his previous residence in Eureka four months ago. Francisco, who asked residents to donate to the "Francisco Fund" and offered Swedish massages to women, faces up to six months in jail and fines, police said.

SAVED BY A CAR SEAT? The Humboldt County Childhood Injury Prevention Child Passenger Safety Program is collecting local stories to educate families about the important of child car seats. If you have a loved one who was saved or protected from injury by a car seat or booster seat, or know of another who has a story to tell, call the county Public Health Branch at 445-6210.


Yurok: No compromise on fish
Long-term solution eludes Klamath watchers

by HANK SIMS

[meeting attendees at table]It appears that there will be no Klamath fish kill this year, thanks to cooler late summer temperatures and a last-minute release of water down the Trinity River, but a long-term solution to water issues on the river is still years away.

[Photo at right, from left: Mike Orcutt, Fisheries specialist, Hoopa Tribe; Rod McGinnis, Southwest Regional Administrator, NOAA Fisheries; Assemblymember Patty Berg; and Congressman Mike Thompson.]

That appeared to be the conclusion of a meeting convened and chaired by Rep. Mike Thompson at Eureka City Hall Monday afternoon. About 150 people turned up to hear presentations from a number of state, federal and tribal agencies concerned with the health of the river.

Opening the meeting, Thompson said he hoped that it would provide "good, honest discussion" about the future of the river, whose problems had been addressed by "piecemeal efforts" and "short-term fixes."

Assemblymember Patty Berg, who left the meeting early due to an illness in the family, said that a final solution to the tangle of interests on the river was imperative.

"This sacred ecosystem is on the verge of collapse," she said.

But while both Thompson and Berg expressed hopes that collaboration between all interests based on the river could be the basis for a solution to the problem, some of the representatives drew a hard line. Troy Fletcher, executive director of the Yurok Tribe, came out swinging at the Bureau of Reclamations, which manages flows on the Klamath River, and the federal agencies charged with safeguarding salmon runs on the river.

"The federal government has done a miserable job managing water in the Klamath Basin," he said. "We're not willing to compromise any more when you're already killing our fish."

Fletcher also talked about an upcoming lawsuit brought by the Yuroks and the Hoopa Valley Tribe over the obligations of the government to meet their "tribal trust" requirements to provide adequate fisheries resources to the tribes. The suit, which will be heard in federal court in Oakland, is set to go to trial this month.

"We will prove that the federal government killed our fish in 2002," Fletcher said.

At the same time, those attending heard from several representatives of the upstream farming community, based in Klamath Falls, Ore., which depends on Klamath River water to irrigate its crops.

John Eliott, a member of the Klamath County Board of Commissioners, said that one long-term solution to the water crisis would involve construction of additional upstream reservoirs, which could release water at times of crisis. He gave a presentation on plans to turn Long Lake, a shallow body of water set in an enclosed valley near Klamath Falls, into a Klamath storage facility capable of holding up to 500,000 acre-feet of water.

"This isn't intended to be agricultural water -- it's designed for the entire Klamath system," he said. "[It's] not a silver bullet, but it's a significant portion of a solution."

Dan Keppen, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, noted that farmers upstream had met and exceeded their obligations under the Bureau of Reclamation's "water bank" program, in which farmers sell their water rights back to the government for use downstream.

"We feel that we are doing all we can to be part of a constructive solution to meet the challenges we all face in this watershed," Keppen said. "It's awfully difficult to see good people criticized for trying, in their eyes, to do the right thing."

The Bureau of Reclamation's Dave Sabo, manager of the Klamath Project, announced that there would be two local hearings on the agency's upcoming Conservation and Implementation Plan, the bureau's effort at striking a balance between the needs of farmers, the fishing industry and tribes.

The hearings will be held Sept. 29 at Humboldt State University and Sept. 30 at Yurok Tribal headquarters in Klamath.


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