It came down to the absolute final deadline Monday, but the Headwaters Forest deal was approved by the California Legislature.
Gov. Pete Wilson is expected to approve the package which boosts the state's share of the forest buyout plan by $115 million, for a total of $245 million. Congress earlier authorized $250 million toward the buyout.
The deal with Pacific Lumber promises to be the costliest government acquisition of redwood timberlands since the creation of Redwood National Park in 1968 and makes redwoods the most protected species of trees in the world.
In the end, Pacific Lumber made significant concessions assuring the bill's passage and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who brokered the original Headwaters package in Congress, stepped back into the battle to assure the controversial legislation didn't fall apart in the 11th hour, according to a report Tuesday in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
Before the Legislature adjourned for the year late Monday, it approved a compromise bill that protects virgin redwoods in Owl Creek, has wider stream buffer zones and allows for independent scientific review of watershed analysis.
If approved by the governor, the measure will appropriate $130 million to purchase the Headwaters Forest, $80 million to purchase the 925-acre Owl Creek Grove, $20 million to assist in the purchase of the 1059-acre Grizzly Creek Grove and $15 million for Humboldt County to mitigate economic impacts.
Sen. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, was pleased with the agreement.
"We have greatly increased environmental protections from the original federal agreement while protecting our fragile regional economy and the future economic viability of Humboldt County's larges private employer," he said in a prepared statement.
The action split environmentalists.
While Sierra Club members statewide supported the measure, North Coast environmentalists remained resistant.
"Under this deal, Pacific Lumber gets paid up to $480 million for roughly 9,500 acres of forest, only half of it old-growth," the Environmental Protection Information Center of Garberville said in a prepared statement. "In most (Habitat Conservation Plans), landowners are expected to set aside some portion of their land as mitigation for the destruction that they are causing on other portions of their land."
Final, frantic negotiations continued in the final hours of the Legislature Monday after Pacific Lumber rejected earlier 11th-hour legislation by Sen. Byron Sher, D-Palo Alto, that locked in regulatory oversight of wildlife habitat and fisheries for the next 50 years.
How many fish in the sea?
Every autumn the Pacific Fisheries Management Council renders God-like judgment on the question of how many fish humans can "harvest" from the waters off California, Oregon and Washington without depleting fish populations.
The council then parcels out this "acceptable biological catch" between sport fishers and several categories of commercial fishers in a politically charged process with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake.
PFMC will set its 1999 harvest guidelines Nov. 2-6 in Portland, Ore. These climactic sessions will be preceded by a round of regional meetings, one of which takes place in Eureka at the Doubletree Inn on Sept. 8 at 6 p.m.
Newcomers to the workings of PFMC may be daunted by the esoteric fisheries jargon. But wading through fishspeak is the price of admission to a coast-wide dialogue about how to conserve threatened populations of groundfish species.
Groundfish include Lingcod, sole, flounder and rockfish species that appear in stores as rock cod and red snapper. Other groundfish species sablefish and thornyheads are fished primarily for export to Asian countries.
While there's a great deal of disagreement over how depleted groundfish stocks really are, mounting concern about overfishing worldwide led Congress in 1996 to amend U.S. fishing laws to favor conservation. The PFMC will present its plan to implement this amendment as it pertains to groundfish at the Eureka meeting.
A new player in the fisheries regulation game will be there arguing for strong conservation measures. The Astoria, Wash.,-based Pacific Marine Conservation Council was formed in 1997 to bring together constituencies that have historically been at odds: commercial fishers, sport fishers, scientists and environmentalists.
Several Humboldt County fishers are on the council's board, and its science coordinator, Jennifer Bloeser, graduated from Humboldt State University. She urges anyone interested in marine conservation to attend the Sept. 8 session. "What people can do when they go to these hearings is be a voice for accountability," said Bloeser.
Railroad gets a reprieve
The North Coast Railroad Authority will receive $2 million in state funding to keep the beleaguered agency functioning.
Gov. Pete Wilson is expected to sign the funding bill, passed in the Legislature late Monday, although he had earlier vetoed it because it is anticipated the rail line needs at least another $28 million to be viable.
Sen. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, negotiated an 11th-hour agreement with the governor's top officials, impressing upon them that the railroad could not hold out for funding any longer, said Thompson spokesman Ed Matovcik.
The money would be funneled through the California Transportation Commission to hire a special rail master to monitor the railroad's accounting procedures, which would be upgraded. Funds would also support environmental cleanup along the line and help meet outstanding debts.
The goal is to upgrade the accounting system to the point where state and federal agencies will release millions of dollars owed the authority for weather-related emergency repairs.
Long-underfunded, the railroad which runs from Eureka to Novato and Napa has been unable to operate because much of the track has been damaged by bad weather and neglect. The only portion currently operating is from Willits to Schellville.
Hartsook giant saved
The Save-the-Redwoos League has purchased the Hartsook Inn on U.S. Highway 101, saving ancient redwoods surrounding it, including a tree known as the Hartsook Giant, from logging.
The August deal puts an end to controversy surrounding the U.S. Highway 101 inn that started when the former owner, Woodland Valley Ranch Corp., began logging trees on the property and threatened to log more.
The San Francisco-based league is expected to reopen the inn's restaurant and may use the rest of the property for an environmental camp or eco-tourism center.
Sunnybrae teacher trial set
Former Sunnybrae Middle School teacher Michael S. Shaddix is finally set to go to trial on charges he molested two seventh-grade girls between 1989 and 1991.
A pretrial hearing in Humboldt County Superior Court is set for Sept. 8 and the trial should begin Sept. 14 before Judge Dale F. Reinholtsen. Shaddix was charged with child molestation in December 1996.
A union in the making?
About 65 millworkers at Simpson's Mill A in Orick may soon have the chance to decide whether they want to be represented by a union.
Local 98 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Woodworkers Division, has an organizer talking to some Simpson workers.
"They called us," said Glen Blaylock, interviewed by phone from the union's Medford, Ore., local. "The company has rules for employees but none for management. Every day they change the rules to suit themselves. No one knows until they show up at work."
The rules in question, said Blaylock, affect vacations, breaks, holidays, safety, attendance and other issues.
If the union thinks it has enough support, it will call an election under the National Labor Relations Act. And if employees vote for the union, the Orick mill will become the second mill in Humboldt County to be unionized. Now the only unionized mill is Simpson's main Korbel sawmill, with about 250 employees represented by Local 98.
Simpson spokeswoman Jackie Deuschle said, "We believe this is an internal issue between our employees and ourselves."
Bar builders expand
The Wallace & Hinz company in Arcata builds beautiful hardwood bars for restaurants and taverns around the world. After careful disassembly and packing, the pieces are shipped by land, sea and even air to Mexico City, Seoul, Munich and other exotic destinations.
The hardest part of the journey, however, is usually the first few feet.
The company's 30 woodworkers and designers are wedged into the same warehouse that Don Wallace and Tom Hinz moved into 21 years ago. Everything comes in one door and goes out the same door, and it's often "like two waves crashing together," said Hinz.
But Wallace & Hinz's bad "feng shui" will soon be history. Next spring, the company moves into a new 30,000-square-foot building at 10th and O streets in Arcata. The building will be built by landowner George Schmidbauer, contractor Bode Construction and architect Kash Boodjeh.
Pointing at the building plan, the wiry, 50-something Hinz can't help but get excited. "This will be a true factory, with a flow from milling to finish and out on a trucking dock. We'll actually have a trucking dock."
Hinz and Wallace started the company 22 years ago in a barn. Their first customer was Plaza Grill in Arcata's Jacoby Storehouse. This signature piece led to other local commissions.
"But we realized that for what we wanted to do there wasn't enough of a local market," Hinz said. They advertised through trade magazines and shows, and started receiving national and international commissions.
The company has a European sales representative and a website, www.whbars.com. Customers choose from one of a dozen basic designs. "Then they'll fax us their floor plan, our Autocad designers will do a design and fax it back. The customer will fax back changes, and so on until we've got a final design," said Hinz.
Business is good and getting better; the company is building about 50 bars per year. Top-dollar projects can cost up to $100,000, but a budget bar can be had for as little as $8,000. Red oak, cherry and mahogany are the primary materials.
The expansion project won't necessarily lead to more hiring. "We'll produce more with the same people. We'll upgrade our tooling and make a better living for ourselves," said Hinz, noting that employees hold shares in the company.
An Arcata city planner said the project hasn't received permits yet, but the city doesn't anticipate any serious obstacles since the site is zoned industrial.
Budget hearings start
Humboldt County supervisors will begin eight days of hearings on the 1998-99 budget Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 10:45 a.m.
For the first time in many years, the county may have some budget relief from the state. At the 11th hour, the Legislature approved a bill by Sen. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, to fund a portion of local court costs, after a similar bill failed. Gov. Pete Wilson has until the end of the month to sign or veto Thompson's bill.
Humboldt County Chief Administrative Officer John Murray had earlier outlined for the board 10 possible budget cuts to make up the deficit should the court funding fail. Most involve using money in county trust funds or revising certain tax revenue projections. The biggest operational cut under consideration would slash $200,000 to $400,000 from the county jail. Sheriff Dennis Lewis was expected to address this issue Sept. 9 at 9 a.m.
It was unclear as of press time if the governor would support the measure, said assistant county CAO Karen Suiker. "We're kind of in an unknown situation here," she said.
Public library supporters who were disappointed by the failure of Measure A in June can take some solace in the fact that the CAO recommended that the county again make a $142,000 contribution to the library from the general fund. (The bulk of library funds come from special taxes, distinct from the county's general fund.)
Ironically, the biggest controversy in the budget is over the smallest amount of money: the county's annual payment of $52,506 for the Wildlife Services Program.
Also known as Animal Damage Control, this federal program traps and kills animals that endanger livestock, farms or communities. In 1997 its contract specialists killed 94 coyotes, three mountain lions, 45 raccoons, 50 skunks and 29 bears and other animals.
"I want (this program) around because they're the ones who will respond when a mountain lions snags your dog or cat from your driveway at 11 a.m.," said John Falkenstrom, agricultural commissioner. "The bear issue is getting out of hand, too. We get four or five calls a week just from people in the Cutten area. I wouldn't put the burden (of controlling these predators) on the individual homeowner or property owner."
But critics contend that Wildlife Services kills needlessly and charges all county taxpayers for services that ranchers and farmers should pay for privately or through their trade associations. "If (ranchers) had to pay for it they would begin to realize how expensive it is to kill wildlife, and it would give them an incentive to use the many proven nonlethal methods of controlling predation," said Kurt Volckmar of Garberville.
Pepper spray jury deadlocks
The pepper spray case is headed back to federal court Nov. 16, barring an unexpected settlement between Humboldt County, the city of Eureka and nine environmentalists who filed the civil rights lawsuit.
The first trial in San Francisco ended in a mistrial Aug. 25 when the eight-member jury deadlocked evenly after less than a day of deliberations. The trial lasted two weeks.
Mark Harris, attorney for the plaintiffs, said he would still like to see the lawsuit settled out of court, but that he's definitely prepared to go back to trial if no agreement is reached.
The plaintiffs who were treated with pepper spray during protests in Rep. Frank Rigg's Eureka office, at Pacific Lumber Co.'s headquarters and at a logging site had earlier offered to drop their legal action if local government would cease the practice of using pepper spray on non-violent demonstrators, require non-violence training for law enforcement and pay attorneys fees. The request was swiftly rejected.
Butterfly `most admired'
Julia "Butterfly" Hill can add to her public relations accomplishments the pages of Good Housekeeping.
The magazine has named her one of the most admired women in the news in its 30th annual list of admired women. Hill's name will appear in the September issue along with the likes of Mary Bono, widow of Sonny who succeeded her husband in Congress, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, John John's wife, and Dana Reeve, wife of paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve.
The 24-year-old Hill has been living in an old growth redwood above Stafford for nine months, vowing to come down only after Pacific Lumber agrees to stop logging ancient redwoods and destroying forest habitat.
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