September 8, 2005
DISASTER RELIEF: A Creole restaurant in Garberville, with roots in New Orleans, La., is taking in friends and family who were left homeless and jobless in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Becky Krossland, manager of Cecil's California Creole said that so far a family of three from New Orleans has made it to Garberville after evacuating. Krossland and co-owners Cecil Stansill and Michael Kohn are expecting more friends next week. The restaurant has set up a fund at the North Valley Bank called Cecil's Hurricane Relief Fund. Rather than donating through the American Red Cross, Cecil's will choose relief efforts to fund. "We feel that all that red tape will devalue our money," Krossland said. Among the possibilities, which were to be discussed at a town meeting in Garberville on Tuesday after deadline, were sending willing local construction workers to Louisiana.
Area locations contributing to disaster relief are:
CLAM BEACH SHOWDOWN: As the battle over Clam Beach management nears a key engagement -- a Sept. 13 public hearing before the county supervisors, extended from last month's hearing -- a new group has entered the fray. The Friends of Clam Beach, according to a news release, favors "a compromise 'Safe Beach Alternative' to seasonally limit driving on Clam Beach." Its plan would limit recreational driving five months of the year. "Clam Beach is really kind of out of control," said Friends member Tim McKay, of the North Coast Environmental Center. "We get a lot of stories from people about altercations out there." McKay said the pro-vehicle cry -- which he believes has prompted county public works director Allen Campbell to back off on limiting recreational driving on the beach -- doesn't hold up in the letters department. The county, he said, received 171 personal letters from county residents supporting vehicle restrictions at the beach, as opposed to 31 supporting unrestricted vehicle access. Most of the comments supporting unrestricted vehicle access came from non-county residents, he said. But beach-access promoter Dennis Mayo, a horseman and fisherman, says neither the group, nor its claims, are all that new. "They're the same people who are all right with the report that came out that says [people] shouldn't gallop horses on the beach," Mayo said. "They're the same group of people that says 'no kite flying.' So, they're just making another stab at trying to infringe on legal activities for their own special interest gains." He said anti-vehicle groups "have absolutely hijacked this discussion" on how to better manage Clam Beach, and "turned it into one about vehicle access." The real problems, Mayo said, are the illegal drug activities in the parking lots, and other crimes, not the people driving on the beach. And he scoffs at the Friends' use of the word "compromise." "We've put in a gate, we can't drive at night, we gave Big Lagoon County Beach to the state -- what's the compromise, what are you giving me?"
ANTI-FLUORIDE FODDER: The arguments of local anti-fluoride forces got a bit more clout late last month after 11 Environmental Protection Agency employee unions, representing thousands of environmental and public health officials, called for a nationwide moratorium on fluoride, citing cancer risks. A Harvard School of Dental Medicine study from 2001, which was only recently made public, shows that boys and animals who drink fluoridated tap water are at greater risk of having bone cancer. According to an Associated Press article that appeared in the Boston Globe, Chester Douglass, head of Harvard University's Department of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology allegedly downplayed the research. Locally, the Arcata Citizens for Safe Water have lobbied the city council over the past year, without success, to mandate the removal of fluoride from the city's drinking water. Over the course of the debate, local health professionals, including Public Health Officer Ann Lindsay, came out in support of fluoridated drinking water, citing dental health benefits and shoddy logic from opponents.
GET WED, SENATE SAYS: Gay couples in California who want to legally marry celebrated the Senate's approval of the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, which passed by a vote of 21 to 15 last week. The senate decision marks the first time a legislative body has approved same-sex marriage without a court mandate. On Thursday, Sept. 1, a few hours after the vote, the local chapter of Equality California threw a party at the Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Church in Bayside, where revelers ate wedding cake amid rainbow colored balloons. The bill, AB 849, sponsored by Assemblymember Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and co-authored by Assemblymember Patty Berg (D-Eureka) is headed to the Assembly, which rejected similar legislation in June by a vote of 41 to 37.
POWER DEMAND: The Hoopa Valley Tribe demanded last week that the Public Utilities Commission not eliminate a public hearing on PacifiCorp's $9.4 billion sale of its Klamath River hydroelectric dams to MidAmerican Energy. PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of Scottish Power, and MidAmerican asked the PUC for a blanket exemption from state provisions that, among other things, require Californians be given the chance to weigh in on major public utility sales. In a statement, Hoopa Tribal Chairman Clifford Lyle Marshall said the "Hoopa Valley Tribe is not opposed to the sale, per se. We just want to make sure that an opportunity is not lost for Californians to ensure that salmon passage around these dams is established and maintained." A major tributary to the Klamath River, the Trinity River, passes through the Hoopa Valley Tribe's reservation, and the Klamath also crosses a portion of it. The Klamath Hydroelectric Project has cut off 300 miles of river, and associated tributaries, to fish that once swam upstream to spawn. The tribe's counsel, Tom Schlosser, said, "These inefficient and aging dams may only provide a small portion of California's energy grid, but the environmental impact on the rivers is huge. To allow this sale without giving Californians a chance to comment is unconscionable."
CASINO LARGESSE: For the second year running, the Blue Lake Casino has given a generous donation to the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office. Times aren't as tough for the county's law enforcement agency as they were in 2004, Sheriff Gary Philp said last week, but the casino's $120,000 donation is still most welcome. "We're not quite as deep in crisis, but having sustained the cuts we've had over the years, we are still well below what was our previous minimum of staff," Philp said. The money came with no strings attached, but Philp said it will be used to fund two deputies working out of the office's McKinleyville substation, which covers Blue Lake, Fieldbrook and other north county communities.
CORRECTIONS: A brief news item last week ("Spinning Hurwitz") misstated the size of the Headwaters Forest. It is approximately 7,500 acres. Another story ("Global Warming? Not in our town") fumbled the full name of the federal environmental protection legislation commonly known as NEPA. The initials stand for "National Environmental Policy Act." Finally, Dan Gianotta, aka "The Dub Cowboy," plays Arcata's Sidelines on Thursday nights, not Friday nights. The Journal regrets the errors.
by HANK SIMS & HELEN SANDERSON
Reaction around the county was swift to the news that Richard Salzman, the founder of the Alliance for Ethical Business and a political campaigner for a number of causes associated with Humboldt County's progressive movement, had been writing letters to local newspapers under false names.
Meanwhile, District Attorney Paul Gallegos acknowledged that the week before the Journal's story appeared ("Web of lies," Sept. 1), he had received a complaint from a citizen alleging that Salzman was sending her abusive e-mails under a false name.
"Basically, she just told me that this might be happening," he said. "I explained that I didn't believe it, and I guess we're going to find out."
However, Gallegos said that he was reserving judgment on this allegation, as well as the particulars of the Journal's story last week, until he had a chance to speak to Salzman. On Tuesday, he said that he had not yet been able to have that conversation with the man who has been his top fundraiser and political advisor.
In last week's article, the Journal revealed that Salzman had sent fake letters to the editor of local newspapers under at least two false names: "R. Trent Williams," a pseudonym, and "Dick Wyatt," an actual resident of Fortuna who later disclaimed the contents of a letter to the editor that appeared above his name. (Posing as another person in a letter to the editor is a punishable misdemeanor under California law.)
The Journal also determined that it had received false letters from an "R. Johnson," purportedly a Eureka resident. The letters praised former Assistant District Attorney Tim Stoen and castigated the Humboldt Taxpayers' League for failing to disclose campaign contributions for its efforts in opposing Measure L, a failed countywide ballot initiative that would have raised the local sales tax.
The address given in the "R. Johnson" letters was the true home of Ruth Johnson, a 93-year-old Eureka woman, whose caregiver emphatically denied that she would, or would be able to, write letters to the editor.
Though the "R. Johnson" letters could not be definitively traced to Salzman in the way that the "R. Trent Williams" and "Dick Wyatt" letters were, there is new evidence that they were at least sent by someone with Salzman's particular political proclivities.
After the story appeared last week, the Journal learned that the same "R. Johnson" had written letters to private individuals in the area -- in one case apparently acting as something of an agent provocateur in next year's race for the Fifth District supervisor's seat currently held by Jill Geist.
Last June, Geist, a former Salzman ally, raised his ire by sitting at a table with former Deputy District Attorney Allison Jackson during a fundraising event for Rep. Mike Thompson. (Jackson, a Gallegos critic and supporter of Deputy DA Worth Dikeman, was fired by Gallegos after the recall election last year.) Shortly after the fundraiser, bumper stickers reading "Dump Geist" began appearing in area mailboxes, their provenance unclear.
Then, on July 1, McKinleyville resident Mike Harvey -- a former candidate for county supervisor and chair of the local chapter of the Republican Party -- received an e-mail from "Randy Johnson" urging him to run against Geist.
The e-mail came from the same address as letters signed "R. Johnson" received by the Journal -- firstname.lastname@example.org. Unlike the other "R. Johnson" e-mails, the writer in this case purported to be a Republican eager to see a challenge to Geist from the right.
"Are you ready to run again?" the letter to Harvey asks. "If not, who is there that understands the need for jobs in this county that will run in the 5th? It sounds to me like the left is eating their own with Geist so we should take advantage of the situation!"
Reached Tuesday, Geist said that Salzman's reaction against her attendance at a function with Jackson -- a registered Democrat -- was typical of a "you're either with us or you're against us" approach to political difference.
"I attended a political fundraiser for Mike Thompson," Geist said. "This is a man who embodies the ability to work in a non-partisan manner."
Gallegos said that he was not yet convinced of the facts of what Salzman had done, and that there could be a pending "investigation" (he did not specify what sort of investigation, or who would be carrying it out.)
"I'm going to reserve judgment at this time," he said. "I'll always consider him a friend, so, you know -- you move forward. Sometimes friends make mistakes."
However, Gallegos did roundly condemn the practice of writing to newspapers under a false name.
"I would not do that," he said. "I would not condone someone doing it. I would be very unhappy with someone doing it on my behalf, if it was done on my behalf. I know it's a common practice, but it doesn't make me happy, that's for sure."
Eureka City Councilmember Chris Kerrigan, who hired Salzman to work on his reelection campaign last year, said that he had talked to Salzman after the Journal's story appeared. Kerrigan said that Salzman called to apologize -- rightly so, in the councilmember's opinion.
"It was very brief -- because it's a legal matter, he wasn't able to say a whole lot," Kerrigan said. "I hope Richard realizes that what he did was wrong."
Kerrigan took exception with the letter defending Salzman written by the chairperson of his reelection campaign, Andrea Davis (see "Letters," p. 3).
"She's entitled to her own opinion, but I don't fault the Journal for covering a local story," he said. "That's the intent of a local newspaper. I would agree that there are things that are much more important around the world, but that doesn't excuse the fact that his actions were wrong and unacceptable."
Salzman did not return e-mail and phone messages last week.
by HEIDI WALTERS
When Scotia Pacific Company LLC announced last week that it was laying off a third of its workforce as part of a restructuring plan, it landed the blame squarely at the feet of the regional and state water boards. In an Aug. 30 statement on its website, the company's vice president, Jeff Barrett, said the layoffs were the "direct result of the overly burdensome and duplicative regulatory environment" imposed on the company by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and the State Water Resources Control Board.
"Newly imposed environmental restrictions and regulatory burdens are reducing our harvest levels, and that in turn reduces the number of people we can employ," said Barrett. "It is a sad situation, particularly because much of the job loss was avoidable."
In June, the state board put on hold several timber harvest plans filed by the timber company earlier this year, which at first had been partially permitted by the regional board. Conservation groups sued to halt the harvests, and the state board agreed to stay them until the regional board completed its watershed-wide waste discharge requirements for the Elk River and Freshwater Creek watersheds. Palco is fighting the board over the WWWDR approach. The regional board, meanwhile, is holding a public hearing Sept. 14 and 15 in Ferndale on the requirements.
Initial news reports of the layoffs had scant response from the accused. But last Friday, in an interview, state water board staff geologist Michael Gjerde concurred with Scopac's Barrett that the job loss was regrettable and avoidable -- but he sent the blame right back to Scopac and its parent company, Pacific Lumber Co, and a "highly leveraged business management model" under which, Gjerde said, Palco has maintained an enormous debt that leaves the company vulnerable to the slightest of upsets.
Although Gjerde works as a geologist for the state board, he has a master's degree in economics and worked for years for Chevron and Wells Fargo. "I literally did oil and gas tax shelters," he said. "So I'm not just a 'dumb geologist.'" That's the label he said Palco gave him after he wrote a rebuttal, earlier this year, to Palco's assertion in a white paper that its financial troubles are the result of undue regulation by the water board -- over and above regulations from other agencies such as the California Department of Forestry -- that could reduce Scopac's timber inventory by 30 percent. In that white paper, Palco said its logging and hauling costs had doubled in recent years, and it noted the efforts it had made toward meeting environmental concerns, including the Headwaters deal in which it sold about 5,000 acres of old-growth forest to the government, and the costly increase in science staff to meet its conservation plan and other environmental commitments.
Barrett said on Tuesday that his company only agreed to the Headwaters deal once the state, backed by federal assurances, agreed to a sustained-yield harvest of 175 million board feet per year (the state initially wanted to set a lower sustained-yield harvest number, at which point Scopac balked). The CDF then determined, said Barrett, that the company could harvest 176.8 mbf/year. "Now the water board comes along" and says the company can't harvest at those agreed-upon levels, Barrett said. The layoffs are the water board's fault, he said. "They're really turning this around and saying we're the bad guys."
But "even in the years before the 1999 Headwaters deal," rejoined Gjerde, the timber company "lost money in eight out of 12 years. The water board has had an impact, but mostly in the last year." He added that the timber company has "higher harvest rates than any company in the region."
Mark Lovelace, of the Humboldt Watershed Council (which along with the Environmental Protection Information Center appealed the regional board's approval of the Elk and Freshwater THPs), said Palco "is actually doing better than at any time" in terms of money brought in from log sales. "The problem is not the cash flow in, but the cash flow out." He said Scopac pays more toward its debt (now at $743 million, not much below the $870 incurred in 1986 when Maxxam bought the company) than its harvests, even at full level, could support. "The amount of trees they were not able to get water quality permits for in Freshwater and Elk River -- which is only a small part of the company's ownership -- was 6 percent of what they planned to log this year. That's a pretty minor amount. What they're doing, and this is my opinion, is the company is timing the announcement of the layoffs to try to bully the water board" before its hearing.
Gjerde said the water board is merely doing its job: "to regulate in a manner to attain the highest quality water which is reasonable, for the people downstream who have to drink the water, and for fish that live in the water." That charge includes consideration of economic needs, which Gjerde said the water board has tried to do.
"We feel terribly for the employees," he said. "We think they've been put through the wringer by Maxxam. It's highly inaccurate to say we're the cause of the layoffs. It's like the straw that broke the camel's back. Is it the straw's fault, or the fact that you're overloading it so much?"
Gjerde said one of the company's reports predicted the downturn.
"They planned to have high harvests initially, to get a lot of money back quickly, and then decrease until they bottomed out," at which time they'd have to wait for the trees to grow back before the cycle started again. "They projected that fluctuation in the workforce in their own documents. I do think it may be occurring a little earlier than they projected. But it's not a surprise."
He predicts Scopac will declare bankruptcy before Oct. 17, the date the Bush administration's get-tough-on-bankruptcy law goes into effect. "And it's really sad," he said. "In the last six months, Scotia Pacific made $14 million in profits before it made interest payments. That's the same amount they made in the same six-month period last year. But when they have to pay $27.5 million in interest payments...."
Barrett said the company hopes the restructuring will help the company avoid bankruptcy. The layoffs, in conjunction with the elimination of some programs and a reduction in helicopter yarding and some contractor costs, should save several million dollars a year, he said.
The regional water board's public hearing on its watershed-wide waste discharge requirements for the Elk River and Freshwater Creek watersheds is set for Sept. 14 and 15, at 8:30 a.m. both days, in the Ferndale Community Center in Firemen's Park, 100 S. Berding Street. The water board expects to make a decision on the requirements at its Sept. 27 meeting in Windsor.
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