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October 6, 2005

The Weekly Wrap

Latest offshore drilling scare passes Florida
Republicans scotch plans to open local gas fields

30 Questions for Amber Shay Baker

The Weekly Wrap

SALZMAN SEARCHED: The Trinidad Police Department served a search warrant on the home of political consultant Richard Salzman last Thursday, Sept. 29, in connection with the investigation into Salzman's use of quasi-fictional names in letters to the editors of local newspapers. The warrant indicated that the department is investigating the case as a possible felony. Police Chief Ken Thrailkill said that he could not comment on the investigation while it was still ongoing, but the warrant authorized the department to seize a wide array of computer hardware including computers, digital cameras, compact discs and other equipment in addition to written documentation including newspaper clippings and printed e-mail correspondence. Thrailkill's warrant was also served on the Journal; it ordered our newspaper to provide a copy of a press release faxed to the newspaper in which Salzman admitted using false names in letters to the editor. The Journal complied with the request. (See publisher's note, p. 2). The Trinidad Police Department investigation began when the Eureka Reporter newspaper which is owned by Eureka businessman Rob Arkley, a political opponent of Salzman filed an informal complaint with Thrailkill.

TIMB---ER: Last Thursday the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board served the Pacific Lumber Co. with a notice of violation for starting to log on its Bonanza timber harvest plan before receiving a General Waste Discharge Requirement permit from the board. The logging, which began Tuesday, was halted, and Palco was ordered to send a report to the board. The Bonanza harvest area has already drawn criticism from bird biologists and environmental watchdogs, who say continued cutting could further endanger the marbled murrelet. The Environmental Protection and Information Center says the Bonanza area "contains the largest unprotected, contiguous, occupied marbled murrelet stand left on Maxxam/PL's land." Top researchers have declared the murrelet in danger of extinction. But the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recently said the Bonanza stands could be harvested without affecting the tree-nesting seabirds. EPIC disagrees with that assessment. Meanwhile, Mark Lovelace of the Humboldt Watershed Council warned that things could get worse. He said on Tuesday he's worried "that Palco's actions on the Bonanza THP could be merely a `test shot' to gauge the Water Board's response should the company go forward with similar illegal logging in Freshwater and Elk River."

FORTUNA FIRST: A citizens' group called Fortuna First is rallying supporters who want to keep a big box store as in Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc. out of their town. In a Fortuna First press release, Sylvia Jutila said big stores cause traffic problems and safety issues and that "lower paying jobs [are] associated with a development of this sort." Longtime councilman Mel Berti part of the pro-big box bloc maintains that a majority of Fortunans want more shopping options. He also says the city is carefully considering road issues and that, by the way, some money is better than no money. "[They] want to keep things the way they are," Berti said of Fortuna First in an interview last week. "What we have to do is say, `OK, if we don't move on and try to bring business in, how are we going to pay our city bills?'" Berti added that during the course of this debate, no one has suggested a viable economic alternative to bringing a big box to the 10,000-person town. The retail development, which will not likely happen for another four years, if at all, is slated for the site of the Palco mill, which closed in June and took close to 100 jobs with it. Jutila's press release states that the group wants the "best use" of the property to be carefully examined. Fortuna Firsters will screen a documentary called Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price at the Fortuna Union High School Theater Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. Meanwhile, things remain divisive in Fortuna as the debate over Councilwoman Debi August's legal fees is degenerating into a debacle. Fortuna city officials cannot decide whether or not to pitch in for the bill, which tops $150,000. This week the city requested an extension to make their decision. Four members of the council will vote on the issue; if the vote is split, 2-2, August, a real estate agent, will receive no money. Last year, the Humboldt County Grand Jury filed suit against August for allegedly moving subdivision plans she stood to gain from through city planning. The suit was later dropped.

BIG DEAD WHALE: A fin whale washed up on the Freshwater Spit south of Orick last Thursday, after having been spotted floating dead in the ocean by the Coast Guard the day before. Immediately, HSU researchers were down at the beach with rangers from the Redwood National and State Parks, taking DNA samples from the dark gray beast and working out how to sever its head. Park ranger Jeff Denny says the whale is 64 feet long. The fin whale a baleen is second in size only to the blue whale and can reach 70 to 80 feet and weigh up to 50 tons. It's a deepwater animal, so it's rare to find one so close to shore. It's also federally listed as endangered, having been overhunted. Denny says it isn't known how this whale died. "There are no obvious signs of a collision with a boat, or of a shark attack." HSU professor Dawn Goley, coordinator of the Marine Mammal Education Research Program, says it appears to be emaciated. She's excited to have such a rare specimen wash ashore for her students to study firsthand. Also, the experience has been one heady with logistics: The whale is in the surf, so working on it can be dangerous, it's smelly, and then the mere effort of cutting off its 18-foot head and hauling it off somewhere to be buried is a challenge. "It's a creative process," Goley says. "There's big swells coming in, you need heavy equipment that won't get stuck in the sand." Eventually, the whale's skull will reside in the university's vertebrate museum for researchers from here and around the world to study. But patience is key. "What they'll end up doing is burying the head up to a couple of years to let it naturally decompose," says ranger Denny. "The plan for the rest of the animal would be to leave it on the beach."

BATS IN THE STACKS: Over the past two weeks, at least 10 bats have sought refuge in the HSU library, and their literary diversions have kept resident bat expert Joe Szewczak, HSU biology professor, busy plucking the furry mammals off the ceiling tiles where they cling with tiny toes and thumbs during their daytime torpor (sound familiar, students?) giving them water, and releasing them at night. The bats, which roost in the roof tiles of the library, apparently worked their way down through the structure and into the building during the recent warm weather to escape the heat, says Szewczak. But then they couldn't find their way back out. And, thing is, books alone cannot sustain a bat. "If they've been in there a long time, they're usually dehydrated," Szewczak says. So he gives them water from an eyedropper. "If they're in really bad shape I give them a subcutaneous injection of fluids." These indoor library visits are mostly just bad for the bats, and Szewczak and a physical plant employee crawled through the attic spaces last week to discover where the bats are getting in so the entries could be closed off (they will be allowed to continue roosting in the roof). But Szewczak issues a strong word of caution to casual would-be bat rescuers: Don't do it. "I can do this because I'm experienced with working with bats, I know how to handle them, and, like anyone working with mammals, I have pre-exposure rabies vaccinations." And, he adds, "you can't tell if a bat has rabies just by looking at it." This doesn't mean all bats have rabies, of course. And they're more to be marveled at than feared. Szewczak rattles off cool bat facts: There are about a thousand species of bats in the world. One out of every four mammals is a bat. They can live 40 years. They can go from torpor to intense aerobic activity. They're more closely related genetically to humans than to rodents, sharing similarities in teeth, brain organization and social structure. They can have one birth a year. But, sadly, unlike people, about half of the bat species in the world are in known decline largely because of habitat loss.

A.T. EXPO: As part of National Disability Awareness Month, Eureka Mayor Peter LaVallee spent Monday in a wheelchair, going about his workday as he normally might at City Hall and hitting a 10 a.m. meeting at the Multiple Assistance Center in Eureka. Tri-County Independent Living Outreach Coordinator Kevin O'Keefe describes La Vallee as a "strong advocate for people with disabilities." That's why he'll be speaking at the Lost Coast Assistive Technology Expo on Friday, Oct. 7, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Adorni Center, where people with disabilities and seniors can learn about all kinds of devices that make life easier. Twenty vendors from out of town will be there, along with 30 local social service agencies. Garry Eagles, superintendent of Humboldt County schools, will speak at noon, LaVallee at 12:30 p.m. and Sen. Wes Chesbro at 1 p.m. Lots of demonstrations and workshops will be going on, such as weight lifting and martial arts for people with disabilities. Other programs will take a more serious note, including tips for avoiding scams and fraud and dealing with depression. Guide dogs and a wheelchair that climbs stairs will be there, free boat tours especially set up for disabled folks will zip around Humboldt Bay and Peggy Martinez singer, drummer and superstar A.T. whiz who's also blind performs along with other musicians with disabilities. For more information call 445-8404.

CORRECTION: A story in last week's paper ("Hoopa school nears crisis") used the phrase "failed to make the grade" in reference to the Mattole Unified School District's placement on the state's program improvement list. The phrase could be interpreted to mean that the Mattole Valley Charter School did not meet its target test scores; in fact, the district was placed on the list because it did not meet another target of the No Child Left Behind Act it did not test 95 percent of its students because parents opted not to have their children tested.



Latest offshore drilling scare passes Florida
Republicans scotch plans to open local gas fields


Late last week, a key committee of the House of Representatives approved legislation that would have opened the coast of Humboldt County, as well as the rest of the nation, to development aimed at harvesting undersea natural gas.

According to the Sacramento Bee, in California the effects of the proposed legislation would have been felt mostly here in Humboldt County. A geological formation known as the Eel River Basin, which runs offshore from the mouth of the Eel to southern Oregon, is estimated to contain reserves amounting to 2 trillion cubic feet of gas.

The legislation, which was sponsored by House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Tracy) and later amended by other members of the committee, would have ended a federal moratorium on new leases of offshore oil and gas exploration. In addition, it would have eliminated the rights of state governments to ban natural gas exploration off their shores. Known as the "National Energy Supply Diversification and Disruption Prevention Act," and offered as a response to the disruption of the nation's energy infrastructure by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it passed the Resources Committee by a vote of 27-16.

Reaction to the bill among North Coast legislators was swift. In a statement issued through his press secretary, Matt Gerein, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) said that the bill didn't address the root of the United States' energy problems consumption.

"I've been a long-time, outspoken opponent of drilling off of our coastline," Thompson said. "It violates both environmental and economic sense. Our nation holds only 3 percent of the world's oil supplies but we consume 25 percent of them. We can't drill our way out of our dependence on oil. We need to shift our energy priorities to renewable and alternative fuels."

Meanwhile, State Sen. Wesley Chesbro sent out a press release that noted that the federal moratorium on offshore exploration had been in place 25 years, and enjoyed widespread bipartisan support.

"This is an irresponsible proposal that places the economy and the environment of Northern California in serious jeopardy," he said. "The California congressional delegation has an obligation to fight against this assault on California and its people."

But by Monday, in the face of stinging criticism from Republican members of Florida's congressional delegation and Gov. Jeb Bush, Pombo who has been in the news lately touting a widely criticized plan aimed at "reforming" the Endangered Species Act announced that the plan would be shelved. He told the Associated Press that he would instead present a version of the bill that would allow states to opt out of the new federal leasing program.

Some observers say that at any rate, the proposed legislation was unlikely to have any practical effect locally, even if it had been signed into law. Dr. Ken Aalto, an emeritus professor of geology at Humboldt State University, has studied the Eel River Basin extensively. He said Monday that the waiver of the moratorium on natural gas would have been relatively useless, practically speaking, unless Congress took the additional step of limiting the state of California's regulation of offshore petroleum extraction.

"Oil is worth a lot more," he said. "For natural gas, it's so expensive to put in an offshore well."

Aalto explained that the strong currents and pounding waves of the Pacific makes building offshore platforms an expensive proposition one that would likely not pay off if potential drillers were allowed only to go for gas. In addition, he said, the region's vulnerability to earthquakes would also increase the cost of running a gas pipeline from offshore platforms to land.

"It's a cost-effective thing," he said. "Especially in an ocean of our energy level, it costs so much to put in a platform that I really doubt a company would bother."

Though the drilling scare lasted only a few days, for some it brought back memories of more contentious times, when drilling off the North Coast seemed closer to becoming a reality.

Tim McKay of the Arcata-based Northcoast Environmental Center, said that there was broad opposition to plans to open the offshore fields for exploration in the mid-'80s.

"It is somewhat of a perennial issue," he said. "During the Reagan administration, there was much more of a concerted effort to push ahead with it."

McKay said that in the early to mid-'80s, Congress held well-attended field hearings on the matter in the auditorium of Eureka High School. Eventually, he said, the plan simply faded away with the coming of the first Bush administration.

The Eel River Basin's natural gas is contained in pockets of limestone, which are capped with thicker, denser sediments, preventing it from leaking out. The offshore segment of the basin contains several natural "vents," from which gas regularly escapes. According to Aalto, no one is certain how the gas was formed.

Currently, two on-shore natural gas sites one on Tompkins Hill and the other in Alton produce natural gas for use in Humboldt County. These wells, which according to a report by the Redwood Coast Energy Authority produce around 1 million cubic feet of gas per year, are located in the on-shore segment of the Eel River Basin.



30 Questions for Amber Shay Baker


Every year on the first Friday in October, the California Arts Council officially celebrates "Arts Day." "Arts Day began not only as a celebration of creativity," says the CAC's website, but "in its first year it was part of the healing process after the tragedies of September 11 and served as an opportunity to coax people back into community and a chance to re-connect with humanity's finer instincts."

2005 Arts Day Poster with artwork by Amber Shay BakerMost of all, says the CAC, Arts Day Oct. 7, this year seeks to remind people that art is important to us all, "economically, socially and educationally."

That's all good and well, high-minded even. But for 11-year-old Amber Shay Baker, of Hoopa Valley Elementary School, who won this year's state art poster contest and whose lush, playful painting of hearts is the state's 2005 Arts Day logo, art is just, well, "fun." She does it because she does it which is perhaps many an artist's credo. And she loves math and basketball equally well. This Thursday, Amber will go to Sacramento to meet the governor. We talked with her last week to see what drives her to create such beauty as those lovely hearts.

Right: 2005 Arts Day Poster with artwork by Amber Shay Baker.

1. How did you do this particular piece of art? It's really beautiful, by the way.

2. What did you do it with?
With paint and a couple of chalk crayon things.

3. Just chalk and paint?

4. Why did you paint hearts?
I don't know, I like painting hearts. I always painted hearts because I just like hearts. They're pretty. I usually put arrows on it or anything like that. It's fun.

5. How long have you been painting?
With, who? Myself?

6. Questions for Amber Shay Baker Yeah. How long have you been doing art?
Quite a while. I like coloring and all that kind of stuff.

7. Do you only paint, or do you have a favorite thing you like to do? Do you work with clay at all?
Um, I like painting, coloring and also fixing hair.

8. Fixing hair?
Yeah, I grab my little black hair ties and I just fix my sisters' hair. And anytime I try to fix their hair they go, "No!" I do all kinds of stuff with hair.

9. How funny. So, is that all you paint is hearts?
Well, yeah, but sometimes I paint flowers or myself or my friends.

10. What do your friends think about it?
They think it's cool. They always tell me to draw them a flower or a heart or something. They always ask me.

11. Do any of your friends do art?
Yeah, sometimes, but my friends usually say, "Yours is better, Amber."

12. Do you know if you want to be an artist when you grow up? Or continue to be an artist?
I just want to be an artist.

13. Where do you live?
I live in Willow Creek.

14. You go to Hoopa Elementary?

15. Who's your art teacher?
Sonya Fe.

16. What did she teach you?
She taught us how to do the squares and stuff around the picture. Most everybody else drew baseballs and stuff like that.

17. So, this may seem like a weird question, but how does it feel when you're painting?
It kind of feels fun because you get to do all kinds of stuff.

18. How long would you say you spend working on a painting?
Maybe two days, or one day. With that heart one, I spent three days doing that one.

19. What is California Arts Day?
I don't know.

20. Do you think art is important?
Um I don't know.

21. What did you do before you started painting?
I used to write a lot, to my family and my friends.

22. Then what happened?
Sonya Fe came to my class in 2nd grade, and that's when it started.

23. What did you like about painting?
It's got pretty colors.

24. Besides art, what is your favorite thing to do in school?
I like math. I like to do timetables and division.

25. Do you have a favorite artist?
I like my sister's art stuff. She draws.

26. What are you working on right now?
So far, I went to the laundrymat with my mom. I drew a picture of my mom reading a book, because I was bored.

27. What do you have to do for Arts Day?
I have to go to Sacramento next Thursday. I have to meet Arnold Schwarzenegger. I have to be on TV.

28. Are you excited?
I don't know. It's really fun and stuff like that. I'm not really shy. In my class in 3rd grade, I would get up and sing and dance.

29. Really? What do you sing?
I just make up funny songs.

30. Are you going to sing and dance for Arnold?
I don't know. I don't think so.



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