North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

November 1, 2001

Voters to the polls Tuesday

TMDL for Trinity

NCRA looking for commitment

Megram timber logging
on hold

Some CR funding restored

Cedar disease closing
trails, roads

Logging continues on THP 520

Trinidad gets more police

Anthrax hoax by Arcata man

Activist's off-again,
on-again suit

Humboldt Redwoods
gets a plan

Inspecting instructional materials

Cleanup in Wiyot


Voters to the polls Tuesday

On Oct. 22 there were lines of people out the door at the county Elections Office. That was the last day to register to vote for next Tuesday's election.

"I was surprised," said Lindsey McWilliams, director of administrative services for Humboldt County, especially because voter turnout is expected to be low.

There are no countywide races. The contests for superintendent of schools, 5th and 4th District supervisors and county department heads, including sheriff and district attorney, are all slated for the March ballot along with the statewide partisan races, including the primary race for governor.

Tuesday the races are strictly local, with 31 different ballots for contested seats on school boards and services districts throughout the county. "Some areas have no ballot at all because no one ran against the incumbents," McWilliams said.

What are some of Tuesday's hot school board races to watch?

For nearly a decade there have been few candidates willing to run for the Southern Humboldt school board. Most of the current board members were appointed and there was even talk of reducing the number of board members from seven to five. Last year declining enrollment prompted the board to make a number of controversial decisions, including the closure of Miranda Junior High School. Suddenly, there are six of the seven seats open and 15 candidates.

There is a lively race for three seats and a majority on the Arcata School board. Incumbents David Narum, a professor at Humboldt State University, and Mary Wells, an HSU administrator, are being challenged by a trio known as the Arcata Citizens' Coalition for Education. They are Gregory Allen, a musician and attorney who had represented the now closed cannabis center; Sarah Lindauer, a teacher's assistant; and Charles Douglas, an HSU student. Narum and Wells have joined forces with Erin Taylor, a mother of two and an attorney who is not currently practicing. Taylor has qualified for the ballot as a write-in and is campaigning hard. A League of Women Voters forum was scheduled for Tuesday night after press deadline.

Again, there are two incumbents -- Harvey Kelsey and Howard Stauffer -- and three challengers running together to unseat them in the race for the Jacoby Creek School District Board. The challengers are all parents: Susan Brater, an accountant, David Collentine, an environmental manager, and Ethan Heifetz, a teacher. The issues are familiar -- declining enrollment and budget pressures, plus traffic and other safety concerns. Teachers' aides were cut this year and some parents are not happy.

Although school board races are nonpartisan, a hotly contested seat on the Eureka City Schools board has taken on partisan overtones. John Fullerton, an accountant who has served on the South Bay School Board for 20 years and a Republican, is seeking a seat vacated by Democratic stalwart Debbie Israel who recently moved from the area. Cai Williams, a director of veterans affairs at HSU, has been endorsed by the Democratic Party Central Committee.

In other races of note, the McKinleyville Community Services District contest is all harmony compared to years past. Don Harling, of Beau Pre Golf Course, is retiring after 20 years and Jill Geist is stepping down to run for 5th District supervisor. Board President Ordell Murphy, an incumbent, is considered to be a shoo-in for re-election. Vying for the two seats being vacated are Bill Wennerholm, a chiropractor; Scotty Turner, owner of 24/7 Real Estate; and John Fleury, who works for 101 North Glass.

An MCSD candidates forum sponsored by League of Women Voters will be held from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, at Azalea Hall. Candidates will undoubtedly face questions about McKinleyville incorporation and other development issues.

Dennis Hunter drew no opponents and will retain his seat on board of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District. Ronnie Pellegrini, who was appointed to fill the vacancy created when Jimmy Smith was elected to the Board of Supervisors in the 1st District, is facing two challengers, Godfrey Tudor-Mathews and Neil Aitken. Pellegrini, who co-owns a fishing boat with her husband and is endorsed by Smith, will likely retain her seat.

Ron Fritzsche, a fisheries biologist at Humboldt State, is facing a tougher challenge for his seat on the harbor district board. His opponent, Pete Oringer, co-owner of two sporting goods stores, is active in numerous community organizations including Friends of Humboldt County, which successfully fought to keep WalMart from locating on the Balloon Tract in Eureka, Citizens for Port Development, the Eureka Chamber of Commerce and the Taxpayers League, and he is a vocal advocate for reopening the railroad.

While Oringer has been busy rounding up endorsements and erecting lawn signs throughout the 3rd District, Fritzsche's campaign has been low-key.

"I'm not much of a political animal," he said. But he does point to changes that have occurred since he came on the harbor board.

"Five years ago the relationships between the harbor district, the city [Eureka] and the county were strained. There were a number of entities with interests in the bay who weren't even talking," Fritzsche said. Today a group of dozens of local, state and federal agencies meet monthly and a comprehensive bay management plan is underway now that the bay dredging project is complete.

The first step is a complex layered mapping system of the bay that includes everything from property lines, overlapping jurisdictions, eel grass beds and other sensitive biological inventories. The site, hosted by HSU, is set to go on-line soon. Fritzsche and Dennis Hunter are co-chairing the Harbor Revitalization Committee with funding from the district, city and hopefully soon the county.

Oringer said while it was understandable the harbor district was preoccupied with dredging, other issues were not getting needed attention. He would like to see an inventory of industrial land around the bay made and an agreement (memorandum of understanding) signed between the city, county and harbor district.

"I'm not saying the incumbent has done a good or a bad job. The issue is what I want to see done which is to move ahead on both a business and an environmental perspective (and) to aggressively market the bay," he said.

"There's been a certain myopia in the harbor district," Oringer said. The district should have been actively involved in the county general plan update, the Headwaters money allocation, watershed management issues and even ocean fishing policies. "Everything that affects the bay."

-- reported by Judy Hodgson


TMDL for Trinity

An important environmental document that gives a picture of the health of the Trinity River has been released by the Environmental Protection Agency, but don't expect any action just yet.

The EPA study, called a Total Maximum Daily Load, details how much pollutant can be in a waterway without harming its "beneficial uses." In the Trinity, the main pollutant is sediment and the main beneficial use being threatened is salmon habitat. The study therefore looks for the source of the sediment in the river.

"We looked at several sediment sources, and the prime ones were all road-related," said Chris Heppe, EPA project officer. Land-use activities like timber harvesting and mining also played a role, he said.

The question of how to reduce the river's sediment load is still unanswered. Coming up with a plan to implement the science in the TMDL is the responsibility of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, which has so far written only one.

"We're working on implementation plans now," said Dave Evans, a senior engineer with the water board staff. Evans said it was likely that several implementation plans would come out simultaneously, after the only plan currently written -- for the Garcia River in Mendocino County -- is passed into law.

So when is an implementation plan expected on the Trinity?

"If we decided to do the Trinity, it could be early next year," Evans said. "But it could also be a lot longer."

One critical issue left unaddressed by either the TMDL or its implementation plan is the amount of water in the river. The Trinity has long been dammed to provide water to users in the Central Valley. Insufficient flows are believed to be a major cause of its declining salmon populations.

"(But) the TMDL can't allocate flows," said the EPA's Heppe, "Flows aren't considered a pollutant."


NCRA looking for commitment

After cutting ties with its previous operator, the North Coast Railroad Authority is seeking a long-term replacement.

The NCRA board voted Sept. 19 to terminate its contract with Northwestern Pacific Railways, which had been running the trains along the 43 miles of the line now open. A search immediately began for an interim operator to run freight along the line. That search has now been abandoned, said Max Bridges, the NCRA's executive director.

"We did some surveying and found that anyone who would run the track on an interim basis wanted a subsidy which we did not have to offer," he said.

That subsidy would cover the costs associated with starting up service along the line. The NCRA decided to wait until a long-term operator could be found because such a firm would be able to recoup startup costs through profitable operation of the railroad over a long period, Bridges said.

The NCRA board has also directed staff to look at alternative ways of funding the repair and opening of the railroad line to its northern terminus at Humboldt Bay. Humboldt County's portion of the line has been closed since the track running through the Eel River canyon suffered extensive damage during storms in 1997-1998.

Federal disaster funds for repairing the line in the canyon may be shifted to help clean up the southern end of the line, but the end goal still is to open the line all the way north to Humboldt Bay, Bridges said.

The idea of shifting federal funds to the southern end met with resistance at the board's Oct. 17 meeting. Some believe doing so could entail the reduction of already-allocated funds or the loss of eligibility for future federal funds.

"We need to find out what the truth is concerning the use of these funds and the eligibility for future funds," he said. "Then we can weigh the alternatives."


Megram timber logging on hold

A National Forest Service plan to log timber killed during 1999's Megram fire has been put on hold.

The plan would have allowed the harvest of trees as a means of clearing "fuel breaks" where future forest fires could be checked. The Megram fire burned some 50,000 acres of Six Rivers National Forest over a period of several months.

Environmental groups oppose the plan, saying it is simply an excuse to log and will have little or no positive effect on fire management.

It is the second postponement for the Megram fire sales. The Sierra Club and the Environmental Protection Information Center successfully sought a preliminary injunction in federal court in July which stopped the timber sale until appeals could be heard by the service. Those appeals have now been heard, but with little time left in the logging season, the Forest Service will hold off on logging until at least spring.

In this case, postponement may amount to cancellation. Burned timber loses value quickly, and it is not clear if the trees can be profitably harvested next spring.


Some CR funding restored

Gov. Davis has signed a bill that restores some of the community college funding that was cut during the budget process.

When the state budget was passed in July, the College of the Redwoods found that they were missing critical funding. Money for instructional materials and capital projects had been removed from the budget by Davis.

CR had not planned any major capital projects this year, so the college did not stand to lose any funding in that category. The losses for instructional materials, however, amounted to $340,000.

It's unclear how much of that money may now be returned. A bill signed Oct. 14 restores only a third of the budget for instructional materials, and the distribution of those funds had not been announced as of press time.

"Even if we don't get any money restored, we appreciate the support community colleges received from the public and state legislators," said Scott Thomason, vice president of business services.

Other legislation signed Oct. 15 includes two bills authored by 1st District Assemblymember Virginia Strom-Martin. The new laws will extend telephone service to isolated rural areas and develop professional standards for teachers.


Cedar disease closing trails, roads

The rainy season is starting, and with it comes one of Brian Morris' least favorite annual rituals: Morris, a ranger with the Smith River National Recreation Area, has to close down trails and roads to prevent the spread of Port-Orford cedar disease.

"We do not like to close national forest land to people, but as good land stewards, that's what we have to do," Morris said.

The disease is a fungus that destroys the roots of cedars. A close relative of sudden oak death, the disease is easily spread -- tires, horses' hooves or hiking boots that can pick up small amounts of mud act as ideal carriers. There are only two sizable areas that haven't been infected, Morris said: the Siskiyou Wilderness and High Plateau, north of the Smith River.

The Little Bald Hills trail has already been closed, Smith said, and many more road and trail closures are likely to follow in the near future. The roads will likely stay closed until June 1.



Logging continues on THP 520

Pacific Lumber Co. continued logging this week on a controversial piece of land adjacent to the Headwaters Reserve with little interference -- but that may change.

Timber Harvest Plan 520 -- popularly known as the "Hole in the Headwaters" because it is surrounded by protected land -- is going to be a focus of protests, according to members of North Coast Earth First.

"This harvest is getting a lot people back into action who have been out for a while," said an EarthFirst activist known as Shunka. "I could see it being a pretty huge campaign," he said.

So far, activists have been cited and released by law enforcement, but no arrests have been made.


Trinidad gets more police

Trinidad has hired a new police sergeant and is looking for an additional police officer, but it is unclear how their salaries will be paid once grant funding runs out.

The two new positions are being funded by a $100,000 annual grant from the state Citizen's Option for Public Safety program. But that grant lasts only two years.

"The city is pursuing additional revenue sources so that in two years we will be able to retain this full force," said Trinidad Mayor Dean Heyenga. That revenue might come from a contract to provide police services to surrounding areas like Westhaven, additional leases for antennae space on Trinidad Head or a sales tax increase.

First priority for the City Council is still to sort out Trinidad's general fiscal situation. "When our council took over in April 2000, the city's finances were a mess," he said. New financial software and an upcoming audit will help clear up discrepancies, but Heyenga said the council "still doesn't have a good handle on [Trinidad's finances]."


Anthrax hoax by Arcata man

An Arcata man has been charged with sending an anthrax hoax through the mail.

Michael Christopher Murphy sent an envelope with the word "anthrax" written on the back to a friend at Reedley College in the Central Valley. The envelope contained a birthday card and a sand dollar. The envelope reached the attention of authorities when it leaked a white, granular substance.

Murphy, who included his return address on the envelope, told the FBI the "anthrax" message was a joke. He faces serious consequences, however. If convicted of sending a threat through the mail, he could serve up to five years in federal prison.


Activist's off-again, on-again suit

Activist Ellen Taylor, removed from a lawsuit filed by Pacific Lumber Co. against people protesting its timber harvesting activities, may not be out of the woods yet.

PL will appeal Judge Leighton Hatch's Oct. 11 ruling that removed Taylor from a suit that seeks lost wages and damages allegedly caused by timber protesters.

Taylor has said that she never entered PL property during protests this spring over logging of old-growth Douglas fir in the Mattole Valley. Dozens of EarthFirst activists have been named in the civil suit.


Humboldt Redwoods gets a plan

Humboldt Redwoods State Park has a new framework following the Oct. 26 approval of a revised plan by the State Parks Commission.

The plan includes the creation of two new protected areas within the park. Wilderness designation was given to a 10,450-acre area, to be called the Bull Creek Wilderness. An additional 3,520 acres were granted natural preserve status as Carl Andersen Redwoods Natural Preserve. Development is severely restricted within both wilderness and preserve areas.


Inspecting instructional materials

Parents trying to keep tabs on what their children are learning at school now have a chance to preview textbooks and decided whether they like them.

Course material being considered for California's elementary school classes in reading and language arts is now on display at the Humboldt County Office of Education in Eureka.

Parents and members of the public may look at the instructional materials and send comments to the State Board of Education, which will be selecting educational materials next January.

For more information or to set up an appointment, call 445-7077.


Cleanup at Wiyot

Drive along Table Bluff Road in the Wiyot Reservation and you'll find more than rural scenery: More than 2,000 cubic yards of waste litter the landscape, left there by illegal dumpers.

That will soon come to an end. Under a plan approved by the State Integrated Waste Management Board at its Oct. 24 meeting, the state will pay $188,000 for the trash to be hauled out of the reservation and properly disposed of.

The Table Bluff Wiyot Reservation has developed a plan to prevent the trash from building up again. Signs, access restrictions and aggressive enforcement will make it a lot harder to unload trash, tires and debris on Table Bluff Road.


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