November 3, 2005
CHESBRO 2008: It was originally just an off-hand remark, made to members of the Mendocino Coast Democratic Club last week, but his press secretary has since confirmed it: State Senator Wes Chesbro plans to run for the state Assembly in 2008. Assuming that current California term-limit regulations survive another 12 months (we hear there's talk in Sacramento of modifying them) Chesbro will be booted from the Senate in 2006. What's a career officeholder to do? Well, the 54-year-old Democrat's idea is to take a couple of years off -- perhaps visiting his district once or twice in the meanwhile -- and come back tan, rested and ready for a stab at the lower house seat currently occupied by Patty Berg (D-Eureka), who will herself be termed out at that point. If elected, Chesbro could then serve a maximum of six years, according to current rules. But then what? Either up or down, you'd have to guess: A stab at some minor executive branch office (state controller?) or an inglorious return to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. Otherwise, appointment to some dreary commission or task force. Unless isn't it at least possible that Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) could be elevated to the U.S. Senate by 2014? Put that out of your mind, though. Chesbro has. "The senator is focusing on the last year of his senate term for the next 12 months," said Chesbro aide Darby Kernan Tuesday.
SHERIFF OFFICE SCANDAL: Deputy Mike Gainey has resigned from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office after allegedly committing perjury and falsifying evidence in a recent trial of a McKinleyville man who was convicted of stalking. As the McKinleyville Press first reported last week, Gainey allegedly lied on the stand about forensic tests on an audiotape -- a key piece of evidence in the trial -- that he had supposedly contracted a company called Renaissance Recording to perform. It was later found out that the company does not exist. When confronted with this fact, Gainey said that he was under a great deal of stress because his father had recently died -- another falsehood.
Lt. Mike Downey of the Sheriff's Office said Tuesday that an internal investigation into the matter should be complete within the next 10 days. In light of these developments, the McKinleyville man will be retried.
PULP ME: Every town's got its lurking monster, a beast that rides the horizon spewing smoke -- or steam -- while wickedly plotting the villagers' grim demise. For some folks in Humboldt County, that beast is the pulp mill on the Samoa peninsula. `Course, the mill's owner, Evergreen Pulp, wouldn't care to view its charge as monstrous, but rather just as an aging workhorse busy chomping wood chips into pulpy mash while, admittedly, expelling rather more particulates than allowed under official environmental standards. Beast handler and villagers clash regularly in air quality hearings. The latest was last Friday, before the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District board, at which Evergreen Pulp requested an interim variance to keep operating despite out-of-compliance emissions from its lime kiln, a 300-foot long, 10-foot diameter furnace, until a Dec. 5 hearing on a regular variance. The regular variance would allow the mill to operate yet longer while long-term upgrades take place. Without the variances, Evergreen warned Friday, it would have to shut down and lay off 180 workers. With the variances, countered emotional residents, particulates will continue to clog their lungs and burn their eyes and, some alleged, cause or exacerbate an array of horrifying disorders. Evergreen proposes adding new, state-of-the-art equipment to fix the kiln problem -- and seems offended, in general, by the animosity cast its way. On Friday, Evergreen consultants dusted off a 1992 study by the Desert Research Institute that bespeaks of a greater source of particulates in the region than the pulp mill: sea salts and unleaded auto emissions. "The mill is not a significant contributor to ambient PM-10 [particulate matter less than 10 microns] concentrations," said an Evergreen consultant. "Is there an elephant out there?" The district's air pollution control officer, Lawrence Odle, called that study's conclusions "ludicrous." "The pulp mill is a very significant source" of particulates for Eureka, Odle said. He said the DRI study has since been questioned, in part because the monitoring station the data came from is poorly located. "There's a 95 percent [chance] that [the mill's] emissions would not be picked up by that station," Odle said. In the end, the board granted the variance, on the condition that by Nov. 21 Evergreen have a damned good plan of action, with a firm timeline, for monitoring and mitigation for the duration of any subsequent variances, and for complying with regulations.
FORTUNA FRACAS: Things are getting downright nasty in Fortuna, and we're not even talking about the burgeoning skinhead community. Remember when the council voted to have a heart and pitch in for poor Debi August's legal fees? It seemed like a friendly gesture, a display of solidarity by the town's leaders and also a way to avoid future lawsuits. But councilmen Mel Berti, Doug Strehl and Odell Shelton have another think coming. Dean Lewis, a Fortuna resident and former mayor claims that the three amigos committed "grand theft" when they awarded August $52,000 to cover a third of the costs stemming from the 2004 conflict-of-interest lawsuit brought against her. The criminal complaint was filed with the Fortuna Police Department and sent to the District Attorney's office, where the grievance was rejected. Lewis is still on the warpath, however, saying that the city had no right to hand over Fortuna taxpayers' money to August and that he will likely pursue charges though the Humboldt County Grand Jury -- the body that brought the conflict-of-interest charges against August in the first place.
BYE BYE, MARBY: This time of year along the Pacific Coast, as winter approaches, the stubby, long-winged marbled murrelet heads out to sea and stays there, not to return until spring, when it flies into the coastal forest to lay a single egg in a mossy cushion on an old growth redwood or Douglas fir branch. Some scientists and activists are doomsaying, however, that the coy tree-nesting seabird -- which, alternating with its mate, makes food forays to the ocean while raising its single chick -- may someday soon not have anything to return to if the Bush administration has it way. That, in turn, could accelerate Brachyramphus marmoratus marmoratus' plummet to extinction -- a demise predicted by one Fish and Wildlife Service report to occur within 40 years if the bird goes unprotected. But in late October, according to news reports, the F&WS admitted it was considering moving ahead with delisting the marbled murrelet, which under the federal Endangered Species Act is protected as a threatened species. This decision comes despite disagreement from the F&WS' western branch and the state Department of Fish and Game, and follows a Bush administration ruling in September 2004 that declared the roughly 20,000 murrelets of California, Oregon and Washington no different, biologically, from the 900,000-plus murrelets in Canada and Alaska. The delisting was prompted by a petition from the American Forest Resource Council, a group whose "mission is to create a favorable operating environment for the forest products industry," according to its website. Ever since the marbled murrelet was listed in 1992, its protected status has halted or delayed many proposed timber harvests.
NEW TRAIL: For 22 years, Larry Evans has tramped into the mountains every summer to build backcountry trails for a living, and to soak up the starry mountain ambience. Winters, he hunkered down on the North Coast and fought the good fight for the environment as a volunteer activist. For the past two years, Evans has served as president of the board of directors for the Environmental Protection Information Center. He's leaving that volunteer position for a paid post, beginning Nov. 7, as EPIC's new executive director, replacing Cynthia Elkins, who now works for the Center for Biological Diversity. His overall charge, he says, will be "getting a handle on the details of our wide array of activities" that embrace "five and a half million acres of forests, from ridge to sea." Evans says he loved his backcountry work, but it's time for a change. "I think what EPIC does is so important," he says. "We represent the ecological realities that society -- our culture, our economy -- are either unwilling, or not set up, to face. Another reason I'm doing it is I have a 9-year-old son, and society's failure to respect our natural community is robbing him of his future. Humans are part of nature." Among EPIC's battles that Evans will guide, while also coordinating fundraising -- protecting Clam Beach (and snowy plovers) from rampaging vehicles, monitoring dredge plans and other activity in Humboldt Bay, continuing the organization's lawsuit against Pacific Lumber Co.'s habitat conservation plan and scrutinizing timber harvest plans.
by Helen Sanderson
A little more than a month after her son's death, Patricia Scoggins of Castro Valley still slips into present tense when talking about her only child. Kenton Dornbush was a 20-year-old college student, an optimist, a joker, a chess player, a skateboarder. He loved the outdoors.
"My son always loved a sense of community and friendship, having to work with others, cook with others and make decisions in a group," she said in a recent phone interview. "It's something he really likes. It's very important to him."
By all accounts he lived in the present, and perhaps that makes his departure that much harder for a parent to accept. But after Dornbush, a UC Santa Cruz junior, was killed in a car accident on Sept. 27, Scoggins and Dornbush's father, Keith Dornbush, knew how their son would want his memory honored. In lieu of flowers, they asked mourners to donate to a scholarship fund at the Sierra Institute, an outdoors education program at Humboldt State.
A memorial service was held a few days after the accident in an area of the UC Santa Cruz campus that overlooks Monterey Bay. Santa Cruz-area newspapers depicted the scene, with a large number of friends and family wearing Hawaiian-print shirts, listening to Dornbush's favorite Bob Dylan tunes, reminiscing and keeping the mood lighthearted, the spirit for which the young man was best known. They talked about his big hiking trip and how it gave him a deep philosophical outlook on life.
In the summer of 2004, Dornbush joined a nine-week course with the Sierra Institute. The 12-unit class is called California Wilderness: Nature Philosophy, Religion, Ecopsychology. Scoggins remembered when her son pitched the idea of taking the class to her: "I have to do this," he said one day over lunch.
The group of 13 hiked through the Yolla Bolly Wilderness, camped in the Covelo Hinterlands and San Luis Reservoir, backpacked through Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park and explored Inyo County's White Mountains, along Cottonwood Creek.
"It was his first big backpacking trip," Scoggins said. "Sequoia National Park was a place he really fell in love with. He would talk about it forever."
Dornbush was an avid nature photographer and got his start with Thrasher, a skateboarding magazine. Snapping the perfect shot, freezing a stunning moment in time, meant a lot to him and throughout the summer he lugged a heavy tripod everywhere. Sierra Institute Instructor Willow Abel, who attended Dornbush's funeral services, told Scoggins that her son was very attached to that tripod.
"[Willow] would say to him, `You know, we're hiking eight miles uphill today, I wouldn't bring that if I were you.' But he didn't care, he brought it anyway," Scoggins said.
Keith Dornbush said that his son was a transformed person after the expedition.
"When he left, he was still kind of like a kid," Dornbush said with a shaky voice, pausing and apologizing as he regained his composure during a phone conversation. "When he came back he'd really become more of a man."
In the weeks that have followed his death, 24 people have contributed to the Kenton Dornbush Scholarship fund at HSU.
Ward Angles, program coordinator for the Sierra Institute, said that so far, $1,480 has been collected. The intention of the fund is to defray some of the costs for students unable to afford the full price of the program, which can run up to $3,000. Financial aid is hard to finagle for students who attend universities other than HSU.
"What happened is so sad," Angles said. "But the scholarship has given some new opportunities for the program. It validates that the instructors are doing a worthwhile job."
Angles said that other Sierra Institute students, like Dornbush, have described feeling like a different person after the trip.
"For many of the students it is the best thing that happened to them," Angles said. "They say things like, `For three years I went to such-and-such campus and I wanted a different experience from my education, I wanted to learn about nature in nature, not just in the classroom."
While most of the participants are students, Angles points out that anyone over 18 can take the course, but groups are small and often there is a waiting list.
On Monday, Angles was sorting applications for the winter session. Courses on rainforest field studies and the natural history of the Patagonian Cordillera will take place in South America from early January into March.
In the spring, as the weather warms, a new group of students will take the same course Dornbush did, trekking through the California wilderness, working as a team, admiring the enduring sequoias. By then, maybe one of them will get some scholarship money to make the trip possible. And when it's over, maybe they'll be a new person, too, with a deeper appreciation for the outdoors, and for living.
by Hank Sims
Comments? Write a letter!
© Copyright 2005, North Coast Journal, Inc.