We're No. 4! We're No. 4!
Five years ago Humboldt was No. 1 the largest marijuana-growing county in the state, based on the number of plants seized by law enforcement in its campaign to eradicate the weed. But for the second year in a row, Humboldt is ranked only fourth.
With 68,000 plants seized, Mendocino County again earned the No. 1 ranking followed by San Benito and Fresno.
The state's eradication teams hauled in about 250,000 plants during the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting season, which runs from August to October. Many plants were taken from counties not traditionally known for pot growing like Riverside and San Benito, law enforcement officials reported.
Of the 50,000 plants seized in Humboldt this year, almost 22,000 plants were taken from 195 outdoor gardens during CAMP raids. Compared to last year, the seizure rate is down about 2,600 plants, said Sgt. Steve Knight of the county Marijuana Eradication Team (MET).
This year the harvest number could have been higher if both National Guard helicopters were operational, Sheriff Dennis Lewis said Monday.
"The reason why the eradication efforts were less is we had a later start in air time," Lewis said. MET team members said the chopper's mechanical problems cut seizure rates significantly.
Lewis cites the Trinity Wilderness fires as contributing slightly to the decline in harvest.
"I don't doubt there was marijuana burn-out in the Trinity fires but not to the extent they skewed the numbers," he said, adding that some growers may be moving out of Humboldt to the remoteness of the northern Trinity County region.
A major trend that may account for fewer outdoor CAMP raids is the increasing amount of indoor gardens, especially in the last five years.
Of the 50,000 plants seized, more than half -- 27,000-- were taken from indoor gardens in 1999. In 1998 half of the 52,000 plants seized were taken from indoor gardens. In 1997 60 indoor gardens were raided yielding 62,000 plants and in 1996, 69,000 plants were taken from 42 indoor gardens.
On Jan. 26, 1700, a catastrophic earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale ruptured more than 500 miles of Pacific Coast along the Cascadia Subduction Zone from Puget Sound, Wash., to Humboldt County. The quake created a tsunami that sent a wave 90 feet over high tide marks and demolished Native American villages in the region, according to geologists today.
Just in time for the 300th anniversary of that quake, the state Public Utilities Commission approved an initial plan to dismantle Humboldt Bay's aging nuclear power plant situated near the geologic rift.
Pacific Gas & Electric, the plant's operator, won approval last month to spend $7 million from a special fund on the plan that includes the design and construction of concrete casks. The casks will to be used to store radioactive waste on its 140-acre site until it can be moved to a permanent repository in Nevada, said Alex Arago, a PG&E spokesperson.
The plant, built in 1963 for $25 million, was shut down in 1981 when it was determined that making it earthquake-safe would be too costly. The dismantling, due to be complete in 2005, is estimated to cost $190 million.
The closure of the plant is part of the utility company's plan to divest itself of many of its energy-producing facilities.
"We are selling off generating facilities. We've sold all our natural gas/steam systems with the exception of Humboldt Bay and are in the process of auctioning off the hydro plants," Arago said.
"We have many power plants on the East Coast, but basically in California we are in the business of managing and maintaining the grid.
"We're going through a huge transition of how our business is structured and California is on the cutting edge in restructuring," Arago said.
Trinity decision due next week
Congress is set to debate the fate of salmon in the Trinity River next week.
The Senate Budget Appropriations Committee is scheduled to discuss a controversial bill passed by the House that allocates water to Central Valley users. The Trinity River flow decision has been attached to the bill, according to Jim Hock, a spokesman for Sen. Dianne Feinstein who sits on the committee.
Feinstein has objected to the rider and wants the language removed because it could delay the Trinity River flow decision for years if it remains in the bill.
More than 70 percent of the Trinity's water is diverted at the Lewiston Dam into the Whiskeytown Reservoir west of Redding and is eventually channeled to the agribusiness irrigation systems.
But environmentalists, federal agencies and fisheries groups contend that if the salmon are to have a chance of survival in the river, the federal government needs to return nearly half the Trinity River flows now diverted.
That is the finding of a draft environmental impact study recently issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior. It states that no more than 52 percent of the river's flows can be taken without damaging salmon runs, Interior Department spokesman Tim Ahern confirmed.
"We feel it's years overdue," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, referring to a 1955 law that authorized the diversion but required enough be left in the river to help salmon runs. The law was upheld in 1984 and 1992 but is being challenged.
Scientists have concluded that diverting more than 30 percent of the river flows leads to the demise of the fish. Both coho and chinook salmon are on the endangered species list.
Deciding water resource allocation is an age-old battle that demands a serious solution like greater community planning and population control, Grader said.
"The big river running through California is denial."
Dixon leaving county seat
Humboldt County 1st District Supervisor Stan Dixon will not seek a fourth term, he announced last week.
In addition to his board duties, Dixon was recently appointed to serve on the California Board of Forestry by Gov. Gray Davis requiring frequent trips to Sacramento, Dixon told the Journal.
"I can be a good member of the Board of Forestry, but I cannot do both of those jobs well and also run an effective year-long campaign. Once I came to that realization, the decision was an easy one," he said in a statement.
Dixon, who also serves on the Eel-Russian River Commission, has been in elected office for 30 years.
No sooner did Dixon announce his withdrawal from the 1st District seat than two other candidates stepped forward.
Jimmy Smith, president of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District's Board of Commissioners, and Ferndale Mayor Carlos Benemann joined the March election race with Chris Crawford, John Fullerton, Walt Giacomini and Lawrence Lazio.
Fire and rain
Long-awaited rain gave firefighters the break they needed to contain the Trinity National Forest blazes sparked by lightning strikes over two months ago.
This week fire crews expect to have full containment on the stubborn Megram Fire. The Onion Fire has been under control for weeks, fire officials reported.
Almost 1,100 crew members have been assigned to the fires, which consumed about 140,000 acres.
Poor air quality brought about by the heavy smoke has improved dramatically, prompting many residents to return to the Willow Creek-Hoopa region.
A facelift for waste authority
The Humboldt County Waste Management Authority is set to reinvent itself Wednesday during its next board meeting.
The waste authority is expected to decide on changing voting rules. Currently, a unanimous decision is required from all seven board members of the participating cities and the county. This is a hardship in reaching decisions, authority General Manager Gerald Kindsfather said.
The Board of Supervisors decided to leave the authority with the current voting rules last week. Fortuna has withdrawn, too, but it will probably vote against forming the new authority because of a disagreement over trash pickup in outlying areas. Ferndale will decide whether to leave and rejoin the new authority at its next council meeting Monday. The other cities expected to return include Arcata, Blue Lake, Eureka and Rio Dell.
The waste authority will decide on the new rules, requiring a simple majority for taking action on most issues and a 70 percent approval for key issues. The board will have a few critical items to take up on Wednesday. These include the agreement to purchase the proposed transfer station site on Hawthorne Street in Eureka from City Garbage and the future of the landfill.
More than 2,300 landfills handle the majority of the trash in the United States. On the average, each American produces 4.4 pounds of garbage a day, totaling more than 200 million tons of trash, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates.
A court hearing Friday in Oakland may determine the future of dredging operations on Humboldt Bay.
Just weeks after environmental groups filed an intent to sue the dredging company and the Army Corps of Engineers over oil spills that killed endangered wildlife in September, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order to stop the channel-deepening job until the hearing.
U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken agreed with the Environmental Protection Information Center and the Center for Biological Diversity that federal guidelines require study of an oil spill's environmental impacts before the Stuyvesant can continue deepening the harbor's shipping channels.
The environmental groups gained support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last month, which advised the Corps to stop the job pending an analysis. The Corps oversees the $13.5 million channel deepening project.
Corps officials say the job is nearly done and the remainder of the work could be completed by a smaller ship in a more protected area, court records indicate. The Corps contends the job, due for completion in December, should resume right away before the winter storms delay it until spring.
The Bean Dredging Corp.'s Stuyvesant dumped more than 2,000 gallons of the crude mix into the bay when rough seas knocked its dredging arm into the hull, puncturing the fuel tank. The spill fouled more than 40 miles of North Coast shoreline. Another 40 gallons spilled from the ship during refueling weeks later.
More local programming
His first order of business will be increasing local programming, said the new general manager of KEET-TV.
"I'd like to get community groups involved, so the station can develop programs in topics these groups are interested in," said Ronald Schoenherr, 57, in a telephone interview.
The local PBS station, Channel 13, awaits Schoenherr's arrival Dec. 1.
Schoenherr, a 35-year broadcasting veteran, was selected following a nationwide search, the KEET board announced last week. He replaces former manager St. Clair Adams, who retired in August after 20 years on the job.
Currently, Schoenherr is the senior vice president of a network of 11 public stations based in South Carolina. But he's no stranger to small-town coverage. Schoenherr used to work for a small PBS station in Buford, S.C., when film crews of "The Big Chill" and "Prince of Tides" set up housekeeping.
Teens speak out
A special program highlighting steps children have taken or may take to prevent school violence will air on KEET-TV Channel 13 next Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.
The one-hour, interactive program will feature a studio panel of North Coast youth, including Eureka High School freshman Shanti Sattler, who attended a national conference on the topic last month in Washington, D.C., at the urging of Rep. Mike Thompson.
The show will also be simulcast on KHUM radio and the Internet, allowing students in the studio and classrooms throughout Humboldt County to communicate. Youth advocate Tracey Barnes Priestly will host the program. The show will also air at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 and 3 p.m. Nov. 14.
All the world's a stage
The stars are expected to shine in Humboldt County Saturday, as Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin honors six local residents for their community service.
They are Blue Ox Mill Works museum founders, Viviana and Eric Hollenbeck; Humboldt Home Health founder Catherine Krause; Fortuna farmers' market founder Holly Kreb; Arcata Food Endeavor director Carla Ritter; and the founder of the Sierra Club's North Group section, Lucille Vinyard.
The awards show, to be held at the Arcata Community Center at 5 p.m., will also include a silent auction. Admission is $15, with proceeds earmarked for the committee to re-elect Strom-Martin.
Question: Where can I see fireworks for the last New Year's of the millennium?
Answer: You may go to southern Humboldt for a community fireworks display or have your own. The Garberville Chamber of Commerce is hosting "Unity in the Community," a millennium block party downtown on New Year's Eve from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m rain or shine. The SoHum party includes children's activities, music by local bands and a fireworks display.
For those who want to stage a personal fireworks display, the state has agreed to allow local agencies to sell fireworks six days prior to Jan. 1, 2000. Usually fireworks sales are only allowed just prior to the 4th of July.