At press-time, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat published intriquing reports about an impending resolution of the 11-year-old Headwaters Forest standoff.
While much of the information was unverified, it was clear that Deputy Secretary of the Interior John Garamendi -- representing a Clinton Administration under election-year pressure to resolve the issue -- had scheduled negotiations with Maxxam/PALCO over acquiring Headwaters. And with support from San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, development rights to Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay could be added to the pot of federal lands that might be traded for Headwaters.
Reports that the feds were considering dropping claims against Maxxam and its Chairman Charles Hurwitz for their roles in the 1988 collapse of a Texas savings and loan could not be confirmed. A spokesperson for the Headwaters Forest Coordinating Committee said that in near-daily conversations with the Interior Dept., this had not been mentioned.
If the claims against Hurwitz and Maxxam are brought into an exchange, then the deal may start to resemble the "debt-for-nature" swap advocated by environmentalists.
But that won't ease the controversy over how much PALCO land should be purchased and/or preserved.
PALCO and its allies define Headwaters as 3,000 acres of old growth redwoods and a 1700-acre second growth "buffer," both in the Salmon Creek and Little South Fork Elk River watersheds east of Eureka (see map). The Interior Department is also reportedly targeting a 3,000-acre parcel north of Headwaters owned by Elk River Timber, affiliated with Sierra Pacific Industries.
Environmental groups advocate public purchase of what they call the Headwaters Forest Complex. This includes the main 3,000-acre grove, the Elk River grove, 4 smaller old-growth groves and "54,000 acres of connecting areas, buffer zones and drainages critical to the survival of marbled murrelets and coho salmon," according to the Headwaters Forest Coordinating Committee.
Despite appeals from the Arcata and Eureka city councils and numerous citizens, Caltrans raised the speed limit on Highway 101 between the two cities from 55 to 60 mph. The agency said that a traffic study showed 60 was an appropriate limit, and under 1995 legislation raising speed limits to 65 it had no choice but to raise the limit here.
People who work and own businesses along the busy highway aren't convinced. "We have 35- and 40-foot RVs weighing 20,000 pounds pulling out, often towing a car," said Gary Bechtold, an owner of the Eureka KOA. "With people going faster, it won't take very long before someone has an RV for a hood ornament."
Gary Timmons pled "no contest" to a felony charge of child molestation on July 19. He will be sentenced Sept. 20 by Judge John Morrison, after a psychological evaluation by the Probation Department. The charge carries a maximum sentence of eight years.
Timmons, a former priest and teacher at St. Bernard's High School, earlier pled no contest to two counts of child molestation in Sonoma County, for which he'll be sentenced Sept. 6.
Construction of the Big Lagoon Casino appears stalled, but Big Lagoon Rancheria Chairperson Virgil Moorehead says it has only stopped temporarily due to lack of money. He denied rumors that contractors had walked off the job because of non-payment.
Allegations that the tribe misused federal housing funds and the federal "trust" status granted for the casino property appear to be going nowhere. Moorehead said that a letter from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development would be released soon confirming this. He also said that recent meetings with the Coastal Commission and Environmental Protection Agency identified sewage disposal options that would handle the casino's needs and not pollute groundwater.
Moorehead said that he's expecting new investors to come on board soon, and that the casino will emerge just as planned (May 1996 North Coast Journal). The larger resort development, with hotels and a golf course, is still just a "conceptual possibility," he said.
Cabin owners near the Big Lagoon Casino project have asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to rescind "trust" status on 11 acres of land where the casino is being constructed.
According to the owners' attorney, internal BIA documents acquired under the Freedom of Information Act show that the Big Lagoon Rancheria was granted trust status -- removing it from local nontribal jurisdiction -- to develop housing on the land. "Statements made before trust status was granted clearly show that the applicants planned to build a casino," said Dan Frost.
Virgil Moorehead, tribal chairperson, was not available for comment at press time.
Six Rivers National Forest and environmental groups are at odds over "salvage" timber sales.
Amid public outcry over salvage sales that looked more like green tree sales, USDA chief Dan Glickman recently directed forest supervisors to tighten the definition of salvage, particularly in "late successional reserves" established by Option 9/Northwest Forest Plan.
Six Rivers National Forest seeks an exemption from this directive to sell timber from a reserve northeast of Willow Creek. It was damaged in last December's high winds.
"It's predominantly white fir, and because it has a tendency to degrade quickly, the value of the wood may have a life span of only 18 months," said SRNF spokesman Bill Pidanick. "It potentially creates a long-term fire problem for us if we can't get it out of there ä and we need to sell it fast."
A forest monitor for the Northcoast Environmental Center acknowledges that a fuel buildup was caused by the storm, but thinks the timber harvesting isn't helping.
"What I found were many very large diameter stumps taken from along the road system, while a lot of real fuel problems have been left," said Anthony Ambrose.
Yurok and Hoopa tribal rights to half the Klamath River salmon were upheld in June when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from non-Indian commercial fishing groups.
Along with lower salmon populations, the 1993 allocation of 50 percent of Klamath salmon to river-based Indian fisheries is largely responsible for putting many salmon trollers out of business. However, federal courts agreed that treaties guaranteed those rights to the two tribes.
Down in the valley,
The valley so dry.
They take all our water,
Make our fish die.
Dammed up the river,
Back in '62.
Oh how we need it,
That water so blue.
Elected officials, business leaders and environmentalists in Humboldt, Del Norte and Trinity counties are mounting a campaign to get more water flowing down the Trinity River.
Since the river was dammed in 1962, 70 to 85 percent of the natural flow has been diverted to the Central Valley for agriculture, industry and homes. The constricted flow has hurt salmon and steelhead in particular by allowing sediment to build up in spawning gravels and eliminating the periodic flood events that used to scour out deep pools that coho salmon depend on as they "summer over" in fresh water.
Years of work and millions of dollars have gone into restoring the river below the dam, and flows were increased to about 30 percent in 1992. Before the end of the year, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt will make a decision on new flow levels.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has been studying the impact of reduced flows, will recommend a flexible "adaptive management" strategy. "That river is a dynamic system, and consistency is one of the things that more or less got us into the situation we're in now," said Mike Aceituno, supervisor of the flow study, in a telephone interview from Sacramento. "Diversity in flows and habitat is what we're looking for."
But local activists know that politics often means more than science in determining federal water policies in California. So they're encouraging North Coast residents to write Babbitt (Interior Department, 1850 C St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20240), urging him to increase westward flows in the Trinity.
The cause of preserving agricultural lands in Humboldt County gained two wins last month.
In Arcata, Simpson Timber Co. and the City of Arcata formally ended discussions about the sale of Simpson's 209-acre parcel in the Arcata Bottom to the city. Simpson's interest in selling the land was the driving force behind an annexation process that would have affected some 70 acres of adjoining agricultural lands, primarily small livestock operations.
While many Arcata residents opposed the planned annexation, a majority of the City Council had voted to pursue the study. The nail in the plan's coffin was the revelation that federal maps showed most of the Simpson land in the Mad River's flood plain. A Simpson spokesman said that other data shows the land is not in the flood plain, but a new federal study won't verify this until 1998. In the meantime, the land and buildings are still for sale. Asking price: $2.8 million.
County-wide preservation of agricultural lands will be one focus of a committee formed by the Board of Supervisors June 25. The 11-member Agricultural Advisory Committee was formed on recommendation of the Planning Commission.
The members of the committee have not been appointed. More information is available from county supervisors' offices.
In the rest of America, the doings of the tiny Green Party draw little notice. But in Humboldt County, nearly 5 percent of registered voters are Greens -- enough to swing a parliamentary majority in some countries.
The Greens endorsed Ralph Nader for president at their June convention in Berkeley. And ex-Congressman Dan Hamburg recently left the Democratic Party and joined the Greens. In the July 15 Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Hamburg said the Democrats are "bought and paid for by corporate interests."
Hamburg acknowledged that Nader has no chance of winning, but says the candidacy is an "organizing tool."
"I see this campaign being a little booster rocket to get us propelled (and) hopefully by the year 2000 or certainly 2004 we can field a truly progressive candidate for president, as well as starting to bend congressional races to more progressive themes."
Despite his disappointment with the party, Hamburg says he endorses Michela Alioto, Democratic challenger to incumbent 1st District Rep. Frank Riggs, who defeated Hamburg in 1994.
Former Deputy District Attorney Dale Reinholtsen was sworn in as the county's newest municipal judge June 21. He takes over for retiring Judge John Morrison, who will continue to serve as a visiting judge.
Peace activist Edith Eckart will be honored Aug. 18 with the President's Medal from the national organization Veterans for Peace.
Eckart (profiled in the August 1992 North Coast Journal), 77, was a World War II naval officer. During the height of the Cold War, she took 16 trips to the Soviet Union, including a 1986 visit to Kiev during which she encountered radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster.
More recently she opposed the 1991 Gulf War and has been on six citizen peace missions to Israel and the emerging state of Palestine.
Former treasurer of the City of Trinidad Phyllis Sharum received a six-year state prison sentence July 17 from Superior Court Judge J. Michael Brown.
Sharum was convicted of using her position as treasurer and her private bookkeeping business to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city and from private clients. In ordering the sentence, Judge Brown cited the continuing vulnerability of Sharum's victims, as well as the magnitude of her thefts and apparent lack of remorse, according to a story in the Times-Standard.
Prior to her sentencing, several of Sharum's victims spoke about the extent of the harm she caused. "She did over a long period of time bleed the life out of her victims," said McKinleyville veterinarian David Trobitz, who lost more than $38,000.
Victims also expressed anger at Sharum's husband, former Trinidad Mayor Jim Sharum, saying he benefited from her crimes as well. In a Times-Standard story published after the sentencing, Jim Sharum said he had no knowledge of his wife's embezzlement.