Thursday, April 14, 2011

Yurok Tribe Doubles Land Base

Posted By on Thu, Apr 14, 2011 at 2:41 PM

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The Yurok Tribe's land base, long confined to a narrow strip to either side of the lower Klamath River, will more than double in size now with a just-completed acquisition of 22,237 acres from Green Diamond Resource Company.

The tribe announced the acquisition in a news release this afternoon, noting that it will allow for restoration of river, forest and cultural resources.

The project will protect habitat for seven aquatic species, including: coho salmon, steelhead trout, Chinook salmon, coastal cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, southern torrent salamander, and tailed frog, as called for in Green Diamond's Aquatic Habitat Conservation Plan approved several years ago. The Tribe's approach to forestry will promote old-growth habitat and forest diversity that will benefit a number of imperiled species, including marbled murrelet, northern spotted owl, fisher, Humboldt marten and mardon skipper.

The acquisition was a joint effort between the tribe, the timber company, the State Water Resources Control Board -- which gave loaned the tribe $18.75 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to buy the land -- and the Western Rivers Conservancy, which also provided financing. Said Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O'Rourke:

"The Tribe has long sought the return of ancestral land to create a salmon sanctuary and restore tribal cultural management practices, which benefit fish, wildlife and the ecosystem as a whole. ... [The Tribe] looks forward to managing these lands in the way they were meant to be, which is for all species."

 

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Klamath Tsunami Victim Found

Posted By on Tue, Apr 12, 2011 at 1:35 PM

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The remains of 25-year-old Dustin Douglas Weber, who was swept off a sandspit March 11 by a tsunami surge at the mouth of the Klamath River, were found 300 miles north near the mouth of the Columbia River, reports the Crescent City Daily Triplicate and KGW-NewsChannel 8 in Portland with the Associated Press (h/t Lost Coast Outpost).

According to the reports, somebody discovered the body on April 2 near South Jetty in Fort Stevens State Park, and on Tuesday the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office identified it as Weber.

Lori Davis, Weber's mother, told KGW reporters that her Yurok mother -- her son's grandmother -- had recently given him an old family house in Requa, overlooking the ocean near Klamath. Weber's father, Jon Weber, had driven him to Requa and helped him get set up in the house two weeks before the tsunami hit.

Following the earthquake in Japan, Dustin Weber had gone to the river mouth after the time he'd heard the tsunami would arrive on the West Coast, not realizing there would be more surges later, his family told reporters. He was skipping rocks when one of the waves took him.

"There was a sneaker wave that came down the shoreline," Weber's father told reporters for KGW. "Some friends of his were down there taking pictures. I think he was expecting the wave to come out of the ocean, but it didn't. It came down the shoreline."

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Eureka's Serial Dog Killer

Posted By on Fri, Apr 8, 2011 at 2:37 PM

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I don't know who held the title up 'til now, but Eureka has a new king of sociopathic cruelty, and his name is Donovan Nathaniel Baltzley.

A warning: If you can't stand the thought of something horrible happening to the dog pictured here, you should probably stop reading this post.

You may remember Baltzley's name. Last year he pleaded guilty to killing his girlfriend's family dog, a schnauzer-poodle mix named Sarah Lou, in 2008. After stealing and murdering the adorable creature, Baltzley pretended to help the family search for her, according to the Eureka Police Department.

Later, after he and his girlfriend separated, Baltzley set up a MySpace account in Sarah Lou's name, then sent friend requests to the dead dog's family.

At Baltzley's September trial, Judge Joyce Hinrichs opted to suspend his three-year prison sentence in favor of a five-year probation that included a year of anger management courses, regular visits with a psychologist and a restraining order to keep him away from the dead dog's family.

He should have been thrown in jail, evidently: Yesterday he was arrested and charged with two new counts of animal cruelty. According to an EPD press release issued today, after his trial Baltzley was inexplicably allowed to move in with a Eureka family that included two small Maltese dogs, one of whom, Bentley, is pictured above. "Just prior to Bentley's death," the release continues,

he began to show irrational fear of Baltzley. On January 7th, when family members got home from work, they found Bentley under a bed, deceased. Circumstantial evidence suggests the dog did not die of natural causes and Baltzley was the only person with an opportunity to harm the dog.

A month later, Baltzley moved in with another family, this one with four dogs. After about a week these dogs, too, began to display "irrational fear," as the EPD calls it. Somehow I suspect it was quite rational.

Several days later, family members came home and found their small terrier, Rusty, missing. Rusty was about 8 years old and had lived in the same trailer park for his entire life. Rusty had never wandered off, on his own, during this time. Rusty was never found. Several days later, family members came home and found their small deer-legged chihuahua, Pepe, severely injured and hiding under a bed. Again, circumstantial evidence suggests that Baltzley was the only person with an opportunity to harm Pepe. Pepe had to be put to sleep because of his injuries. A neighbor heard one of the victim's dogs "screaming" in pain during the time period these crimes occurred.

Baltzley also has two restraining orders and one felony arrest in his past for domestic violence, according to the Times-Standard. A trial date for his latest charges has not yet been set.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Security National Announces 49 Layoffs [Corrected]

Posted By on Thu, Apr 7, 2011 at 5:55 PM

The loan servicing branch of Security National, the flagship firm of Eureka businessman Rob Arkley, announced today that it will be laying off 49 employees, 31 of whom work at the company's Eureka headquarters.

The "reduction in force" is necessary, the company explained in a press release, because a contract with "a large national financial institution" is about to expire.

Security National Servicing Corporation has been hit hard by the housing market's perilous plunge -- or, more specifically, by the collapsed value of mortgage-backed debt, SNSC's stock-in-trade. Three years ago the company laid off 31 workers (21 from Eureka), citing "turbulent economic times." Last year the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation investigated the abrupt closure of an Arkley-owned bank in Louisiana, and Bank of America sued Arkley and his wife personally for $50 million. (Both cases have since been resolved amicably.)

[Note: A previous version of this post incorrectly listed the total layoffs as 41.]

Arkley recently bragged that he's the last man standing in his industry, which has been virtually obliterated under the weight of foreclosures nationwide. Ron Williams, chief operating officer of SNSC, said in the release that there just aren't enough home loans around to be serviced these days -- at least not the big groups of 'em that the company likes to buy off of big banks.

This is how he phrased it: "While we have seen conditions improve in our Commercial Real Estate and Insurance divisions, our third-party servicing portfolio continues to be affected by reduced volumes of home loan originations and whole loan trading activities due to current market conditions." 

The press release strikes an optimistic tone, noting that the company is in negotiations with several large financial institutions to assume new mortgage portfolios. However, most analysts have been saying that the immediate outlook for the housing market is not so good.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Grand Jury Gunnin' for HWF Director

Posted By on Wed, Apr 6, 2011 at 5:14 PM

The latest Humboldt County Grand Jury report, released Tuesday night, recommends among other things that the role of the Humboldt County Community Development Department Director as overseer of the Headwaters Fund staff be nixed, and that the Headwaters Fund Coordinator take over the role under supervision of the County Treasurer.

Such a move, indicates the report, would eliminate a perception of conflict of interest:

The perceived conflict arises when the Director applies for a grant, screens the grant, prepares a staff report and signs the grant contract as Grantee.

The report adds a chapter to the GJ's investigation, begun in 2009, into management of the Headwaters Fund -- a fund begun in 2002 to offset the loss of timber-related revenue from the Headwaters Forest went from private ownership to public. And it begins nicely enough, praising the HWF for its efforts to improve its checks and balances for awarding loans and tracking them, as well as for developing a 10-year plan to better educate the workforce, among other things.

Then it counters all that with admonishments, including most notably:

Grant funds have not always been used in a manner designed to increase the number of sustainable jobs that pay at or above median wages...

and

New jobs at median or higher wages rarely have been created, while the main achievement has been to retain existing jobs.

and

Granted funds do not always appear to "enhance the quality of life through social and environmental projects that promote healthy communities and protect the natural environment."

The GJ report also says the HWF's charter itself is supposed to be reviewed and amended periodically, and hasn't been.

Here's the report.

 

 

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CR Set to Cut 200 Classes, $2.5 Million from Budget

Posted By on Wed, Apr 6, 2011 at 1:42 PM

CRAnticipating major cuts to its state funding, College of the Redwoods has prepared a preliminary 2011-2012 budget that excises $2.5 million in expenses. Those savings would be achieved in part by cutting 200 class sections (an 11 percent reduction), suspending men's soccer and basketball baseball for at least two years and leaving eight currently vacant full-time positions unfilled.

Four full-time administrative or managment positions have already been cut, CR Interim President Utpal Goswami said in a press release. "However," he added, "we are not planning any more layoffs unless the budget changes significantly at the state level."

CR's Board of Trustees voted Monday to approve the operating budget, which is slated to be finalized in September after the state's own budget is (cross your fingers) approved. The $2.5 million figure could increase or decrease depending on what the Legislature decides. Most of the 200 classes set to be eliminated are taught by part-timers, according to the release. 

Gaswami offered a silver lining: New building projects currenlty underway at the main CR campus will pump "at least $20 million" into the local economy through construction contracts, he said. The projects include a new Student Services and Administration building, already in progress, and two new academic buildings, which are set to break ground this summer.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Union Supporters Rally in Eureka

Posted By on Tue, Apr 5, 2011 at 11:39 AM

Guest post by Somes Bar resident Malcolm Terence:

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For Harriet Lawlor the connection was clear. On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was standing up for striking sanitation workers in Memphis -- workers whose union was AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. So yesterday afternoon, Lawlor was at the Humboldt County courthouse, in the sea of picket signs and 300 protesters, to observe the 42nd anniversary of King's assassination.

Forty-two years ago, the New York branch of AFSCME had agreed to help the 1,300 Memphis workers organize when no Tennessee union would do so. The sanitation workers' issues were dramatic. Besides the usual wages and hours problems, two workers had been killed in a trash compactor and there were no benefits for their survivors.

To Lawlor, a field rep for AFSCME, the issues facing unions today -- starting with the effort to eliminate collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin -- are just as threatening. The crowd at the courthouse agreed.

The AFL-CIO reports that the legislatures in at least a dozen states have now targeted collective bargaining rights. In response, unions organized more than 1,000 actions, large and small, in all 50 states and around the world.

Ginger Olsen, a teacher at College of Redwoods, complained that the media were happy to report on protests in Egypt and Libya but were loathe to report the union protests except to say that they were honoring King. Even California, with its Democratic majority and Democratic governor, is a danger zone, Lawlor said, because a Republican minority has played hardball on attempts to reduce a $26 billion state budget deficit.

The courthouse crowd was in a good mood, greeting old friends, joining the standard union chants and cheering the passing cars as drivers honked and waved in support. (An observation about megaphone chants: Some are easier to lead than others. "United we bargain; divided we beg" is easy. "Repeal corporate personhood" is a harder way to work up a crowd.)

Besides AFSCME, there were carpenters, electricians, teamsters, college and public school teachers, college non-faculty staff, peace activists, veterans, MoveOn.org activists and more. The crowd, picket signs aloft, marched to the E Street headquarters of the Central Labor Council, a body that represents 7,000 union workers in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. Tables there were loaded with food, and the protest continued with a string of fiery speakers.

Tim McDermott, president of AFSCME Local 1684, said that corporate America had broken the private sector unions with tactics like NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and was now turning its sights to public unions.

Barbara Kandarian from the same local charged that right wing politicians want to balance budgets on the backs of public workers while many corporations pay next to zero taxes on their billions of profits.

John Malloy of Veterans for Peace said that he was working in D.C. on King's last campaign when the news came of the assassination. He recalled seeing smoke that day, real smoke, rising on the horizon when the ghettos rose up in anger.

Connie Stewart, a former legislative rep who now works at HSU, remembers smoke also rising in Newark, New Jersey, her hometown. She said, "We are a rich country, a rich state. Those who blame unions for the budget crisis, shame on them."

Arcata City Councilman Shane Brinton charged that there was "a full-on invasion on the social safety net. Their boot is on our neck and they have the audacity to say we're making class war."

At the height of last month's protests, crowds at the statehouse in Madison grew geometrically at each rally, sometimes exceeding 100,000. Thousands would gather even on days when no rally was called.

Perhaps that is starting in Humboldt as well. A teach-in, reminiscent of the Vietnam War era, was planned at HSU for today. A big rally of students, faculty and staff is planned for April 13 at HSU and other CSU campuses across the state. Student fees in the California State University system have climbed 250 percent in recent years, and the governor's proposed budget includes a 16 percent cut in CSU funding. That may rise to 36 percent since talks of a tax extension stalled in the legislature. 

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Monday, April 4, 2011

That's a Shipload of Logs

Posted By on Mon, Apr 4, 2011 at 4:09 PM

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Last week we reported on a major shipment of whole logs, mostly fir, bound for China aboard the Bright Life. A spokesperson for supplier Green Diamond said the ship came to our humble harbor by way of Canada in order to top off with a full shipload. (Harbor District President Mike Wilson tells us that a full load is roughly 5 million board feet.) 

Judging by the above photo taken by Journal graphic genius Lynn Jones on her lunch break, I'd say that sucker's just about at capacity. Note how much lower in the water it's sitting compared to a few days ago. This is why we dredge the entrance to Humboldt Bay.

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Hwy. 101 Reopened

Posted By on Mon, Apr 4, 2011 at 10:04 AM

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UPDATE, 11:55 p.m.: The freeway will be reopened in both directions by tomorrow morning, according to Caltrans:

Currently, Route 101 [at the slide location] approximately 60 miles south of Eureka is open to one-way controlled traffic and motorists should expect 30-minute delays. Caltrans is pleased to announce that by Tuesday morning, April 5, the highway will open to one lane in each direction, 24 hours a day. Motorists should anticipate minor traffic slowdowns.   

No further closures will occur unless significant slide activity resumes.   
Currently, crews are performing drainage work, roadway repairs, and monitoring the slide.  Geotechnical investigations are being conducted over the next two weeks to determine how best to stabilize the slide so that the highway may be reconstructed to four lanes.

ORIGINAL POST: Back in business:

Caltrans is pleased to announce that Route 101 in Southern Humboldt County will reopen to one-way controlled traffic at 2 a.m. on Monday, April 4. Motorists should expect 30-minute delays. No further closures will occur unless significant slide activity resumes. Crews continue to work 24 hours a day to complete slide removal, repair the roadway, and monitor the slide.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

PRESS RELEASE: Douglas OUT At Journal

Posted By on Fri, Apr 1, 2011 at 2:12 PM

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After one day on the job, North Coast Journal Editor and International Media Relations Chief Humboldt Bureau Investigative Senior Hybrid Editor Journalist in Chief Charles Douglas was terminated today, the latest victim of what one local media outlet referred to as "Judge Judy's Journalist Meat Grinder."

The Chuck D regime got off to a rocky start Thursday when, during a company-wide meeting designed to allow the Journal staff to meet their new leader, Douglas laid out his plan to transform the paper into a vehicle to promote WWE-style professional wrestling matches between local political and media figures. After Douglas leapt onto a conference table in the Journal's offices to demonstrate the Cobra Clutch on bemused staff writer Heidi Walters, publisher Judy Hodgson pulled the plug on the experiment.

"Our visions for what a community paper should be clashed." Hodgson said. "Plus, he was no match for my triple Pinot Grigio Suplex."

As reported in the Arcata Eye, former former editor Ryan Burns had taken a position with Lost Coast Communications where he would have reportedly acted as program director to a new 24/7 RUSH (the band, not the Limbaugh) station. However, upon hearing the news of Douglas' sudden dismissal, Burns has begrudgingly returned to the Journal, as interim acting provisional editor.

Calls to Douglas' public relations manager, Nick Bravo, were not coherently returned.

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