Environment / Natural Resources

Friday, August 12, 2016

Scenes from the Stafford Fire

Posted By on Fri, Aug 12, 2016 at 11:28 AM

Crews from Cal Fire fight a blaze just north of Stafford on Thursday. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Crews from Cal Fire fight a blaze just north of Stafford on Thursday.

Fires broke out on both sides of U.S. Highway 101 near Stafford on Thursday, with crews from seven agencies called to battle the blaze.

As of 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Cal Fire reported that the fire had spanned 35 acres and was 10 percent contained. Scanner traffic Thursday afternoon indicated officials were concerned the fire could go “big,” and grow to consume as many as 100 acres.

But it seems a heavy response that included air drops of fire suppressant and water pulled from the Eel River, coupled with light winds, helped fire crews get the blaze somewhat under control. The cause of the fire remains under investigation as crews continue to work to temper the flames today. Calls placed to Cal Fire this morning seeking an update were not immediately returned but we'll update this post with any additional information we get.

Local photographer Mark McKenna was on scene Thursday afternoon and shares the following slideshow.

Slideshow
The Stafford Fire
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The Stafford Fire


By Mark McKenna

Click to View 17 slides


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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Oregon Man Killed in Logging Accident

Posted By on Tue, Aug 2, 2016 at 10:33 AM

coroner.gif
A 31-year-old Oregon man was killed Monday when the tree he was felling came down on him.

Chief Deputy Coroner Ernie Stewart said Travis Jon Cornelison, of Rogue River, was working on a commercial operation for Lord’s Light Logging when the accident occurred near Timber Ridge Lane in the Blue Lake area.

The accident is being investigated by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

From the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office:


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Sunday, July 24, 2016

In Celebration of National Moth Week

Posted By on Sun, Jul 24, 2016 at 4:39 PM

California Ctenuchid, about 20 mm long. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • California Ctenuchid, about 20 mm long.
In observance of National Moth Week, I thought I'd mention a few of our unusual local mothy residents.

Together with butterflies, moths comprise the order “Lepidoptera,” roughly translating to scale wing. A good rule of thumb to distinguish between the two is that butterflies have thin antennae terminating in a club shape, while moths (with a few notable exceptions) have different types of antennae.

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Williams Grove, Avenue of the Giants

Posted By on Sun, Jul 17, 2016 at 2:27 PM

The male flameskimmer. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • The male flameskimmer.
Saturday was the annual picnic of the Redwood Camera Club on the Avenue of the Giants. The majesty and beauty of the Sequoias always makes for an enjoyable ride. This was my first time to visit Williams Grove. It will not be my last. There are many good picnic spots, toilets and river access.

I was, of course, interested in seeing if the insect fauna on the South Fork of the Eel River is similar or different from where I regularly walk along the Van Duzen River. Flowing gently through low elevation redwood bounded valleys the environments are pretty similar.

In my neighborhood, I have been anticipating seeing one of my favorite dragonflies, the pale-faced club skimmer (Brechmorhoga mendax). True to the name “skimmer,” I've watched them tirelessly cruising rapidly just a few inches over a wide flat on the Van Duzen. It is rare to see one land. This day, in this place, however, they were behaving differently. There was a pretty good hatch of a tiny species of mayfly in progress, and many were forming transient groups milling about at head height in the lee of clumps of willow. Recognizable by their overall black coloring and white patches near the end of their abdomen, the clubskimmers were flying through the churning formations over and over, grabbing lunch on the run.

Only occasionally seen at home, there were several flame skimmers (Libellula saturata). The brilliant orange males and brownish females perch on low dead twigs, dashing out to grab an occasional meal that happens by. All the specimens I was able to get close to displayed some wing damage, hinting that they had been around a while.

The big black and yellow Western river cruisers (Macromia magnifica) behaved just as they do in my own neighborhood. True to their name, cruising continually about 15 centimeters above the open spaces of river bar. In flight, they hold their abdomen in a distinctive shallow arch and are one of the largest dragonflies common in our area.

A single bison snake tail (Ophiogomphus bison) put in an appearance. Judging from its bright colors and pristine wings, I suspect it had emerged in the last few days.

Miles apart, I was actually a little surprised to find nearly the same exact range of species in the two environments, although the relative numbers were considerably different.

A buffalo snaketail. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A buffalo snaketail.
The female flameskimmer. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • The female flameskimmer.
A western river cruiser in flight. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A western river cruiser in flight.
Palefaced clubskimmers enjoying an inflight mayfly snack. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Palefaced clubskimmers enjoying an inflight mayfly snack.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

HumBug: Gold Diggers

Posted By on Sun, Jul 10, 2016 at 1:00 PM

A Great Golden Sand Digger wasp on Wild Anise. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A Great Golden Sand Digger wasp on Wild Anise.
In more than 300, trips I have yet to go on a walk down to the Van Duzen River and not see something interesting. Today was no exception.

Because I got a late start I expected all the dragonflies to be perched high up in trees for the night. The puddle I've been watching had finally dried up as the river level dropped. Several Tiger Swallowtails, some honeybees and bumblebees put in appearances on the patches of wild sweet pea and alfalfa that are blooming, but I had the wrong camera to take full advantage of them.

Near the end of the gravel and sand road that parallels the river, I heard a couple of small engines start up and come in my direction. I stepped aside and allowed two helmeted youngsters on small motorcycles to ride sedately by. Something dark flitted by my feet. For just an instant I thought, “dragonfly,” but it was too small, and didn't move right.

I stood stock still and waited. A hint of motion down there drew my eye to one of the biggest wasps I know. A Great Golden Sand Digger (Sphex ichneumoneus) was searching for something among the dry weeds. I thought she might be hunting a cricket, or grasshopper, the preferred prey for stocking their underground burrows where they deposit their eggs. That could make for some dramatic photography. One thing I did notice was that unlike the times I've observed them nectaring on horsemint and alfalfa, her wingbeats were barely audible. Usually they sound like a World War II bomber and I have often wondered if they make so much noise to warn potential predators. They do sport black and orange, aposematic (warning) coloration and, like most wasps, can deliver a painful sting if molested.

This one was so quiet it seemed to be in stealth mode.

I got down on my haunches and watched. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another and then another. Although they are not considered as a social species, I think all these ladies happened to find a neighborhood ideal for their purposes.

I watched as they moved tiny pebbles, dug through sand and disappeared into the ground. They were preparing their burrows for night. They would sleep in the ground, protecting their broods and the hoard of food they'd provided for them. No wonder they were flying silently. There are several known “hyper parasitoids” which prey on the provisions and the larvae of solitary wasps which might follow them to their lairs.

At around 5 centimeters long, this widespread and fairly common species is one of, if not the, largest wasp in our area. Fortunately, they are not at all aggressive and work tirelessly storing paralyzed grasshoppers for their next generation, thereby eliminating them from our gardens.
A wasp at her burrow. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A wasp at her burrow.
ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Tribes Threaten Lawsuit Over Klamath Flows

Posted By on Sun, Jun 26, 2016 at 9:23 AM

A look at the four Klamath dams slated for removal.
  • A look at the four Klamath dams slated for removal.

The Karuk and Yurok tribes have both put the federal government on notice that they intend to sue, alleging the feds have violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to ensure adequate water flows for Coho salmon on the Klamath River.

Citing a disease infection rate of 90 percent for juvenile salmon last year, spurred by low flows and warm water temperatures, coupled with historically low salmon run projections, the tribes said they felt they had to act.

“We cannot stand by and do nothing while our salmon hover over the brink of extinction,” said Yurok Chair Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr. in a press release. “We will not continue to watch water managers jeopardize the fate of our fish and our river.”

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Aggressive Hitchhiker Spotted in King Salmon

Posted By on Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 12:00 PM

Hitchhikers in King Salmon are relentless, but at least they're polite. - PHOTO BY RANDY SCHUETZLE
  • Photo by Randy Schuetzle
  • Hitchhikers in King Salmon are relentless, but at least they're polite.

It proved to be a pretty epic first kayak trip for Liz Bagnell.

Bagnell, a sales consultant for Northwood Chevrolet, had just moved down to King Salmon from Cutten, and set out to get to know her new neighborhood by hopping a kayak for the first time to paddle around the residential channels in her new backyard. A few minutes in, something caught her attention.

“Out of nowhere, I heard this kind of rustling and looked back, and (a sea lion pup) was playing in my wake,” Bagnell said. “After about 30 seconds, he hopped up onto the back of my kayak. It happened really quick. Then, he just sat there, just like Sea World, just looking around.”


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Sunday, June 12, 2016

TL;DR: Five Things You Need to Know About This Week's Cover Story

Posted By on Sun, Jun 12, 2016 at 8:59 AM

Charles Bean rolls down one of Eureka's waterfront trails. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Charles Bean rolls down one of Eureka's waterfront trails.

Busy week? We get it. Here's what you might have missed from this week's cover story, "Slow Roll."

1. The thing most Humboldt folks say they love best about where we live is our wild places – the forests, beaches and trails. But this important resource is largely inaccessible to those in our community who are disabled. In our research, we found roughly 13 miles of trail for wheelchair users in our state parks, less than this in our national parks and about 20 miles between our three largest cities. There are also two beaches that meet the standards for the Americans with Disabilities Act, one of which has a beach wheelchair with special tires that can be checked out.

2. Information about how to find ADA-accessible facilities is hard to come by. Different jurisdictions may have their own maps, but these guides are often incomplete or outdated. A local advocacy group, Tri-County Independent Living, is working on putting together a complete list, but won't put the organization's name on it without verifying every single spot. “Sometimes the claim is that they are accessible but they technically don't meet the accessibility guidelines,” says Mary Bullwinkel, who is compiling the guide.

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Eureka Council to Mull Rotating Free Camping Zone

Posted By on Sat, Jun 4, 2016 at 3:24 PM

A homeless man moves out of the PalCo Marsh during the city's May 2 eviction. - FILE
  • File
  • A homeless man moves out of the PalCo Marsh during the city's May 2 eviction.
The Eureka City Council will consider amending its recent shelter crisis declaration again Tuesday, this time to allow for a rotating free camping area for homeless people with nowhere else to go.

Currently, the city is allowing homeless people to camp in the city-owned parking lot on the corner of Koster and Washington streets during nighttime hours, as long as they pack up their stuff and leave shortly after daybreak. Now staff is proposing that, beginning June 11, the free-camping zone rotate every 30 days between the Koster and Washington property and two others: the parking lot at the foot of Del Norte Street and what the city refers to as the Dinsmore property, a vacant stretch of land near Target between the Multiple Assistance Center and Blue Ox Mill Works.

Both Eureka City Manager Greg Sparks and Police Chief Andrew Mills said the move is aimed at spreading out the impacts of the free-camping area and keeping the homeless people using it from getting too comfortable or entrenched in any one location. The proposed amendment doesn’t specify when, or if, the rotating free camping zone will end. The city first opened up the Koster and Washington property when it was preparing to clear the PalCo Marsh of more than 100 homeless camps and some questioned whether the city could push homeless people out of the marsh if it didn’t provide them with another place to go that wasn’t subject to the city’s no-camping ordinance. (That question ultimately spawned a federal lawsuit, despite the city's opting not to enforce its no-camping laws at the Koster and Washington lot.)

In the "City Manager's Column" in the city's June newsletter, Sparks wrote that about 35 people have been taking care of the free camping zone nightly at Koster and Washington. "This has not worked particularly well, due in large part to the lack of a day use area that could accommodate the need to be somewhere," Sparks wrote, adding that more and more people are spending their days hanging out on West Third Street near St. Vincent de Paul's free dining facility near Old Town.

Sparks notes in his message that clearing the Marsh did not "solve homelessness in Eureka" and that the city is witnessing "a combination of successful and negative outcomes." The negative outcome is the dispersion of homeless people from the marsh into other areas of the city — neighborhoods, business districts and other greenbelts. The only successful outcome Sparks mentioned in the message is the partnership between Betty Chinn and the Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights that converted large metal shipping containers into temporary living quarters for 40 people in a vacant lot on West Third Street. "This project has been an excellent example of the private sector getting involved to solve a problem," Sparks wrote.

A shopping cart behind the Bayshore Mall. - FILE
  • File
  • A shopping cart behind the Bayshore Mall.
In other matters, staff is recommending that the council amend its shopping cart ordinance to charge a $20 fee for returning a shopping cart to its lawful owner. Back in 2014, the council approved the ordinance in an attempt to regulate abandoned or stolen shopping carts, get them out of the hands of homeless people and back to their legal owners. The ordinance has been successful in reducing the number of carts around town, according to a staff report.

However, the existing ordinance allows cart owners a 72-hour grace period to pick up a cart found around town before facing a fee. Staff now wants that changed to make sure the city recoups the costs of recovering and storing carts and is suggesting the $20-per-cart fee.

To read more about these and other items, check out the city’s full agenda here. And click the PDF below to see the city's full June newsletter.

June Newsletter
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Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Devil's Playground No More

Posted By on Sat, May 28, 2016 at 2:47 PM

The lone remaining wall of the Devil's Playground teeters as a crew works to demolish it Thursday. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • The lone remaining wall of the Devil's Playground teeters as a crew works to demolish it Thursday.
The PalCo Marsh is looking a lot different these days. Not only was the marsh cleared of the city's largest and most entrenched homeless encampment on May 2, but crews from Figas Construction have now started demolishing the old concrete lumber kilns that have long been dubbed the Devil's Playground. For decades, the kilns have been a magnet for graffiti artists and taggers. But a recent lawsuit rendered them a massive liability for the city, which added a sense of urgency to long-held plans to lay a waterfront trail through the marsh. Check out the slideshow below to see pictures of the graffiti covered kilns as they stood, and as they now lie in rubble.


Slideshow
The Devil's Playground
The Devil's Playground The Devil's Playground The Devil's Playground The Devil's Playground The Devil's Playground The Devil's Playground The Devil's Playground The Devil's Playground

The Devil's Playground

By Thadeus Greenson

Click to View 32 slides


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