Sunday, October 2, 2016

Fire Up the Chainsaws: Oak Woodlands Restoration Bill Signed

Posted By on Sun, Oct 2, 2016 at 3:30 PM

Firs swallowing a grove of black oak. - PHOTO BY LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Photo by Linda Stansberry
  • Firs swallowing a grove of black oak.
On Sept. 24, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1958, paving the way for landowners with conifer encroachment on oak woodlands to remove the invasive trees without replanting. The bill comes after more than a year of advocacy from small landowners and environmentalists who argued the existing rules by the state Board of Forestry were counter-intuitive to best practices in land management.

While slow-growing oak woodlands have been a dominant part of the Humboldt landscape for centuries, providing acorns and habitat for many species, the absence of fires has given quick-growing firs a chance to gain ground, shading out oaks and overtaking open ground. Previously the Board of Forestry has required an onerous timber harvest plan process to harvest and sell conifers. A.B. 1958 could ease these regulations, creating a seven-year pilot “exemption” to the THP process for smaller conifers and clarifying language around oak woodland restoration activities.

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Eureka Takes Police Video Fight to the Supreme Court

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 3:18 PM

Since 2008, the Eureka Police Department has outfitted all of its patrol cars with Watch Guard cameras. Who gets to see the footage they collect remains up for debate. - PHOTO BY THADEUS GREENSON
  • photo by Thadeus Greenson
  • Since 2008, the Eureka Police Department has outfitted all of its patrol cars with Watch Guard cameras. Who gets to see the footage they collect remains up for debate.

The city of Eureka is trying to keep its recent appellate court loss from setting a statewide precedent.

In July, the First District Court of Appeals rebuffed the city’s effort to block release of a video depicting the arrest of a 14-year-old suspect, ruling that the video — and others like it — could not be considered a confidential police officer personnel record, which receive special protections against public disclosure. The appellate court published the ruling, meaning it would become case law and set a precedent throughout the state.

But the city has now petitioned the state Supreme Court to depublish the July decision, which wouldn’t impact the court’s order that the specific video in question be released but would keep the decision from becoming case law and guiding future court rulings. And, in a rare move, on its own motion, the Supreme Court has extended its deadline for deciding whether to take up a full review of the appellate case — a review that would venture beyond the publication question.

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Black Widows Found at Carlotta Post Office

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 11:44 AM

A black widow found in front of the Carlotta Post Office. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A black widow found in front of the Carlotta Post Office.

Officials are investigating an apparent infestation of poisonous black widow spiders at the Carlotta Post Office.

Carlotta resident, Journal columnist and bug enthusiast Anthony Westkamper was picking up his mail on Saturday when he noticed a black spider by the post office entrance and, being a bug enthusiast, took a closer look. He spotted the telltale red hourglass at the bottom of the spider’s abdomen and identified it as a black widow. In short order, he spotted seven more on the exterior of the post office building and later notified the U.S. Postal Service.

Fortuna Postmaster John Maloney, who oversees the Carlotta office, said he’s taking Westkamper’s report very seriously and has reached out to the owner of the building that houses the post office and has made plans to bring in an exterminator in the coming days. But Maloney pointed out that the post office makes up just about 400 square feet of the building, which also houses some residences and Café 36.

Maloney said he’s informed the office’s sole Carlotta employee and she’s keeping an eye out inside the building for any spiders, and hasn’t seen any. Westkamper said black widows are not common in the area and guesses they probably hitched a ride with someone hauling firewood or something.

According to WebMD, black widows produce a protein venom that attacks the victim’s nervous system. The venom has a range of effects for humans, ranging from slight to severe. The localized pain from the bite itself can be followed by muscle cramps, abdominal pain and weakness, and in very severe cases, nausea, vomiting, headaches, chest pain and respiratory difficulties.

Children and the elderly are most at risk of having serious reactions, but deaths from black widow bites, even when they are left untreated, are exceedingly rare, with some reports indicating one hasn’t been recorded in the United States in more than a decade. WebMD recommends you seek medical care after a bite if you experience “more than minor pain” or have “whole-body symptoms.”

Humboldt County Agriculture Commissioner Jeff Dolf said black widows aren’t an agricultural pest, so they don’t really fall under the purview of his department and instead are more of a private pest control issue. But Dolf said folks often bring unidentified insects into the Ag Department, and he rarely sees black widows.

“They’re not common around here but it’s not unheard of to have them,” Dolf said. “We do see them from time to time.”

Westkamper said the eight black widows he spotted in Carlotta — which included at least two males — could constitute a breeding population.

To read Westkamper’s first-hand account of finding the spiders, check back here Sunday for his regular HumBug column.

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Grants Bring Bay Trail Closer to Completion

Posted By on Thu, Sep 29, 2016 at 12:14 PM

An artist's rendition of a portion of the Humboldt Bay Trail. - COURTESY OF THE CITY OF ARCATA
  • Courtesy of the City of Arcata
  • An artist's rendition of a portion of the Humboldt Bay Trail.
Efforts to link a series of trails to create a 13-mile-long recreational waterfront corridor between Eureka and Arcata took two steps forward this week with nearly $1 million in grants being awarded to the cities.

In the works for years, the $550,000 California State Coastal Conservancy grant awarded to Arcata on Thursday, coupled with the announcement of a $323,000 grant for Eureka from the National Park Service and the Land and Water Conservation Fund earlier this week, moves the long-anticipated trail closer to completion.

While the Humboldt Bay Trail will provide a continuous route between Eureka and Arcata away from cars, the pathway will also serve a larger purpose as a critical connection with the California Coastal Trail.

Press release from the city of Arcata:
The City of Arcata’s Humboldt Bay Trail North (HBTN) project was awarded a $550,000 grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy at a meeting held at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka on Thursday September 29.
This project will construct a multi-use trail from Samoa Boulevard through the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary and then integrate with the railroad and Highway 101 corridors along the shoreline of the bay to an endpoint north of Bracut Industrial Park.
The southern-end point will transition onto the shoulder of Highway 101 south of Bayside Cutoff, as a temporary condition until the remaining segment of the Humboldt Bay Trail is constructed.
The Coastal Conservancy’s grant provides the final funding needed to construct the northern three-mile section of the planned 13-mile long Humboldt Bay Trail which will be the backbone of Humboldt County’s envisioned regional trail system and will provide a safe, Class I, ADA-accessible trail between Humboldt County’s two largest cities.
The Trail is also part of the California Coastal Trail, a network of public trails for walkers, bikers, equestrians, wheelchair riders and others along the 1200-mile California coastline, which is currently more than half complete.
At the same meeting, the Conservancy adopted California Environmental Quality Act findings and a mitigation monitoring and reporting program for the project, important aspects of a construction project located close to Humboldt Bay.
The total construction cost for the HBTN project is $4.6 Million. Other funding for the HBTN comes from the Active Transportation Program and matching local funds.
The trail has long been firmly established by the local community as the region’s highest transportation priority. The County of Humboldt is leading the development of the Humboldt Bay Trail South segment, which will provide the interconnecting link between Arcata’s HBTN project and the City of Eureka’s Waterfront Trail.
Development of the Humboldt Bay Trail South project is still in the initial stages and a target construction date has not been determined.

Press release from Congressman Jared Huffman’s office on Tuesday:
WASHINGTON­— Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) today announced a $323,000 grant from the National Park Service and the Land and Water Conservation Fund to Eureka for ongoing work on a waterfront trail through a once-blighted area.
“This grant means that more Californians will be able to enjoy and appreciate Eureka’s special place on Humboldt Bay,” said Rep. Huffman. “Improving Eureka’s waterfront and creating trails and a clean place for the public to recreate around the Bay demonstrates the value of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in our communities.”
“Through the hard work of city staff and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Local Assistance Office, the former mill buildings can be removed and one of the most picturesque areas of Eureka’s waterfront can be opened up for our community to enjoy a wide variety of nature viewing and recreational opportunities,” said Eureka Mayor Frank Jager.
This grant will go toward the removal of four former mill buildings, which will be replaced by a new park featuring a multi-use trail, nature play area, as well as interpretive viewing platforms and benches adjacent to Humboldt Bay.
For more than 50 years, the National Park Service has provided grants through the LWCF. Its State & Local Assistance Program focuses on helping protect a "seamless system of parks" by providing matching grants for local and state parks outside of National Park boundaries, such as this grant to the City of Eureka.
Phase A of this project is expected to be completed in November.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

State Approves Closure of Three Skilled Nursing Facilities

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 5:05 PM

Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, one of the only sites that will remain open. - PHOTO BY CARRIE PEYTON DAHLBERG
  • PHOTO BY carrie peyton dahlberg
  • Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, one of the only sites that will remain open.
The California Department of Public Health announced today that it has approved the closure of three skilled nursing facilities: Seaview, Pacific and Eureka Rehabilitation & Wellness Centers. According to Suzi Fregeau, long-term care ombudsman at the Area 1 Agency on Aging, this means as of tomorrow admittance of new patients to skilled nursing facilities will be closed, leaving hundreds of North Coast residents who need 24-hour care in the lurch.

"The community will be very affected," said Fregeau. "There are 28 open beds in Fortuna [Rehabilitation and Wellness Center], but those will be for people who are in facilities that are being shut down. People in St. Joseph's or in the hospital will have to go out of the area."

The closure plan, originally filed by Rockport in August, and refiled with revisions on Sept. 15, includes a list of facilities in California that currently have vacancies. The closest, in Crescent City, is 83 miles away. Most of the others are over 100 miles away: in Redding, Mendocino and as far away as Klamath Falls, Oregon. Advocates and family members have argued that placing frail, elderly people far away from their families leaves them vulnerable to transfer trauma and removes the support provided by family and community. Rockport has stated that it was losing money due to staff shortages in Humboldt County, saying it had to recruit staff from outside of the area in order to meet its quota.

The potential closure of the facilities was met with widespread opposition from the local and state ombudsman offices, as well as Assemblymember Jim Wood and State Senator Mike McGuire. The ombudsman office sent a letter to the CDPH requesting a complaint investigation and a petition for receivership, which would halt the closures.

In a reply dated today, the state responded that it found the facilities were providing adequate care and "staffing letters were adequate to meet residents' needs." This is in opposition to testimony by patients and family members who attended a meeting with Rockport's CEO, Vincent Hambright, earlier this month. One man stated that he had not had his wound dressing changed in two days because "there was no wound care nurse available." Family members stated they had been told by staff members that there were not enough staff available to meet patient needs and that their charges were suffering as a result.

McGuire's office sent out statement late this afternoon condemning the closures.

“I’m extremely disappointed and frustrated that our hands have been tied and that Rockport will be allowed to close these facilities — this plan is completely irresponsible,” Senator McGuire wrote. “Rockport’s devastating closure plan is unprecedented — and will impact the lives of patients and their families, putting the health and safety of our most vulnerable residents at risk. We worked hard to bring all sides together and find common sense solutions, but, in the end, we did not have a willing partner in Rockport Healthcare Services.”

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UPDATE: Eureka Approves Containerville Move, $75k in Funding

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 11:54 AM

The shipping container village at the corner of Commercial and Third streets may soon find itself on the move. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • The shipping container village at the corner of Commercial and Third streets may soon find itself on the move.
The Eureka City Council voted unanimously yesterday to approve a new location and provide $75,000 in funding for the shipping container shelter project for the homeless.

After hours of discussion and public comment, the council voted to relocate the project that currently shelters about 40 people in a vacant lot on the corner of Third and Commercial streets to a city-owned lot at Koster and Washington streets. The new location will be in place for a year, pending the California Coastal Commission’s emergency approval and the city’s following through with a local coastal plan amendment in the coming months.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Volunteer Fire Captain Killed in Fortuna Shooting

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2016 at 11:08 AM

Timothy Smith - FACEBOOK
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  • Timothy Smith
The Fortuna Police Department today identified the victim of yesterday’s fatal shooting as Timothy Thomas Smith, a Fortuna resident and captain with the city’s volunteer fire department. He was 42.

According to a police department release, an autopsy has been scheduled for later this week.

“He has set the example for the department’s motto ‘Always Ready – Always Willing,’” Fire Chief Lon Winburn said in a February 2015 Humboldt Beacon article after Smith was awarded the department’s Firefighter of the Year honor. “This award is presented to someone whose actions has gone well beyond the call of duty and deserves to be recognized by his/her peers. … Smith was selected for his dedication and commitment to the department.”

The suspect, Jon David Goldberg, was arrested Monday night with the assistance of the Humboldt County SWAT team. Police said the shooting is believed to be related to a personal dispute between the two men.

Release from the Fortuna Police Department:

On 9/26/2016 at about 7 PM The Humboldt County SWAT team assisted by officers from the Fortuna Police Department served a Ramey arrest warrant at a residence located at 32950 Highway 36. Officers located Jon David Goldberg, age 36, inside the residence and arrested Goldberg for murder in connection to the Fortuna Police Department murder investigation.
Goldberg will be booked into the Humboldt County Jail for 187 PC, Murder.

The Fortuna Police Department wants to thank the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department, Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office and the California Highway Patrol for their assistance in this case.

Earlier release: On 9/26/2016 at about 12:45 PM officers from the Fortuna Police Department responded to the 3100 block of Rohnerville Rd. for a report of a shooting victim.

Upon arrival, officers located a deceased 42 year-old male lying in front of a residence. The subject died of multiple gunshot wounds. .

Officers learned through witness statements that the suspect (shooter) and victim knew each other and that the suspect had arrived at the victim’s residence on Rohnerville Rd. and engaged in a brief argument.

The suspect then shot the victim several times at point blank range and fled in a white Dodge minivan; heading east on Rohnerville Rd. It is believed that the shooting is the result of a personal dispute between the two parties.

This is an ongoing and very active investigation. More information will be released soon.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Local Veteran Rolls Through Humboldt to Raise Awareness for Suicide Prevention

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 12:28 PM

J.C. Cook on the road. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • J.C. Cook on the road.
Two veterans are riding 2,200 miles on specialized four-wheel drive mobility chairs, from the Canadian border to Mexico, then back to Fresno, to bring attention to the 22 veterans said t0 commit suicide in the United States every day. (The most recent analysis from the Dept. of Veteran's Affairs actually puts the number at 20.) John "J.C." Cook, a 2001 Fortuna High School graduate, and Sgt. Justin Bond, founder of Our Heroes' Dreams, will be rolling into Humboldt County this Friday, along with their helper dogs Ivy and Boomer.  Master Sergeant Ernest Serrato, president of the organization, is providing support to the team by driving alongside them in a truck with supplies.

"We're calling it Operation Battlefield," said Cook, who called us from Coos Bay. "I understand what a lot of the guys are going through."

Cook, who had his leg amputated below the knee after a routine ankle surgery led to a severe infection, struggled in the past with addiction and suicidal thoughts. Because he did not see active duty — he was an aircraft mechanic in the Navy — he had trouble reaching out for the help he thought other veterans "deserved" more. 

"I was a shell of a person," he said. "But then I found these other veterans."

The support of other veterans and the San Francisco Veteran's Administration, as well as his wife, led Cook to recovery. He has been clean for more than three years and now seeks to connect fellow veterans with resources. The "zoom chairs" he and Bond are using, for example, are available to veterans injured in the 
Cook and Long enroute to Humboldt County. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • Cook and Long enroute to Humboldt County.
line of duty for free, thanks to a nonprofit called The Independence Fund. The model Cook uses can go up to 12 miles per hour. Although that makes for a slow and steady journey, Cook said he appreciates its offroad capabilities, which make it possible for him to go to the beach and appreciate nature.

Bond, who lost his legs after being shot through the knees in the Battle of Fallujah, has done a number of events to raise awareness and money for veterans, including once riding a segway from Monterey to Jacksonville, Florida. "Operation Battlefield" hopes to raise enough money to purchase 55 acres of land in Monterey for permanent use as a veteran's ranch. The group currently operates a "Healing Safari," where veterans in crisis can receive counseling and take part in family-oriented activities. Cook says it will be great to have a "safe place" to bring veterans who call Our Heroes' Dreams hotline.

In the meantime, Cook is looking forward to connecting with his Humboldt County roots and introducing Bond and the rest of the support team to some of his favorite places. He says he definitely plans to stop by No Brand Burger Stand and the Apple Harvest Festival. They will stay with Cook's family in Carlotta, to save money. 

Cook says the scenery has been great so far, but the best thing about the trip has been meeting people who donated time, money and support to Operation Battlefield. An American Legion group provided a motorcycle escort for the veterans from their starting point on Sept. 11. Other people honk and wave, pull over and hand the men money.

"I've met some really great Americans," Cook said. "It's really good to see. Especially with everything that’s going on in our country right now. There are good people in the world. We’re finding them."
Cook and his loyal service dog, Ivy. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • Cook and his loyal service dog, Ivy.

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Sunday, September 25, 2016

HumBug: False Scorpions

Posted By on Sun, Sep 25, 2016 at 3:31 PM

Pseudoscorpion on 1/8-inch ruled graph paper. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Pseudoscorpion on 1/8-inch ruled graph paper.

A little over 20 years ago, after moving to the country, I noticed a tiny, dark critter, no bigger than a newsprint letter “o” scurry across my counter. I scooped it up and checked it out with a hand lens. It was an animal I had only read about, a book scorpion or pseudoscorpion. After looking a bit I let it go outside. I've been on the lookout for them ever since.

When I got my new “super macro” lens, I went around snapping pictures of every little thing. When I downloaded some images of a tiny spider, I saw it was in the process of eating one of the strange little beasts. It made for a couple of dramatic and interesting photos but what I really wanted was the pseudoscorpion itself.
Running crab spider devouring pseudoscorpion. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Running crab spider devouring pseudoscorpion.
The other night at the light trap I noted a tiny dot on the old bedsheet I use as a reflective backdrop. I was surprised to see one of the tiny creatures. This time I took a lot of photos, captured it and took some more before letting it go.
Pseudoscorpion on the white sheet of my light trap.  The weave should give you an idea how small they are. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Pseudoscorpion on the white sheet of my light trap. The weave should give you an idea how small they are.
I don't think it was attracted to the lights. They are active hunters so I think it was just exploring.
While they are seldom seen, I suspect they're pretty common, feeding on tiny animals among leaf litter. Although they lack their larger cousin's tail and stinger, their claws (pedipalps) have tiny venomous bristles on their “thumbs,” so the prey gets crushed, pierced and poisoned in one swift move. They pose zero threat to humans and are considered beneficial since they eat mites, carpet beetles, carpet moth larvae and just about anything else small enough for them to attack. Many species of these little arachnids are known to hitch rides on insects and even birds. I really like these little guys.

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Klamath Dam Removal Takes a Step Forward

Posted By on Sun, Sep 25, 2016 at 9:42 AM

  • Courtesy of American Rivers and Klamath Restoration Council
  • Irongate Dam on the upper Klamath River.
The newly formed nonprofit Klamath River Renewal Corporation and dam owner PacifiCorp filed applications Friday with federal regulators to decommission the four hydroelectric dams that clog the Klamath River.

The filings were hailed by proponents of dam removal as a milestone in refurbished plans to see the lower Klamath River dams removed in 2020. The dams block fish passage and contribute to the poor water quality on the lower river, which is currently seeing some of its lowest salmon returns in history. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will now determine whether to approve the license transfer and surrender applications, and will ultimately be the agency to decide whether to approve removal of the four dams.

“The deplorable water quality, back-to-back disease outbreaks and bottomed-out fish runs have taken a tremendous toll on our people,” said Yurok Tribal Chair Thomas O’Rourke Sr. “We welcome this major step toward restoring Klamath fish populations and providing salmon once again to our upstream neighbors, the Klamath Tribes.”

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