The stalled Big Lagoon Casino project may get underway again soon as the state makes its first attempt to negotiate a compact with a gaming tribe.
Representatives of Gov. Pete Wilson and the Pala tribe in San Diego County have been meeting since Oct. 22 to develop a compact which "can be used in further negotiations with other tribes," Wilson spokesman Ron Low said.
Such compacts are required under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and the lack of a compact in California scared investors away from the Big Lagoon project. "(A compact) would take the risk out for investors and for tribes, because they'd know they're not going to be closed down," said Big Lagoon Rancheria Chairperson Virgil Moorhead.
Low declined to identify specific issues under discussion with the tribe, but it's safe to assume that the status of video poker and slots -- which the state has contended are illegal -- will be at the top of the list. Such compacts in other states have also involved payments in lieu of taxes to local governments.
But a compact would not address the concerns of Big Lagoon cabin-owners and recreational users who believe the casino would spoil the lagoon's environment.
Permanent and transitional. Those are the qualities that Eureka and Humboldt County want in the homeless shelter they hope to create.
The building and programs would be permanent, but the residents would be transitional, staying for a short time while helped onto their feet with job training, counseling and other services.
The city and county jointly put up $30,000 to hire a person to raise funds to get the shelter going with state and federal funds and private donations.
"In the past we've had the program defined, the only thing missing has been the ongoing commitment to get it funded," said retiring county Supervisor Julie Fulkerson.
"The person who will do this is not going to be a social-worker type but someone who knows how to access these dollars and keep this team working together," she said.
The permanent shelter won't help people this winter, however, so the county and private agencies are creating emergency housing once again. The Eureka Rescue Mission will house more single men by setting up overnight cots in its dining room. Single women will be given vouchers for a group room in a motel, with families placed in individual rooms.
"The county has provided funding for six rooms," said Simone Taylor, shelter coordinator for Redwood Community Action Agency. "We're hoping for 11. Last year we had seven rooms and turned away two to three families a night."
Southern Humboldt is also without adequate homeless shelter. The only facility in the area is the six-bed WISH House for battered women and children, and despite volunteer efforts, nothing else is on the horizon.
Simpson Timber Co. is still undecided about what to do with approximately 2,000 acres of land in McKinleyville. The property runs nearly the length of the community directly east of the town and up to the ridge line between McKinleyville and Fieldbrook.
"We're looking for community input on how the land should be used," Bernie Bush told the McKinleyville Area Plan citizens advisory committee Nov. 18.
Bush, a Simpson forester who also sits on the committee, said the land -- 490 acres north of Murray Road and another 1,490 acres south -- is not economically viable for long-term timber production due to "urban pressure ... everything from air quality to liability."
Trespassing and marijuana growing have increased, he said. And there are conflicts with populated neighborhoods over standard forest practices such as slash burning and conifer release -- spraying brush with herbicides to allow the redwood and fir trees to flourish.
"Those are not likely to be units that we could count on harvesting 50 years from now, the way McKinleyville is growing," Bush said.
More than half the crowd at the meeting was from Fieldbrook. However, Bush said the company had "no plans for change in timber management relative to Fieldbrook."
"That is good forest land. It's still very much a timber-agricultural environment on that side of the hill. We don't have the same urban pressure (as McKinley-ville)," Bush said in a follow-up interview.
Simpson acquired some of the McKinleyville land when it purchased Arcata Redwood Co. in 1989. Since then the company has been reviewing its long-term timber management plans.
Simpson is looking at a number of options for the McKinleyville acreage, according to Bush, including cluster housing, wetlands and greenbelts, and possibly some "creative timber production up slope."
Some of the land was logged and replanted years ago, and some parcels were logged just this season and are ready for replanting. Simpson had first proposed removing the two large units and other scattered parcels from TPZ (timber production zone) two years ago, but later withdrew that proposal.
Bush took some heat from the crowd of approximately 80. One McKinleyville resident, John DeMartini, said, "We can't just keep the real estate cleaver coming down, whacking off parcels" of land formerly used to grow timber.
Another, Roger Smith, said, "We take our ag land and build houses on it. Then we take our hillsides, take the trees off and call it ag land."
County Planner Tom Hofweber told the crowd that "if Simpson wants to get out, they can chop it into 40-acre (TPZ) parcels, sell them, and each owner is entitled to put a house on it."
That type of development would be a "worst-case scenario, more impacting" than cluster housing near existing roads and services, he said.
The citizens advisory committee will continue to meet twice monthly until the updated area plan is ready to go to the county Planning Commission. Also on the agenda that evening was consideration of uses to be allowed in the town center of McKinleyville. The committee voted to recommend no new fast-food restaurants or large department stores in the core area.
Glenn Sipma announced his resignation as country coroner on Nov. 12 to a surprised Board of Supervisors. Citing the increasing demands of the job and his own desire for a change in career, Sipma said, "I sure appreciated working for the county," according to a story in the Times-Standard.
Sipma, 67, held the elected position for 16 years.
Humboldt County is experiencing a new "jobs-vs.-environment" controversy: the health of marine life in Humboldt Bay vs. the jobs of some 100 workers at Coast Seafoods' oyster farming and processing operation.
Recreational fishermen have complained in recent months about Coast Seafoods' practice of trawling in the North Bay for bat rays, a species whose female members have a voracious appetite for oysters. They say the trawling kills halibut and disturbs the eel grass beds that provide the foundation of marine life in the bay.
The company announced Oct. 23 that bat ray predation of oysters had become so serious this year that it was forced to shut down its plant on Waterfront Drive until next May.
The issue of bat ray trawling will go before the state Fish and Game Commission Dec. 5 and 6 in Eureka. "They're asking for a continuation of the (trawling) permit and I believe ... they may request the use of long lines (for bat rays) and traps for rock crab," said Steve Conger of the Department of Fish and Game.
For a meeting agenda, contact the Department of Fish and Game at 445-6498.
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will hear recommendations Dec. 10 from its Human Rights Commission about whether the county should allow nonmarried couples to register as "domestic partners."
Domestic partner registration would allow gays and lesbians to declare themselves the legal and financial equivalents of married spouses.
If you've got ideas about how to keep local teenagers away from drugs and gangs, tell Simona Keat -- if you can find her.
The new coordinator of the Gang Risk Intervention Program (GRIP) is on the move between schools, police stations and recreation centers in Fortuna and Eureka. In December she's adding Arcata and McKinleyville to her territory.
Keat, 37, describes herself as a sort of nonprofit venture capitalist, listening to ideas and helping new programs get started.
The first project will seem an unlikely one to some: boxing instruction. But that's what many teenage boys in Eureka told Keat they wanted. "I heard it in all the schools," she said.
At Keat's urging, former light-heavyweight star Junior Albers opened his Third Street gym on weekend mornings to youths interested in boxing. "Kids at a young age really need the diversion and focus that something like boxing can provide," said Albers. "Boxing isn't street fighting, it's an art. I've worked with some younger kids who changed quite a bit (through boxing)."
Many other ideas are percolating up from teens, parents and teachers, and Keat hopes to help turn these into reality with small cash grants and a large pool of volunteers.
"The more we can get kids involved in constructive activities, the less likely they'll be drawn into negative behavior," said Keat, whose prior job was a probation officer in Indio, near Riverside, where gangs are a deeply rooted tradition. "My caseload changed every day because somebody got killed or killed themselves or OD'd."
By comparison, gangs in Humboldt County are just getting started, she says. "Here there's more of a chance to stop it early if the entire community decides that it's not something they want."
To learn more or help out, call Simona Keat at the Humboldt County Office of Education, 445-7086.
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