Welfare's New Year Revolution



Nearly all Louisiana-Pacific's North Coast properties are for sale, company officials announced in late October. Once the largest producer of inexpensive redwood products, the company is quitting the redwood business. L-P's lands are still prized for their timber-growing abilities, but they have been heavily cut in recent years.

Included in the proposed sale are the Samoa pulp mill, the Big Lagoon sawmill, 70,000 acres of timberland near Big Lagoon and Crannell, the Samoa Cookhouse and the entire town of Samoa.

According to a report in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, L-P's potential sale of nearly 300,000 acres of Mendocino County timberland, and a new sawmill and wood products distribution center in the Ukiah Valley, have attracted the most attention from the lumber industry.

But media attention last month also focused on the potential sale of the peninsula town of Samoa, with its 90 wood-frame houses, and the historic Cookhouse, founded in 1900. The restaurant, which still serves up to 2,500 meals on a busy summer day, still serves hearty, family-style meals on long planked tables covered in red-and-white checked vinyl tablecloths. While L-P owns the building, Redwood Restaurants Inc. holds a long-term lease on the business which caters mainly to tourists.

An investment banking firm has been hired to handle the sale, said Terry Davies, an L-P spokeswoman. The company is preparing a memorandum listing the company's assets. The memorandum will also list the company's more than 600 employees. The intent, she noted, is to sell the properties as a going concern.

Prospective buyers will be asked to sign a confidential agreement before being allowed access to the list of assets and they will be invited to tour the facilities. At that point, Davies said, formal bids will be accepted.

In other industry news, more than 100 Eel River Sawmills employees, laid off Sept. 19, have not been called back to work with the exception of a few brought back to fill vacancies, Controller Tony Titus said. The layoffs, prompted by a shortage of logs, eliminated a graveyard shift at the company's mill north of Rio Dell and a swing shift at the Redcrest Mill.

Company officials said they would keep employees on the payroll with medical benefits through December.


The North Coast Co-op pulled in a $5,000 whopper last month.

The fish tale began when Eureka High School aquaculture students asked the county if they could have the 22-foot redwood sculpture of a salmon -- best known for its spot at the entrance of the now-defunct county-operated Prairie Creek fish hatchery. After all, it had been in storage for several years at the county airport and no one seemed interested.

But the list of fish-seekers quickly grew. At one point Humboldt County Administrative Officer John Murray said he had counted 17 requests for the sculpture, including one from the North Coast Co-op which indicated it was willing to actually buy it.

In October Murray recommended to the Board of Supervisors that instead of trying to decide which group was most worthy of the fish, it should just be declared surplus and sold to the highest bidder. The board agreed, on a 3-2 vote.

Bids were opened last month. The Orick bid of $1 was outdone by the $5,000 bid from the Co-op. The grocery store management has said it plans to construct a special display for the fish in the Arcata store's parking lot.


The South Spit relocation saga is almost over.

Nearly all of the former Loleta-area beach residents have found new housing, Humboldt County Health Officer Ann Lindsay said recently.

Lindsay, citing a breakout of the bacterial diarrhea among the residents, declared the homeless encampment a public hazard in September and began plans to relocate residents. Redwood Legal Assistance subsequently filed a lawsuit to block the removal -- an effort that postponed the relocation until Oct. 19 following Superior Court Judge John Buffington's ruling that the county could proceed.

As of late November, Lindsay said, 69 former South Spit residents were in permanent housing, 10 were in temporary housing, 11 moved out of the area, five had refused housing and one person was in jail. County workers were unable to locate five former residents.

According to Lindsay, $61,705 has been spent to help the residents repair their vehicles, pay rental deposits, purchase tires and cover motel bills. The cleanup of the South Spit began Nov. 19 when contractors began moving equipment to the area to deal with an estimated 1,000 cubic yards of trash and debris, 100 vehicles, 40 large appliances and more than 500 tires. The project, funded with $170,000 from the California Integrated Waste Management Board, is scheduled to be complete by Jan. 1.


The federal government has approved its portion of the $380 million purchase price of the 7,500-acre old-growth Headwaters Preserve.

President Clinton signed a $13.8 billion Interior Department appropriations bill Nov. 14, including $250 million for the forest purchase. The bill, criticized by some environmentalists for not protecting the entire 60,000-acre tract, was signed despite riders that restrict the preserve's expansion, prevent the U.S. Forest Service from revising timber management plans to reflect up-to-date information on threatened and endangered species, and remove caps on governmental subsidies to timber companies for building logging roads.

The allotment, however, includes $10 million for Humboldt County to compensate for lost timber and property taxes and future compensation for lost tax revenue.

No money will change hands until the state comes up with its $130 million share and a habitat conservation plan is approved for the balance of Pacific Lumber Co.'s property. State leaders have proposed placing a $100 million bond before voters next year and selling surplus properties to generate the balance.

The state has three options for its share -- a lump sum general fund allotment, floating a bond or paying the $130 million over 10 years, said Ruth Coleman, the legislative director for Sen. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena.

The lump sum and the payment plan are unlikely to go anywhere, she noted. However, the funds could become part of AB1000, a $600 million coastal open space bond, or SB2, a $495 million parks and open space bond. For either of the bonds to reach the voters, both the Assembly and Senate must approve the measures with a two-thirds vote. However, it's been more than 10 years since a parks bond has made it through the Assembly. If the bonds, which would likely be combined, make it through the Legislature, voters would have to approve the funds by a simple majority.

Action may come as soon as January, the deadline for getting items on the June ballot, Coleman said.


As promised, Michela Alioto has returned to politics.

Last month she dropped plans to make a second run for the Second Congressional District seat against incumbent Rep. Frank Riggs, R-Windsor. In 1996, Alioto lost to Riggs in six of the district's seven counties.

Instead, she's directing her energies toward Sacramento and the secretary of state seat.

The candidate denies her decision was prompted by pressure from Democratic leaders hoping to prevent an energy- and money-draining primary race against state Sen. Mike Thompson, who has already announced his intent to run against Riggs.

If she's successful, Alioto may be the youngest person to hold a statewide seat. Incumbent Secretary of State Bill Jones, a Republican, has announced plans to seek re-election.


A San Francisco-based clothing manufacturer is now the owner of Moonstone Mountaineering Inc., but plans are developing to use the company's equipment to bolster the local textile industry.

Esprit Inc. finalized the purchase of Moonstone's name, finished inventory, intellectual property rights and work in progress in November, according to Jim Kimbrell, executive director of the Arcata Economic Development Corp.

Meanwhile, a coalition of businesses, non-profit organizations and investors have purchased Moonstone's manufacturing equipment, furniture and fixtures to be used in setting up a contract sewing business by former Moonstone employees. The alliance also is setting up a training program to nurture the North Coast's growing garment and textile industry.

"The Microenterprise Assistance Program will provide garment and textile entrepreneur and skills-based training to more than 100 program participants and will support the creation of 40 new jobs," according to an AEDC news release.

Esprit contributed to the effort with a long-term, low-interest loan to purchase the equipment and company officials have met with North Coast businesses and economic development organizations to discuss the possibility of local manufacturing contracts.

The coalition is comprised of the AEDC, the Institute of the North Coast (Humboldt Area Foundation), Kokatat, Esprit Inc. and a group of local investors.

The effort to set up a training program for the garment and textile industry is a popular one among a sample of local business owners. And, it has drawn the attention of Humboldt County.

The county has applied for a $250,000 state Community Development Block Grant to fund the Microenterprise Assistance Program. Officials are also looking at federal money.


A Fieldbrook real estate and family law attorney is seeking the seat currently held by Superior Court Judge John Buffington.

Eris Wagner, 49, a fourth-generation Humboldt County resident, joins former Deputy District Attorney Jeanne Tunison-Campbell in the race.

Buffington announced his decision not to seek a fourth term in mid-November. He has served on the Superior Court bench since 1980.

Wagner graduated from St. Bernard's High School in 1966, received bachelor's and master's degrees from Humboldt State University and her law degree from the University of California, Davis School of Law in 1983. Prior to setting up a solo practice in 1985, Wagner practiced civil and criminal law as an associate with the firm of Corbett, Roberts and Hill.

In 1991 Wagner founded the Center for Child Advocacy, a nonprofit corporation which provides support services for children in legal proceedings. She worked to establish a local chapter of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and has served on the Humboldt County Grand Jury, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission and the Child Abuse and Neglect Task Force.


Timber sales from the national forests have turned out to be a losing proposition -- a fact critics have maintained for years.

The draft of the agency's annual report on revenue and expenses for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 1996, reveals the government spent nearly $15 million more on logging operations than private companies paid for the timber.

According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, agency officials have credited the drop in timber sale revenues to a shift to "greener" policies that favor conservation over profits. The 11 percent drop in revenue from the previous year is also attributed to weak timber markets.


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