People living on the west bank of the Mad River south of Blue Lake have divergent opinions about the sound coming from the Walton Paving plant on Hatchery Road.
In testimony at a June 5 Humboldt County Planning Commission hearing, residents sharply disagreed over how much the plant, which operated at night for 17 days this spring, and its truck traffic intrude on neighborhood peace.
"When I moved there in February, I knew there was a quarry there and I expected some noise, but it's not as bad as I expected," said Mark Simon.
"I live at least a half mile away, and when it's running at night, I have to close my windows," said David Nakamura, a Blue Lake City Council member. "It's a very high pitched noise that carries a long distance."
Residents also had divergent views about the plant's owner, Victor Guynup, who has owned the plant site and nearby agricultural land since 1964. Some characterized him as a generous, caring neighbor who has voluntarily created gravel berms and other barriers for noise reduction. But others said he misled them about how loud the asphalt operation would be, and that he falsely placed their names on a petition in favor of the plant.
The planning commission agreed that the night use was not covered by the plant's 22-year-old conditional use permit. But they voted to reconsider the issue in four months, after the plant manager installs new equipment to reduce sound.
Neighbors opposing the plant were upset at the delay, especially after learning that Walton may subcontract to provide asphalt for the paving of Highway 101 between Eureka and Arcata, slated to begin Aug. 1. City Council member Sherman Schapiro said he would seek to create an ordinance barring truck traffic through the town after midnight.
Nighttime production of asphalt may become an issue in other neighborhoods as well. CalTrans District Director Rick Knapp told the commission that the agency is favoring nighttime road work to lessen traffic congestion. "Some of the other asphalt plants haven't operated at night, and there may be some opposition from neighbors when they do," said Knapp.
County supervisors took a step last month to steer drug-law enforcement toward hard drugs instead of marijuana.
On June 2 Sheriff Dennis Lewis and two aides went before the board to seek approval of a $45,000 grant from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. But a half dozen citizens spoke against the grant, saying it targeted "marijuana suppression" while worse problems are caused by the dealing and use of hard drugs, especially methamphetamine.
"We have a drug problem in the streets of Redway and Garberville, but it's not a marijuana problem," said Bud Rogers, president of the Garberville-Redway Chamber of Commerce. "Our streets are overrun with meth and other hard drugs."
All five board members agreed that hard drugs meth in particular should be a higher priority than pot growers and users. But they approved the grant after Lewis agreed to a compromise suggested by Supervisor John Woolley: that Lewis and the board sign an agreement pledging the funds toward interdicting hard drugs rather than marijuana.
"It's a leap of faith but I think it's the first time anyone has ever leaped," said Supervisor Roger Rodoni after the meeting. "The only other message would have been to vote it down, and I don't know if the votes would have been there."
Rodoni and several other supervisors said they expected a longer, tougher debate later in the summer when funds for the fall anti-pot campaigns come up for approval.
A former timber faller for the Pacific Lumber Co. is suing his ex-employer and its parent corporation, Maxxam, alleging that he was fired for trying to blow the whistle on illegal and unsafe timber harvest practices.
Stan Chandler is a 31-year-old veteran timber faller who specialized in old growth, according to Bill Bertain, one of Chandler's four attorneys.
"Mr. Chandler was fired for speaking up against those new management policies which placed the safety of Pacific Lumber employees in jeopardy," said Bertain. He also asserted Chandler's case would demonstrate that the company repeatedly violated environmental laws during "clandestine operations not authorized by law."
PALCO spokeswoman Mary Bullwinkel acknowledged that Chandler was fired but said the reason was dishonesty -- that he took credit and got paid for trees he did not fall. "Mr. Chandler was terminated Sept. 13, 1996 for failing to comply with company policy regarding reporting the volume of his timber cutting," she said.
Bullwinkel said Chandler admitted at the time to exaggerating his timber volumes. "At no time until now did he or his attorney make any allegations regarding employee safety or illegal harvesting. Indeed, the allegations... are false." She also suggested the lawsuit was part of a strategy by Bertain and Chandler's other attorneys -- Mark Harris and Kirk Boyd, in particular -- to discredit PALCO.
In a hint of the courtroom drama to come, KMUD-FM played audio portions of a videotape provided by Chandler's attorneys of allegedly illegal logging operations. The amateur videographer-narrator can be heard calling out to "Stan" to be careful and making wisecracks about the "devastation" the loggers were creating. "We're going to demolish it all," he said.
Another lawsuit against PALCO and Maxxam will be heard in the courtroom of Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Bruce Watson this month after a delay of seven years. Don and Rose Thompson and Kelly Bettiga, former Pacific Lumber Co. employees, and Craige McKnight, ex-mayor of Rio Dell, are suing on behalf of themselves and others "similarly situated."
They're seeking $60 million in pension funds they allege were taken from PALCO retirees by Maxxam, plus interest and treble damages. "We're also seeking recovery of damages for the projected lost years of employment (due to the post-Maxxam speedup in logging)," said Bertain, who represents the four.
"Thirdly we're seeking damage for the economic losses caused by the damage to fisheries, particularly in the Yager Creek drainage," said Bertain.
Maxxam will seek dismissal of the suit based on "the fact that the suit was filed over a decade ago but the complaint and amendments were never properly served on the ... defendants," said Bob Irelan, Maxxam spokesman. Irelan also said most of the suit's claims were dealt with in other now-resolved litigation. A hearing on Maxxam's motion for dismissal is set for Aug. 1.
And in a third lawsuit against PALCO, Redway Forest Defense is challenging a timber harvest plan on the west slope of the Eel River near Redway. A hearing was set for June 23 in Superior Court.
Thomas Ray Winger, one of three adolescent males convicted of killing 14-year-old Amber Slaughter in 1994, was sentenced to 20 years to life on May 23.
Winger's two accomplices, Thomas Dunaway and Abraham Gerving, were sentenced earlier. Dunaway is serving 25 years to life while Gerving, who pled guilty and testified against the other two, is serving 16 years, according to the Times-Standard.
Loleta-area residents fighting a tribal casino in the Singley Hill neighborhood won a temporary victory in June. The Rohnerville Rancheria announced it would suspend construction while it tries to negotiate peace with the neighbors who are concerned about traffic, noise and potential water pollution from casino sewage. The tribe's decision followed a pledge by Rep. Frank Riggs to file a friend of the court brief supporting a lawsuit against the casino.
The legal standing of Humboldt County's court-appointed "guardian ad litem" was overturned in May by the state appeals court in San Francisco.
The court affirmed an argument raised by several critics of the GAL, including parents who were interviewed for the Journal's February 1997 cover story (Children of Divorce.) They argued and the appeals court agreed that a guardian cannot legally represent a child and give "expert witness" testimony about custody conflicts between estranged parents.
Family Court Judge John Buffington said he intends to preserve the GAL's role, although under a new job category: court investigator. Buffington believes the GAL's role in assessing families in divorce disputes and making short-term custody recommendations for children is invaluable. He's appointed a committee of family law attorneys to propose a new court rule "which preserves the investigator without the name that seems to offend the First District Court of Appeal," he said.
Contrary to the hopes of his supporters, MAC will not be coming to Eureka this winter.
The Multiple Assistance Center for homeless families and individuals will not be established until mid-1998 at the earliest. Eureka and Humboldt County officials have requested federal funds for planning the MAC. "We should hear sometime in July," said Coordinator Sandra Corcoran.
If the grant is approved, then Corcoran, various non-profit groups and others supporting the project will begin the difficult process that has made siting past temporary winter shelters controversial: finding a location that won't meet too many objections from neighbors.
"Everybody supports it in concept," said Betty Segal of the Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, "(but) as soon as you pick out a geographical location people focus their energy on saying, 'Not there!'"
MAC advocates feel particular urgency given the impending cutbacks in welfare aid.
"Of the 4,500 local adults and 8,000 children on (welfare), 20 percent are to be moved 'from welfare to work' in the first year," said Segal. "There are widespread fears that 'reform' will mean an increase in homeless, both here and across the country."
Coast Guard personnel, families and other county residents paid tribute last month to four members of a Coast Guard helicopter crew who were lost at sea on June 6 while trying to rescue boaters in trouble off Cape Mendocino.
According to a Times-Standard report, about 1,300 people attended the memorial in McKinleyville for Lt. Jeffery Crane, Lt. j.g. Charles W. Thigpen IV, Petty Officer Richard L. Hughes and Petty Officer James G. Caines.
This was the second time in recent history that a Coast Guard helicopter went down in a rescue attempt; in 1994, a crew of four was killed when their craft crashed into a cliff near Shelter Cove.