Under pressure from the timber industry and Governor Pete Wilson's Administration, the federal government put off listing North Coast coho salmon as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
On Oct. 25, the National Marine Fisheries Service listed coho as a threatened species from the Mattole River south to Santa Cruz, but it deferred until next April 25 a decision on coho populations between the Mattole and the Columbia rivers. The reason: "substantial disagreement" over how much the fish have rebounded under current state laws and voluntary habitat restoration.
The decision was greeted as good news by the timber industry. "The current forest practice rules more than adequately protect any problems that may be out there (for coho)," said Bill Windes, spokesman for Louisiana Pacific Corp. He said the delay would give NMFS time to review data submitted by LP and other companies that shows rebounding coho populations. "Then they can make a decision based on science instead of emotions."
State Resources Secretary Douglas Wheeler sought a listing delay in a Sept. 27 letter to NMFS which said "substantial disagreement between scientists exists as to the sufficiency and accuracy" of NMFS' coho data.
That letter incensed fishing groups and conservationists who noted that key paragraphs were taken verbatim from a draft prepared by the California Forestry Association, a timber industry group.
"The claim that there is a dispute among scientists is a pure fabrication," said Tom Weseloh of California Trout. "The only dispute is between those who want to protect the fish and those companies seeking to maximize their profits."
In the wake of what they characterize as Wheeler's "treachery," Weseloh and others withdrew from the Coastal Salmon Initiative he established to develop voluntary approaches to salmon habitat restoration. They say the listing offers the coho's only chance.
"Nothing of real consequence in terms of recovering the fish has occurred on a voluntary basis, and the only thing that's going to make the difference is sanctions applied against someone who harms coho habitat, and the only way to accomplish that is through the Endangered Species Act," said John Gaffin, a fisheries consultant to Environmental Protection Information Center. "Landowners have such a voice in state government that state law is essentially meaningless."
Commercial fishermen were particularly angry about Wheeler's letter and the listing delay since they have been banned from taking coho for three years.
"We have been regulated as though (coho) were endangered," said Dave Bitts of the Humboldt Fisherman's Marketing Association. "We have taken an unfair share of the burden while others who have done more harm are not taking their share."
Timber industry spokesmen say they have changed their practices to lessen impacts on coho streams. "Our ultimate hope is that by doing so we would be able to see these populations recover without a listing," said Dave Bischel, president of the CFA.
An agreement between Maxxam, Inc., owners of Pacific Lumber Co., and the state and federal governments has postponed salvage logging in the Headwaters grove of ancient redwoods. If the terms of the Sept. 28 agreement can be met within 10 months, Headwaters and some 2,000 acres of adjacent land will become public property.
In exchange, Maxxam will receive cash, real estate, timber and 7,775 acres of nearby timberlands, which the government will buy for PALCO from Elk River Timber. The exchange will cost federal taxpayers about $380 million, far more than any other U.S. government land swap for ecological preservation. The recent mineral rights exchange to protect Yellowstone National Park from toxic mining wastes, for example, will cost a mere $65 million.
Some environmentalists immediately condemned the deal, which was brokered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Cong. Frank Riggs, R-Calif., because it covered only a fraction of the 60,000 acres of PALCO land they want preserved. PALCO's salvage logging in other old-growth groves created a lightning rod for protests, and civil disobedience arrests mounted through October.
Several protesters and groups have accused Humboldt County sheriff's deputies of brutality in making arrests. Sheriff Dennis Lewis told the Journal that most charges were not specific enough to investigate, but that his staff is investigating three formal complaints and will take action against any deputy found to be guilty of abuse.
One of the accusers is Marc Schaefer, a Humboldt State University student, who friends say was beaten with a tire iron by a deputy trying to dislodge him from his tree-sitting perch. "I saw (the deputy) pull back and hit him hard on the legs seven or eight times," said Matthew Nelson of Santa Cruz who was supporting Schaefer and other tree-sitters.
Earth First! brought the conflict out of the woods and onto Highway 101 on Oct. 22 when 70 bicycling protesters occupied both lanes southbound from Arcata. The action was taken during a rainstorm, creating danger for bicyclists and motorists.
"If you can imagine folks traveling down the highway at 60 to 65 mph in a rainstorm and then having somebody drive out into traffic lanes at bicycle speed.... There could have been an injury or death related to this," said Officer John Lutzow of the California Highway Patrol.
On the legal front, environmental groups lost on a technicality in their petition asking the state Board of Forestry to prohibit salvage logging in pristine redwood groves of 20 acres or larger. Despite a 4-2 vote in favor, the measure died because the board's rules require a majority vote of the nine-member board to adopt new rules.
Meanwhile, since early October, U.S. and California fish and wildlife officials have been working with PALCO managers to develop two plans called for in the Sept. 28 agreement: a Habitat Conservation Plan to protect the marbled murrelet and other species and a Sustained Yield Plan to guide PALCO's timber harvest on all of its 200,000 acres.
Environmental groups promise to scrutinize these documents closely to assess how how well they protect fish and wildlife. The plans will be subject to the customary public review, but Headwaters partisans are worried about a clause in the Sept. 28 agreement in which the state and federal governments agree to cooperate with PALCO in fighting legal challenges to any part of the agreement.
Influenza viruses will soon spread through the air as winter descends on the North Coast. For most people, a bout of the flu will mean two weeks of feeling lousy. But for seniors and people with diabetes, heart disease, AIDS or other chronic diseases, the flu can lead to serious illness and even death.
Humboldt County Public Health officials recommend that senior citizens and people with chronic diseases receive flu vaccinations. The vaccinations are available for $2 at eight clinics scheduled in November (See the Calendar, Health/Fitness). People under 60 must bring a written prescription from a health care provider recommending the immunization.
People who don't qualify for the subsidized vaccinations can pay $10 for a flu shot at Long's Drugs, Bayshore Mall, on Nov. 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or Nov. 9, same hours, at Long's Myrtle Ave., Eureka, store. Flu shots are also available by appointment at clinics and other health care providers.
Many people living in the southern sections of Arcata noticed a certain sweetness in the October air. It was actually the absence of acrid smells that used to come from North Coast Quality Compost on South I Street, near the Arcata marsh.
With encouragement from county environmental health officials, NCQC owner Brad Rother has leased a new location on Samoa Boulevard. It's farther from residential areas and lets the operation solve drainage and other problems that were inherent in its former site.
"We really do need small-scale, decent operations like Brad's," said Kevin Metcalfe of the health department. "People who want to compost their waste need convenient ways to do it."
Unlike backyard composters, NCQC accepts large quantities of waste from restaurants and breweries. Stockpiling the material causes foul odors.
Two other compost operations have begun in the county recently. JAKE Worm Farms south of Fortuna uses earthworms to turn food waste from Seafood Grotto, Canton Cafe and other restaurants into wormcast fertilizer. And College of the Redwoods has begun a pilot sludge-composting program using the residue from its sewage treatment plant to create soil amendments for the campus landscaping.
In Southern Humboldt, a group called the Mulcher Vultures plans to buy a chipper and set up a wood waste composting operation at the Redway recycling center. For more information, call 923-4806.
If you didn't have the stomach for frog dissection in high school biology, then you wouldn't have appreciated Dawn Goley's Oct. 2 marine mammal biology class.
Goley, an assistant professor at Humboldt State University, took her graduate students up to Fern Canyon Beach to measure, photograph and cut apart a 25-foot humpback whale carcass that had washed ashore.
"It was a great educational experience but it took a lot of work and a lot of whale goo getting all over everyone," said Goley, who had no doubt the learning was worth the work and the mess.
"Even at sea you don't get to see the throat pleats (which) expand so they can engulf water and prey ... and you don't get to look at the orientation of bones, skeleton and muscle tissue very often."
Goley estimated the whale's age at 4 years or younger, and she and her students weren't able to determine the cause of death. Using whale-sized tools they retrieved the mammal's skull, which will be placed in an HSU natural history exhibit.
A $16.8 million project to deepen and enhance Humboldt Bay for shipping, fishing and pleasure vessels got a $2.5 million down payment in October as President Clinton signed the Water Resource Development Act.
The project will deepen and widen the bar and entrance channels, as well as North Bay and Samoa channels. Harbor district chief Dave Hull says the agency is virtually assured of receiving additional funds in future years, but that about $7 million will have to be raised locally.
The agency is preparing a benefit assessment district proposal, which would assess owners whose property values would be enhanced by the project. Depending on the outcome of Proposition 218 in November, the assessment proposal may have to be submitted to a vote of property owners.
Ultimately, the harbor district hopes to develop a public marine shipping terminal, but site selection and cost estimates for that project are still a long way off.
Community activists in McKinleyville, Southern Humboldt and Arcata are working to develop teen centers like the successful Eureka Teen Center.
The Mateel Center in Redway began opening three afternoons a week with games, sports and art classes for all teens. Transportation from South Fork High School in Miranda is being offered. For more information, call 923-3368.
In McKinleyville, North Coast Youth Activities is continuing its Common Ground project with a $6,000 grant from Humboldt Area Foundation. NCYA conducted eight focus groups with 52 teens in the spring, and this fall it will conduct groups in Orick, Fieldbrook and Trinidad, as well as groups for adults in McKinleyville.
"We ask open questions like 'What are the biggest problems for teens today?' 'What do teens do for fun?' and 'What would you like to see in a teen center?'" said Annie Cash of NCYA.
"After the adults have their say and the kids have their say, we're going to bring the adults and teens together in a moderated way to discuss how we could make this happen." For more information, call 839-3658.
Arcata's Community Forum has a subcommittee that's seeking ideas and funds for a teen center in that town. "We've talked about the city building it in conjunction with the senior housing going up near HealthSPORT and we've talked about it being part of the Arcata Pool," said Carol Heaslip, director of Tiffany's Garden.
Arcatans can help out by dropping money in the "Change for Kids" jars set out in area stores by the Arcata Foundation. For more information, call 822-8850.
City Garbage got out of the recycling business at the beginning of October, leaving Eureka residents and city officials scrambling to come up with alternatives.
Four drop-off facilities are available for aluminum, glass, plastic and bundled newspapers: Cooper Gulch Park, Eureka Municipal Auditorium, Carson Memorial Building at Harris and J Streets, and Russell Street near Sequoia Zoo. General Recycling at 132 W. 4th St. will buy CRV glass, plastic and aluminum.
City Garbage said it made the decision because of low prices for recyclables and because the company's 30-year contract with the city is up for bid. "We have carried the overhead on the recycling service for many years, yet it is not tied to any contract or franchise agreement," said General Manager Mike Leggins in a press release.
The slump in prices for recyclable material is squeezing other operations. "It is incredibly difficult right now," said Kate Krebs, director of the Arcata Community Recycling Center. "In fact we are looking at some of the lower grade materials that we're handling and evaluating whether we should handle them or not. I personally have a lot of empathy for City Garbage."
Pilots using North Coast airports won't hear the reassuring voices of a local flight service station crew after next September. To save money, the Federal Aviation Administration will replace the McKinleyville station with automated systems linked to the FAA's regional computer system.
The FAA has told personnel that there will be a part-time contract weather observer stationed in McKinleyville. That person will input weather data into the FAA's computer network, and pilots will get the same quality of weather data, according to the FAA.
But at least one pilot feels that the lack of a flight service station will make landings more difficult -- not necessarily due to poor weather data but because of what the ground crew can tell pilots about airplane traffic.
"It isn't their main responsibility, but ... they do give you a heads up as to who else is in the area," said pilot Ron Dean. He noted that this help is critical at an airport without an air traffic control station, like McKinleyville and all other county airports.
Without the crew, pilots will "be talking to each other, as we do now, but we'll have to be a lot more careful because we won't have that observer."
Viola Russ McBride died Oct. 13 at the age of 90. The granddaughter of 19th-century Humboldt County pioneers, McBride helped preserve Ferndale's trademark Victorian architecture and supported the arts through her Candystick Gallery. She was the subject of a January 1994 North Coast Journal cover story.
First District Supervisor Stan Dixon was cleared of petty theft charges Oct. 15 by visiting Trinity County Judge Anthony Edwards. Dixon admitted walking out of Long's Drug Store at the Bayshore Mall with a $15 item in his pocket, but said it was a mistake. "I never had any intent to take anything from Long's," said Dixon, quoted in the Humboldt Beacon.
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