North Coast Journal Weekly link to homepageIn the News

Jan. 23, 2003

Being there:
As war looms with Iraq, protestors fill
the streets of San Francisco

Story & photos by Andrew Edwards

Postcard from Berlin:
These days, it's not easy being an American in Germany

by Arno Holschuh

Eureka's review of Target project flawed, report says
Coastal Commission staff recommends state intervention

Marching off to war? Military call-ups hit home

Some cypresses may be spared

Treesitters sue

Gallagher's going

Jacks beaten

Eureka's review of Target project flawed, report says
Coastal Commission staff recommends state intervention


THE CITY OF EUREKA'S STUDY OF THE potential environmental impacts of the proposed Target store at the north end of town is inadequate and the project should be reviewed by the state, according to a report by the staff of the California Coastal Commission.

If the Coastal Commission decides to go ahead and scrutinize the plan, as now appears likely, the Target project could be set back by several months at a minimum.

The report said that a challenge to the project brought last month by the Garberville-based Environmental Protection Information Center has merit. The EPIC appeal has been ridiculed by city officials.

The City Council approved Target's coastal permit and finalized its environmental impact report on Dec. 17. By a 5-0 vote, the Council approved, among other items, buffers ranging between 40-feet and 250-feet for the site.

The report, finalized last week, was skeptical of the city's claim that buffers of less than 100 feet between the store and Humboldt Bay will protect the fragile wetlands environment near the site.

"The biological information relied upon by the City in approving the project does not demonstrate that a reduced buffer width would protect the resources of the habitat area as required," the report said.

The report also asserted that the city's evaluation of the project's possible impacts to wildlife was based on scant data. Land owned by the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge is located near the proposed site for the store, currently occupied by an abandoned Montgomery Wards.

"The biological evaluation lacks site-specific information regarding impacts from increased disturbance associated with operation of the project to birds, mammals, or other species that utilize the Eureka Slough Habitat Area," the report stated. "There is no information regarding the current level of use of the [area] by wildlife and how that level of use would be expected to change as a result of the project."

City Manager David Tyson defended the council's decision to give a green light to the project. "We feel the council adopted the EIR [environmental impact report] and coastal permit based on facts," Tyson said.

He also raised concerns about the commission coming in and possibly overturning the city on a major project. "The direction of a community can be taken away," Tyson said, adding that municipalities throughout Humboldt County should pay heed. "Local control over matters of local concern can be removed from the Council."

The commission's 12-member voting board is expected to decide whether to hear EPIC's appeal at a Feb. 6 meeting in San Diego. Eureka city officials will be in attendance, Tyson said.

Should the commission follow its staff's recommendation, a whole new state permitting process would begin. That would certainly mean a delay for the demolition of the Montgomery Wards store and construction of a new Target store. But how long a delay is anybody's guess.

Tyson said it all depends on whether a hearing to review EPIC's appeal is set quickly.

"If [a hearing] is held beyond May or June, it will affect the building season," he said.

A coastal commission review of the project could mean, among other things, that it will have the final say on the key issue of whether a 100-foot buffer is required.

In addition to criticizing the environmental study, the report calls into question the adequacy of the city's General Plan, which allows some flexibility on buffers. City staff have maintained that a 100-foot buffer is not required at the site and that development can take place as close as 40 feet to the bay.

They have said that the buffers nonetheless provide some protection to the bay and will serve as aesthetic landscaping. The city is requiring that Target treat storm-water run-off before releasing it into the bay.

Buffers separate a development from environmentally sensitive areas to minimize disturbances to plants and animals and to reduce the chances of water pollution.

Lisa Shikany, an environmental planner with the city, has repeatedly said Eureka's General Plan does not require a strict 100-foot buffer.

The plan states that buffers "adjacent to all environmentally sensitive areas" are required to be a minimum width of 100 feet, "unless the applicant for the development demonstrates on the basis of site-specific information, the type and size of the proposed development, and/or proposed mitigation (such as planting of vegetation) that will achieve the purpose(s) of the buffer, that a smaller buffer will protect the resources of the habitat area."

A mouthful to be sure, but city staff says what it means essentially is that buffers are flexible. That's why they say the EPIC appeal is groundless.

"Everyone at city hall thinks the appeal is without merit," said City Councilman Jeff Leonard. "I don't agree with the issues in the appeal. I don't feel it has a lot of basis."

EPIC's appeal outlined three issues: the buffer, treatment of water runoff from the parking lot and lack of a citywide wetlands management program. The last two issues were not deemed significant by coastal commission staff in their report.

Tyson pointed out that there are currently no buffers in place at the site; the Montgomery Wards parking lot is built right up against the wetlands, he said.

"The proposed project improves the current condition," he said.

If Target wanted to, it could move into the existing Montgomery Wards store and begin retail sales tomorrow, Tyson said.

Target wouldn't have to build any buffers or provide any mitigation for runoff from the parking lot, Tyson explained, because they wouldn't be making any changes to the property.

Target is proposing to demolish the existing 86,253 square-foot Montgomery Wards store at 2525 4th Street and replace it with a 138,000 square-foot retail store and garden center with 452 parking spaces. Target has yet to file for either its demolition or building permits.

Marching off to war? Military call-ups hit home


Joe McManus, 19, joined the Marine Corps to play in its renowned band and to take advantage of the GI Bill, which funds vocational and higher education.

McManus left for Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego two days after graduating from McKinleyville High School last June. He is now awaiting deployment to the Middle East.

"I don't like it at all," said his mother, Mary McManus, of McKinleyville. "It's tough to see a kid go off."

But she has faith that her son will be okay.

"I keep praying for peace," she said.

Since the Vietnam War, young American men and women have been called up for active duty to such faraway places as Central America, Grenada, the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, Ukraine and Afghanistan.

Last week, as the country inched closer to war with Iraq, 62,000 men and women in the regular military, the reserves and the National Guard were called up for duty in the Persian Gulf. Some, like McManus, are from Humboldt County.

In California, there are 22,000 men and women enlisted in the National Guard. Of that number, about 2,000 have been called up since Sept. 11, 2001, to assist with engineering, to work in fuel depots or to fly refueling planes.

How many of those recruits are from Humboldt County is not known, according to Capt. Michelle Van Der Linden, National Guard spokeswoman in Sacramento.

Although their final destinations are classified, most members of the California National Guard will either remain at Beale Air Force Base in Marysville or at Travis AFB in Fairfield. But Van Der Linden said some will end up overseas.

Sgt. First Class Larry Wolf, a correctional officer in the Humboldt County Jail, has been with the National Guard for 17 years. He joined out of a sense of patriotism and a belief that "it's the right thing to do."

Although Wolf, 56, has not been called up, he knows it's just a matter of time.

"It's a question of when," he said. "I've been told [the day] will come."

Wolf believes he will most likely be called to assist in homeland security.

Whether Wolf is deployed overseas this year, he knows that next year he will be headed off to Germany to play the opposing force in a multinational war game.

He also knows that being called up amounts to a pay cut.

"If you have a car or house payment it can be rough," he said. "It's a hardship on younger guys."

Pay varies by rank, but Wolf said he doesn't think about it anymore.

"It's a job. The pay is there," he said.

Wolf has been called into service on several occasions, but never for combat. He served in Honduras -- where he had to carry a loaded weapon whenever traveling off base. And in 2001 he served alongside soldiers from 20 other nations in a peacekeeping exercise in Ukraine.

Besides Wolf, there are two other correctional officers and two deputy sheriffs who are in the National Guard. Should all five of them be called up it could affect scheduling, especially in the jail, said Brenda Gainey, press information officer for the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office.

There are no National Guardsmen working for the city of Eureka or the Eureka Police Department. The city of Arcata has one police officer, Sgt. Ron Sligh, who is in the Coast Guard Reserves. But he has not been called up for duty.

Sheriff's Deputy Gary Cooper just returned from a 10-month deployment that included nine days of training at Camp Roberts -- a former Army base in Paso Robles. He has been told he will be called up again, most likely by the end of the month. He expects to go overseas.

Cooper, 35, is an MP -- military police. He has served in the Middle East and was called up after the Sept. 11 attacks. He and his detachment had four days to put their lives in order before heading down to Pittsburg. Cooper was then sent up to Fort Lewis in Tacoma, Wash., for 10 months.

"It could have been worse. I could have been [stationed] in the desert," he said.

At Fort Lewis, Cooper served in the MPs. The job is almost the same as his job in Humboldt County, he said. He served as law enforcement for a community of about 50,000 facing the same issues as a regular city -- domestic violence, crime and drug use.

Although Cooper received active duty pay, he was still losing about $1,000 a month in pay from his sheriff job. However the county will make up the difference, Cooper said.

Cooper, who is single, acknowledged that getting called up is harder on guys with families and kids.

"I don't mind going," he said. "You just put everything on hold."

Some cypresses may be spared

At press time, the Eureka City Council was considering a plan to save 10 of 27 cypress trees along K Street near the city's giant powder blue water storage tank, a local landmark.

The plan also calls upon the city to plant up to 32 new trees -- not cypresses but a smaller species -- along Harris, Wood, K and H streets.

The city had begun removing the stately trees on Dec. 5 as part of a project to replace the old tank -- which dates to the 1950s -- with a new one more in line with current seismic safety codes.

The original proposal called for removing all of the Monterey Cypress trees.

Numerous calls to City Hall led to a decision to halt work on the project until the public works staff could determine how best to proceed.

The city brought in arborist David Hegemann to determine if the trees needed to be removed. According to the city staff report, Hegemann believes the trees are stable, pose no serious threat to the water tanks and have about 25 years of remaining life. [see CORRECTION in Jan. 30, 2003 NEWS]

Last month Public Works Director Brent Siemer said the trees were being removed largely because of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. City officials feared someone could access the fenced-in property by climbing on over-hanging branches.

Project engineer Jeff Tedder added that the roots of some of the trees were in the way of a planned underground pipeline.

Michelle McKeegan, president of Keep Eureka Beautiful, had said that the original project flew in the face of a council resolution that envisioned Eureka as a city of tree lined streets and directed staff to undertake projects to make that vision a reality.

But after seeing the city's new plan, McKeegan said the city is making a good faith effort to save the trees that can be saved.

"I'm sorry to see the big old trees go, but given they are down, this is a good resolution," McKeegan said.

Treesitters sue

A treesitter is challenging Pacific Lumber Company's practice of removing treesitters using climbers.

Jamie Leroy Harris, recently removed by climbers, is suing PL head of security Carl Anderson, Eric Shatz (also known as climber Eric), PL President Robert Manning and PL itself for, among other things, knowingly endangering him while removing him from a tree.

According to his complaint, he was lowered from 200 feet in the air suspended from a strap around his chest, with his wrists strip tied.

"Sure, [PL is] facing harm because they can't log the tree, but that's not even comparable to the risk of loss of life to a treesitter," said Stephen Christensen, a legal aid worker helping Harris prepare for the case. Harris is representing himself.

So far no one has died while being removed from a tree, but, according to one treesitter, many have been injured.

"They've never [killed anyone] taking them out of a tree, but is that what it's going to take for them to stop?" asked longtime treesitter Remedy, who's been sitting in a tree in Freshwater for 10 months.

A preliminary hearing in Humboldt Superior Court is scheduled for Jan. 24.

Gallagher's going

After weeks of rumors, it's official. Arcata Police Chief Chris Gallagher is stepping down effective Feb. 4.

Gallagher is leaving to head the police department in Susanville, Calif., located in the northern Sierra Nevada.

His almost two-year tenure was marred by controversy last summer after he came out against music venues on the Plaza serving alcohol.

In a meeting after last November's elections, City Manager Dan Hauser reportedly told Gallagher there might not be enough votes on the newly elected city council to keep him on when his contract came up for review in March.

Lt. Randy Mendosa will be taking over as interim chief of police while the city conducts a search for Gallagher's replacement.

Jacks beaten

The Jacks ran into a bit of hard luck on the road last weekend when Central Washington ended HSU's winning streak at 13 Saturday night.

Central Washington forced 34 Humboldt State turnovers while thrashing the previously invincible Jacks 85-69.

The team was fresh off a victory two nights earlier against another Washington team, Saint Martin's College, where they prevailed 69-62.

The team is still tied for first in conference play with a 4-1 record in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, but whether they remain the top-ranked team nationally is yet to be decided. The national rankings are due out next week.

The Jacks will have a chance to extend their record 25 home-game winning streak this weekend as they host Western Washington's Vikings on Thursday.

On Saturday the Jacks will go head-to-head with their greatest rival, Seattle Pacific, in a showdown which will determine who is number one in the GNAC.

All games start at 7 p.m. in HSU's East Gym, but get there early -- tickets sell out fast.



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