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February 18, 1999


Aleutians make return too

Mill supervisor killed

PL lays off workers

Tree-sitters served notice

Water wars flow south

Vet clinic interest high

HSU year-round schedule set

Road building moratorium

Boat center on the way

Aleutians make return too

Even with reported deaths from a statewide outbreak of avian cholera, Aleutian Canada Geese numbers are flying in the face of their downward spiral in the late 1960s. (See this week's related cover story.)

Many bird enthusiasts have found their steady, 16-percent rise this year to nearly 30,000 from their endangered to threatened species status as cause to celebrate.

To mark their recovery from a mere 800 geese 30 years ago, a host of local agencies including Redwood National and State parks is preparing for the first Aleutian Goose Festival in Crescent City March 26 and 27.

The event's keynote speaker is Arcata wildlife biologist Paul Springer.

"It's exciting to call attention to the population increasing rather nicely," Springer said of the specific species of geese. Still, like other bird watchers, the Arcata man is keeping a close eye on the update in the state's Central Valley. More than 700 Aleutians have died from the respiratory illness, a published report indicates.

Springer will show slides that Saturday evening which illustrates the birds' recovery.

Organizers are planning a variety of events through the entire weekend, beginning Friday evening with an opening reception. The weekend unfolds with seminars, workshops and field trips on shore and off.

Hearty souls are encouraged to flock to the Castle Rock area at first light to see the Aleutians' mass fly-off. The event has been described by birders as a spectacle that "will take your breath away."

In early spring, the seasonal transients head north to their nesting home on the Aleutian Islands of Alaska and land in the Crescent City area, many on Castle Rock and the pastures near the Lake Earl Wildlife Area.

The lake marked one site of the recent outbreak of avian cholera, a bacterial illness that has killed more than 50,000 birds statewide. The die-off, the worst in recent memory at Lake Earl, started around the holidays, just after the Audubon Society's annual Christmas bird count.

Among the victims of this disease that kills the birds in six to 12 hours are more than 5,000 waterfowl at Lake Earl including coots, ducks and grebes, said Bill Holtz, who manages the area for California Fish and Game. Luckily, Holtz said, the Aleutians haven't arrived to the Lake Earl area yet. Even so, the geese with their signature yelp gravitate to the pastures, not lakeside where the outbreak hit.

The Redwood Coast region is a popular stop on the Aleutians' migratory map, one of seven major U.S. flyways. The birds traveling 35-40 miles a day.

Instinctively, they migrate as far south as the San Joaquin Valley in central California in search of warmer climates and better grazing grounds.

The Aleutian Canada Goose Festival is a nonprofit Scenic Ocean and Redwoods (SOAR) project out of Del Norte County. For information, call 487-2112.

Mill supervisor killed

A Fortuna man became the first fatality at the Sierra Pacific sawmill in Arcata early Tuesday morning, according to the Humboldt County Coroner's office.

John Crosswhite, 48, the mill's night foreman for a decade, was struck by a 2,000-pound board when he was relieving the edger operator, Deputy Coroner Charlie Jones confirmed. He received massive internal injuries.

The company has determined the edger machine is working properly, and the incident is under investigation.

After checking records dating to the 1950s, Jones had surmised the company has a "good safety record. It has reported five accidents in which an employee lost time."

Crosswhite had worked for Sierra Pacific since 1975.

"We all are devastated by the loss of John Crosswhite. John was a fine person and (was) respected by everyone who worked with him. Our sympathy goes out to his family during this difficult time," the company said in a statement.

PL lays off workers

The Pacific Lumber Co. reduced its work force by as many as 72 workers in recent weeks, but the work force reduction has leveled off, PL spokeswoman Mary Bullwinkel said.

The company points to "environmental pressures, ongoing litigation, increasing regulations and inclement weather" as the factors.

The first set affected 12 employees in PL's Carlotta operation. The most recent layoff affected 60 workers out of mill operations in Scotia, the company announced. Mill B has curtailed work temporarily.

For now, PL has suspended its self-guided sawmill tours at Mill B but a section of the tour remains open.

Tree-sitters served notice

Three Humboldt County environmental activists sitting in protest of Pacific Lumber logging practices were notified by the company on the trees they occupy that they're trespassing and therefore breaking the law.

But where PL's action goes from here remains to be seen.

When asked whether his department plans to remove the tree-sitters, Sheriff Dennis Lewis said no and referred the inquiry to the company.

The written public notice asks the protestors to leave the premises and not return until given permission. The notice also warns the activists of a request to the sheriff's department that deputies intervene.

PL spokeswoman Mary Bullwinkel said the posting of the notices is a "safety issue," responding to one Earth First! activist's fall more than 100 feet near Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park.

"That didn't have to happen," Bullwinkel said. The company has set no date for further action. Instead, it sees the posting as an initial first step to make it "very apparent" to the tree-sitters where the company stands.

Meanwhile, Julia "Butterfly" Hill, who celebrated her 14-month crusade off the ground in the 1,000-year-old redwood tree she calls Luna, said "little has changed." The tree-sitter continues her vigil near Stafford.

Water wars flow south

Come Feb. 25, the public will have its say on the division of Eel River flows between Humboldt and Sonoma counties.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is hosting a hearing in Ukiah next Thursday to review the environmental impacts of controlled flows and water diversions. The federal agency regulates one controversial system of dams and diversions PG&E's Potter Valley Project enacted in 1908.

Conservation and sport fishing groups call for changes to the project, which they claim "has decimated salmon and steelhead (fish) runs" in the windy and long Northern California river.

The Friends of the Eel River, in particular, takes issue with the project's Cape Horn Dam, which diverts water from the Eel to residents of Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties through the Sonoma County Water Agency.

But a spokeswoman with this agency said her group has contributed greatly to and taken an active role in salmon restoration efforts, including the recent recovery plan proposed by the Clinton administration.

"I don't know how we could ever restore the fish population to its historic levels," said Ellen Dowling, the water agency's public information officer. Striking a balance between preserving dwindling fish populations and supplying growing communities is the goal, Dowling said.

But the conservation group contends the agency is getting rich on the Eel at the expense of the fish.

The meeting will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Ukiah Valley Conference Center, 200 S. School St.

Vet clinic interest high

Following a long-fought battle by Redwood Coast veterans, the Eureka Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic has turned into a booming victory for its people served, according to Humboldt Occupational and Environmental Medical.

The HOEM clinic administrator, Jerry Johnson, recently noted the clinic is seeing an average of 25 veterans a day and fielding a heavy load of telephone inquiries.

Almost a year ago, Eureka was targeted for a community-based outpatient clinic by the Department of Veteran Affairs to serve the estimated 20,000 veterans in Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

The program, run out of HOEM's 727 E St. office, is a contract cooperative between HOEM and the VA. It's intended to serve vets who were forced to drive hundreds of miles to receive medical care mainly in the area of prevention at a VA facility.

Humboldt County vets had to drive to the San Francisco Bay Area or Redding. Del Norte County vets had to travel to Roseburg or Bandon, Ore.

Fran Clark, executive director of the North Coast Small Business Development Center in Eureka, believes the need is "significant" because many veterans are too ill and disabled to make such an intense drive.

Johnson said he's noticed a substantial number of veterans who have "let their health slip" because of the "hassle" of getting to a facility.

David Alligood, Roseburg's district director's assistant, suspects the VA is trying to get out of the inpatient business. The change in philosophy is especially timely.

Since 1994, the VA has closed 22,580 43 percent of its acute care hospital beds. In the same period, the VA reports a rise in outpatient visits by 6.6 million. Forty other communities from coast to coast were also selected for outpatient clinics, from West Haven, Conn., to Hollywood.

There are bugs to iron out in the paperwork process, but all that will be worked through over time, Johnson assured the vets. Veterans go through a qualification period that takes a few weeks to finalize.

HSU year-round schedule set

The summer of 2000 at Humboldt State University may be the summer of love for the city of Arcata.

Like other members of the California State University system, the 7,500-student campus will operate year-round next year, and city officials are hopeful the expanded schedule will mean a boost to the economy in Arcata.

"It's got to be a boost to the economy," City Manager Keith Breskin said. Whether a windfall will happen or not "remains to be seen," he admitted.

He listed food, housing and arts as only a sampling of benefactors the city believes will at least receive a "net gain" if not short-term, at least over the long haul.

Campus officials are convinced the extended year could mean students get their degrees sooner, too. The likelihood of finishing the degree program early translates into a very real possibility, Dean of Undergraduate Studies Rick Vrem cites as an advantage. Technically, a student could finish up in three years instead of four, he said.

Vrem also shared a possible downside. The schedule change may drain fall and spring enrollment. Campus officials anticipate 1,500 students to enroll that summer. Currently, only classes in extended education are offered during the summer.

That term, HSU will offer high school students a class introducing college. The university also hopes to attract, say teachers, to graduate studies courses in summer. The latter may turn the demographic profile of the student enrollment into an older crowd.

"We may attract more locals," Vrem said, speculating the outcome of the first-time project. "If this turned out to be a disaster, I suppose we could pull the plug on it."

The summer session will last 10 weeks. Fall and spring semesters last 15.

"We're not sure how much of an effect (the extended schedule) will have here," he said.

Steve Hackett, professor of economics and natural resources, agreed. "It's really hard to know what's going to happen until it plays out," he said.

Beyond a possible surge for the campus and community economically, Hackett also guesses the change would mean a "boom for teachers one clear winner."

Road building moratorium

The government has imposed an 18-month suspension on road building to fend off environmental damage on U.S. Forest Service property. But some environmentalists have denounced the moratorium effective at the end of the month as falling short of larger goals.

Locally, the Six Rivers National Forest is exempted, prompting concern from the Sierra Club, in particular, with the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest in the district's back yard.

"If we are going to save the last wild, unspoiled places in our nation, this moratorium should be made permanent and applied to all of our national forests, without exceptions," said Sean Cosgrove, a Sierra Club forest policy specialist in Washington, D.C.

But Six Rivers National Forest officials say the ban isn't necessary because it's already doing its own assessments of roads. They will soon conduct community meetings to look over what roads on their lands are being used for what.

The federal agency estimates it keeps up 383,000 miles of classified roads and 52,000 miles of unclassified roads. Its current backlog for maintenance and reconstruction of existing roads runs about $8.4 billion.

Boat center on the way

By the year 2002, kayakers, rowers and sailers may have a new home.

Humboldt State University has laid out plans for a 17,000-square foot building near the Adorni Center in Eureka that will house its Center Activities Aquatic Department. It's currently a mobile program that shows no sign of fading in popularity in the near future, said Dan Collen, department head.

"We don't have a home," Collen said. Having a facility that will serve a range of watercraft enthusiasts, store equipment and teach boating safety is a good idea on the waterfront, he said.

The overall project proposed on J Street is estimated to cost $2 million. HSU Center Activities officials and participants are hoping the city or other sources will pick up the remainder, as the state grant in the 1999-2000 fiscal budget covers $1.7 million.

Collen argued the facility should serve all boating enthusiasts and expects the waterway-based community would support such an endeavor.

He used the university's own success catering to boat lovers as a yardstick. The aquatic program averages more than 4,000 people served already, without having a home base.

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