North Coast Journal Weekly link to homepageIn the News

Feb. 27, 2003

New report says Humboldt Bay oysters safe

Feds raid Arcata glassblowing firm
Three owners charged with selling drug paraphernalia

Power pole spraying is back

Daly building solution in the works

Gallegos takes on PL

Bag hits snag

Site chosen for animal shelter

More time for Trinity study

Anti-war play in Blue Lake

Fiber optic complaint flops

Carcass crisis

Now you see it...

Clamming up

Paying up slowly

Jacoby school damaged

Isn't pork grand?

New report says Humboldt Bay oysters safe

Call it more of the same.

Last July, a report done by a consultant with Sierra Pacific Industries found elevated levels of dioxin in commercial oysters in Humboldt Bay, but asserted that the levels were too low to pose a health threat.

Now a second report by the same consultant, based on sampling conducted in the fall, has again found dioxin in commercial oysters -- at even lower levels than previously.

"The occurrence of dioxins in oysters and mussels from Humboldt Bay does not pose a significant health risk to shellfish consumers," according to the Feb. 11 report by Environ, a Bay Area-based consulting firm.

Just as before, activists are unconvinced.

Patty Clary, with Citizens for Alternatives to Toxics, a Eureka organization, said that the levels would have to be 40 times less for the oysters to be safe. Instead, she said the levels are 10 times lower.

Fred Evenson, an attorney with the Ecological Rights Foundation, an Oakland environmental group that is suing Sierra Pacific, said that independent sampling needs to be conducted of the oyster beds.

After last summer's report, Marc Lappe, a toxicologist hired by the Ecological Rights Foundation, recommended that adult males consume no more than a single monthly serving of six oysters. He said pregnant women "probably should not eat [Humboldt Bay] oysters" at all.

Exposure to dioxin, a byproduct of many industrial processes, is "associated with a wide array of adverse health affects," according to a fact sheet put out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Additionally, the EPA has classified dioxin as a "probable human carcinogen."

The Environ report comes seven months after the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board asked Sierra Pacific to draw up a workplan to perform a "human health and ecological risk assessment" of Mad River Slough, which borders the company's lumber mill near Manila.

That decision made taken after dioxin was found in mussels and crabs in the slough immediately adjacent to the plant by the Ecological Rights group. The area is a popular fishing spot.

-- reported by Keith Easthouse

Feds raid Arcata glassblowing firm
Three owners charged with selling drug paraphernalia


Pipes depicted in 101 North catalogRyan Teurfs, Jason Vrbas and Gabriel Watson, owners of 101 North Glass, Inc. in Arcata, were each freed on a $10,000 bond Tuesday, one day after being arrested on federal charges for conspiracy to sell drug paraphernalia.

The trio must now appear in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, Pa., on March 7. If convicted, they could face up to three years in prison and fines of several hundred thousand dollars.

Co-workers expressed shock and anger at the arrests. Complaints were aimed in part at federal agents who raided the business Monday and shut it down, putting about 50 employees and sub-contractors who rent space at 101 North Glass out of work.

The raid was part of a series of raids that took place across the country on Monday.

Richard Meyer, spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's San Francisco office, said the nationwide investigation has been going on for more than a year. He said the DEA was targeting only large scale distributors of drug paraphernalia.

"Local authorities deal with the [head] shops," Meyer said.

A press release issued by the Justice Department on Monday stated that the investigations, dubbed Operation Pipedreams and Operation Headhunter, are an attempt to crack down on drug paraphernalia sales over the Internet.

"With the advent of the Internet, the illegal drug paraphernalia industry has exploded," U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said in the release. "The drug paraphernalia business is now accessible in anyone's home with a computer and Internet access."

Acting DEA Administrator John Brown said people selling drug paraphernalia are no different than drug dealers.

"They are as much a part of drug trafficking as silencers are a part of criminal homicide," he said in the press release.

Dale Gieringer, California coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in the East Bay, said the raids were an "absurd waste of law enforcement resources."

The pipes 101 North Glass sells are just common pipes available at any store that sells pipes, he said.

"These are artistic [pipes] with cultural content. The attorney general disapproves of that culture," Gieringer said. "It's a joke. It's a crusade by moralists afraid of colorful bongs [instead of] guns."

101 North Coast's Internet site only offers the company's wares to wholesalers and does not make sales to individuals.

Teurfs, Vrbas and Watson did not enter pleas during an arraignment proceeding Tuesday that attracted about 30 supporters.

In January, a federal grand jury in Pennsylvania indicted the three Arcata men along with about 50 others from across the country.

The company had about $50,000 to $100,000 worth of inventory at its 550 South G Street location. According to one employee who was at the store during the raid, an agent asked that the company's security cameras be turned off during the search.

Fern Thomas, the company's bookkeeper and Vrbas' fiancee, said it looked like a lot of the company's inventory had been seized.

Agents arrived at 101 North Glass in 15 different vehicles and a U-haul truck to haul items away. For seven hours federal agents blocked the entrance to all the businesses in the small industrial complex.

101 North Glass employees arriving for work Monday were not allowed to enter the business.

DEA agents took boxes of the company's inventory of glass pipes and other glass merchandise along with the company's computers and record books, according to several employees.

"Hundreds of people who blow glass won't be able to get [their] raw materials," said one employee.

Thomas, 29, was at Vrbas' home when the feds showed up.

"I wasn't worried at first," Thomas said. "I thought [they were at the] wrong house."

Agents then cuffed Thomas and Vrbas for more than two hours while they searched the house. Eventually Thomas was released.

According to Thomas, agents told her she could leave, or stay and remain handcuffed until they finished their search.

Among the items taken from Vrbas' home were photos albums. Thomas couldn't say what was in the albums; but agents returned one of the books with all the pictures removed.

She told another co-worker that all of the company's manufacturing equipment is still there, but if any of it is used to make pipes it will be confiscated.

The company's computer server was also seized. It contains all of 101 North Glass' financial information. Thomas was told the DEA won't return it for at least 30 days. Until the computer is returned employees may not get paid, she added.

"They have all our info, all our files," Thomas told a co-worker.

Thomas spoke with Vrbas from the Humboldt County Jail on Monday night. She said all three men were doing fine.

"They are very concerned about their employees and their families," Thomas said.

Power pole spraying is back

It was recess at Maple Creek School in Korbel Monday. Children emerged from their classrooms only to be enveloped in a chemical fog.

"When the kids went our for their break, they could all taste or smell it. Their eyes were burning," said Cathleen Carnes, the school's superintendent.

Carnes had noticed that work was being done on the telephone poles across the street from the school, weed whacking and the like, but hadn't known they were spraying herbicides around the base of the poles.

"I'm pretty distraught. I really just thought they were doing it manually," she said.

It is not clear whether the spraying was being done by a contractor of the Pacific Gas and Electric Co., or SBC, which recently bought out Pacific Bell.

An informal moratorium on power pole spraying was negotiated with PG&E by supervisor Jimmy Smith three years ago.

In recent weeks, spraying has been reported all over the county, and in response, citizen groups are once again taking up the banner against it.

"We want to put together a statewide movement to get this stopped," said Patty Clary of the Eureka based Californians for Alternatives to Toxics.

She said spraying had been done near organic farms, well heads, springs, schools, all without the residents' consent.

In McKinleyville, Carnes went over and asked the workers what they were spraying. They said it was Garlon 4 and Oust, both industrial herbicides. They were spraying them in 10-foot circles around the poles to prevent the weeds they had whacked from growing back. They told her the chemicals were perfectly safe, and that rain would soon make it go away.

"I don't believe a word of it," she said.

When the students were picked up by their parents, even the littlest of them said they had "tasted something yucky," said Carnes, who has received several calls from distressed parents.

Carnes said the school was not notified in advance that the spraying was going to take place.

"Had I known [the spraying] was going to happen I would not have had my kids at school today," said Gina Maskill. Her children Chandler and Chloe were both at school that day.

Daly building solution in the works


The Daly Building complex may be sold to the lowest bidder -- not the highest -- in a complicated transaction being proposed by Humboldt State University officials to the city of Eureka.

Robert Schulz, HSU director of physical services, confirmed Tuesday that the HSU Foundation has received three offers -- all well below the amount paid by HSU for the property in 1998. However, the Foundation favors the lowest bidder, as yet unnamed, because of the developer's financial ability and commitment to turn the historic Sweasey Theater, part of the Daly complex, into a performing arts center.

"We are asking for cooperation from the city of Eureka to participate in a solution," Schulz said.

City Manager David Tyson said the "cooperation" HSU is asking for is a discount on the note owed to the city by HSU of up to $150,000.

Taxpayers may ask, since HSU estimates its own loss-to-date on the project to be $168,000, why would the city offer to take a $150,000 bath as well?

Because if the old Daly department store and the Sweasey Theater were back under private ownership and renovated, that could mean $35,000 to $40,000 more in property tax revenue flowing to the city each year.

Tyson, who is recommending the city offer no more than $100,000 of assistance, said it is conceivable the city could recover its investment in as little as three years following renovation.

In addition, the city could boast of another restored historic building, a gem along the F Street corridor, and a venue that could be used for theater, dance and music performances such as the annual Dixieland Jazz Festival.

The request from HSU was expected to be heard by the city's Redevelopment Advisory Board Tuesday night for a recommendation before it goes to the City Coucil next week.

The HSU Foundation purchased the Daly complex for $700,000 using a no-interest loan from the city's Revelopment Agency. The principal was reduced to $515,000 when the Daly parking lot was deeded to the city.

Schulz said the Foundation's loss-to-date, $168,000, includes five years of maintenance costs, and architectural and seismic feasibility studies on the Sweasey. That loss figure also includes about $65,000 made in payments on the principal, leaving a balance owed of about $450,000.

The university officials abandoned plans for the Daly complex in 2000 after they received estimates of $8 million from architects and could not identify any major financial backers. The property has been in escrow with two previous developers and both sales fell through.

City Manager Tyson said the current transaction is consistent with earlier directives passed by the council. The council said it would consider financial help only if a private buyer were found to develop the theater as HSU had promised to do.

"We also need some guarantee that should the developer be unable to perform as promised, that the Foundation be held accountable [for the city's loan discount]," Tyson added.

In a memo to the Redevelopment Advisory Board, Tyson recommended a three- to five-year time period for completion of the rehabilitation work by the owner.

HSU is also requiring the anonymity of the buyer, who is promising a renovation effort of at least $1 million for the theater that may forever be a financial drain.

"Like any performing arts venue, [it] is essentially a long-term philanthropic interest without a positive revenue stream," Schulz wrote in a memo to Tyson.

Schulz said the "identity, capabilities and intent of the development by the purchaser" would be disclosed to and accepted by Tyson on behalf of the city prior to the loan discount and sale.

Property negotiations by public agencies are confidential until finalized.

Gallegos takes on PL

District Attorney Paul Gallegos has come out with both guns blazing in a case filed against the Pacific Lumber Co. earlier this week.

In essence, the case alleges that the company and several of its subsidiaries hid scientific data that could have led to a curtailment of logging on its timberlands.

The DA's office is contending that the company lied in its representation of the severity of landslides in Jordan Creek, located upstream of Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The office also says the company suppressed the distribution of several key environmental documents.

Gallegos is seeking $250 million in restitution for the alleged violations.

Local environmentalists are ecstatic.

"I'm flying. This is the best thing that has ever happened," said Ken Miller, a member of the Humboldt Watershed Council, and a longtime opponent of PL, in a phone interview Tuesday. "My god, finally we have a champion who has some power."

When Gallegos came into office he sent out a letter to many of the local environmental and property rights groups, saying that he believed it was his duty, under California's constitution, to enforce certain environmental laws and asked for any input the groups thought would be helpful.

The DA's office declined to comment on the case, citing ethical rules that prevent them from biasing anyone against their opponents. Pacific Lumber could not be reached for comment.

Gallegos' action comes less than a week after he vowed to the Journal that his office would not sit idly by if environmental laws were being trampled (see "Fresh Air," Feb. 20).

Bag hits snag

The task force charged with reviewing a plan to sell Mad River water to an Alaska businessman for transport to Southern California is recommending that the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District board of directors look at the legal ramifications before proceeding further.

Among the questions raised at last week's meeting was whether, in the event of a sale to a bulk water exporter, international trade laws would kick in and impair the district's ability to control its own water.

Ric Davidge of the Anchorage-based Aqueous Corp. has maintained that there are no trade issues and that suggestions to the contrary are "purposeful misrepresentations meant to scare folks."

Davidge wants to haul upwards of 20,000 acre feet of surplus water in huge 880-foot bags. He had been hoping to get a letter showing the water district's intent to move forward on the project.

The task force is composed of representatives from the district's water customers: the cities of Arcata, Eureka, McKinleyville, Blue Lake, Manila, Fieldbrook and Samoa Pacific Cellulose, which operates a pulp mill on the Samoa Peninsula.

Although most cities said the water district should proceed cautiously, Arcata and Manila have come out in complete opposition.

Some water district board members have said the district should consider putting the idea out for bid instead of just dealing with Aqueous.

The water district will meet next month to further discuss Davidge's proposal.

Site chosen for animal shelter

A proposal to build a state-of-the-art county animal control facility is moving forward.

A site off Hilfiker Lane behind Pierson's Building Center in Eureka has been proposed for the structure. The shelter would have 120 dog kennels and more than 80 cat kennels, and cost between $1.5 million and $4.5 million. It would employ between 14 and 16 people. The facility is scheduled to open late next year.

Last year the county decided to stop contracting with the Sequoia Humane Society for animal control services, which include spaying and euthanasia. The organization had requested a budget increase and a new facility.

In late January the county formed a task force with the objective of building its own facility.

"They determined that it would be more cost-effective for them, in the long run, to build their own shelter," said Kathleen Kistler, head of the humane society. "Our only concern was what kind of shelter they would build."

Shelter staff would be under the command of the county sheriff's office. For the first time it would include a humane officer, whose job in part would be to monitor animal cruelty and neglect cases.

John Falkenstrom, Humboldt County's agricultural commissioner, stressed that the facility would both cut costs and provide quality animal care.

"We don't want to put these animals in a cargo container; we don't want to warehouse them," Falkenstrom said. "We want it to be a professionally built and run facility."

More time for Trinity study

Researchers with the U.S. Department of the Interior will now have until July 2004 to complete a study that could allow for more water to flow down the Trinity River.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Wanger extended the deadline by almost seven months. The original deadline was this December.

Wanger has also asked that two progress reports be submitted to him between now and the July 2004 deadline.

Members of the Hoopa Valley Tribe traveled to Fresno to make their case for extending the timeline to Wanger. The tribe is also appealing Wanger's earlier decision to cap Trinity River flows to the amount allowed in a dry year, regardless of how much water is available.

The tribe does not want to see a repeat of last year's fish kill on the Klamath River. Back in September, approximately 33,000 salmon were killed along the Klamath; most of the fish were headed for the Trinity, which runs through the Hoopa reservation.

The report will offer alternatives for Trinity water diversions. The interior department will review the findings and choose one of the options.

Wanger is also seeking a declaration from the federal government on increasing flows to what is called for in a normal or wetter-than-normal year. Wanger is expected to make a decision sometime next month.

The suit stems from a 2000 decision by then-Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to restore almost half of the Trinity's water from above Lewiston Dam down to the river. Westlands Water District sued to continue rerouting water to the Sacramento River for irrigating farmland, for power generation and to protect the delta smelt, an endangered species in the Sacramento River Delta.

Westlands is also hoping to get the delta smelt removed from the endangered species list.

Anti-war play in Blue Lake

Lysistrata Project poster, 03/03/03, link to www.lysistrataproject.comThe Lysistrata Project is a worldwide theatrical effort with 694 theater groups in 41 countries and all 50 states reading from Aristophanes' ancient Greek comedy on Monday, March 3.

The story concerns a women's revolt against war. Led by Lysistrata, the women of Athens, fed up with the Peloponnesian War, barricade themselves in the Acropolis withholding sex from their husbands until the men agree to lay down their swords and make peace with Sparta.

Fast-forward 2,400 years: Swords are now weapons of mass destruction, and the play is being presented to voice opposition to the war on Iraq. New York actors Kathryn Blume and Sharron Bower conceived the Lysistrata Project in early January of this year.

"Before we started Lysistrata Project, we could do nothing but sit and watch in horror as the Bush Administration drove us toward a unilateral attack on Iraq," Blume said. "So we e-mailed all our friends and put up a web site. The response has been enormous."

Bower added, "Many people have e-mailed us to say how distraught they feel about the war. Now they feel empowered to do something to foster dialogue in their own communities."

In New York City, dozens of teams of actors and directors will read Lysistrata in public spaces throughout the day, culminating in an all-star reading with Mercedes Ruehl in the title role joined by F. Murray Abraham, Kevin Bacon, Peter Boyle, Kyra Sedgwick, Lori Singer, David Strathairn and others.

On the West Coast, Julie Christie, Alfre Woodard, Christine Lahti, Mary McDonnell, Barbara Williams, Eric Stoltz, Ed Begley Jr. and Jose Zuniga will stage a reading in Los Angeles. "At least for the record of history we have to let it be known that millions and millions opposed this war," said Christie.

Tisha Sloan of Dell'Arte heard about the project three weeks ago and organized a Humboldt County reading to be held at 7 p.m. March 3, at Dell'Arte's Carlo Theatre in Blue Lake. "As theater people, it seemed there should be some way to voice our feelings about what's going on," said Sloan, "something more unique than going to a protest. I know I've been feeling restless and wanted to do something."

Sloan enlisted Donald Forrest, Sue Greene, Mara Neimanis, Jackie Dandeneau, Emilia Sumelius, Steve Tenerelli and Stephen Buescher, all from the Dell'Arte organization, plus Humboldt theater veterans Bob and Lynn Wells, Leah Tamara, who directed The Vagina Monologues, and Zach Rouse from JinRickshaw's Laramie Project.

"It feels good to know that this is happening all over the world, that people are all doing this at the same time with the same message, reading the same story," Sloan said. "And it's not hard-to-understand, dry, Greek complicatedness," she emphasized. "It's very accessible."

"Don't let the Greek title scare you away," agreed Sue Green. "The script is great, very contemporary. It rhymes and it's quite bawdy. It's kind of like the Cat in the Hat meets Queen Latifah."

Admission is by a voluntary $10 contribution, which will be sent to humanitarian aid organizations working in Iraq. Reservations are recommended. For further information, call Dell'Arte at 668-5663.

Fiber optic complaint flops

California Public Utilities Commission Administrative Law Judge Anne Simon has rejected a complaint filed by the Redwood Technology Consortium (RTC) and the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission (RREDC) against Caltrans.

The complaint sought to force an early conclusion to the stalemate between the state transportation agency and the communications company, SBC, over fees for the installation of a fiber optic line to serve the North Coast.

Turns out they had the wrong agency. According to a letter from the judge to RTC and RREDC, the state Public Utility Code requires "that a complaint be brought against a `public utility.'" While SBC is a public utility, Caltrans is not, it's a state agency, "the commission therefore does not have jurisdiction," Simon ruled.

What next? According to Tina Nerat of RTC, one option is to amend the complaint to target SBC.

Carcass crisis

Eureka Protein Co., which handled about 60 dead horses and cattle per month, shut down its operations last week, leaving ranchers with no place to dispose of carcasses.

Modesto Tallow Co., the parent company of Eureka Protein, closed its Humboldt County site to reduce its operating costs. Eureka Protein trucked the dead animals to Modesto where the carcasses were turned into fertilizer.

With no place to take dead livestock, some ranchers may resort to burying animals on their property, which is illegal. Others could just dump carcasses into rivers or gulches.

Butchers and restaurant owners who used Eureka Protein to dispose of meat scraps and grease have somewhere else to turn -- North State Rendering, based in Chico.

A spokesman said the company doesn't have a facility in Chico to process dead livestock.

Now you see it....

In a performance that would make a magician jealous, the Arcata City Council last week wiped out a $1 million debt left over from a 1998 loan from the city's redevelopment agency (RDA).

In 1998 the RDA loaned the city $1.2 million to finance a new community center. A year later the city repaid $200,000. The remaining $1 million was to be repaid from the city's forest fund and the sale of the D Street Neighborhood Center. But the city was unsuccessful in finding a buyer for the site.

Clamming up

Clam Beach, a gathering place last year for the annual 420 marijuana celebration, may be a less appealing partying venue this time around.

Citing endangered species concerns among other things, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors is considering closing the beach to vehicles around the time of the event, held every April 20.

The rationale behind the 420 celebration is something of a mystery, although it may have to do with the belief that marijuana contains 420 active chemical compounds.

People from all across the country flock to Humboldt each year to partake in the 420 celebration. The event is usually held at Redwood Park in Arcata, but as authorities have cracked down there, celebrants have shifted to Clam Beach.

The county says it doesn't have enough personnel to keep tabs on the mass of people who show up at Clam Beach. Another concern is that the Western snowy plover nests along the beach during the spring. The bird is listed as an endangered species.

Paying up slowly

Habitat for Humanity has been given a year to pay off $21,000 in sewer and water fees to the McKinleyville Community Services District.

Instead of having to make a one-time payment, the nonprofit organization is being allowed to pay off the debt in installments.

Habitat for Humanity, which builds housing for low-income families, had hoped to get the fee lowered. But the district's board of directors said the law did not allow that.

Tom Marking, MCSD manager, recommended that the board deny the request because Habitat for Humanity had been aware of the fee before it started the project, a nine-unit affordable housing project under construction on A Avenue.

Unlike other developers, Habitat for Humanity cannot pass the cost of the fees onto home buyers.

The group relies on volunteers and donations. Buyers do not need a downpayment and the homes are sold without any interest and at no profit.

Jacoby school damaged

An electrical fire early Saturday morning damaged a portable classroom at Jacoby Creek Elementary School.

According to Eric Grantz, superintendent and principal, the fire started in the classroom's attic.

Grantz said he is working with insurance adjusters to determine the cost of damage and the length of time it will take for repairs.

The room was home to a junior high school social studies class. Between 25 and 30 students will temporarily attend class in the school's library, Grantz said.

Isn't pork grand?

Humboldt County and the Pacific Northwest stand to reap millions now that the House of Representatives approved a 2003 spending bill that includes $450,000 for Martin Slough sewage system upgrades and $2.2 million for Sudden Oak Death research and eradication.

Rep. Mike Thompson announced the news on Feb. 13. The funds are part of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2003 which began Oct. 2002.

Other projects receiving funding: $200,000 to expand the Humboldt Alzheimer's Resource Center; $225,000 for the Eureka Fisherman's Dock; $90,000 for Arcata House Transitional Housing Program for families and individuals who have lost their homes; $4.5 million for the Humboldt Bay Harbor dredging, operations and maintenance; $500,000 for Schatz Energy Research Center to develop renewable fuel cell technology. The bill also includes $90 million for Pacific Salmon Recovery Fund divided between Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California and Native American tribes; and a $500,000 grant for a buyback program which authorizes a $50 million industry loan to groundfish fisherman in California, Oregon and Washington.


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