North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

March 1, 2001

PALCO and clean water

Eureka OKs homeless center

Above and beyond for kids

Students back HSU building

Rediscover the
Discovery Museum

PALCO and clean water

Residents and activists trying to curtail Pacific Lumber's logging in the Freshwater watershed have opened up a new front in their legal battle. Rather than concentrating on the state's Forest Practice Rules, which directly regulate timber harvesting, two recently announced lawsuits focus on clean water legislation and logging's perceived effects on streams.

The two suits -- one being filed by the Environmental Protection Information Center and another by the Humboldt Watershed Council -- both start with the assumption that timber harvesting introduces sediment into streams that flow through harvested land. They maintain that sediment should be considered pollution because of the harm it causes through flooding and damage to salmon habitat, and should be regulated like any other pollution source.

The HWC's case is based on state clean water laws. A recently approved PL timber harvest plan in Freshwater watershed should have been investigated by the California Department of Forestry for compliance with the Porter-Cologne Act. If it had been, it would have failed, according to Ken Miller, spokesperson for the HWC.

"The plan violates the law because it prohibits a discharge of pollutants like sediment in amounts that cause a nuisance," he said.

Mary Bullwinkel, spokesperson for PL, said while she didn't think it "appropriate to comment on the specifics of a case that is in litigation," the plan had been prepared under PL's Habitat Conservation Plan, a set of regulations "stricter than what is required under California law."

The HWC is seeking a preliminary injunction to stop PL from harvesting the site until the case can be heard, but it has had trouble finding a judge. After PL recused Bruce Watson from the case and the HWC recused Dale Rheinholtsen, the other Humboldt County judges excused themselves from consideration. One of those who recused himself was John Feeney, recently disqualified from a case involving Pacific Lumber because of alleged connections he had to the firm while a private attorney.

Judge Anthony Edwards of Trinity County was finally selected to preside over the hearing Feb. 27. The hearing concluded after press time Tuesday, so results were not available.

EPIC, along with the San Francisco's Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, has filed a much broader lawsuit that claims discharges of sediment should be handled exactly as pollution from other industries -- as point sources of pollution.

Water pollution is divided in the Federal Clean Water Act into two categories. In point-source pollution, pollution is released from one source, like a factory or a sewage treatment plant's outflow. Non-point source pollution comes from diffuse sources of runoff, like cars that leak oil into storm drains or the runoff from a pasture.

The EPIC/Earthjustice lawsuit alleges that the individual ditches and culverts which deliver sediment into streams in five watersheds should be considered point sources. Freshwater watershed is one of those included in this suit. If they are indeed found to be point sources, PL -- and, presumably, every other timber operation -- would have to comply with the same laws that factories do. That would mean getting a permit from the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System and would probably mean much tougher restrictions on the amount of sediment that could be released.

Streams on PL land "don't meet water quality standards," said Bill Curtis, program director for Earthjustice. "Everybody knows why; it's logging. They'll be degraded forever, or until somebody does something about it."

Bullwinkel said that if this lawsuit were successful, it would throw every resource company and many other private landowners into an impossible regulatory situation.

"What about county road culverts? Runoff from a hillside owned by a private citizen?" she said.

Curtis said he agreed that the broad application this case would have "is an important issue." But he said that timber operations are not immune to the same regulations as other sources of pollution.

Eureka OKs homeless center

After five years and 19 public meetings, the Multiple Assistance Center for the homeless (MAC) finally received a conditional use permit at a special meeting of the Eureka City Council Monday, Feb. 26.

The Coalition for Transitional Housing, a coordinated effort by the county, city, community volunteers and staff, plans on locating the center in the Humboldt Door and Window Building at 2nd and Y streets.

"We still have to meet the conditions for the property purchase and the conditions that go with the $1 million block grant from the state," said Kay Escarda, the morning after the approval. Escarda is a retired school teacher who is a member of the League of Women Voters. She got involved in the process in 1995 as a League volunteer after a similar plan failed.

"We couldn't really apply for other grants until we had site control. Last night's decision gave us that control so now we can proceed. We need a little more capital, not much," said Escarda, who feels it is likely the part of the additional funding will come from state budget surplus money set aside for homeless programs.

Although the city of Eureka was involved in site selection, no city funds will support the center. The county will supply $200,000 for the first three years of operation from its general relief budget, and the Sisters of Orange, which owns St. Joseph Health System Humboldt County, will donate $100,000.

A common misconception is that the center will be a drop-in shelter akin to St. Vincent's facility across town. There will be no drop-in service, said Escarda.

"You have to be enrolled in the program and sign a contract. It will only serve people who are [housed] in the facility. We won't have people coming in and out who aren't enrolled."

Plans for the center call for 15 beds for families. Dorm rooms will provide space for another 10 to 15 single men or women.

"The center is meant to coordinate existing services," Escarda said. "Most people don't understand that. Many services will be offered on site. For instance, if a parenting class is being offered by adult ed, we will invite them to do the class at the facility. There will be an office for job training or AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] might want to do a meeting there. That way people won't have to chase around town to different places."

Approval of the site was a major hurdle, but a lot of time and work remains before the MAC begins offering services.

"We have to have it in operation by March 2003," said Escarda. "But we plan on having it operating before that -- probably not until March 2002."

Above and beyond for kids

"All we're looking for are people in the community who are doing things for children above and beyond the normal," said Andrea Tordoff, president of the Humboldt Association for the Education of Young Children.

Those people could receive the Friend of Young Children Award, an annual honor bestowed on five of Humboldt County children's biggest boosters. They could be foster parents, bus drivers, teachers or scout leaders; the important thing, said Tordoff, is that they "take that extra step and have done something for children."

Nominations should be sent to HAEYC, FOYC Awards Committee, PO Box 5235, Eureka 95502.

Students back HSU building

Humboldt State University's controversial construction of a new building got a shot of momentum this week as student representatives passed a resolution in support of the plan.

The Behavioral and Social Sciences building has been criticized by residents of the neighborhood surrounding the building site and by the city of Arcata. Both groups claim that the building would adversely affect their interests and that concerns -- especially traffic -- were not adequately addressed in the project's environmental impact report.

The Associated Students, the student government at HSU, alluded to those environmental concerns in their resolution by "acknowledging students' concern about the previously completed negative declaration" of environmental impact. The group also "encourages conscientious construction of the BSS building."

The resolution stops short of asking for a new environmental review of the plan, something affected community members have been pushing for. The traffic component of the review has been attacked as unrealistic -- which could discredit the entire review.

While they wanted to acknowledge neighborhood concerns, the Associated Students "are here to advocate for the students," said Laura Kerr, chair of external affairs for the student group. The resolution supports the BSS building because of the "long-term benefits such a facility would provide."

Rediscover the Discovery Museum

Saturday, March 3, the Redwood Discovery Museum opens its doors for a celebration at its new location. The science-oriented exhibits, packed away in boxes for over a year, will once again entertain and educate children and adults.

After moving from space to space in the Bayshore Mall for four years, the museum had put all of its gear in storage in November 1999 until it could find a new home.

"We needed our own space to make the museum successful and create the vision we all had for it," said Carolyn Widner, president of the museum board.

The space board members found was in Eureka in the Carson Block Building at 3rd and F streets and in June 2000 they began moving in. A fund-raising campaign netted $140,000 to help with the move.

The building, owned by the Indian Development Council, donates 4,500 square feet -- much more room than the museum had in the mall.

"We have several new exhibits and we've redone all of our old exhibits," said Widner. "We have a new theme for the museum: We call it `a world of discovery.' Within that you will discover four separate worlds that relate to our lives."

"A Working World" includes some simple machines, a construction zone and the Kid's Co-op, a miniature version of the Co-op with a cash register and a conveyor belt.

Widner describes "The Exploration World" as, "a place where you can explore a world that's normally beyond the bounds of your ability. For instance there's the planetarium.

"And we have a puppet theater where kids can write, direct and produce their own puppet shows that can be tape-recorded and they can take the videotape home."

A third area is "The World Within" where kids can learn about the human body. The fourth is "The Living World," celebrating life on the North Coast.

"We have a redwood forest ecology exhibit. We have the Port of Humboldt exhibit -- which is a boat with a periscope, a telescope, Morse code and other things to explore."

"The museum has always used a hands-on experiential approach to learning. We use the theory that people remember what they do -- not what they hear, or what the read, or what they see -- but what they do.

"When people interact with our exhibits -- touch them, move them, feel them -- they internalize the lesson more than they would if it was static. It turns people on to learning."

And when Widner says people, she means it. "We want to allow everyone to find the child within themselves. We're not just for kids any more."

The reopening celebration starts at 3 p.m. Saturday and continues through Arts Alive! ending at 9 p.m. Regular museum hours will be Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; on Monday, Thursday and Friday 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Arrangements can be made for school field trips and evening appointments for parties. For more information call 443-9694.


Comments? E-mail the Journal:

North Coast Journal Weekly

© Copyright 2001, North Coast Journal, Inc.