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March 24, 2005

The Weekly Wrap

A wet Peace March in Eureka

Palco posts giant losses
Water board's approval of 75 percent of harvests
not enough, company says



The Weekly Wrap

EUREKA EMPLOYEES GET CONTRACTS: The Eureka City Council approved three-year contracts with the three unions representing its employees last week. Susan Christie, the city's personnel director, said that it is unusual to negotiate all three contracts -- one each with the police, fire and other municipal employees -- at the same time, but that everyone felt good that they were able to get a new deal inked without too much strife. "It's nice for the city and it's nice for the employees -- we both know what's going to happen over the next three years," Christie said. There had been some debate over who would pick up the tab for recent increases in the police officers' and firefighters' health insurance plan; in the end, Christie said, the city ended up paying for the hiked rates.

SEIDNER WOMAN OF THE YEAR: Wiyot Tribal Chairwoman Cheryl Seidner was named Woman of the Year of the 1st Assembly District by state Assemblywoman Patty Berg (D-Eureka) this month. Seidner may be best known for spearheading efforts to reacquire a portion of Indian Island, a sacred ceremonial site where dozens of Wiyot people were massacred by white settlers in 1860. In a written statement, Patty Berg called Seidner "a wonderful role model for any young woman who wants to help make the world a better place," and lauded the chairwoman's endeavors to preserve Wiyot language and culture, and for her 25 years of work with Humboldt State's Educational Opportunity Program. "I was totally surprised [to be nominated]", Seidner said. "I do what I do because I like doing it. I never thought of myself as an advocate. But I have always stood up and said something when I felt like things weren't right." Seidner, 55, was honored during a ceremony at the state capitol last Monday, and again locally at the Table Bluff Community Center on Friday.

SUICIDE NOTE CLOSES CASE: The case of a Eureka prostitute killed in 1995 was officially closed earlier this month when the primary suspect in the murder took his own life and left behind a written confession. In a suicide note, Timothy Ray Withem, 51, said he was sorry for beating his girlfriend, 35-year-old Leslie Jean Deines, to death in the spring of 1995, Eureka police said. Before killing himself sometime in February at his home in the 1200 block of F Street, the same house where Deines was found dead, Withem wrote in the note that he should have "come clean" about her death, and that he was "sorry for what [he] did," according to the Eureka Police Detective Neil Hubbard. Withem was found earlier this month, two to three weeks after he died from a prescription drug overdose, police said. The doors and windows of the home were locked from the inside, Hubbard said, adding that there was "nothing suspicious" about the man's death. Withem was the primary suspect in Deines' murder 10 years ago, but he blamed a john who had been with her on the night of her death, Hubbard said. Police were unable to gather enough evidence to prove that Withem caused the head injuries that killed Deines, and he was never arrested. (Deines already had a brain hemorrhage; the blows Withem inflicted to her head worsened her condition, resulting in her death.) The case is now officially closed, Hubbard said.

EDILITH ECKART DAY IN ARCATA: Humboldt County may have lost veteran peace activist and all-around wonder woman Edilith Eckart last year, but her memory continues to inspire. On Saturday, the Arcata Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Commission will host a "Community Involvement Day" at the Arcata Community Center in Eckart's honor. A number of community service organizations -- from Amnesty International to the Open Heart Quilters -- will be on hand, seeking volunteers. There will be music, workshops and films throughout the day. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

SALMONID CONFERENCE: Next weekend the Salmonid Restoration Federation holds its 23rd annual restoration conference, entitled "Thinking Like a Watershed: From the Headwaters to the Sea." From March 30 through April 2 at the Fortuna River Lodge, more than 100 presenters will hold full-day workshops on water conservation planning, instream flow requirements, estuary restoration and "regulatory ecology." Tours of restoration projects in Humboldt Bay estuaries, road decommissioning projects in the Headwaters Forest, restoration sites in Freshwater Creek, and other salmon education projects will be held. For a complete listing of conference events and costs visit or call 923-7501.

NO LAUGHING MATTER: Fortuna Police are warning residents about the effects of inhalant abuse after dozens of empty nitrous oxide canisters were found in a Fortuna parking lot recently. Nitrous oxide, aka laughing gas, which is commonly used in dental procedures, can be found in whipped cream cans and can also be purchased in canisters called "chargers" or "whippits." Inhaling spray paint or gasoline fumes -- something referred to as "huffing" -- is another all-too-common pastime among teenagers. Inhalant abuse results in disorientation, fixated vision, pulsating auditory hallucinations and an increased threshold of pain, according to police. But the high times come at a cost, including limb spasms, nausea, brain damage or death. FPD says that telltale signs of inhalant abuse include chemical odors on the breath and clothing, paint stains on face and hands, drunk or disoriented appearance, slurred speech, loss of appetite, inattentiveness, irritability and depression. Using nitrous oxide for the purpose of "elation, euphoria, stupefaction, or dulling the senses," among other altered states, is a violation of the California Penal Code.

FELT THE EARTH MOVE?: A string of six small offshore earthquakes rumbled west of Eureka last week, although only two were strong enough to be felt here. On March 17, at 3:21 p.m. a 3.8-magnitude quake with an epicenter 15 miles southwest of Humboldt Hill in Eureka shook the ground. More than 300 people from Orick to Rio Dell filed online reports of their earthquake experience with the U.S. Geological Survey. Later that evening a 4.7-magnitude quake hit, this time with an epicenter 55 miles southwest of Eureka at 11:23 p.m. Though it was the larger of the two St. Paddy's day quakes, the latter only drummed up 32 USGS online responses, which came in from Petrolia to McKinleyville. Other weak offshore seismic action occurred between March 16 and March 18 ranging in magnitude from 2.1 to 2.9. Bayside resident Catherine Puckett, the USGS's deputy communications chief for the western region, said that the recent rumblings are not unusual. "We get little earthquakes here all the time," she said.

NOW THAT'S DIFFERENT: After running a red light, a drunk driver led Fortuna Police on an erratic, slow-speed pursuit through the sunny city earlier this month, according to police. Jeffrey Crawley, 50, of Loleta, was chased -- if you can call it that -- by an FPD officer at speeds of 10 to 25 mph through Fortuna on the afternoon of March 11, before he finally stopped at the intersection of 12th and Main streets. The officer ran up to Crawley's Chevy S-10 pickup and pulled the keys from the ignition. Crawley was booked at the Humboldt County Jail for evading police, driving under the influence, resisting arrest, driving on a suspended license, possession of an illegal weapon (a billy club was found in his vehicle) and for an outstanding warrant.

CHILD CARE ASSESSMENT: The draft of the Local Child Care Planning Council's Child Care Needs Assessment is available for public viewing online at The document is also available at the Humboldt County Library and the Humboldt County Office of Education. The public can offer feedback online or by attending the March 30 input session at the county Office of Education, 901 Myrtle Ave., Eureka, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Call 445-7006 for more information.

A wet Peace March in Eureka

It was a cold, rainy day Saturday, March 19, but a dedicated crowd of protesters, estimated by event organizers at more than 2,000, donned rain gear or brought out their umbrellas to march through Eureka, marking the second anniversary of the beginning of the armed conflict in Iraq.

[Peace parade marchers with umbrellas in the rain, carrying flag-draped coffin]

Above, marchers carried a faux flag-draped casket commemorating more than 1,500 American military personnel lost in the war.

[marchers with peace flags on wet street, Carson Mansion in background]

The rain stopped briefly as the march returned to Halvorson Park on Eureka's waterfront.

[Three women under umbrella, one with peace-sign flag over her, and dog in foreground]

The umbrellas came out again and a peace flag became a shawl as the rain returned, drowning plans for an activist recruitment fair following the march.

Palco posts giant losses
Water board's approval of 75 percent of harvests
not enough, company says


Despite selling nearly 300 million board feet of timber in 2004, the Pacific Lumber Co. lost $49.3 million last year and may soon face a serious financial crisis, according to two annual securities reports filed by the timber giant's parent company, the Houston-based Maxxam, Inc., last week.

The reports, filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, state that Palco actually made a profit of $5.4 million on its operations last year, which included the sale of timber and generation of electricity at its Scotia cogeneration plant.

However, that small profit does not take into account around $55 million in payments made last year on the company's long-term debt. Through its subsidiary, Scotia Pacific, Pacific Lumber owes around $750 million to bondholders. The majority of that debt stems from Maxxam's takeover of the company in 1985.

In the reports the company states that its high debt load makes it more seriously threatened by changing external conditions, including increased environmental regulation of the type that the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board seeks to impose on its operations in the Freshwater and Elk River watersheds.

"Due to its highly leveraged condition, the Company is more sensitive than less leveraged companies to factors affecting its operations, including low log prices, governmental regulation and litigation affecting timber harvesting practices on the Company Timberlands, and general economic conditions," states Scotia Pacific's annual report to bondholders.

The reports show the company's financial losses are starting to have serious, on-the-ground effects on its ability to operate. The company defaulted on a short-term line of credit at the beginning of the year and has seen its credit rating plummet to CCC+. The company openly expresses concern about its ability to meet an upcoming debt service payment in June, and fears that it may be forced into large layoffs, bankruptcy or other extreme measures.

On Feb. 28, the company's attorneys informed four regulatory agencies that it did not have the funds to comply with terms of its Habitat Conservation Plan, the environmental protection agreement that it has operated under since 1999.

The annual reports were submitted to the SEC on March 16, the same day that Pacific Lumber officials appeared in Santa Rosa at a meeting of the Water Quality Control Board. The officials, including Palco CEO Robert Manne and chief counsel Jared Carter, warned at the meeting that the company would soon go broke unless the board allowed more logging in Freshwater and Elk.

On a 5-3 vote, the board passed McKinleyville attorney John Corbett's motion to allow Pacific Lumber to log up to 75 percent of its California Department of Forestry-approved timber harvest plans in the two sediment-impaired watersheds. New board member Lyle Marshall, chairman of the Hoopa Valley Tribe, voted against Corbett's motion.

The action overturned a decision by the water board's scientific staff. In February, Catherine Kuhlman, the water board's executive officer, issued an order that allowed the company to harvest up to 50 percent of the CDF limits in the two watersheds, saying that the science showed that only 50 percent of the timber harvest plans could be harvested if the watersheds were to be placed on the road to recovery.

The Humboldt Watershed Council and the Environmental Protection Information Center have appealed the Water Quality Control Board's decision to the State Water Resources Control Board. EPIC attorney Sharon Duggan said Tuesday the regional board exceeded its mandate by making a decision based on the company's economic condition, not environmental science.

"The science as we understand at this point clearly indicates that 50 percent would be the maximum," she said. "That's the staff's position, and the regional board exceeded that without having a basis in science -- in fact -- for doing so."

Manne, in a press release, stated that Palco was "very disappointed" the board had approved only 75 percent of the harvests, and that it was not sure if the amount of timber released by the board last week would be enough for the company to avoid layoffs and bankruptcy.

A Story Never Told Before, told in Arcata
ndie film wraps shooting


You may have seen the film crew for A Story Never Told Before at work last week on the Arcata Plaza, which they used to represent the town square in Auschwitz, Germany.

Or perhaps you came across them while they were shooting an elevator full of dreadlocked locals, in Jacoby's Storehouse, along with the film's protagonist, Gregory Goodwin, played by Jackson Kuehn, an actor from San Diego. Gregory, a fictional Arcata resident on a spiritual journey, also showed up in a final scene filmed last Thursday evening at the Arcata Theatre, where the action involved his purchase of a ticket to the film A Story Never Told Before, the movie that he stars in.

[Man in front of movie theater, another buying ticket from woman in booth]"There's a film within the film," explained Karl Langer, co-editor and one of the film's producers, who recently moved from San Diego to Arcata to attend Humboldt State. "He's in a film but not aware that he is."

The convoluted story, written by Jon Poznanter, gets even more complicated when you know that the production, funded by shares in the film sold here and in San Diego, is also tangentially connected to a museum of world religions envisioned by the screenwriter.

One of the sequences was shot earlier that day in Arcata's Redwood Park, where a large, burned-out stump festooned with candles provided a backdrop for a conversation between Leonardo Da Vinci (played by ASNTB director Glen Quaranta) and one of Leonardo's muses, Ginevra (played by Erica Gabrielle), regarding the manipulation of Gregory's consciousness through psychedelic drugs. Gabrielle also plays the driver of the bus to Auschwitz; and her character is the faux director of the film within the film about Gregory's journey.

"What we're doing right now is a short," said Langer in a conversation on the Redwood Park set. "We're going to pump it into a lot of festivals when it's done. What we want to do eventually is produce a full-length feature. What we're doing [for financing] is selling shares in the film. We have 10,000 shares and we're selling 3,000 to the general public. The first 1,000 are $20 apiece. We'll use that for the short."

So far the company has sold "around 300 shares" said Langer, most of them in the San Diego area, but some in Arcata, where the crew set up shop on the plaza during Arts! Arcata, March 11.

Needless to say, the production is operating on a shoestring budget, made possible in part because everything is shot digitally, which means there is no costly film processing involved.

Another cost-saver is the fact that most of the crew is being paid in shares. Langer sees the shares as an investment that will grow with the film. "After 1,000 shares the price goes up to $100 a share," he explained. "That comes after the short is done, from people who want to see it become a full-length feature. You get in early and it's more valuable in the end. Of course it's more of a risk in the beginning but don't forget, you get a free T-shirt."

According to Langer ASNTB will premiere at the San Diego Film Festival in September. He noted that "it's a shoe-in," in part because the film's director of photography/cameraman Karl Kozak co-founded the festival.

To learn more about A Story Never Told Before go to the production company Web site:


Photo above right: Karl Langer on the set for a Story Never Told Before, a scene in which actor Jackson Kuehn purchases a ticket from Erica Gabrielle. Photo by Bob Doran


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