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March 31, 2005

The Weekly Wrap

Harbor plan too industry-heavy?

Eureka Marine portrayed in exhibit


The Weekly Wrap

PULP MILL VARIANCE OK'D: A judicial board that oversees the North Coast Unified Air Quality District last week approved Evergreen Pulp's request to emit particulate pollution above and beyond its permitted limits. In a hearing Wednesday, Evergreen CEO David Tsang explained that the company needed an exemption from the limits because in February, shortly after the company took over the Stockton Pacific mill, it discovered that two large, complex devices designed to remove pollution from the mill's plume had been out of compliance for months. Tsang said that the company would need time to diagnose and fix the problem. For his part, Lawrence Odle, the district pollution control officer, said that the added pollution was unlikely to amount to a serious health concern, and he praised Evergreen's efforts to bring the mill back into compliance. He also favorably contrasted Evergreen's efforts to work with the district to those of the mill's previous owners. "Mr. Tsang has brought a degree of professionalism that we have not seen with L-P or Stockton Pacific," Odle said. The board granted Evergreen an "interim variance" that will allow the mill to operate out of compliance until May; next month it will take up the question of whether to extend the variance to Dec. 31. Particulate pollution is not responsible for odors that longtime residents associate with pulp mill operations, as the Journal incorrectly reported last week. However, human error was recently responsible for an especially noxious smell discharge, and district staff reported at the meeting that Evergreen had agreed to pay a $10,000 fine related to that incident.

HSU WINS HYDROGEN POWER CONTEST: Humboldt State students were awarded the grand prize from the National Hydrogen Association at an international competition this week in Washington, D.C., according to the NHA. Ten HSU students traveled to the nation's capital to present their design for a hydrogen power park that would use the gas from the Cummings Road landfill in Eureka. Professor Charles Chamberlin, co-director of the Schatz Energy Lab, said Tuesday that the students' plan calls for placing the park on the Eureka waterfront, where hydrogen-powered cars could gas up, and excess hydrogen fuel would be stored and shipped to the Silicon Valley. Also, the hotels slated for construction on the waterfront would get their heat from electricity generated by the hydrogen power park. Contest runners-up were Cornell University and the University of Waterloo in Canada.

NAS: NUKE PLANTS UNSAFE: Citing national security concerns, experts say that it is unsafe to hold spent nuclear fuel in underwater holding facilities, according to an article in the Sunday edition of the Washington Post. Excerpts of classified reports are the source of the public debate, fueling a feud between the National Academy of Sciences and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over whether or not spent nuclear fuel should be kept in dry casks rather than submerged in water. According to reports cited in the article, the NAS claims that underwater storage is not as safe as the dry cask method and therefore makes the plants with fuel pools targets for terrorist attacks. Pacific Gas & Electric's Humboldt Bay Power Plant in Eureka is home to 390 nuclear fuel rods that have been stored underwater since the 1960s, but to say that Humboldt County's safety is at risk is a stretch, according to PG&E spokesman Jeff Lewis. The nuclear fuel at the local plant is old, Lewis said, and therefore no longer a great source of heat, so the threat of a large nuclear fuel fire happening here is highly unlikely. "It is still radioactive, but it can't get hot like younger fuel can. It wouldn't run the risk that [national experts] are talking about," Lewis said. Still, the nuke rods are scheduled to be moved into dry casks in 2009, Lewis said. The plan is to then ship the fuel to another site in Nevada, possibly Yucca Mountain.

STUDENTS WANT SUSTAINABLE ENERGY: Despite the fact that a student majority voted last spring to hike tuition by $10 per semester to fund a plan that would make Humboldt State 100 percent energy independent by the year 2043, the California State University's chancellor nixed the proposal. Now, almost a year later, the Students for Energy Independence are not letting the issue die, and have urged the Arcata City Council and county Board of Supervisors to write letters to Chancellor Charles Reed on their behalf. "[Reed] didn't throw out the plan entirely, he just wouldn't sign it," said HSU student Laura Salerno. Colleen Bentley-Adler, a spokeswoman for the chancellor's office, said that Reed did not sign the Humboldt Energy Independence Fund because the CSU system has been in financial straits, and tuition costs were already raised last year. The extra fee for the energy fund would have been an extra burden for students, Adler said. Salerno disagreed, saying that students who are financially strapped can waive the $10 fee. The energy plan would also benefit the university's ailing enrollment rates, she said, by attracting throngs of eco-friendly students who like the idea of making the university's electricity meter spin backward. If the plan is implemented this semester, HSU will become the first public school in the country to attempt to become 100 percent energy independent, Salerno said.

BIG WAVE EXPERT ON NOVA: HSU Geology Professor Lori Dengler, an often-cited local source on earthquake phenomena, is sharing her expertise on a national level this week on an online Q&A forum for the popular PBS science show NOVA. The forum, called "Ask the Expert," coincides with the show's airing of The Wave That Shook the World, which explores the science behind the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed close to 200,000 people in December. Even before the show debuted on Tuesday, e-mail queries began to pour into Dengler's inbox. "There's been an interesting mix [of questions]" Dengler said. "Some were typical but some were unsusual, too," she said. And Monday's 8.7 magnitude earthquake off Sumatra has thrown a new element into Dengler's online responses -- she had to revise some of her feedback to include information on the recent quake. The show will be repeated Friday, April 1, at noon, and Saturday, April 2, at 5 p.m. on KEET-TV Channel 13.

PEPPER SPRAY CASE BACK TO COURT: The "Pepper Spray Eight" lawsuit against the county is scheduled to go back to trial on April 11 in the San Francisco courtroom of federal Judge Susan Illston. The suit stems from a series of incidents in late 1997 in which local police swabbed the spray directly into the eyes of protestors. The suit has twice been tried in federal court, once in 1998 and once last year; both times, the juries in the case deadlocked. Vernell "Spring" Lundberg, one of the activists involved, said Monday that she believes the suit will be successful this time around, not least because she and her co-plaintiffs can present testimony from a police practices expert who is prepared to call use of the spray "excessive force." "I think that'll be the clincher in this, because they'll be able to see a police officer that agrees with us," she said. On Sunday, Lundberg and others will appear at a benefit showing of "The Forest for the Trees: Judi Bari v. the FBI," a new documentary film about the 2002 Earth First! lawsuit against the FBI and the city of Oakland. The film's director, Bernadine Mellis, is the daughter of Dennis Cunningham, lead attorney for the plaintiffs in both the Bari lawsuit and the pepper spray case. The film plays at 8 p.m. at Arcata's Minor Theatre. Tickets are $10.

HOT JAZZ TICKETS: Beware to those who have scalped tickets to this weekend's jazz festival in Eureka. In December, 160 Redwood Coast Jazz Festival tickets were stolen from The Works music store in Eureka along with $500 cash. Since each ticket has an individual number, concert organizers know which ones were stolen. Staff will check the numbers at the gate, and those who have a ticket from the stolen batch will be turned away.

WEIRD AIRPLANE CIRCLES MCKINLEYVILLE: A huge white passenger jet circled low around downtown McKinleyville early last Thursday morning, conducting a series of awkward-looking maneuvers and scaring the bejeezus out of at least one witness. After touring the town, the plane made what looked like an aborted landing attempt at the Eureka-Arcata Airport then flew off into the distance. Emily Jacobs, the airport's program coordinator, said last week that the plane was a Boeing 707 belonging to the U.S. Air Force, which once a year or so uses Eureka-Arcata as a training location for its pilots. In this instance, said Jacobs, the pilot was practicing recovery from a "missed approach" -- a botched landing attempt.

STUDENT WINS INTERNATIONAL PRIZE: Eureka pianist Ryan MacEvoy-McCullough, an 18-year-old Humboldt State student, brought home first prize in an international competition devoted to the works of one of his favorite composers, the 20th-century Pole, Milosz Magin, in Paris earlier this month. Last year MacEvoy-McCullough was invited to perform several Magin pieces on "From the Top," a nationally syndicated public radio show. Audio of his rendition of three avant-garde preludes and a whimsical polka can be found on the show's Web site, Follow the links in the program's archives to show #96, which was recorded on Feb. 8, 2004.

WATCH FOR THOSE FAKES: Eureka Police are urging local businesses to be on the alert for counterfeit money orders and $100 bills circulating around Humboldt County. Postal money orders, being passed mostly at banks, are of high quality but can also be easily detected, police said. The good money orders have a white American eagle with a purple background; the fake ones will have a purple eagle on a white background. The counterfeit bills pass the "pen test," but one of the bills, an altered $5 bill, has a "USA $5" on the security strip. The other has a mistake in the lower left corner: In the sentence, "This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private," the comma after "debts" is missing.

FLY THE CHRISTIAN SKIES: Freshwater resident Walt Frazer was shocked to find a religious placard on his meal tray on a recent Alaska Airlines flight from Orlando to Seattle. The card, about the size of a baseball card, pictured a beautiful sunset with the verse of a psalm, "I will praise God's name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving." On the bottom of the card were the words, "Alaska Airlines." Though it was new to Frazer, an airline spokesman said Monday that the cards have been distributed on cross-country Alaska flights since the 1980s, when Bruce Kennedy served as chairman of the company. "It's had an interesting kind of reaction," said Sam Sperry. "It runs the gamut of opinion." Sperry added that the distribution of the cards would be discontinued as soon as the current stock runs out, as part of "an aggressive cost-cutting program."

RANCHERIA SETTLES WORKERS' COMP SUIT: The Blue Lake Rancheria has settled its year-long legal dispute with the state Department of Industrial Relations regarding one of its companies, staffing firm Mainstay Business Solutions. According to a press release issued late Tuesday, the rancheria has agreed to drop its claim that its tribal sovereignty frees it from having to provide workers' compensation insurance for its employees. "We are looking forward to this new era in our company's business operations," said Mainstay CEO Michael Hansen. For background, see "Turf Battle," Dec. 18, 2003.

Harbor plan too industry-heavy?


Humboldt Bay is many things to many people -- a shipping terminus, an oyster farm, a pleasant place to kayak on a Sunday afternoon, or all of those things at once.

The fact that so many people use the bay, sometimes for wildly different purposes, can make managing it for the greater good terrifically complex. But after seven years of work, Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District officials believe they are on the verge of a long-term solution.

Earlier this month, the district released a four-volume, several-hundred-page draft version of its Management Plan, a document meant to guide the future of California's second-largest natural bay. The document is the result of years of research, most of which was led by a 19-member volunteer group representing a wide variety of interested citizens.

But as an April 15 deadline for public comment on the draft plan approaches, a number of groups and individuals are scrutinizing the particulars of the plan -- and some have concerns about what they are finding.

Christine Ambrose, a planning consultant who serves as "coastal advocate" for the Garberville-based Environmental Protection Information Center, said Monday that she perceived the plan to be stacked heavily in favor of industrial development of the bay.

"Humboldt Bay is a treasure in terms of natural resources," she said. "Would it really be best served as an industrial port? And frankly, is it realistic? I'd like to see the harbor district take a wider, more open vision of what could be possible for Humboldt Bay in terms of appropriate, sustainable development."

Ambrose also questioned why the district would only allow a few weeks for public comment on the plan, given its length and complexity.

But David Hull, the district's chief executive officer, said there will still be ample time for the public to assess and question details of the plan in upcoming months, as he and his staff prepare required environmental reports ahead of the plan's final adoption by the district's board of commissioners.

"The process of collecting comments now is really sort of an extra step," he said.

Hull added that he thought criticism of the plan's alleged bias toward industry was unfounded. He said that the district is mandated by law to address all potential uses of the bay, and that issues such as recreation, aquaculture and environmental protection are each given adequate representation in the document.

"The bottom line is that it really is a balanced plan," he said. "And it really is an unfair assessment to say that we only focus on the harbor."

The nonprofit Humboldt Bay Stewards will hold an informational workshop on the management plan on Tuesday, April 5, between 1:30 and 5 p.m., at the Humboldt Area Foundation's headquarters, 373 Indianola Road, Bayside.

The full plan is available for downloading at the district's Web site, Hard copies can be reviewed at the Eureka or Arcata libraries. In addition, the Bay Stewards have made a limited number of CD-ROM versions of the plan, which can be requested by e-mailing Mike Buettner at

Comments on the plan can be mailed to the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District, P.O. Box 1030, Eureka, California 95502-1030.

Eureka Marine portrayed in exhibit

[Capt. Andrew LaMont in uniform]The Eureka Marine who was killed in Iraq shortly after the start of the war was among more than 1,000 service men and women honored in an art exhibit that opened in Washington, D.C., last week.

Capt. Andrew David LaMont, 31, son of former Eureka City Councilman James LaMont, died May 19, 2003, when his CH-46 Sea-Knight helicopter went down shortly after takeoff in the Shatt Al Hillah Canal.

The "Faces of the Fallen" art exhibit opened March 23 in the Women in Military Service For America Memorial at the gateway to Arlington National Cemetery and will be on display through Sept. 5. Created by portraitist and art teacher Annette Polan, it consists of portraits created by more than 150 artists from photographs of those who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. Organizers hope to tour the exhibit to different locations around the country if they can raise the funds to do so.

According to PBS's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, LaMont's portrait was painted by Washington artist Mary Challinor. "There was something about the photograph that was able to capture both a dignity and a wistfulness," she said on the program, "I think because it was taken by his sister, as opposed to an official military photograph."

LaMont's sister, Kathleen, told NewsHour that she took his picture shortly after he became a Marine officer. "He dressed up in his dress blues, and wanted a picture of him, so he was on my front porch and I just remember standing through the front door and having the trees and the outside surrounding him. And just taking the picture."

LaMont is the only Humboldt County serviceman killed to date in the war.

Members of LaMont's family could not be reached for this story.


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