North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

June 21, 2001

Districts shaping up

Salmon bill passes house

Eel River sale cleared

Best oyster? 'Screaming twins'

KEET seeks new digs

Tetanus vaccine shortage

Big setback for Bigfoot

Council may censure Machi

Free HIV testing day

Free lunch program starts

Miranda dairy goes organic

Benbow Lake filling

League chapter cleans up

Districts shaping up

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors has begun the process of adjusting the districts from which they are elected under the guiding philosophy of not fixing that which isn't broken.

While the districts have grown at very different rates over the past 10 years, the board has directed staff to prepare a "minimalist" plan for redistricting. Such a plan would bring the five districts' population totals just within 10 percent of each other, satisfying the legal requirement without rocking the boat.

"You have the 2nd District, which has the most people, and the 1st, which has the fewest. They're 10.184 percent out of balance," said Lindsey McWilliams, administrative services director for the county. "If you took 75 people or so from the 2nd and gave them to the 1st, you would be at 9.8 percent."

There are other approaches, McWilliams said, but the closer you get to a perfect numerical balance, the more complicated the situation gets. The 4th district, for instance, needs to gain people -- but they would have to be taken from the 1st or 3rd districts, which are also people-poor.

"It's like trying to rearrange a house of cards without the house falling down," said McWilliams.

And the bottom line, he said, is that no one is approaching the supervisors with reasons to rearrange.

"The supervisors are for the most part content with their districts and the districts are for the most part content with their supervisors."

Salmon bill passes house

Congressman Mike Thompson's $600 million salmon restoration bill has been approved by the House of Representatives on a 418-6 vote.

The bill would fund salmon habitat restoration efforts in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska. The money would be given to the state governments, who would then distribute it to local and regional projects.

"The primary cause of the drastic decline in salmon and steelhead along California's North Coast is habitat loss," stated Thompson.

While the near-unanimous approval of the bill augurs well for its success, a similar measure won approval in the House last year and then failed to pass the Senate. This year's bill has yet to be considered by the Senate.

Eel River sale cleared

A decision by Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Marilyn Miles freed Eel River Sawmills' assets June 9 from a lien imposed by two former employees.

The lien is part of a class action lawsuit filed in March. The lawsuit alleges that the company cannot be sold to anyone other than its own employees. The financially strapped Eel River has been trying to sell its mills and timberlands to Pacific Lumber Co. and Englewood Forest Products since the beginning of the year.

Both companies have expressed interest in continuing with the purchase.

Best oyster?`Screaming twins'

The official winners of Saturday's 2001 Arcata Bay Oyster Festival were announced earlier this week.

Slurping up the highest honor of "Best oyster of the festival" was one of Jambalaya's "Screaming Twins," an oyster cooked in the shell and topped with a smoky chipotle chili aioli sauce, which was paired with an oyster in a sweet mint Thai pesto sauce.

First place went to Hurricane Kate's oyster with tasso ham and Cajun cream sauce. Second place honors were bestowed on Village Baking's red coconut curry topped oyster and third went to Folie Douce's Japanese grilled oyster with green onion sesame, wasabi and plum sauce.

Oyster lovers from as far away as Louisiana and as close as 8th and G streets spent the afternoon on the Arcata Plaza, basking in the sunshine and partaking in the sybaritic delight of fresh Humboldt Bay oysters, local brews and wines.

Festival producer, the Arcata Downtown Business Community, is currently collecting data to determine the economic impact of the festival on Humboldt County.

"Saturday was a platter of the best of Humboldt --day was beautiful, the food was great, the people were happy and I can't think of any better ingredients for a perfect picnic on the Arcata Plaza," said Michael Behney, ADBC executive director.

KEET seeks new digs

Citing a need for space, KEET-TV has announced it is looking to relocate.

Station employees are forced to work out of their homes because there isn't enough space at the station, said Ron Schoenherr, executive director of the public television station. More room for studios and editing is also needed to accommodate the station's growing commitment to local programming.

KEET's upcoming conversion to digital television will increase the amount of local broadcasting the station will provide. Digital television allows several programs to be broadcast simultaneously, opening up space in the schedule for local shows.

"We really want to be able to take advantage of the new digital television mode we will be converting to and increase local programming," Schoenherr said.

The station is required by the Federal Communications Commission to broadcast digital television by 2003.

The 31-year-old station currently occupies a facility at the top of Humboldt Hill. The cost of relocating isn't yet clear, but Schoenherr said that part of the funding would probably come from one or more foundations.

Tetanus vaccine shortage

A nationwide shortage of tetanus vaccine has hit home in Humboldt County.

Only one drug company makes the vaccine, said Dr. Ann Lindsay, Humboldt County Health Officer and president of the Humboldt Del Norte County Medical Society. There had been two, but one recently discontinued tetanus vaccine production, and "it's taking a while to beef up production to meet demand," Lindsay said.

"It probably isn't a very high-profit drug."

Until adequate supplies are available, Lindsay is recommending that only travellers to high-risk areas and children under the age of 7 receive the vaccination.

"People who are due for their booster shots should forgo it for another year," she said.

Big setback for Bigfoot

Bicycle race organizer Vic Armijo had built a course for the July 27 Bigfoot bicycle race that had everything he looks for: It was beautiful, challenging and finished. Until the land owner plowed four miles of it under, that is.

The course, built on Pacific Lumber timberlands in the Freshwater watershed, was mistakenly "decommissioned" as part of the company's campaign to improve watershed health. Old logging roads, like those on which Armijo built his bike track, can release sediment into streams unless destroyed.

That's all well and good, said Armijo, but he now finds himself "seven weeks before the race without a course." He said he has even heard rumors at local bike shops that the Bigfoot race is to be cancelled.

His reply? "We'll get the course done." He has friends, a local Boy Scout troop and the new Bigfoot Bicycle Club (see Journal cover story, "Making Fast Tracks," April 19) helping him.

"It's just going to take up a lot of what would otherwise be our free time," he said.

People interested in helping build a new course can call Armijo at 822-3488.

Council may censure Machi

Arcata councilmember Michael Machi's complaint to the federal Housing and Urban Development agency may have lost the city a $462,000 grant and could result in his official censure by fellow councilmembers.

Machi wrote a letter to HUD alleging improprieties with the handling of funds from past grants. A few weeks later, the city's grant application was denied.

In response, Machi's colleagues on the city council have put a resolution to censure him on the agenda for the June 20 meeting. The meeting occurs after press time, but councilmembers made it clear at the June 5 meeting that they strongly disapprove of Machi's method of expressing himself.

The grant was to be used to purchase Foodworks, an economic development project, from the Arcata Economic Development Corp. That purchase has proved complicated, as negotiations concern not just the price of the building but issues concerning debt owed by AEDC to the city.

Free HIV testing day

Free and confidential HIV testing will be offered around the county June 27 as part of National HIV Testing Day.

Six sites in Humboldt County will offer the service in coordination with the North Coast AIDS Project and Humboldt County Public Nursing. The needle-shy are also invited -- using the new Ora-Sure oral HIV test, no blood draw is needed.

See this week's Calendar for times and locations or call 268-2132 for more information.

Free lunch program starts

Food for People's annual summer lunch program has started, giving Humboldt County children the chance to enjoy the same nutritious free lunches they receive during the school year.

More than a third of Humboldt County's children are eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches during the school year through a federal program. When summer rolls around, the children often miss out on a good meal.

With nine locations around the county, the summer food program seeks to fill that need. All children are eligible and no certification is required.

"If children are to return to school healthy and ready to learn, they need good food during the summer months to support their growth and development," stated Jennifer Rishel, program coordinator for Food for People.

Call 445-3166 for locations and times.

Miranda dairy goes organic

The Miranda Dairy is making the leap to organic with the help of $500,000 from the state of California.

Hoping to capitalize on a growing market, Dorice and Tim Miranda are the two newest members of a burgeoning Humboldt County organic dairy community. There are already at least two other dairies converting to organic, and the Loleta cheese factory has started producing a line of organic cheese (see Journal cover story, "It's the Organic Cheese," Feb. 1).

Organic conversion is a long and expensive process, and the dairy won't be certified organic until fall. The Mirandas will use the money to purchase organic feed, add 200 cows to their herd of 500 and pay for the certification procedure.

The milk won't be marketed in Humboldt County -- at least not yet. For the time being, it will be sold to Clover Stornetta of Petaluma, which is unavailable in Humboldt County at this time.

Benbow Lake filling

Benbow Lake, a seasonal waterbody created by a temporary dam on the south fork of the Eel River, will be back this year.

The dam to create the lake wasn't installed last year because of maintenance problems. That maintenance was deferred and has yet to be completed, but the installation of the dam was allowed this year by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The California State Parks Department has announced the dam will be missing again next year as the maintenance is completed. The long-term future of the lake depends on the results of a study by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is concerned with the dam's effects on salmon and steelhead populations in the Eel.

League chapter cleans up

When you're one of 71 competitors for a prize, odds are you won't win. Imagine how happy the Humboldt County chapter of the League of Women Voters must be. It just won five of the nine awards at the biennial LWV convention in Los Angeles.

The Humboldt chapter won for its efforts toward citizen education, website quality, voter services, the overall quality of the chapter's newsletter and the specific excellence of the league president's column.

Call the League at 444-9252 for more information.



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