North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

July 5, 2001

Year sixth driest on record

Machi escapes censure

Certified -- by whom?

Where's the disaster?

Raise for Eureka police?

NEC birthday bash Saturday

Hammond Trail development

Hands-on teachers' training

Year sixth driest on record

The water year, as measured from June to July, just ended -- and it was one of the driest on record.

Just 22.85 inches of water fell at the Eureka National Weather Service station between July of 2000 and June of this year. That makes it the sixth driest year since the service started recording rainfall levels in 1886.

Average rainfall would have been 36.8 inches; this year was only 62.1 percent of that. The driest year on record was 1976-77, when just 17.56 inches fell.

Machi escapes censure

The fight over alleged nepotism and mismanagement at the city of Arcata experienced a period of de-escalation last week. The city got a good report card from state investigators and the council declined to consider censure of one of its members.

Investigators from the state Department of Housing and Community Development said they found no evidence that accusations of favoritism and misuse of funds in a housing rehabilitation program had merit.

"Overall, Arcata is doing a very good job of implementing its community development block grant funds," wrote Allen Jones, a program manager with the department.

The majority of the Arcata City Council -- Mayor Connie Stewart and Councilmembers Jim Test and Michael Machi -- decided not to consider a vote to censure Machi at its June 19 meeting.

Machi had asked federal authorities to look into the financial relationship between the city and the Arcata Economic Development Corp. Several councilmembers have publicly blamed Machi for the city's subsequent failure to acquire a $462,000 grant and wanted to officially censure him, placing the item on the agenda.

Certified -- by whom?

The Pacific Lumber Co. has announced that its timber harvesting operations have been certified as sustainable -- but not everyone is buying it.

PL is at the center of several controversies over logging practices. Harvests in the Mattole River Valley and Freshwater Creek watershed are targets of lawsuits and vocal opposition by residents. But the company maintains its logging will actually improve watershed health as roads are repaired and sediment reduced.

Certification is supposed to help solve just such debates. In theory, third-party impartial observers give timber operations that tread lightly on the land a stamp of approval (see cover story "The New Face of Forestry," July 27, 2000). That stamp allows timber producers to charge a higher price for their product or be given a higher priority for purchase by retailers, increasing profitability.

Opponents of PL logging should have been reassured by the company's June 14 announcement, but many are asking, "certified by whom?"

PL's lumber is being certified as "sustainable" by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Program, which is administered by the American Forest and Paper Association, a trade association for timber producers. Such certification is akin to a fox certifying henhouse security, said Douglas Fir, executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Forestry, which was until recently involved in a different certification program called SmartWood.

Fir said that the SFI was created by the timber industry and is being used by PL to "position itself in a growing green market."

Independent certification programs have been getting a lot of positive attention from large retailers. The SmartWood program was named by Home Depot, Ikea and Lowe's in "wood procurement preferences." That means they will buy SmartWood certified lumber when possible.

There are on-the-ground differences between SmartWood and the ISF programs. ISF allows large clearcuts and SmartWood does not; ISF allows harvesting of old-growth trees and SmartWood does not. PL spokesperson Mary Bullwinkel said part of the reason for choosing the SFI certification regime was that PL's "operations could meet the standards."

"It was achievable," she said.

That doesn't mean that PL's recent certification is a bad thing, Fir said. Even though the criteria are weaker than under the SmartWood program, the ISF is still "an attempt to provide standards for its members.

"I applaud them for trying, and I think it's a first step. Whenever a forest products company has someone look at its management and assess it, that's for the positive."

But is PL's lumber harvesting sustainable as the company claims? That, said Fir, is a difficult question to answer.

"On my desk I have a book called Defining Sustainable Forestry," he said. "It is about 300 pages long."

Where's the disaster?

Humboldt County businesses can now apply for disaster assistance relief loans for a farming drought happening in the Klamath Basin.

When California's Modoc and Siskiyou counties were declared primary disaster areas by Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman June 14, all counties bordering them became eligible for disaster relief loans from the federal Small Business Administration. Oregon's Klamath County was declared a disaster area in April.

While the actual disaster has to do with farmers hundreds of miles away whose crops won't get irrigation water during this drought year, the economic effects may be far-reaching, said Rick Jenkins, public information officer with the SBA, in a telephone interview from Sacramento.

"There tend to be a lot of companies that service farming and ranching communities," Jenkins said. If, for instance, the sugar beets and potatoes grown in the Klamath Basin were shipped by a Eureka trucking company, the loss of a crop in eastern Oregon could be felt on the North Coast.

Ironically, it is concerns over salmon populations -- once a vital part of the North Coast's economy -- that prompted the decision by the federal Bureau of Reclamation not to provide Klamath Basin farmers with the water they normally use to irrigate their crops.

The diversion of Klamath water to agricultural users caused "more than just an economic disaster" in Humboldt County, said Tim McKay, executive director of the Northcoast Environmental Center. "We lost about 3,500 family wage jobs," he said.

Real relief could come to North Coast salmon fishers if the agricultural diversions remained shut off in the future, he said. And the disaster relief loans?

"I'm not even sure who in Humboldt County would qualify," he said.

Raise for Eureka police?

Eureka police officers are entering into labor negotiations with the city, looking for an increase in compensation.

"We're not sure what the city will be offering us," said Detective Jeff Daniels, vice president of the Eureka Police Officer's Association. He said that the association hasn't come up with a concrete proposal either but would be looking to address the disparity between police pay in Eureka and other California cities.

"In our society today, the larger cities -- San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond -- they don't really have a higher crime rate than we do," he said. The pay scale for those police forces are much higher. Negotiations with the city always entail "an attempt to lessen that discrepancy."

Don't look for the Eureka Police to strike, even if they can't reach an agreement with the city.

"We're different from other unions," he said, because the officers could not in good conscience leave the city without police protection.

"But we're just like any other workers. Our cost of living gets higher every year and we expect to be compensated fairly."

NEC birthday bash Saturday

The Northcoast Environmental Center is throwing itself a birthday party Saturday, July 7, at the Arcata Community Center starting at 6 p.m.

The non-profit "has been at the forefront of defending the bioregion" for 30 years, according to the July edition of EcoNews, NEC's monthly newsletter. Its first executive director was state Sen. Wesley Chesbro, then a student at Humboldt State University.

Tickets are $30 for a dinner catered by Larrapin' Cafe. Reservations can be made by calling 822-6918.

Hammond Trail development

Humboldt County is going to be doing more work on the Hammond Trail -- but it won't be opening up access to longer stretches of it.

The county put the project, building an eight-foot wide paved trail along the side of Fischer Road from School Road North to Hiller Road, out to bid this week. The county already owns the right of way, so there won't be any problems acquiring easements from landowners.

Currently the trail simply uses the Fischer Road. Building the trail parallel to the road will coast $38,000.

The construction is representative of "a new period of cooperation" between the county and the Redwood Community Action Agency, said Sungnome Madrone, co-director of the natural resources division of the agency. For the last 10 years the RCAA has taken the lead on developing the trails (see Journal cover story "Linking Hammond Trail," July 13, 2000).

More cooperation will be needed for the next big phase of the trail's construction, Madrone added.

"We're just wrapping up a new study on where we need to go from here," he said. Connecting the two halves of the trail is the highest priority, he said. Currently there is a small section in the middle of the five-mile route without a trail. Long-term plans include extending the trail from Trinidad head to Arcata.

Hands-on teachers' training

It happens all too often: People spend two years studying the theory of education and then discover during their student teaching year that they don't want to teach.

That's why College of the Redwoods and Americorps have joined to create a program that allows people interested in teaching to find out if they are suited to the career while earning money toward their education. The Access Careers in Teaching program puts prospective teachers in direct contact with students as reading tutors.

While teaching kids to read, participants work toward an educational award of $1,181 for tuition or student loan payments. They also receive a wage of $7.25 an hour and college credit toward a teaching credential.

"We're trying to get people into classrooms so that they can make informed decisions," said Dawn Jackman, who coordinates the program for CR and Americorps.


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