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Final chapters


cover of May 1995 North Coast Journal, depicting the dredge Jupiter in the water and fogA significant piece of Humboldt Bay history went up in smoke last weekend.

Fire officials say transients -- or more likely, weekend partyers -- left a fire behind Saturday night on the dredge known as the Jupiter. The vessel had not been used except for shelter for several decades. It was the Jupiter's mid-century history that made it the subject of our May 1995 cover story, "Bankrupt on Jupiter." In the article, Wally Graves, a retired university professor and frequent Journal contributor until his death in 1999, wrote:

"South of Fields Landing where Highway 101 turns inland from Humboldt Bay lies an abandoned dredge from another era, mudbound near a grove of tall, pale eucalyptus and dark pines.

"The dredge's long boom hangs useless, her cables turned to rust, her cabins atwit with barn swallows, her bottom rotting in an ancient channel where Salmon Creek flowed before it was diverted by cattlemen.

"In the late '40s Jupiter raised dikes through the clam beds and eel grass, transforming wetlands to pasture. Today those dikes harbor the vast Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

"In the late '40s and early '50s Jupiter dredged the canals of King Salmon Resort to the north. In the later '50s she diked a fill at Bracut between Arcata and Eureka.

"In the '60s Jupiter was courted by Arcata city fathers, and then told to get out of town. And invited back.

"In the 1970s she returned to the south bay for more diking of wetlands, and now she lies within the refuge like a leftover from Mark Twain's "aLife on the Mississippi."

The story (available on this website) has always been one of my favorites. It was so much more than a history of bay development. It was a story of man vs. nature with nature, of course, batting last. Graves wrote of many dredge projects that were slowly reverting to nature with the notable exception of King Salmon, "saved from surf and tides only by a $10 million jetty appropriation which rode through Congress as a `demonstration project' pork barreled by Congressman Don Clausen in the early 1980s."

And now the dredge itself has returned to dust.


SPEAKING OF final chapters, Humboldt State University officials hope they have turned the last page on the saga of John Sterns, a top HSU administrator who was sentenced to jail last month for fraud and embezzlement. The real damage certainly, as summarized by Judge John Feeney, is to the prestige and credibility of the institution, the funds lost during Sterns' three-year spending spree, and HSU's compromised fund-raising capabilities in the future (see cover story, June 27).

HSU officials are publicly saying the bad guy was caught and punished, so let's get back to business. Privately, many are saying the university failed the community in its response to the scandal by not holding management accountable. Sterns may be in jail but his supervisor, Vice President Don Christensen, is enjoying retirement in Oregon.

As Deputy District Attorney Rob Wade dryly put it, "Unfortunately, mismanagement is not a criminal offense."



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