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July 15, 2004

The Weekly Wrap

Rafting the Trinity


 T H E  W E E K L Y  W R A P

HUMBOLDT BANK NO MORE: At 11:59 p.m. Friday Humboldt Bank was officially acquired by Umpqua Bank of Portland, Ore. Shareholders received one share of Umpqua stock for each share of Humboldt, giving the transaction a total value of $343 million based on Friday's closing price of $22.15 per share, according to a bank press release. Employment at Humboldt Bank Plaza on the north end of Eureka, former headquarters of Humboldt Bancorp, has been slowly dwindling from a March high of 105 when the sale was announced. Seventeen employees left and 12 have transferred to other positions in the company, including five to Portland, according to Pat Rusnak, executive vice president. Banking activity at the Plaza -- processing loan payments, fielding customer service calls -- will be phased out over the next nine months and the center closed. Not affected is employment at Humboldt Merchant Services, a credit card processing center sold by Humboldt Bancorp in March 2003 to First National Holding Co. of Scottsdale, Ariz. That company leases 18,000 square feet of the Plaza and has about 75 employees.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA ORDINANCE PASSED: After months of deliberation by a special task force, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a new medical marijuana ordinance at its regular meeting Tuesday morning. The ordinance is roughly similar to the guidelines proposed by District Attorney Paul Gallegos last year -- it would allow legitimate medical marijuana users to have three pounds of dry marijuana on hand, as well any number of live plants that take up no more than 100 square feet of space. Supervisor Jill Geist, who was not able to attend the vote because she had been summoned by the Grand Jury, later noted for the record her support of the ordinance.

TRIBES TAKE CASE TO U.K.: Representatives from four Klamath River tribes -- the Klamath, Karuk, Hoopa and Yurok -- are gearing up to take their case for dam decommissioning directly to the shareholders of ScottishPower. The international energy conglomerate, which owns five dams on the Klamath through its PacifiCorp subsidiary, will be holding its annual meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland on Wednesday, and tribal members will be there to make their case. "People need to see a real, live Yurok, and other Indians of the Klamath River, and know that they have a real impact on our culture and traditions and way of life," said Troy Fletcher, executive director of the Yurok Tribe. "Removing the dams isn't just an unachievable concept," he said. "We're ready to work with ScottishPower in a positive way to get the job done." In May, the Oregon-based Klamath Tribes -- which represent Klamath, Modoc and Yahooskin Indians -- filed a $1 billion federal lawsuit against the company, alleging that the dams have ruined salmon runs on the river.

NOT OVER YET FOR AUGUST: Charging that Judge J. Michael Brown had made a "major error," Assistant District Attorney Tim Stoen last week asked the court to reverse its decision to drop three charges against Fortuna City Councilperson Debi August. Late last month, at the request of August's attorneys, the court struck the charges -- which sought to have August removed from office -- under the belief that Stoen had not filed a critical document in the case before deadline. In a new motion filed Friday, though, Stoen said that he had in fact filed the document shortly before it was due, and offered proof in the form of a court-stamped copy of the document in question. August's attorney, Greg Rael, said Tuesday that he would attempt to figure out exactly how the apparent misunderstanding happened, and to rule out any question of misconduct by the DA's office. "I'm giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, but I really have to get to the bottom of it," he said. The charges stem from an accusation, brought early last month by the Humboldt County Grand Jury, that August improperly lobbied the city's Planning Commission on behalf of a developer.

FIRE ASSESSMENT BALLOTS: Property owners served by the Arcata Fire District and Humboldt Fire District No. 1 should soon be receiving ballots asking them for their say on proposals to levy "benefit assessments" -- annual taxes based on the size and value of real estate --to help save fire service in their communities. The state budget crisis has required both districts to ask its customers for help. "We can't raise sales tax, we can't impose a utility tax, we can't impose an occupancy tax -- none of those," said AFD Chief Dave White. "The only thing we have open to us is either a special tax or a benefits assessment." The increase would bring the assessment in Arcata to $88 for an average single-family residence; the charge for Humboldt No. 1 customers would rise to an average of $72 a year. Ballots must be returned to the Humboldt County Assessor's Office before Aug. 24 (Arcata) or Aug. 25 (Humboldt). Both agencies will be holding public meetings on the proposals. For information, call the AFD at 822-2551 or Humboldt No. 1 at 445-4900.

HAF DIRECTOR TO TAKE SABBATICAL: The Humboldt Area Foundation announced last week that its executive director, Peter Pennekamp, will take a year-long sabbatical beginning in September. HAF Chief Administrative Officer Kathleen Moxon will assume his duties.

LEAD JEWELRY WARNING: The county's Department of Health and Human Services last week warned parents about dangers posed by toy jewelry, the type sold in vending machines. Companies that distribute the jewelry recently initiated a nationwide recall of all of such products -- rings, necklaces and bracelets -- sold between January 2002 and the present, after they were found to contain unsafe concentrations of lead. "We don't know for a fact that it has been sold in Humboldt County, but it's pretty safe to assume that it has," said Anne Wade, DHHS health education specialist. Parents with questions may call the Safe Jewelry Council at 1-800-441-4234, or visit their Web site at

MURDER VICTIM NAMED: The 28-year-old man stabbed to death in the 400 block of West Henderson in Eureka on July 3 was identified by police as Jeremy Joseph Martinez of Eureka. The suspect, 31-year-old Hector Tripp of Hoopa, was booked into Humboldt County Jail.

ASSAULT SUSPECT ARRESTED: Police in Chico nabbed a 24-year-old Eureka man suspected in the sexual assault of a 13-year-old McKinleyville girl in a Valley West motel room in March. Patrick Daniel Jimenez was booked into the Butte County Jail.

THEY LIVE HERE, TOO: Residents of Fortuna and Arcata have reported several wild animal sightings near their homes in the last week. Fortuna police said that they received a number of reports of bears in residential neighborhoods, including the area of 12th Street near the high school. An Arcata homeowner in the 100 block of California Avenue called police there to report a mountain lion in his front yard. Police remind residents that animals are attracted to food, from pet bowls and barbecue grills to garbage cans and fallen fruit. If you encounter a mountain lion, do not run, but make yourself look bigger by waving your arms. Pick up children and keep them with you. Throw things at the lion if it does not leave.

COUNTY PRESENTS SAMOA STUDY: The public is invited to a county presentation of the results of an initial environmental assessment in the town of Samoa from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 20 at the Manila Community Center's Community Hall. The study includes information about the potential presence of hazardous materials. In addition, a representative from the Samoa Pacific Group, which purchased the town, will outline the planned layout and future uses for Samoa.

DISABLED HOTLINE: Tri-County Independent Living, Inc., formerly the Humboldt Access Project, has created an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) hotline to keep the public informed of issues involving accessibility for the disabled. The hotline's number is 445-2668.

CORRECTIONS: A news item in the July 1 issue of the Journal misstated the outcome of a case involving illegal off-road driving in the dunes at Clam Beach. Nathan Stancliff, 27, pleaded no contest to causing damage to land, wildlife, wildlife habitat or vegetative resources with his pickup; Stancliff was with a friend when a sheriff's deputy discovered his truck stuck on the dunes, and charges that Stancliff was driving the vehicle at the time were dropped. ... [The online version reflects the correction.] In the Journal's July 1 cover story, "The Return of Indian Island," writer Gregg McVicar's name was misspelled. The Journal regrets the errors. [The online version reflects the correction.]

Rafting the Trinity


Last weekend a local youth advocacy group rafted down a short stretch of the Trinity River, and I went along for the ride.

The trip started with a good-natured squabble over which group would have to ride in Annie, the leaky raft that has to be pumped up periodically even as she floats down the river.

"The newspaper girl should take Annie; then she'll write about how bad we need money for new boats," quipped Scott Malone, a volunteer with Summer LEAP.

He raised his brows beneath his worn, brown leather hat and smirked.

Summer LEAP, short for Leadership Education Adventure Program, is a nonprofit organization based in Eureka that takes at-risk youth ages 8 to 18 on outdoor trips -- hiking, rock climbing and rafting -- during the summer months. The organization concedes that the idiom "at-risk" is a broad term. Some are young teens on probation, but others are just having trouble in their classes, or maybe have only one parent at home. Mainly, they're economically disadvantaged: More than half of those who attend LEAP activities come from Humboldt County families living below the poverty line.

"Some of these kids have lived here their whole lives and have never been to Patrick's Point," said Mary Ann Perry, 23, also a volunteer for Summer LEAP. "They're usually from rougher neighborhoods, so the trips are a chance for them to get out of that element."

The summertime trips are popular with local youth organizations, and LEAP schedules three to five outings each week. Each rafter pays between $15 to $20 for the trip.

Before leaving the dusty parking lot at Hayden Flat, our "put-in" point, a winding 25 miles east of Willow Creek, Audrey Sweet, 24, the co-director of Summer LEAP, gathered the group into a large circle. The nine young rafters and their chaperones from Big Brothers Big Sisters and North Coast Mentors played a getting-to-know-you name game with the LEAP volunteers, followed by a river safety talk led by Sweet.

The seven-mile section of the Trinity from Hayden to Cedar Flat is an easy run, with a few class I and II rapids. Nevertheless, Sweet covered every worst-case scenario with the group, from how to feel your way out from beneath an overturned raft, to freeing yourself if caught in a debris snag in the river. Once briefed, we buckled ourselves into the somewhat moldy-smelling orange lifejackets and lined up in front of one of the four rafts parked on the shore.

Instead of riding in the perpetually deflating Annie, I was assigned to Alvin, a somewhat hardier craft. Perry was in charge of guiding Alvin and five sometimes-clumsy oarsmen down the Trinity.

Riding in the boat with me were Camille, a bold, funny 13-year-old, her Big Sister of five years, Miriam, a quiet, freckled eighth-grader from Eureka named Paul and his mentor of just a few months, Vic.

As we set out Camille commanded most of the conversation. She told us that she did not like answering questions. I asked her why not.

"I don't like answering questions," she repeated.

Mainly she spent time trying to coax Miriam to jump into the river, plotting water fights against the other rafts and developing a marked vendetta against the crew of Annie.

We talked about the names of the boats: Katie, Annie, Baloo and Alvin. Vic and Perry reminisced about Alvin and the Chipmunks, while Paul chimed in that "alevin" is the third stage in the life of a salmon. The adults onboard were impressed and maybe a little embarrassed for their less-academic discussion.

After getting splashed by a few small waves and surviving the largest rapid on the route, a class II called Growler, the group beached for a tuna fish lunch.

After we finished, the kids played water games with the volunteers, and I talked with Jess Odom, co-owner of Planet Chai, a local chai tea company, and Big Brother to Jimmy.

Odom, 33, of Blue Lake, stopped short of classifying Jimmy as "at-risk" but said that since his mother is a single parent, having a male figure in his life is a benefit. He became involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters, he said, because when he was young, a mentor changed his life. As a teen in Southern California, when disputes between his parents forced him to leave home, an older man found him on the streets and took him in.

"We're still close," Odom said. "He still calls me one of his sons, and I know that I'm always welcomed at his home."

While Camille played in the water hole with the other kids, Miriam and I spoke about their Big Sister-Little Sister relationship while she got ready to join them for a swim.

"We're a good match, we have a lot in common," Miriam said. "But we haven't spent as much time together this year; we've both had some big transitions. Her grandparents split; she used to live with them so now she's back and forth between their houses. Earlier this year I was homeless for a little while. So, it's good to have time like this together. We've actually done this trip before."

Back on the boat, the water fights began and we shivered as the wind picked up. Camille was determined to pull Annie's volunteer guide, Avram "Lucky" Pearlman, out of his boat: It never happened. In the meantime, however, both parties were drenched, and Annie was sagging a bit as the boat filled with water.

Perry called a truce but Camille was not satisfied.

"No, we'll never surrender!" she said to a collective groan from the adults onboard.

When we got to shore, the kids helped clean the boats out and carry them back up to the road. Then we gathered in a circle once again and talked about the highlights. Most of the kids named the rapids or the water fights as their favorite part of the day. Camille, of course, most enjoyed poking fun at the crew of Annie as it lost air.

Next week LEAP will take a group of adults down the same stretch of the river and treat them to a gourmet lunch to raise funds for the program (call 707-443-8019 to reserve a space). If enough people sign up, organizers said, perhaps Annie will replaced. Chances are however, that she'll remain in the memory of one young girl with a buoyant desire for water fights and laughter.



North Coast Journal Weekly

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