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July 22, 2004

The Weekly Wrap

Wooden food stamps?

KVIQ sale on hold

River news roundup
Last week's raft of developments on local issues


 T H E  W E E K L Y  W R A P

KEEP THE DAY JOB : In an, um, unusual motion filed with Judge J. Michael Brown on Tuesday, Eureka attorney Greg Rael describes the turns of events leading to Brown's dismissal of charges against Rael's client, Fortuna City Councilperson Debi August, in some rather high-falutin' language. "What commenced as a comedy of errors has been portrayed by the People as a Shakespearean tragedy, complete with court conspirators working mischief most foul," Rael writes in his motion. "As we shall see, no skullduggery transpired." In the "Acts" that follow, Rael chides Assistant District Attorney Tim Stoen for his intemperate statements about Brown's actions, but he concedes that the dismissal of charges was the result of a paperwork mixup and therefore probably should be reversed. "Undoubtedly, the Court is not well pleased with the recent history of the case," Rael writes in the "Epilogue." His Honor should be forgiven if one of the Bard's sayings springs to mind: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." The charges stem from a Grand Jury accusation that August had improperly lobbied the city of Fortuna's Planning Commission on behalf of a developer. The most serious charges were dropped when a motion Stoen filed on time was overlooked.

VIOLENT CRIME DOWN: State crime statistics just released for 2003 show a 21.8 percent decrease from 2002 in violent crime in Humboldt County, a category that includes homicide, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Property crimes, meanwhile, rose 4.9 percent, an increase that was attributed primarily to the 21.1 percent rise in motor vehicle theft. District Attorney Paul Gallegos speculated that the increase in property crime was due to "the methamphetamine and heroin addiction and abuse issues which continue to threaten this community."

NUKE FUEL MISSING: While reviewing records from the late 1960s as part of the long-term process to decommission the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant, officials discovered conflicting reports revealing that 4 pounds of spent nuclear fuel might be missing from the facility. Pacific Gas and Electric initially said in a press release that the fuel "has no impact on the health and safety of the public," but PG&E spokesman Lloyd Coker clarified the no-worries attitude on Tuesday: "We're very confident that [the fuel] is in the pool." In 1968, three 18-inch segments were cut from a 7-foot fuel rod. One report says that the three rods were to be sent to a laboratory in Columbus, Ohio, for analysis in 1968, but the shipment was canceled; the rods stayed at the Humboldt plant and were stored underwater in a 30-foot deep pool, where 390 spent fuel rods are currently kept. Another report says that in 1969 the fuel was shipped along with other spent rods to a reprocessing plant in West Valley, N.Y. PG&E speculates that the latter report was incomplete. The nuclear reactor, located just south of Eureka, halted operations in 1976 for a seismic retrofit, but was permanently closed later that year. Greg Rueger, the chief nuclear officer of the plant, said in a written statement that the investigation may take several more weeks to complete.

KERRY FOREST PLAN: Sen. John Kerry last week proposed the creation of a $100 million "Forestry Restoration Corps" dedicated to reforesting and improving federal forest lands with a corps of young workers. The corps would be funded by ending certain subsidies to the timber industry -- for example, the building of logging roads in national forests. Sal Steinberg, whose campaign for 2nd District Supervisor last year emphasized the potential of restoration money to turn around the local economy, was enthusiastic about the idea. "Bring it on," he said. "I think it's a great idea -- to create a new generation of people dedicated to improving our world."

OREGON MAN KILLED: A man driving a water tender in Rio Dell was killed when the vehicle rolled onto its side, ejecting him from his seat and crushing him, the CHP said. William Bronco, 51, of Tualitin, Ore., was driving on a hard-packed dirt logging road owned by the Pacific Lumber Co. on the morning of July 13 when mechanical problems forced the rig off the road and into a ditch. Bronco worked for Columbia Helicopters, a Portland, Ore.-based company that contracts with Pacific Lumber.

MORE LIONS: Two women were scared but unharmed after a July 13 encounter with a mountain lion in Fieldbrook, according to the Eureka office of the California Department of Fish and Game. Debbie French, 46, and Lisa Mayo, 34, were berry-picking on private land owned by Simpson Timber Co. when Mayo's dog alerted the women to the mountain lion. Mayo reportedly scared it off by waving her berry bucket at the animal after he swiped his paw at French. That same day, Fish and Game was notified that another mountain lion killed two goats in Arcata, near West End Road. A permit was issued to kill the animal, which was tracked with dogs later that day and shot. According to Fish and Game Patrol Captain Nick Albert, animals not deemed a threat to public safety or property will not be killed by animal control agencies.

INJURED BOY RECOVERING: Eureka police said Tuesday that the 7-year-old boy who was hit by a car while riding his bicycle in Eureka last Wednesday was released "in the last day or two" from the Oakland hospital to which he was airlifted. The boy, who was not wearing a helmet, sustained major head injuries when he was hit by a car in the 3100 block of K Street, police said. Police remind parents that all children under 18 are required by law to wear helmets when riding bicycles.

GRUESOME DUCK HUNT: Thirteen ducks shot and killed by a pellet gun were found at the Sequoia Park Duck Pond in Eureka on Monday. Later that afternoon, two more died from gunshot wounds. Seven ducks are still alive. In a similar slaying at the same pond in February, 10 ducks were killed with a BB gun. No arrests were made. Award money from local citizens totaling $1,100 has been offered to anyone who can provide information leading to the conviction of those responsible. Animal cruelty is punishable by fines of up to $20,000 and up to one year in jail. Anyone with information should call the Eureka Police Department at 441-4060.

SEX OFFENDER ARRESTED: An Arcata Police officer on foot patrol arrested a man for public drunkenness and later discovered that the man was listed as a serious sex offender. Dean Thomas Ammons, 38, of Santa Cruz, was arrested in downtown Arcata on Monday and booked at the Humboldt County Correctional Facility for public drunkenness and failure to register as a sex offender, which is a felony. Failing to register as a sex offender is punishable by 16 months to three years in prison, the DA's office said.

FOREST FIRE RESTRICTIONS: New fire rules are in effect in Six Rivers National Forest due to "extreme fire danger," forest officials announced. The rules involve where visitors can smoke, set up campfires, etc. For details, see, or call 441-3673.

EVERYONE'S BREATHING IT: Arcata's Holistic Body Works made quite a media splash when it opened the county's first "oxygen bar" a couple of months ago. Now, oxygen-deprived Eurekans have their own bar to boast of, courtesy of Dr. George King, chiropractor. King Chiropractic, located next to Eureka Natural Foods on Broadway, offers breathers the good stuff -- 92 percent pure O 2 -- flavored and scented with your favorite aromatherapy formulas. "It kind of gives you a little lift," says King, who reports that business is booming.

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, one paragraph of last week's cover story, "The Candidate," may have mistakenly given readers the impression that Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb intends to work for Ralph Nader's independent presidential campaign. He does not. Also, Cobb moved to Humboldt County in January 2003. The Journal regrets the errors.

Wooden food stamps?

[Wooden coins labeled "One wooden buck" and "NCGA Farmers' Market $1"]AS THE 20TH CENTURY CAME TO A CLOSE, the U.S. Dept. of Food and Agriculture (USDA) began a move into the electronic future, slowly shifting the federally funded Food Stamp Program from paper food stamps to "Electronic Benefit Transfer" cards (EBT) similar to the bank check cards accepted at almost any store.

While the change made things easier for Humboldt County's welfare office, which made the switch to EBT beginning in August of last year, an important group of food distributors was left out in the cold: the growers who sell their produce at local farmers' markets.

The solution: a new program using wooden tokens. Michelle Wyler from the Food for People food bank got the program going in time for the spring reopening of the Farmers' Market with grant funding from the California Nutrition Network, an organization funded by USDA supporting work for cancer prevention programs.

"Part of cancer prevention is getting people to eat more fruits and vegetables," said Wyler.

"They're our wooden bucks," said T Griffin, manager of the North Coast Growers Associations' Arcata Farmers' Market, explaining that the wooden coins are technically "manual vouchers."

"It's scrip, a system that allows us to accept electronic transfer cards without a bank machine. We don't have access to a phone line, so we had to respond to the change with something else."

Food stamp holders, who used to be able to pay the farmers with their food stamps, now take their electronic card to the NCGA table at any of the local farmers' markets and ask for a specific amount of scrip. Griffin or one of her counterparts calls in the request with a cell phone, and a few minutes later the shopping begins.

"They can spend the bucks at any eligible farmer's booth on fresh fruit or vegetables, cheese, honey, just about anything but flowers," said Griffin.

KVIQ sale on hold


The pending sale of local CBS television affiliate KVIQ to Sainte Partners II, owners of Fox 29, will likely be stalled for the next few months, as the Federal Communications Commission ponders the final arguments filed by the stations and the Blue Lake Rancheria.

The rancheria -- which operates the Blue Lake Casino and Mainstay Business Solutions, a temp agency, on behalf of its members -- is attempting to acquire the station itself.

"Blue Lake feels that it has a real contribution to make to the community," said Joseph Godles, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who is representing the rancheria.

In its FCC filings, it argues that the FCC should not grant Sainte Partners a "duopoly waiver" that would allow the company to operate two television stations in the same market. One of the standards that Sainte must meet to receive such a waiver is that no other buyer for the station could be found.

Santa Rosa-based Ackerley Media Group, which owns KVIQ, has stated in the past that Sainte Partners was the only bidder for the station, but in recent filings the rancheria has countered that it made an overture to the station through local businessman Patrick Cleary months before Sainte made an offer. Cleary is the general manager of Lost Coast Communications, which operates radio stations KHUM and KSLG out of Ferndale.

"They had expressed some interest in a media property," Cleary said last week. "I told them `You know, KVIQ is for sale.'"

Cleary said that he agreed to make a phone call to people he knew at Clear Channel, the broadcasting giant of which Ackerley is a subsidiary.

He said that he and Eric Ramos, president of business operations for the rancheria, had talked about working together but had never discussed specifics about the potential partnership.

When Sainte Partners later made a bid for the station he removed himself from the deal.

"Basically, [Fox 29 and the rancheria are] both very good clients of mine," Cleary said. "I just made the introduction, before I knew there was a conflict."

Cleary said that Lost Coast Communications has great expertise in marketing and "localism," and, if asked, would be interested in talking with whoever ends up owning KVIQ about a potential partnership.

In a written response to Blue Lake's previous filings, a Clear Channel executive says that Cleary did contact him in the fall of 2003, but that the call was only of an exploratory nature: Cleary did not identify exactly who he represented and no concrete offers were made. The company further states that KVIQ was listed with a large media broker that conducted a search for buyers, and that it never received a formal inquiry from anyone but Sainte Partners.

The rancheria counters that Ramos had placed multiple calls to KVIQ station management after Cleary contacted Clear Channel in order to find out how to bid on the station. It charges that no one returned his calls.

Asked on Tuesday if he had received messages from Ramos, KVIQ station manager John Burgess said, "To the best of my recollection, no."

The rancheria also claims that Sainte Partners and Ackerley Media failed to provide adequate information about each of the stations' finances, another requirement for the waiver. Attorneys for the companies dispute the charge.


May 20, 2004: Bold bid: Blue Lake Rancheria competing for KVIQ

River news roundup
Last week's raft of developments on local issues


TRINITY: In a major victory for the Trinity River and the Hoopa Valley Tribe, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2000 federal order that increased the amount of water released into the river each year to protect salmon runs.

The Westlands Water District, which provides diverted Trinity River water to its agriculture clients in the Central Valley, had charged that the process that culminated in the order violated the National Environmental Policy Act in that it did not take into account the change's effect on fish in the Sacramento River. In December 2002, a federal district judge sided with Westlands.

The Ninth Circuit's July 13 ruling, which took effect immediately, essentially overturned the district judge's decision. The order allows only half of the Trinity's water to go to farmers, as opposed to the nearly 90 percent allotted to them in the past.

Byron Leydecker, president of the Friends of the Trinity River, said Monday that much work still needed to be done before the water given back to the Trinity by the court can actually flow down the river -- bridges needed to be reinforced, and one private home has to be moved.

"It's a major step forward," he said. "We have to set up a restoration program to prove that the water does what it's supposed to do, but as for now it's a great victory."

A Westlands spokesperson said last week that the district was considering its legal options, and may file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

KLAMATH: Representatives of the four Klamath River tribes -- the Klamath, Karuk, Hoopa and Yurok -- is garnering immense press coverage during their mission to Scotland, which began last week. The tribes hope to raise awareness of Klamath River issues during the annual shareholders' meeting of ScottishPower, the multinational conglomerate that controls most dams on the Klamath.

"We're being well received over here," said Merv George Jr., an administrator for the Klamath River Inter-Tribal Fish and Water Commission and a former chairman of the Hoopa Tribe. "We're like rock stars -- everyone's stopping and staring at us as we walk around."

George said that the tribes had hired a local media consultant to help arrange for press exposure and had met with Scottish activist groups and members of the Scottish Parliament.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is in the process of reviewing the dams, which are owned by ScottishPower subsidiary PacifiCorps, based in Portland, Ore., with an eye toward renewal of their permits. The tribes, which protested outside a FERC meeting in Eureka last month, recently decided to make their case to the owners of the company.

"We figured it was time to up the ante," said George. "We're going to tell shareholders that their subsidiary company is causing major harm to the resources in the Klamath basin."

Meanwhile, a Congressional subcommittee met in Klamath Falls, Ore., to discuss proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act that would make it more difficult for regulatory agencies to withhold Klamath water from upstream farmers in order to protect endangered or threatened fish.

ELK: On July 13, the Humboldt Watershed Council lodged a strong complaint against a California Board of Forestry committee studying whether to list the Elk River as a "sensitive watershed" requiring special forestry rules to preserve the health of the stream.

Mark Lovelace, president of the HWC, says that both the current membership of the committee and the process by which new members are nominated are so troubling that all work should come to a halt until a more "clear, transparent and objective" process can be developed.

Lovelace said that administrators at the Board of Forestry have not provided the public with information on how members on the committee are selected, or even who selects them.

"We've asked them, `Who are you looking for? How many people are you looking for?'" Lovelace said. "They tell us, `Well, just wait a bit and you'll find out who's on the committee.' They're not recognizing the need to have a public process."

Lovelace added that he is troubled by the fact that among the current membership are representatives of Pacific Lumber, which logs in the Elk River Watershed, and The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control District, which filed the original petition to list the Elk River as a sensitive watershed last year.

"It's like putting the plaintiff and the defendant on the jury," he said.

EEL: A coalition of environmental groups and fishing advocates filed a lawsuit July 14 in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals demanding that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission either require fish ladders at Scott Dam in Mendocino County or consider removing them entirely.

The coalition said that providing fish access above Scott Dam would help restore 120 miles of prime salmon and steelhead habitat.

In January, the FERC decreased the annual amount of Eel River water diverted to the Russian River at Van Arsdale Dam in Potter Valley (Mendocino County). The decision was reaffirmed at a meeting of the commission in June, but commissioners at that time declined to take action on fish passage.

"State law requires that owners and operators of a dam require fish passage," said John Beuttler, a fisheries expert with the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, a member of the coalition. "Today, we have the technology to do that, but for some reason FERC told us to go pound sand. We said, `No, we're going to pound you -- in court.'"

Scott Dam is operated by Pacific Gas and Electric.




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