Back-to-back La Niñas?
While Pacific Lumber Co. and the California Department of Forestry try to reach agreement on logging this winter in the Freshwater Creek and Elk River area, residents there are concerned about more flooding.
Weather experts predict a lingering La Niña the climate phenomenon that produced record rainfall for the Pacific Northwest last year. Humboldt County received rainfall amounting to 136 percent of normal, National Weather Service spokesman John Lovegrove said from his Eureka office.
La Niña's effects are expected to continue, creating the first back-to-back La Niña for nearly 30 years.
"It never really went away and seems to be strengthening a bit," said climatologist Kelly Redmond of the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, Nev.
"It should affect (Humboldt County) the same as last winter" but since weather isn't an exact science, Redmond said. "It could go either direction."
In addition, the seasonal solstice on Dec. 22 will bring the moon to its closest position to Earth this year. Since tidal influences affect the slough channels leading from Humboldt Bay, the pheonomena may make any potential flooding worse.
"Add a big storm to a very high tide, and you're creating the perfect scenario for flooding," said Alan Cook, a physician who lives near Freshwater Creek above the flood plain but must cross the stream every day to go to work. He said he counted five major flooding days in 1998.
Cook said he was thrust for the first time into political activism in 1996 when he decided to join a 20-member neighborhood association protesting PL logging in the area because he believes logging is causing or contributing to landslides, siltation and flooding.
"There's always been flooding but never to the frequency and magnitude that we're seeing now," Cook said. Frequent flooding has lowered his property values, he added, because, "If you can't get home, your home is valueless."
The California Board of Forestry may be reconsidering its approval of timber harvest plans in the area, said Bob Martel, executive director of the Humboldt Watershed Council.
"(The board is) beginning to understand the state of California is taking property values from these residents by approving THPs contrary to law," Martel said.
The board recently asked PL to halt logging in the Freshwater area, but PL refused, saying it would be an economic hardship.
"Our continued operations in these two watersheds are of vital importance in keeping our employees working," PL President John Campbell said in an issued statement.
The company is conducting a watershed analysis in the Freshwater watershed, which is due for completion in October, Campbell added.
The Board of Forestry will take up the issue at its next meeting in September, CDF spokeswoman Karen Terrill said from her Sacramento office.
Big-box election looms
With less than two weeks until Eureka's special election, the No on Measure J forces have gained another support group.
The Citizens for Port Development announced in a statement Monday its formal opposition to the measure that will ask the city's registered voters on Aug. 24 whether the zoning on the balloon tract east of Waterfront Drive should be changed from public to service commercial. Rezoning the property is the first step to city approval of a proposed Wal-Mart store.
With the harbor deepening project and North Coast Railroad repairs underway, port advocates say the parcel should be used to port- or rail-dependent use.
Last week the city's San Francisco consultant hired to study the effects of big-box retailing on the local economy released a report saying the region's existing retailers may be better off without a major discount store here. Bay Area Economics said the area has a stagnant population that may cannibalize an "already fiercely competitive" market for retail in the county.
The 91-page study follows a report by a Wal-Mart-commissioned consultant from Sacramento which concluded that the county did not need the parcel for port development.
The sale of the the San Francisco Chronicle, announced last week, to the San Francisco Examiner, its rival of the century, may leave 1,650 local readers with withdrawal symptoms.
The price was estimated to be about $660 million, according to a report in the Chronicle.
According to reports in both daily papers, the Hearst Corp. is trying to sell the Examiner, but may combine the two papers, turning San Francisco into a one-paper town.
Media giants Knight-Ridder and MediaNews Group have declined interest in the Examiner with its afternoon daily circulation of 114,776. The Chronicle an independent morning newspaper owned by the M.H. de Young family circulates 482,268 daily.
Two more for race
Two more men have announced their intentions to run for 1st District Humboldt County supervisor in the March 2000 primary.
Walt Giacomini of Loleta and Lawrence Lazio of Eureka added their names to a list of candidates running for the position. Other candidates include incumbent Stan Dixon, John Fullerton and Chris Crawford.
Giacomini, 55, is a cattle rancher, former teacher and member of the Fortuna Union High School District Board of Trustees. He said economic issues such as the development of the harbor, roads and railways are the key issues facing the district and the county, with law enforcement being a separate yet critical issue.
"I think the ideal candidate needs to be able to identify the problems facing the county and implement the proper solutions," Giacomini said. "I have experience doing that."
Lazio, a former president of the Eureka Chamber of Commerce and owner of Lazio Gourmet Tuna, has resided in Humboldt County for 42 years. A business graduate of Humboldt State University, Lazio said the revitalization of the salmon fishery is of key importance to stimulating the local economy.
Other important issues include capitalizing on tourism opportunities such as passenger train travel between Willits and Eureka, and by marketing the Headwaters and Redwoods State Park areas as ideal weekend destinations for Bay Area residents.
"I firmly believe that my insight, leadership and business experience will make a difference in improving the economic vitality of our county," Lazio said in a statement.
Communities in the 1st District include Loleta, Ferndale, Petrolia and part of Eureka.
Headwaters access questions
At the time of year when the marbled murrelets are getting frisky, the debate as to how much public access should be allowed into the Headwaters Forest Reserve has begun.
Environmentalists would like to see the reserve remain as untouched as possible, while recreational groups want to open the forest to mountain biking, camping and other uses in an effort to boost local tourism and economy.
Access at this time is limited to foot traffic, with parking restricted to a lot at the end of Elk River Road. From there a 5-mile trail enters into the north end of the reserve. The lot accommodates parking for about 20 cars.
"The Headwaters reserve is, first and foremost, a reserve and not a park," said Lynda Roush, Bureau of Land Management area manager. "Our first priority is to preserve the remaining habitat for wildlife and provide for the protection of old-growth redwood stands."
Roush said that the objectives for the reserve were laid out legislatively, and while there are allowances for public access, the level of access is what must be determined by the completion of environmental impact reports and long-term planning.
BLM officials hope to have those reports completed and planning to be in place by late October. They are accepting public comments for suggestions as to how the preserve should be managed and what kind of access should be allowed.
Comments can be mailed to the bureau's Arcata office at 1695 Heindon Road, and must be postmarked no later than Aug. 18.
Mental health grants OK'd
Gov. Gray Davis announced last month that the Early Mental Health Initiative would receive $15 million in funding for programs designed to help students with difficulties adjusting to school.
Nine Humboldt County school districts will receive a total of $204,498, according to a statement from Sen. Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata.
The initiative, aimed at students in kindergarten through third grade, will provide services to children identified as having "mild to moderate" school adjustment difficulties. These services include counseling for students as well as their families.
"Schools design the programs locally," said Peggy Collins, press secretary for Chesbro. "While they are similarly modelled, they will probably look different from school to school."
Collins said the difficulties targeted by the initiative are those "that can affect students' future performance in school." Signs of such difficulties include poor attendance, inability to make friends and inability to cope with structure.
Evidence of the effectiveness of the initiative and its related programs may be slow to come, Collins warns.
"One of the difficulties is that the programs are preventative. If they're doing well then you probably won't see it," she said. "Statistical data and feedback will have to be reviewed, in order to determine how many kids are still in school and rate the success of the programs."
The implementation of early-age programs would avoid "more costly services in later years," Chesbro said in the statement.
King of new trails
Hail to the new beach trail in the King Range National Conservation Area in southern Humboldt County.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management just opened the 3.8-mile Horse Mountain Creek Trail. Its creation was done by volunteers who moved mounds of rock, stumps and brush for hikers and equestrians seeking an optional route down to the Lost Coast between Big Flat to the north and Shelter Cove to the south.
The trailhead is located north of Tolkan Campground on Kings Peak Road, five miles north from the fork of Shelter Cove Road. The trail descends through second-growth Douglas fir from the headwaters of the creek to a spot just north of Black Sands Beach, where the southern Lost Coast trailhead is situated.
Trail volunteers included members of the Honeydew Volunteer Fire Company, American Hiking Society, King Range backcountry interns, California Department of Forestry's Eel River crew and the Backcountry Horsemen of America.