North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

August 16, 2001

Bad check bounty hunters

Language lifeline at center

Heating help for seniors

Gas price protest

Grants for art available

Fuel spill no longer a threat

Seaport Village for First & C

General Hospital ER closes

Timber's next big headache?

Mobile Medical seeks space

NEC sues feds over Klamath

Fires, logging and lawyers

Co-Op now a union shop

Bad check bounty hunters

For business owners and local law enforcement, hunting down someone who has passed a bad check may take so long that it isn't worthwhile.

But now they can call Henry Craighead instead. Craighead runs a program in conjunction with the Humboldt County district attorney that locates the writers of bad checks, collects the money and returns it to the business owners.

Craighead is paid when he collects a $35 fee from the writer of the bad check. And the person who wrote the bad check has a strong incentive to pay -- avoiding a criminal record.

"It's a totally free, no-cost program for the victim of the bad check and the taxpayer," he said in a telephone interview from Sacramento.

Does he have a special investigative technique?

"We just keep hound-dogging it until we find them," he said.

For more information, call 1-800-454-NSFR.

Language lifeline at center

Visitors from around the world come to Humboldt County to see the redwoods, mountains and beaches. When they have questions, they often turn to Arcata's Welcome Center -- and soon, the center will be able to answer in their native tongue.

The Language Line service, available at the center within a year, allows foreign-language speakers to access an interpreter over the telephone.

Most international tourists in Humboldt County can speak at least a little English, said Bill May, president of the Arcata Chamber of Commerce.

"If they've made it this far, they know how to ask where the bathroom is," he said.

The service would probably be used by visitors "who don't speak English very well to ask better questions," May said.

Heating help for seniors

"There are still a lot of people who heat with wood in Humboldt County," said Susan Wilson.

She should know. As the person in charge of the Humboldt Senior Resource Center's firewood sales, she has overseen the subsidized sale of almost 400 cords of wood to low-income seniors. The wood costs eligible seniors between $30 and $60 a cord, depending on their income level.

The program provides individuals 60 or older with a monthly income of $2,000 or less with firewood provided by the Sheriff's Work Alternative Program. Nonviolent offenders cut and split the wood into stove-ready pieces.

Call 443-9747 for more information on how to purchase the wood.

[photo of gas price protest]

Gas price protest

Calling themselves the "Truth Squad," KHUM morning host Cliff Berkowitz and KSLG DJ John Matthews have been encouraging passing motorists on Broadway in Eureka to KHUM office manager Derek Masten said, "Everyone's honking" in agreement. Eureka prices are averaging $1.87 per gallon this week while gas in Orick is selling for $1.62, in Marin County, $1.51, and in nearby Weaverville, just $1.26.



Grants for art available

Artistic youth in the 95540 and 95551 zip codes have money available to them for community art grants. All that's required is an application.

The North Coast Cultural Trust Arts Grants have a total of $13,750 available for programming in the arts for youth. Grants range in size from $500 to $13,750, depending on the project and the amount of community collaboration.

Call the Humboldt Arts Council at 442-1692 for more information.

Fuel spill no longer a threat

A fuel spill off the Oregon coast that seemed bound for North Coast beaches is no longer a threat.

The Tristan was on its way to Tacoma with a load of automobiles Aug. 8 when the spill occurred. Approximately 12,000 gallons of bunker oil, a heavy fuel, were released.

The spill initially moved southeast, toward the beaches of Humboldt or Del Norte counties. It has now dispersed off the coast of Oregon, according to Gary Votaw, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Votaw said the fuel solidifies in ocean conditions. "The longer it remains in the sea water, the harder it gets. What's left has coagulated into tarballs now," he said.

The spill follows one just five days earlier near the mouth of the Mattole River where 700 gallons of diesel were spilled.

Neither spill is expected to have significant impacts on Humboldt County beaches.

Seaport Village for First & C

Glenn Goldan's Seaport Village and Square development was chosen by the Eureka City Council for its property on the corner of First and C streets Aug. 6.

Goldan proposes a mixed-use building at the 1.8-acre site, which is bordered by C Street to the west, D Street to the east, First Street to the south and Humboldt bay to the north. A public square, apartments, retail stores and a restaurant would share the space.

He won out over two other proposals. One, submitted by John Ash and Dolores Vellutini, would have turned the property into parking for their adjacent development.

Lawrence Lazio suggested a combined fish cannery, cocktail lounge and restaurant. The council did not deem his application complete, but directed staff to look at developing other sites.

The Seaport could be completed as soon as 2004.

General Hospital ER closes

St. Joseph Hospital announced Aug. 7 that it will no longer be operating the emergency room on its General Hospital campus.

The change, effective Aug. 20, reflects the hospital's attempt to consolidate the offerings of the two hospitals. Last October St. Joseph purchased General Hospital, its biggest competitor, forming one hospital with two campuses.

The former emergency facility at General will be used for an Urgent Care Center, according to a St. Joseph press release. The Urgent Care Center will handle problems like coughs, colds, flu, minor strains, sprains, cuts and bruises, leaving the emergency room on the St. Joseph campus free to handle life-threatening emergencies.

Timber's next big headache?

[photo of Pacific fisher]They're brown, furry and possibly about to become the timber industry's next big headache: The Pacific fisher, a member of the weasel family, may well be the next animal inhabitant of the North Coast's forests to be listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

A coalition of four conservation groups is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its refusal to list the fisher. A petition was filed last December to get the animal onto the endangered list. Fish and Wildlife has yet to respond.

Petitions to list the fisher have been rejected twice -- in 1990 and in 1994 -- but momentum is building behind this petition. The state of Washington put the animal on its endangered species list in 1997, and it was recently added to a list of sensitive species in Oregon.

But beyond the question of whether or not the fisher eventually gets listed hides a deeper debate over how endangered species are managed. Neither the timber industry nor the environmental movement is happy with the current land use restrictions, and both foresee increasing rancor in the fight over what species need to survive.

"What the listing of the fisher should do is create stronger protections for old-growth forests and forests that have characteristics of old-growth," said Peter Golvin, conservation biologist with the Center Biological Diversity.

Golvin and other environmentalists maintain the fisher lives exclusively in old-growth and is being driven to extinction by the continuing harvest of such forests by timber companies. Such forests should have been essentially closed to large-scale harvesting with the listing of the Northern spotted owl in 1990, Golvin said in a telephone interview from Southern California, "but neither the owl nor the [marbled] murrelet have had that effect."

The problem is that the agencies charged with ensuring the continued existence of these species are not vigilant enough, he charged.

"The California Department of Forestry, the state Department of Fish and Game, Fish and Wildlife Service -- they are not great champions of wildlife," he said.

"They have tried to go forward with business as usual. The amount of restriction that has occurred is relatively minor," Golvin said.

Don't tell that to Bob Barnum. The owner of Barnum Timber said timber harvesting practices "were so widely restricted now that there's not a great deal more restriction they could put on" lumber companies.

And there is a growing suspicion that the restriction already in place may not be addressing the problem. Independent forester Jim Able said, "Our industrious agencies seem to just come up with lots of regulations that may or may not be helpful."

When species are threatened agencies put restrictions on land use. If the species doesn't bounce back, the only tool agencies use is further restriction, he said.

"That seems to be the name of the game: If it didn't work, let's put more restrictions on."

Those restrictions may be misguided. Able pointed to a Department of Fish and Game policy from the '70s that stated large woody debris should be removed from streams because it impeded salmon migration. Years later it was found that the debris had actually provided necessary salmon habitat.

One large Humboldt County timberland owner that doesn't have to worry about the listing of the fisher is Pacific Lumber.

When PL agreed to a Habitat Conservation Plan as part of its 1999 Headwaters deal, it looked not just at species that were then protected, like the coho or the murrelet. The habitat requirements of species likely to be listed in the future were also taken into consideration -- and one of those species was the fisher.

"Based on our HCP, if the fisher were to be listed there would be no additional requirements placed on us," said Jim Branham, director of government relations for PL. It is unclear how much of an advantage that gives PL, because "it is hard to anticipate what exactly would be required in on-the-ground protections pursuant to a listing."

Golvin said those protections are where the real fight happens.

"After the fisher gets listed the question becomes, `Are the agencies meeting their commitments to protect the fisher as a listed species?'"

Of one thing Golvin is sure: "The battle will not end with the listing of the fisher."

Mobile Medical seeks space

Humboldt's medical clinic on wheels is experiencing growing pains.

"We've run out of wallspace, floorspace, airspace -- everything," said Helen Renee Gale, administrator of the office.

The office provides health care to the homeless, low-income rural residents and other underserved populations through its mobile medical clinic, housed in a customized RV. In the last year, there has been a 50 percent increase in the number of patients they served, and a corresponding increase in staff at the home base in Blue Lake.

"We have four staff members in one room and two in another, and we're sharing all of that with medical supplies. We're tripping over each other," Gale said.

The search for a new home is on, Gale said. Candidate buildings must have at least 2,000 square feet of space for administrative records and a secure parking area for the mobile unit. Call 668-1795 with suggestions.

NEC sues feds over Klamath

The fight over Klamath water resources took another turn last week as the Northcoast Environmental Center sued the federal government over its failure to provide water to wildlife refuges in the lower basin.

Water is needed to sustain the waterfowl that use the Klamath Basin as a stopover on their annual migrations, said Tim McKay, executive director of the center. Those waterfowl are in turn food for endangered bald eagles -- so drying out the waterfowl habitat amounts to starving the eagles, he said.

The NEC is trying to get a temporary restraining order to keep the Bureau of Reclamation from allocating any extra water to farmers that could be used for the wildlife refuges. The Interior Department controls the Klamath Project -- and with it much of the water in the basin -- through the Bureau of Reclamation, its subsidiary.

McKay said tried to broker a deal with farmers, tribal interests and other environmental groups that would have provided water to the eagles but was blocked by Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton.

"There were farmers in the basin that were willing to forego their water and give it to the refuge," but were prohibited from doing so, he said. Others wanted to allow the refuge to have water that was left over from irrigation and were also stopped.

Ironically, a healthy wildlife refuge could help not just the eagles but also the local economy. McKay said that sport duck hunting "was an important part of the economy up there" -- and one that is in peril.

The decision about a restraining order could come as early as this week.

Fires, logging and lawyers

With wildfires raging across the West, the Forest Service has stopped a logging project that it says would help prevent forest fires from damaging nearby communities.

The trees that were being logged are in the part of the Six Rivers National Forest burned the 1999 Megram fire near the Trinity Alps. The Forest Service contends that clearing out trees and brush will help slow the spread of future wildfires.

Earlier this year, the Forest Service determined the logging project should be handled as an emergency. That determination allowed the service to forego the usual 45-day appeal process. Logging began immediately.

The service was then sued by a group of seven environmental organizations, including the Environmental Protection Information Center in Garberville. EPIC's Anthony Ambrose said the plan violates the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act and other laws.

The groups sought -- and won -- a temporary restraining order from Chief Judge Marilyn Patel of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco July 12.

After the restraining order had been granted, the service not only stopped logging -- it withdrew the determination that the plan should be handled as an emergency.

EPIC withdrew its suit, and the plan is being appealed along normal channels, said Ambrose. He maintained the logging won't prevent and could even foster wildfires.

Even more importantly, Ambrose said, the service isn't fulfilling its obligations to study the environmental impact of the logging.

"We certainly don't feel the Forest Service has complied with the legal requirements," he said.

Co-Op now a union shop

The Arcata store of the North Coast Co-Op is now officially union-run following an election Aug. 10.

The vote was 82 to 61, said John Corbett, general manager of the grocery store.

The election covered bakery workers, employees of the Spoons deli and cashiers. The employees are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 101. Negotiations over benefits will begin next week, Corbett said.

"It's really great we live in America, where these things are decided by the ballot box," he said. "We intend to honor it."



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