North Coast Journal Weekly link to homepageIn the News

Sept. 26, 2002

An arboreal confrontation

Taking to the trees

Klamath needs more water

Health programs cut

No more referrals

Tackling blight

County needs to change

Water rate hike?

Still looking

Find a pet online

Closing down

The L.A. connection

Money for wrecks

Moving on

A new competitor

Hone your skills

An arboreal confrontation


Arcata businesswoman and forest activist Lia Alcantara, 35, didn't start out wanting to sit up in an old-growth Douglas fir.

When Humboldt County Superior Court Judge John Golden issued a "stay" on documents associated with several Pacific Lumber Co. logging plans late last month, she thought that logging in the Mattole watershed would be halted, at least temporarily.

The next day, however, she received a call from Remedy, a tree-sitter in the Freshwater area, saying that logging was still going on.

In response she called the California Department of Forestry -- they said they weren't going to do anything; PL spokeswoman Mary Bullwinkle -- she said nothing had changed; and Sheriff Dennis Lewis -- who said he had no comment.

So she decided to go out an see for herself if PL was complying. They weren't so she decided to take action.

"I saw they were logging, so I went up in the tree sit," Alcantara said.

She hadn't been up very long when sheriff's deputies and PL representatives showed up. Among them were Carl Anderson, head of PL security, and a man known only as climber Eric, who physically takes tree-sitters from trees.

They said they were coming up, so Alcantara took her clothes off and "unsafetied" herself inside her sleeping bag. She told them she was not attached to the tree and she was naked, thinking that might stop anyone from coming up, but it didn't work

"I said `I demand a woman climber!'" Alcantara said. "But he [climber Eric] came up. He said `I'm very uncomfortable that you have no clothes on.' He said I was going to get scratched going down."

She put on her clothes and then locked herself to the tree, using a time-honored piece of the Earth First! arsenal, the lock box. It consists of two pipes welded together in a half circle with a place to lock hands in. It is placed around a branch and then locked, preventing further movement.

She said that then Eric offered her a deal: They would give her a ticket for trespassing and drive her to the gate if she came down peacefully. She said no, so he threw down her supplies to the base of the tree and went back down.

The old-growth Douglas fir that she was in was near three others, which the loggers then proceeded to fell. Alcantara said she thought they were trying to intimidate her, and it was working.

"The ground shook when they fell," she said. "It was totally terrifying."

At that point climber Eric came back up to assure her that she was safe.

"He was with me when the third tree fell," Alcantara said.

At that point Eric told her that Anderson wanted him to cut her out of the tree. He said the same deal stood, but if she wanted to stay she'd be going to jail, and they'd cut her out and take her down anyways.

At that point Alcantara didn't have any choice, so she rappelled down under protest.

"I was crying. I said, `You cops should be arresting them [the loggers]; how can you slaughter this land?' No one could look at me, it was so weird. They knew it was messed up, what they were doing. I was handcuffed and walking away when I heard the tree fall."

Taking to the trees

Since Aug. 29, when visiting Judge John Golden issued a "stay" on documents governing Pacific Lumber Co. logging plans, treesits have gone up all over the county: at least 16 at last count.

"People are rising up and going into the trees," said the activist Remedy, who has been in a tree sit near Freshwater for six months. "They feel frustrated; they've tried everything and now they have this stay and nothing has changed."

Pacific Lumber officials claim that the judge's order does not ban current logging, just future timber harvest plans. Officials with the California Department of Forestry and the state Fish and Game Department concur.

"Our position is that we are going to comply," with the judge's order, said Karen Terrill, a CDF information officer in a phone interview from Sacramento. "We have advised our foresters in the area not to approve any further timber harvest plans, and they haven't."

The stay was issued by Golden because of delays in getting 75,000 pages of documents together that comprise the evidence in a lawsuit brought by the Environmental Protection Information Center, based in Garberville. At issue in the case, among other things, is a "sustained yield plan" meant to govern Pacific Lumber logging for the next 100 years.

California Deputy Attorney General Bill Jenkins promised to have the documents together and certified as soon as this week -- which means the judge's order could be lifted and this could all blow over.

One thing is certain: EPIC's challenge to the sustained yield plan goes to court in January. The case will be closely watched as it could put a big dent in PL's logging plans.

-- Andrew Edwards

Thompson: Klamath needs more water

Congressman Mike Thompson said last week's fish kill on the Klamath River is further proof of the Bush administration's lack of interest in helping to restore the river's flow.

Warm water appears to be the culprit behind a large fish kill on the Klamath River that may have killed upwards of 4,000 chinook salmon in the past week. The dead fish were found between the mouth of the Klamath and about 16 miles upstream.

"It's emblematic of the failure of this administration's environmental policy," Thompson said.

There has been "zero attempt" to work with those folks who have been fighting the degradation of the Klamath River, Thompson added.

The fish kill may be enough of a catalyst to get the Klamath River issue back before the court to make the necessary changes to the water flow policy, Thompson said.

Last year, farmers in southern Oregon who receive water in the upper Klamath basin as part of a massive federal irrigation project had their water cut off to protect federally "threatened" coho salmon. A study by the National Academy of Sciences later determined that the action had been unjustified. Earlier this year, federal fisheries agencies -- no doubt influenced by the administration's anti-environmental policies -- asserted that the Klamath doesn't need as much water as had been thought to support healthy salmon populations.

Dams along the Klamath have not kept up with regulations outlined by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the release of water. FERC requires 1,300 cubic feet per second of water be released from the lowest dam, but currently about half that amount is flowing out.

Representatives of PacificCorp, the Oregon-based owner of the dams, said the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is not letting enough water pass its irrigation project. The bureau has countered that it is under no responsibility to meet FERC's demands.

Health programs cut

A Humboldt County mental health screening program for children is taking a big hit. There will also be much less money available to the county to hire people to assist those on Medi-Cal.

These are some of the local impacts to Gov. Gray Davis' signing of the fiscal year 2002-02 state budget earlier this month.

To make matters worse, the Board of Supervisors has been told to expect more cuts next year as the state tries to recover from a nearly $25 billion budget deficit.

The county's screening program for children took a $99,000 cut in addition to a $96,000 cut to adult and children's mental health services. Medi-Cal staffing took a $336,000 cut and the state has reduced reimbursement for mandated social service programs by $250,000.

The dismal budget outlook comes at a time when the county is preparing to take over in-home support services and start acting as an employer to independent caretakers. The program is expected to cost the county upwards of $5 million annually.

To counter current budget cuts and the potential for more cuts next year, Philip Crandall, director of human and health and services, has decided to freeze 36 vacancies, saving the county about $1.6 million. Another 25 mental health positions have been frozen. That move is expected to save the county $1.2 million. Four additional positions in social services and seven in the health branch will save the county another $434,000.

Crandall said about 80 percent of Davis' line-item vetoes were made to health and human services programs.

Funding for homeless services escaped cuts this year but may not be spared next year, Crandall said.

No more referrals

St. Joseph Hospital has stopped taking referrals for addiction treatment through its Family Recovery Services program. The decision was prompted by a steady decline in the number of outpatients referred to the hospital. In addition, an increase in the number of other local treatment facilities has affected the 14-year-old program at St. Joseph.

St. Joseph began offering its Family Recovery Services program in 1988.

A telephone recording at Family Recovery Services states the department is no longer taking referrals.

Another factor in the hospital's decision to eliminate the program has been the change in reimbursement for services, especially funding that comes from Medicare and Medi-Cal programs.

As a result of the discontinuation of service, about four employees will lose their positions, according to hospital officials. Patients enrolled in the St. Joseph program will continue to receive treatment and the hospital will continue its aftercare services for another year.

Tackling blight

Humboldt County gave its approval earlier this week to begin the first step toward developing a county-wide redevelopment agency to tackle blight in unincorporated areas.

Since July, the county has been exploring options for creating such an agency, which would attempt to spur development of blighted areas.

Declines in the timber and fishing industries have left Humboldt County with its share of run-down neighborhoods and towns, said Kirk Girard, director of community development services. Some areas, like King Salmon, south of Eureka, continue to decline, Girard said.

A preliminary report looked at 23 areas, including Samoa, McKinleyville, Garberville, Fieldbrook, Orick and Redway.

One result of having a redevelopment agency is that at least 20 percent of tax funding must go toward affordable housing in the county.

Before the agency is formed, the county must craft an ordinance, hold public hearings and complete an environmental impact report.

Redevelopment agencies across California have come under intense scrutiny. That's mainly because they can use eminent domain to take private property. Other concerns have to do with the amount of tax dollars, referred to as "tax increment funding," that redevelopment agencies can collect.

Tax increment funding takes taxes from the increased value of a developed property and gives the money back to the redevelopment agency for future projects. Although the state takes a large percentage of property taxes from cities and counties, much of it is returned to school districts.

The community services department estimates that a redevelopment agency would generate upwards of $44 million in income over a 45-year period. The county's general fund would receive $4.4 million, while another $13 million would go toward affordable housing.

School districts would also reap about $17.64 million over the same 45-year time frame.

The county would have to establish a study area for redevelopment before obtaining any funding. That survey would begin in January. However, it would be at least another year before any project would be implemented.

County needs to change

The Humboldt Foster Parent Association is giving notice that as of Jan. 1 it will no longer allow children to be placed into foster homes unless the county changes its ways.

Brian Nunn, a representative of the Humboldt Foster Parents Association, told the Board of Supervisors earlier this week that Child Welfare Services has been excluding foster parents and other care givers from major decisions regarding children in foster care homes.

Nunn said he was particularly upset because Child Welfare Services is evaluating therapeutic care of children without any input from families who take in foster children.

According to Nunn, there are 138 licensed foster homes in Humboldt County, of which 60 to 70 take in about 300 children annually.

Water rate hike?

The Public Utilities Commission is reviewing a request by Del Oro Water Co. to raise water rates to Ferndale customers by slightly more than 12 percent. If the request is approved, it would be the first increase in four years.

An analyst with the commission is not fully supporting the rate hike. A hearing will be held on Oct. 17.

Del Oro Water Co. owns Ferndale's water system. The rate hike would increase revenue to the company by $43,760.

Still looking

The Fortuna City Council is renewing its search for a new city manager after deciding that the current pool of applicants didn't meet the city's needs.

Although the field of candidates had been narrowed to five and the city had begun a background check on one of them, city officials decided last week they need someone with more redevelopment and economic experience than the field of five offered.

City officials expect to resume the search for a city manager by mid-November. Until then Police Chief Kent Bradshaw will continue as interim city manager.

Find a pet online

Looking for a pet? The Sequoia Humane Society and Friends for Life Canine Rescue have teamed up with more than 340 other shelters statewide to become part of, a nationwide virtual animal shelter.

The partnership will allow families to search for pets in California and from across the country without having to leave home. The site boasts more than 86,000 homeless animals in approximately 4,200 shelters and rescue groups nationwide and in Canada.

The site furnishes photos and a list of pets sorted by ZIP codes near a visitor's home. Once visitors find an animal they like, they can click on the animal's name for additional information. Each shelter handles its own adoptions.

Closing down

Alternative Energy Engineering of Redway will close in November after the parent company, Schott Applied Power Corp., shifted the company's focus away from alternative energy.

Alternative Energy Engineering sold solar, hydropower and other alternative energy systems to customers not linked to the conventional power grid.

Schott officials came to Redway on Sept. 13 to announce they were shutting down the company. The closure will affect 19 employees.

Schott bought Alternative Energy Engineering in January 2001 and quickly expanded the staff to 29. But just as quickly, the company either laid off or relocated employees. The possibility exists, however, that Schott might sell the company back to its original owners. (See Journal cover story Feb. 22, 2001, "Humboldt Unplugged.")

The L.A. connection

Horizon Air is hoping to convince airport officials in Los Angeles to offer a direct flight to Humboldt County.

A survey conducted last year by the Eureka Chamber of Commerce showed that more people would fly here if service were more reliable, less expensive and offered an alternative destination to San Francisco.

The survey results were provided to Horizon Air.

Money for wrecks

The state has restored $120,000 in funding for Humboldt County's abandoned vehicle clean-up program. The funds were almost lost because county officials failed to file for the money on time.

Legislation sponsored by state Sen. Wesley Chesbro authorizes payment to Humboldt County from the State Abandoned Vehicle Trust Fund. Gov. Gray Davis signed the bill last week.

The state imposes a supplemental registration fee of $1 per vehicle to cover the cost of removing abandoned vehicles.

Moving on

Rod Edgmon, superintendent and principal of the one-school Pacific Union School Districts retired last week to take a faculty position at the California State University Monterey Bay.

Edgmon had been with Pacific Union, in Arcata since 1997.

During his tenure at the school, Edgmon oversaw passage of a $2.5 million bond to construct classrooms, a gym and a library. He also worked to modernize existing school buildings. Additionally, Edgmon increased efforts at staff development.

Vice Principal Judy White will serve as principal and superintendent until a replacement for Edgmon is found.

A new competitor

Hank Sims, the former Arcata Eye and Anderson Valley Advertiser writer, has entered the publishing field. He is launching The Humboldt Reader, a weekly newspaper based in Eureka.

Sims said his new venture promises to be lively and independent.

Hone your skills

Workplace Essential Skills, a series of 25 half-hour programs to help viewers find employment, train for a better position or become more successful on the job, will begin airing on Oct. 6 on KEET.

So will TV411, a series of 20 half-hour programs that will focus on skills such as reading labels and taking phone messages.

The programs are a combined effort of the Humboldt Literacy Project and KEET-TV.

Both programs will air on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday mornings on Channel 13.



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