Oct. 24, 2002
by GEOFF S. FEIN
Gov. Gray Davis said the state is working hard to reach an appropriate compromise to complete a fiber optic project that would link Eureka with Ukiah.
Caltrans and Pacific Bell are at an impasse over $2 million to $3 million in fees that Caltrans is seeking in exchange for giving Pacific Bell the right-of-way to lay 21 miles worth of fiber optic line south of Eureka -- all that's missing in the link between the county seats of Humboldt and Mendocino.
"The Pac Bell offer (is) not quite good enough," Davis said.
The project is considered vital by business and education leaders in the Humboldt region. Pac Bell has proposed setting up an escrow account to hold the disputed fees until a judge decides the case. So far, Caltrans has not signed the proposal.
The governor made his comments about the Caltrans-PacBell standoff after addressing more than 100 Democrats inside the Wharfinger Building in Eureka on Monday.
Davis said he wants to see a compromise worked out between the parties.
Gov. Gray Davis
addresses supporters at the Wharfinger Building.
Accompanied by his wife, Sharon, Davis made a brief campaign stop in Eureka to drum up support for his re-election bid. Davis is in a close race with businessman Bill Simon, the Republican hopeful.
Although Davis was almost 90 minutes late, supporters still gave him a standing ovation when he arrived and cheered and applauded whenever the governor spoke of his administration's achievements.
Davis said he came to Eureka because the North Coast is an important part of the state.
"I'm not taking any vote for granted," he said.
During his speech, Davis was periodically interrupted by protesters who said the governor had done little to protect old-growth forests. At one point about six of the protesters shouted out that the governor was a liar when it came to his forest policies. Davis appeared unfazed, saying the state is doing its best to save old-growth redwoods.
About a dozen Simon supporters set up a stage on the street outside the building to also protest Davis' appearance.
"I've made some mistakes, but I have worked hard to improve the life of those in California," Davis told the crowd inside.
Davis reminded the throng of Democrats that he recently signed a bill, the first of its kind in the country, that would significantly reduce vehicle emissions by 2009. The governor termed the legislation a global warming bill.
Davis said the law will "show the rest of the world we can improve the environment."
California is the first state in the nation to allow workers to get paid 55 percent of their salary for up to six weeks should they have to take time off to care for a sick relative, he said.
Davis also reminded the crowd that he is not to blame for the state's energy woes.
"In 2001 few people believed me when I said Enron was ripping us off," he said.
Since then, Enron has admitted guilt and one company executive is going to jail and more should follow, Davis said.
"We are turning the corner on this," he said of the energy crisis that gripped California in the spring and summer of 2001.
Davis received the loudest applause when he announced he had signed a bill to protect a women's right to choose even if Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case legalizing abortion, were one day struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Arcata City Council is back in the anti-war business.
The council voted 4-1 last week to adopt a resolution against the looming conflict in Iraq. The vote came a day after residents expressed almost universal opposition to the war at a packed public forum.
The city's stand is reminiscent of its opposition to the Gulf War 11 years ago.
In wording the resolution, the council avoided saying that it spoke for all of the citizens of Arcata. The resolution does note, however, that many community members had come forward asking the council to adopt the resolution.
Robert Nobel was the only council member to oppose the resolution, saying that he did not want to add his voice to the rising tide of resentment against the United States.
But even Nobel said he wants President Bush to make clear there is proof behind the administration's justification for war before action is taken.
Rep. Mike Thompson will introduce a bill in Congress to provide $200 million to help the North Coast recover from the massive fish kill last month on the Klamath River.
The fish kill, in which as many as 30,000 salmon may have died, has damaged the local economy, Thompson said.
Shortly after the kill, Thompson presented Interior Secretary Gale Norton with 500 pounds of dead salmon at a press conference in Washington D.C.
Thompson told the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors earlier this week that the bill would provide federal funds to help landowners and tribes throughout the Klamath basin. There will also be $20 million in emergency funds for five California and three Oregon counties, Thompson said.
The bill will require the Department of Interior to regularly report to Congress on the status of the Klamath River.
"This administration thinks folks in the upper basin have more rights than those in the lower basin," Thompson said. "We need to change that mindset."
Part of the battle over water in the Klamath River has been between farmers in southern Oregon in the upper part of the basin and salmon-dependent communities downriver.
Thompson said water rights have been overprescribed in the upper basin meaning the legal right to use water exceeds the amount of water that's available.
Thompson said agricultural interests have been adept at turning the battle into one of farmers versus Humboldt County hippies.
"We had a dickens of a time explaining this to folks," he said. "(Farmers) built a tremendous political machine."
Humboldt County is going to receive $454,000 to set up a regional energy authority that would be charged with finding ways to more efficiently use energy in the region.
The authority would also represent county interests at legislative and regulatory proceedings.
The best part of the proposal is that it won't cost the county anything. The money and services to set up the authority are free.
The money will cover staff salaries, training, the purchase of office equipment, identification of high impact projects and development of long-term projects.
The money is coming from a program run by the state Public Utilities Commission that allows citizens to get funding that previously went through Pacific Gas & Electric and other utility companies.
The program is funded through public discharge funds, which come from fees on ratepayers' utility bills. Humboldt County ratepayers have paid approximately $1.5 million into the public discharge funds, but have yet to get any of that money back until now.
The county's proposal was one of only 40 accepted by the state, out of 300 statewide applications. It is the only application from Northern California to be approved.
Humboldt County was chosen because of the involvement of the Humboldt Energy Task Force, a body looking to more efficiently use energy in the region.
A plan to rebuild a seven-mile section of Highway 299 between Willow Creek and Buckhorn Summit will cost at least $120 million and probably won't be built until 2007 at the earliest.
The purpose of the project is to reduce the number of vehicle accidents and to provide a better truck route from the Central Valley to the North Coast.
The county will see economic gains from an improved road between port facilities on Humboldt Bay and Interstate 5, Humboldt County Supervisor Roger Rodoni said this week.
Rodoni is a member of the Humboldt County Area Governments, an agency made up of representatives from all cities and municipalities in the county.
Highway 299, built back in the late 1920s, has a seven-mile section where the road is winding and narrow and marked by steep climbs and descents. Large freight trucks can't negotiate the twists and turns along the highway. That has forced companies to either transfer cargo to smaller trucks in Redding or to use Highway 101.
"We are one of three counties without the same road service as the rest of the state," said Supervisor Bonnie Neely.
The speed limit along this hazardous stretch is only 25 mph. Nonetheless, the accident rate is 50 percent higher along it than on similar routes in the state, according to Chris Cummings, project manager with Caltrans.
It costs the state $850,000 annually to maintain this portion of Highway 299 -- triple the cost for similar routes, Cummings added.
By realigning the highway, Caltrans hopes to bring speed limits up to 50 mph., reduce the number of accidents and allow large trucks to bring goods from Redding to the North Coast.
Even though the project is not in Humboldt County, the county has contributed $46,000 toward the $2.5 million study of the project's potential environmental impacts. Trinity and Shasta counties have contributed a combined $150,000. The study could be finished as soon as 2004.
The Arcata City Council is considering a plan to turn Eighth and Ninth streets into one-way routes and widening sidewalks along H Street.
Under the traffic plan presented to the council by the city planning staff last week, traffic on Eighth street would flow one way heading east between I and F streets; traffic on Ninth street, meantime, would flow one way heading west between F and G streets to I Street.
The cost to reconfigure the streets is estimated at around $50,000. The city included the amount in its 2002-2003 budget.
Sidewalks along H Street, which are currently five feet wide, would be widened to either eight or 12 feet.
The council is expected to make a final decision on the street and sidewalk changes at its Nov. 6 meeting.
The Eureka Police Department is offering tips on how to keep those little monsters, ghosts and princesses safe on Halloween.
Parents are reminded that children's costumes should be short enough to prevent them from tripping and falling; costumes should be bright enough to be visible by motorists; reflective strips should be sewn onto the front and back of costumes to make them more visible; swords, wands and other accessories should be made of soft flexible material; avoid masks that may obstruct a child's vision; make sure costumes are flame resistant.
Children should also carry a
flashlight; trick-or-treat on well-lit streets; stay on sidewalks;
only cross at street corners; and never enter a stranger's house.
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© Copyright 2002, North Coast Journal, Inc.