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December 10, 1998


Channel 3 debuts early newscast

Nevada casinos in Hoopa?

Waterfront plan advances

Freshwater treesitter descends

Weather dictates crab price

Channel 3 debuts early newscast

Less than two months after television station KVIQ Channel 6 premiered a third evening newscast, competitor KIEM Channel 3 is doing the same, expanding television news coverage in Humboldt County to levels never before seen here.

With the debut of Channel 3's 5 p.m. newscast on Jan. 4, that station will have an even greater lead over its two competitors in terms of viewership and the number of newscasts offered. (Channel 3 is the only station which broadcasts news over the weekend.)

"I think the market deserves a greater local news presence than has been presented," said KIEM General Manager Bob Browning, who moved to Humboldt County in March from Savannah, Ga. "It's a shock to me that we're the only station in the market that does a weekend newscast. I think the market's underdeveloped in terms of local newscasts."

Humboldt State University assistant broadcast professor Leanne Kozak agrees ("I think this market has been sleeping for some time."), but she doesn't buy into Browning's argument that KIEM's decision to add a 5 p.m. newscast less than two months after Channel 6 did so is a coincidence.

"There's no question," said Kozak, that KIEM's latest expansion was driven by competition. "It's a very competitive environment," she said.

It remains to be seen if advertising dollars here can support the increase in news programming, and if viewers will be home in time to tune in.

Channel 23 News Director Leslie Lollich questioned whether channels 3 and 6 could pull in the audience needed to support the added half-hour broadcasts. "We had a 5 o'clock several years ago and it turned out to just really not produce the numbers (the station owners) hoped it would," she said.

Channel 23 airs a 5:30 p.m. newscast and had advertised it as the first news of the evening up until Channel 6 added its 5 p.m. broadcast in November. Lollich isn't overly concerned about the new competition and plans to wait and see how the other stations fare with the earlier shows.

"We're not after the same audience," she said, "partly because we've been here. We've been doing the 5:30 for so long."

According to Kozak, what Channel 23 has that the other stations do not is longevity and experience in its employees. Lollich has been with the station for 12 years, and prior to that worked for three years here in radio.

Lollich, said Kozak, "knows the area perhaps better than any journalist in this town."

"I don't think Channel 23 is out of the game yet," Kozak said. "I think that there are management decisions they're going to have to make in response to the other stations. They have the financial resources to be more active if they so desire."

And Channel 6, which is in the process of changing ownership, is adding employees, new equipment and programming.

While Channel 3 leads its competitors in ratings (followed by channels 6 then 23), Kozak said there is a large market that never watches local TV news. The challenge, she said, is to draw them in.

With so many changes in the TV news market, Kozak said, it's difficult to predict the future of each station. "All of the cards are up in the air right now. Let's see how they flutter down."

Nevada casinos in Hoopa?
The state Supreme Court last week stayed enforcement of Proposition 5 until it rules on pending lawsuits filed after its passage.

While 63 percent of California voters approved the Indian gambling initative in November, the lawsuits, filed by a group of homeowners and a labor union, allege that the measure is unconstitutional and violates federal law.

"I was anticipating a lawsuit of some sort," said Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairman Merv George Jr., adding that although the Nevada casinos supported the anti-Proposition 5 campaign, he has gotten word "that many of those major financial contributors are not going to be contributing to this appeal process."

In fact, George said, Nevada casino corporations have expressed interest in meeting with the tribal council about possibly opening their own casinos in Hoopa.

The court ruling does not affect Cher-Ae Heights Indian Bingo and Casino in Trinidad because the Indian rancheria which runs it already has a gambling compact with the state, according to tribal Chairman Garth Sundberg.

Waterfront plan advances
After several years of planning, the backers of a major Eureka waterfront complex will go before the city's Planning Commission on Monday to seek key development permits.

Eureka Waterfront Partners' most sensitive request is for a parking variance that would let them develop the first phase of their project while providing parking spaces for roughly half of the building's anticipated parking needs. In parking-cramped Old Town, the idea isn't universally popular.

The developers propose to build their two-story retail-residential building at the foot of D Street, while creating a 42-car parking lot on an adjacent site which they also own. City planners estimate the restaurants, shops and condominiums in the two-story project will require 78 spaces. The Planning Commission will have to decide whether the additional parking squeeze is justified as part of a strategy to jump-start development on the waterfront.

The waterfront partnership plans to eventually develop the parking lot site into a three-story office building, but it's banking on the city coming up with a large-scale parking solution for Old Town and the waterfront.

Eureka Waterfront Partners is headed by Dolores Vellutini, owner of Eureka Baking Co., and Southern California architect John Ash.

Freshwater treesitter descends
As Julia "Butterfly" Hill marks her one-year anniversary perched in a redwood near Stafford, another tree-sitter celebrated his 26th birthday last week in a different tree miles away while a third sitter admitted he'd left his perch just before Thanksgiving.

Nate Madsen climbed an old-growth redwood about 170 feet above Kneeland Road near Freshwater on Oct. 13 and remained there Monday, more than eight weeks later.

"I'm doing wonderful," the Maple Creek resident said in a telephone interview from his perch. "We've had some real cold nights these last few nights but I've managed to keep warm."

Several days after Madsen went up, friend Roger Levy, 44, ascended a nearby smaller tree, and after being there for five weeks came down just before Thanksgiving. "The wind blew my tree around really hard," Levy said. "It felt really dangerous. I went through a few nights of that, where you can't sleep all night and you feel like anything could happen any second."

Madsen fends off the cold by putting on multiple layers of clothes, and residents have organized to deliver hot food to him each day. "The people on the ground have just been amazing," he said.

Madsen decided to go up after watching trees in the area disappear. "It was a complete disgrace," he said. "I couldn't take it any longer. I had to climb up here."

Levy's goal was to spur people to action in the fight with Pacific Lumber Co. over logging practices in Freshwater. "I'm told I inspired a few people to get more involved, to become active," he said.

PL President John Campbell would like to see the tree sitters end the dangerous protest tactic.

"Clearly (tree-sitters) are breaking the law and they're trespassing, and naturally we're concerned about their safety," he said. "There are plenty of avenues to lodge your protest without putting yourself in an unsafe condition."

The Freshwater Creek Neighborhood Association has sued the California Department of Forestry for not considering the cumulative impacts of numerous timber harvest plans. Alan Cook, a resident and member of the group, said he hopes the tree-sitters focus public attention on the logging issues.

"The real issue," he said, "is the horrible impact the logging has had in these last few years." He said four of Freshwater Creek's five tributaries have no fish and that residents are seeing floods "at a pace that's never been seen in this valley."

Because a temporary restraining order was denied, Cook said, "they started cutting like crazy and it's largely cut out." A date has not been set, but he anticipates the case will go to court in April.

Weather dictates crab price
Though the crab may be fab this year, North Coast crabbers are finding themselves in somewhat of a financial pinch.

"The catch has been less than we anticipated," said Trinidad crabber Tom Lesher, "but the crabs are in excellent condition."

Stormy weather and huge swells have made crabbing difficult since the season began Dec. 1. The Eureka channel to Humboldt Bay has been especially rough, grounding many boats and temporarily preventing some from returning to shore.

The price for Dungeness crab this season was originally set at $1.25 per pound, but has been raised to $1.50 because of the low catch. "And that's a low price considering the quality of these crabs," Lesher said.

To be competitive with crabbers in Washington and Oregon, Lesher said, local crabbers need to sell to processors for at least $2 per pound. He said the price will most likely increase to $2 by Christmas.

The Fishermen's Marketing Association negotiates the price with crab processors, although the processors, Lesher said, "ultimately dictate the prices."

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