North Coast Journal

News Briefs

August 1995


Tobacco Fight Lost

For the seventh year in a row, lawmakers failed to snuff out federal tobacco subsidies. On a 220-to-200 vote last month, the House of Representatives defeated a measure that would have ended millions of dollars a year in federal subsidies.

North Coast legislator Frank Riggs, R-Windsor, cosponsored the measure.

In the meantime, a new federal report shows a marked increase in smoking among teenagers. About 18 percent of eighth-graders smoke, according to a recent report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. That figure represents a 30 percent increase over the past three years.

Adults, on the other hand, appear to be quitting the habit. About 33 percent of adults smoked tobacco in 1980 while only 25 percent smoke today.

Silver Salmon Struggle

Under the threat of a lawsuit and after numerous delays, the West Coast's coho salmon are another step closer to federal listing as a threatened species.

Also known as silver salmon, the coho was a commercially viable fish until habitat problems in coastal and inland streams began to drastically affect its populations.

The National Marine Fisheries Service proposed last month to list the coho, which could mean modifications on logging, home building, farming, grazing and water diversion projects in California and Oregon. About 90 percent of coho habitat areas are on private property.

The listing proposal came months after several environmental and fish restoration groups threatened to sue because they said the NMFS was moving too slowly. Federal plans to overhaul the Endangered Species Act figured into the service's reticence.

The proposal includes a controversial decision to have the California Resources Agency administer the coho rehabilitation efforts. Environmental groups are not happy, claiming the state agency is biased toward agriculture and timber interests.

Good King Fishing

Despite the coho's problems, commercial fishermen say California is having the best king salmon season in six years. Heavy winter rains and improved ocean conditions may be responsible.

As of mid-June commercial fishermen in areas around Fort Bragg and south had caught 500,000 king salmon. That's almost twice as many fish as were caught in the entire season last year. Most Humboldt County salmon fishermen have gone south for the season because of local water closures, but some have already returned because prices have dropped off.

Sports fishermen are having such a hot year that the local season was shut down earlier than expected because fishermen reached their quota limit before the July 8 deadline. The 10,600-salmon quota for the area off the Humboldt and Del Norte coastline was caught by July 1. Sport fishing will resume Aug. 16, Wednesdays through Saturdays, until Aug. 31. There is a daily bag limit of one king. No coho are allowed to be taken.

Former Sheriff Targeted

A grand jury probe ended last month with questions about former Sheriff Dave Renner's use of discretionary funds.

Members of the Sheriff's Department told the Humboldt County Grand Jury that Renner may have used money from his department's investigative fund for personal uses.

And Sheriff Dennis Lewis, who beat Renner in last year's election, said an audit of his department shows a lack of accounting, especially in the investigative or "snitch" fund monies.

Records of the $10,000 snitch fund were removed by Renner when he left office last year, according to the grand jury. Eight years ago records on the same account were allegedly stolen.

Weeks after the allegations were made public, Renner faxed a response to news agencies.

"At no time did I ever take one cent of those tax dollars and use them for my own personal gain," Renner wrote.

District Attorney Terry Farmer said his office is investigating Renner.

"It appears there was improper conduct," Farmer said, but as for the grand jury's theft allegations, they are a "far cry from proof."

Airport Gets New Wings

A brand new airline plans to begin flying into the Arcata-Eureka Airport this month.

Sierra Expressway, based in Oakland, was given a lease at the county airport in McKinleyville and is awaiting Department of Transportation approval. The new airline will move into space once held by Reno Air Express. Reno left the area this spring leaving travelers with only one choice, United Express.

The new airline will use 19-passenger prop planes and plans to fly to Medford, Oakland, Sacramento and Monterey.

Earth First!Ers Jailed

More than 40 Earth First!ers were arrested in Southern Humboldt last month during two showdowns with Pacific Lumber Co.

Wearing rubber gloves and using pepper spray, law enforcement officers arrested about 25 activists during a clash July 5 at the California Department of Forestry office in Fortuna.

The activists were protesting CDF's role in approving timber harvest plans, primarily those filed by PL and involving old-growth redwood. Another eight protesters were arrested the same day after chaining themselves to gates leading to PL timberlands.

Another half-dozen Earth First!ers were arrested a week later during a protest at the PL mill in Carlotta. In this third attempt, the anti-industry group climbed stacks of timber and unfurled signs reading, "Boycott Redwood."

All protesters were booked into jail and then released to face trespassing, rioting and unlawful assembly charges.


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