North Coast Journal



Owl Creek update

Pacific Lumber Co. will not be logging in Owl Creek any time soon.

Federal District Court Judge Louis Bechtle ruled in late February that the timber giant could not "harm and harass" the seabird known as the marbled murrelet by removing its sensitive old-growth nesting grounds. The Owl Creek area is about 30 miles southeast of Eureka near the Headwaters Forest in the Yager Creek drainage.

Bechtle imposed a permanent injunction against the company, and, in an unusual move, required that future logging proposals in the area be cleared through the court rather than the California Department of Forestry.

The two-year-long court battle became a test for the federal Endangered Species Act, with PL attorneys arguing that one must directly harm a bird or egg before an action is deemed a violation of the law. They were unable to prove that private property rights overshadow public requirements that protect the habitat of endangered and threatened wildlife species.

"You don't have to have a dead bird in hand" to prove an endangered species could become extinct, said Cecilia Lanman of the Environmental Protection and Information Center. EPIC, a Garberville-based organization, brought the lawsuit against PL several years ago.

In arguments for the case in September, EPIC attorneys blasted PL's bird survey information, saying its crews were biased against the bird and inaccurate in their reporting of bird sightings. The court agreed, calling PL's wildlife surveys in the Owl Creek area "highly suspect."

Bad news for kids

About 500 children are sexually abused in Humboldt County each year, and many of those victims "are still living with the abuser," said Michael Petit, a member of the team investigating North Coast child welfare services.

Petit and his organization, Child Welfare League of America, issued its first report last month.

The CWLA report found that county-run Child Welfare Services employees had inadequate training, no clear guidelines and not enough money to investigate all cases. Six out of 10 child abuse reports were not investigated, according to the report.

CWLA was hired at a cost of $200,000 to figure out how to fix problems identified in several Humboldt County Grand Jury reports. Child abuse and neglect rates have jumped 67 percent in the last year. At the same time, funding and staffing levels at CWS have dropped. Ironically, about $200,000 was trimmed from the CWS budget two years ago.

There are more than 5,000 children abused each year in Humboldt County. The majority of these children are categorized as "neglected."

CWLA will issue several more reports over its year-long study. The group has recommended the county look for more money, develop better communication between departments and ensure better training for abuse investigators.

County statistics show:

The death rate for children under 5 is 20 percent higher than the state average.

The death rate from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome averages five infants a year, double the state figure.

More than one in five children in Humboldt County lives in poverty.

The county has higher than average drug abuse, child neglect and child sexual abuse rates.

Coho listing delay?

Coho, or silver, salmon were expected to make the endangered or threatened species list months ago, and environmental and fisheries groups are getting angry at the delay.

Threatening to sue if something isn't done soon, groups including the Arcata-based Northcoast Environmental Center, announced last month that they will sue the Interior Department if it doesn't act by mid-April.

More than a dozen organizations asked the National Marine Fisheries Service to consider listing the fish over a year ago. While all salmon species are in decline, the coho has suffered the sharpest drop in recent years.

The federal agency had one year to investigate the possibility of listing and another year before any listing would become final. The first deadline was up in October, and as of late February no decision had been made.

Any decision will be controversial. Listing could change land-use practices near rivers and streams, causing economic hardship for landowners. A lack of listing could spell disaster for the silver strain.

More jail problems

Less than two weeks after two Humboldt County jail guards were found not guilty of assaulting an inmate, the families of three former jail inmates filed suit against the county and the city of Eureka.

The recent complaint charges that all three inmates, who died in the jail in the past year, were abused by law enforcement officers.

One allegedly had a pillow case stuffed over his head while being beaten. He suffocated on his own vomit. Another hanged himself and a third inmate died after sustaining a head injury.

While the recent jury decision proclaiming Corrections Sgt. Brent St. Denis and Cpl. Martin Sintic innocent of beating another inmate was unrelated, many have charged that repeated allegations have put the county in a defensive position. Sintic himself has been involved in other jailhouse incidents, including one case the county settled out of court for $100,000.

Timber profits up

Simpson Timber Co. and other large timber landowners had record profits in 1994, according to recently released reports.

The price of wood has been on the upswing for several years, but officials say a jump in wood pulp prices helped the industry boost earnings.

Pulp prices dipped so low in the early '90s they contributed to the closure of one of Humboldt County's two pulp mills. Simpson Paper Co. closed its 35-year-old plant at the time, citing water and air pollution restrictions and a soft pulp market.

Louisiana-Pacific Corp. held onto its Eureka-based pulp mill, watching pulp prices go from $350 a ton in 1992 to $750 a ton and rising now.

This helped L-P hit an all-time sales and profit high with $3 billion in sales in 1994, up 21 percent from the previous year. The company earned $346.90 million last year, a figure 36 percent higher than 1993.

Big timber companies, with their own timberland, took advantage of high wood prices caused by continued restrictions on federal timber. Smaller mills didn't fare as well, having to pay higher prices for logs used in their mills.

Three times a charm?

Dan Hamburg, who was defeated after one term in Congress by Frank Riggs, R-Windsor, told the Press Democrat recently that he wouldn't rule out another battle for the North Coast seat.

"Never say never," the PD quoted Hamburg as saying before he left on a trip to South Africa, where he plans to work for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. He will be an adviser to new governments in the region.

Hamburg and Riggs have faced each other at the polls twice now, giving each one victory. Hamburg said he may return to Northern California in eight months to file for the Democratic congressional primary.

Rhody threat minor

Despite news reports that plant-sucking bugs and mildew threaten area rhododendrons, local rhody experts say the threat has been exaggerated.

Members of the American Rhododendron Society have said that "thrips" and "powdery mildew" are common problems if the flowering bushes aren't cared for properly. Don Wallace, president of the local society, said recent reports of problems on the Humboldt State University campus "made it sound like all of our rhododendrons were going to die."

"This is just not true," Wallace said, adding that the society's Rhododendron Show, set for April 29-30, and the annual Eureka-based Rhododendron Parade will not suffer from pests or powder.

Tom Coyle, park superintendent for the city of Eureka, said homeowners can keep their Rhody bushes resistant by pruning them, opening up the center of plants for air circulation and cleaning up fallen leaves and flowers.

Travel agents uproar

Several North Coast travel agencies joined a nationwide boycott in late February, closing shop for one day and refusing to sell airline tickets.

The one-day protest was aimed at airlines, which have decided to cut costs by reducing the amount of commissions paid to travel agents.

Instead of receiving 10 percent of the cost of a domestic airline ticket (for example $100 for a base-rate ticket price of $1,000), agents will now receive $50. On cheaper flights, the commission would be less.

Mary Lou Lorensen, owner of Eureka Travel Agency, did not close for the day. "I don't think we should inconvenience our customers," she said, adding that she expects to lose as much as 30 percent of her earnings this year.

Unlike travel agencies on the East Coast that have begun charging consumers for their service, Lorensen said her agency does not plan to do so "at this time."

Carriage rolls out

Marty and Barnaby won't be around to stare at anymore. The two have stood at the corner of Second and F streets in Eureka for almost six years, offering horse-drawn carriage rides to visitors and residents alike.

Marty and Michele L'Herault sold their carriage business, including Barnaby, to Ferndale businesswoman Susan Mount. Beginning this month, Mount will drive Barnaby and the carriage around Ferndale.

The L'Heraults plan to move to Wisconsin, looking for better pay, cheaper land and family ties.

The horse and carriage added to the Old Town atmosphere and enhanced the Victorian seaport image. City leaders say they will be missed.

Lazio's sells

Lawrence Lazio, owner of Lazio's Restaurant, a family business for 55 years, announced last month that he was selling the Eureka landmark.

For decades travelers have visited Lazio's, famous for its seafood and large building-top signs pointing out its location.

Now at 327 Second St., Eureka, the restaurant started out at the foot of C Street in 1944. Founded by Lazio's father, the business originally included a fish processing plant and canning operation. At one point it processed as many as 30 million pounds of fish a year.

The fish company collapsed in 1987, coinciding with a collapse in the salmon fishery. The restaurant will continue at its present location under the ownership of John Biord and Tyler Holmes. Biord also recently purchased the Eureka Inn.

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