Friday, July 18, 2014

Goodbye, Jack Mays

Posted By on Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 5:40 PM

Jack Mays donated some of his art to the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce for billboards on Highway 101. - PHOTO BY CAROLINE TITUS/FERNDALE ENTERPRISE
  • Photo by Caroline Titus/Ferndale Enterprise
  • Jack Mays donated some of his art to the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce for billboards on Highway 101.
Artist Jack Mays, colorful chronicler of Ferndale, has died, The Ferndale Enterprise reports.

Mays had battled cancer since 2004 — living nearly a decade longer than the doctors had predicted he would, and doing all sorts of inspiring and lively things in that time. He captured every inch of Ferndale and many of its people in elaborately detailed colored-pencil drawings, lampooned and celebrated citizens in 500 editorial cartoons for the Enterprise, started a medical-travel foundation and counseled other cancer sufferers.

The Journal profiled Mays in February after doctors told him this time the end really was near. He joked about the prognosis in a cartoon in the Enterprise — him in a chair with breathing tubes in his nose, a picture of Mark Twain behind him on the wall and Twain saying, "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

Alas, it is now true.

The Enterprise promises more coverage of Mays next week.
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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Our Owl Problem in Nat'l Geo

Posted By on Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 3:39 PM

Lowell Diller heading out to do some owl work in 2011. - PHOTO BY ZACH ST. GEORGE
  • Photo by Zach St. George
  • Lowell Diller heading out to do some owl work in 2011.
Once again, our owl problem is in the news. National Geographic Daily News has a story today about the experiment to give northern spotted owls a chance at keeping a talon-hold on their habitat by killing barred owls. 

And, once again, the tale stars Green Diamond wildlife biologist Lowell Diller and his spaniel, Riley. Diller, it must be noted, does not appear to enter into this grim owl adjustment lightly. Quoth the NG:

"When I went out to do it the first time, I was shaking, I had to steady myself," he remembers. "I wasn't sure I could actually do it. It was so wrong to be shooting a beautiful raptor like this. It continues to be awkward to this day."

Zach St. George wrote about Diller's role in the barred-owl-removal experiment, part of a broader plan by the National Fish and Wildlife Service, for the North Coast Journal back in 2011. It, too, was called Shooting Owls.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Goosenecking Sight at Clam Beach

Posted By on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 4:06 PM

I suspect I’m not the only Humboldt-er who finds myself meandering down the beach keeping a gentle eye out for seafaring debris from Japan’s 2011 tsunami - you know, a skiff, a soccer ball, perhaps a motorcycle? It’s fascinating to think these wayward objects, gone astray in the midst of one of this century’s worst natural disasters, have managed to negotiate the breadth of the Pacific Ocean and quietly arrive with us years later.

Last Saturday, while my son Sam and I were airing the dogs at Clam Beach, we came across piles of spent fireworks, a sprinkling of snowy plovers and a shit-ton of by-the-wind sailors. We also happened upon a unassuming buoy resting in the sand, covered in curious-looking shellfish.

We hunched down to get a better look, and suddenly noticed the things were moving. And not just moving, but squirming, thrashing, writhing and questing with long, bendy necks and feathery tendrils that poked in and out of a cluster of multi-sized shells. Seriously, they were like little aliens, or Audrey II, the plant from Little Shop of Horrors.
These animals were very, very busy on their slightly battered, basketball-sized world.

I’ve lived in Humboldt County for 35 years and have never seen anything like them. Naturally, Sam whipped out his phone and took a video of the flailing creatures and promptly went home and posted it on Facebook, as one is wont to do these days. We tagged family friend and local ocean afficianado Jennifer Savage to see what she thought. Might they just be invasive, bio-fouling tsunami hitchhikers brought to shore by the weekend’s super moon tides?

Jen forwarded the video to several experts across the state who she knows in her professional capacity as former Northcoast program coordinator at the Ocean Conservancy and current coastal programs director at the Northcoast Environmental Center. Here’s a response she received from California Departmant of Fish and Wildlife Senior Environmental Scientist Martha Volkoff:
  • Photo by Amy Barnes, video by Sam Barnes

“Those appear to be Lepas (gooseneck barnacles), the predominant species on many of the items that have landed. While we likely won't be able to determine if this item is tsunami debris, as with all potential tsunami debris please advise the person reporting it to move it out of the tidal zone and dispose of it in the municipal garbage, or contact the manager of the beach and advise them assistance is needed.”

After a bit of online research, I learned that the exotic-looking gooseneck barnacle is actually a pretty common marine crustacean living in temperate seas throughout the world. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) blog says many of the tsunami debris items they’ve come across have had gooseneck barnacles attached to them.

So, it sounds as if anything is going to be living on tsunami debris, it will be these guys. The good news, NOAA says, is that if they are seafaring crustaceans from the waters of Sendai, they are not an invasive species. They are, however, hermaphrodites, which is always weird. They have a lifespan of up to 20 years. Interesting. Their animated feathery bits are a feeding apparatus. In addition, (although I can imagine few things more heinous than eating a pelagic gooseneck barnacle), they are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world.

The first debris from Japan’s “Black Tsunami” landed on on the west coast of North America in March of 2012. Its arrival is slowing, but stuff still sporadically appears on our shores. If you suspect one of your beach finds might just be tsunami debris, you can report it to NOAA at You can also investigate other west coast sightings and read stories about it on their marine debris blog.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Eureka Finance Director Resigns, Accepts Post with HCSD

Posted By on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 11:50 AM

Eureka Finance Director Paul Rodrigues is resigning his post with the city, having accepted a position that will allow him to spend more time with his kids, something he feels is very necessary in the wake of his wife’s death.

Hired by the city in December 2010, Rodrigues said he’s loved working for Eureka, but that the demands of the job have become too much since his wife, Conna, died of a brain aneurysm in October at the age of 45. Since her death, Rodrigues said he’s been struggling to balance the demands of the job with his intense desire to spend as much time as possible with his four children, who range in age from 12 to 17.

“This is a really big job and there’s a level of stress associated with it but, more so, it’s just more than a 40-hour-a-week job and it’s just more time than I have to give,” he said. “There’s a great staff here that’s working a ton of hours, and it’s really not fair for them that their director is not doing it alongside them.”

Rodrigues has accepted a position with the Humboldt Community Services District, which he said he expects to be a bit lower-key than his position with Eureka. It’s a great opportunity, he said, adding that the last three people to have held the position for HCSD have retired with the organization. Rodrigues said he’ll be taking a pay cut with the change, but said it’s worth it.

“If that indicates anything, I hope it indicates a desire on my part to allocate the amount of time necessary to take care of my family since the loss of my wife,” he said. “My life just took a substantial turn when I lost Conna. Now, my kids need to take care of me and I need to take care of them.”

The city council is expected to grant an exception to the city’s hiring freeze to find a replacement for Rodrigues at tonight’s meeting. City Manager Greg Sparks said the plan is for the deputy finance director, Wendy Howard, to step in and serve in an acting capacity until the city hires a permanent replacement.

Eureka has seen a fair bit of turnover at the department head level in the past year, having bid farewell to Police Chief Murl Harpham, City Manager Bill Panos and Community Development Director Rob Wall in recent months. Now Rodrigues joins the list.

In the aftermath of passing a tight budget that saw 10-percent cuts across all departments, Eureka is asking voters in November to approve Measure Q and extend a temporary .5-percent transaction and use tax. In 2010, voters approved Measure O, which introduced the temporary tax increase and was due to sunset in 2016. Now, city officials are saying that losing the tax would potentially trigger crippling cuts to the city’s police and fire departments. As the debate surrounding Measure Q heats up in the coming months, it seems likely some focus will be put on how Measure O funds were spent and specifically whether the bulk of the additional revenue was channeled to public safety as officials promised while campaigning for the measure.

Sparks said not having Rodrigues in the fold for those conversations will pose a challenge.

“It is certainly, probably, a concern,” he said. “I really want to, over the next couple of weeks, spend more of my own time dealing with some of the Measure Q stuff as we prepare the information piece of that campaign so voters really understand how Measure O dollars were spent, where the money went and how measure Q will be used as well.”

Rodrigues said he’s leaving the city with a heavy heart. “The city of Eureka has been a great place to work,” he said. “They treated me like family when my wife passed.”
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Monday, July 14, 2014

Lisa Rossbacher's First Day on Campus

Posted By on Mon, Jul 14, 2014 at 6:21 PM

New HSU President Lisa Rossbacher. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • New HSU President Lisa Rossbacher.

It was beautifully gray-skied today up at Humboldt State University — just the weather the institution’s new president, Lisa Rossbacher, had been promised she could (happily) expect here in her new home county.

After a surprise blast of welcoming horns from the Marching Lumberjacks, Rossbacher hiked around campus on her first official day, meeting staff and some faculty and taking care of initial business. First she got her library card, saying she had her priorities straight. She also picked up her keys: four metal ones and a plastic access card. “Oh, my goodness, it’s old school,” Rossbacher teased when Traci Ferdolage, associate vice president of facilities management, laid the metal keys before her. As Ferdolage explained the complicated ins and outs of locks and security alarms, Rossbacher joked again, “So it’s a lot of opportunities to set off alarms.”

Traci Ferdolage, associate vice president of facilities management, left, and new HSU President Lisa Rossbacher. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • Traci Ferdolage, associate vice president of facilities management, left, and new HSU President Lisa Rossbacher.
She also visited the auto shop, mail room, print shop, forestry building and veterans, disability and sustainability programs and more. Rossbacher asked people about their work, how long they’d been doing it, and then often delved deeper into conversation.

Anthony Baker, HSU's facilities business service coordinator, left; Traci Ferdolage, associate vice president of facilities management; and new HSU President Lisa Rossbacher. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • Anthony Baker, HSU's facilities business service coordinator, left; Traci Ferdolage, associate vice president of facilities management; and new HSU President Lisa Rossbacher.

Rossbacher is Humboldt State University's seventh president and its first woman president. She takes over from President Rollin C. Richmond, who retired this year.

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UPDATED: Planning Commissioner Arrested on Suspicion of DUI

Posted By on Mon, Jul 14, 2014 at 11:32 AM

The California Highway Patrol issued a press release this morning providing some details of Saturday's arrest of Humboldt County Planning Commissioner Noah Levy. See the full release following the original post below.

Original Post:
Humboldt County Planning Commissioner Noah Levy was arrested early Saturday morning on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol in Southern Humboldt.

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Steve Knight confirmed Levy was arrested by officers from the California Highway Patrol’s Garberville station and booked into the jail at about 2:35 a.m. on suspicion of driving with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit of .08. It's a misdemeanor offense, and Knight said Levy was released on his own recognizance shortly before 7 a.m.

Neither a spokesman nor a supervisor was available at the Garberville CHP office to field questions from the Journal this morning, and a receptionist said no one would be available to provide details of the arrest until tomorrow.

The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office has yet to make a charging decision in the case.

Appointed to the planning commission in January by Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace, Levy also serves on the board of the nonprofit Environmental Protection Information Center and is the acting lands program director for SoHum’s Sanctuary Forest. Calls placed to Levy and Lovelace were not immediately returned, but the Journal will update this post as more information becomes available.

The following is a press release from the CHP:

On 7/12/2014 at approximately 0215 hours, Garberville CHP Officers were on patrol on Briceland Road, just west of Redway, CA. The officers attention was drawn to a silver Honda Fit traveling westbound on Briceland Road, ahead of their patrol vehicle. The officers observed the Honda exceeding the posted speed limit and failing to stop a stop sign. An enforcement stop was conducted on the vehicle near the area of Ruby Valley. They contacted the driver of the Honda and he was identified as Noah Levy, of Arcata, CA. While at the vehicle the officers smelled a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from within the vehicle. Levy was asked to exit his vehicle and subsequently was asked to perform a series of Field Sobriety Tests. Based upon his performance and observations made by the officers, Levy was placed under arrest for suspicion of Driving Under the Influence of Alchol (DUI). He was taken and booked into the Humboldt County Jail at approximately 0535 hours.

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Returned Artifacts Come With Poisonous Problems

Posted By on Sat, Jul 12, 2014 at 11:46 AM

The Hoopa Tribal museum is host to hundreds of cultural artifacts, but many among those returned to the tribe after a law passed in the 1990s made it easier for Native American communities to get their property back are dangerous to handle.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, archaeologists, collectors and museums doused Native American artifacts in a cocktail of dangerous pesticides and preservatives, according to a recent article in the High Country News. That toxic legacy makes it difficult for tribes, like Hoopa, who want to use the artifacts in ceremonies rather than look at them behind a glass case.

The Yurok Tribe also recently held a repatriation celebration for the return of more than 120 ceremonial Brush Dance items from the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, though it's unclear if those itmes were treated with the dangerous pesticides and preservatives.

The Journal wrote about the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian back in 2004. And, for more information on the return of artifacts to the Yurok Tribe, see the Journal's 2010 story "A Klamath Reunion."
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Friday, July 11, 2014

Fire in Hoopa Destroys House, Threatens Others

Posted By on Fri, Jul 11, 2014 at 4:38 PM

Law enforcement has closed Marshall Lane and State Route 96 in Hoopa as multiple agencies continue to battle a fire in a residential area. - COURTSEY OF THE HOOPA VALLEY TRIBE
  • Courtsey of the Hoopa Valley Tribe
  • Law enforcement has closed Marshall Lane and State Route 96 in Hoopa as multiple agencies continue to battle a fire in a residential area.
UPDATE: Hoopa Valley Tribe Public Information Office Kristan Korns reports that the fire is being treated as a suspected act of arson and that United States Bureau of Indian Affairs Investigators are on scene.

Additionally, Korns said a Hoopa Wildland Fire Department captain suffered a burn while battling the blaze, but said the injury was minor. After the fire moved aggressively across State Route 96, Korns said crews were able to halt its forward progress.

Multiple agencies are battling a fire near Hoopa that has closed State Route 96 and forced dozens of evacuations.

Details are scant at this point, but the fire was reported shortly before 3 p.m. and seems to be centered around the Squires Housing complex, a cluster of eight or nine homes located between Marshall Lane and State Route 96. Hoopa Tribe Public Information Officer Kristan Korns said another 30 to 40 homes are in the immediate vicinity of the blaze.

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Knight said a mutual aid call went out to local law enforcement agencies to help evacuate residences in the area. He said the sheriff’s office sent several units and was prepared to send more when the request was canceled. “At the moment, my understanding is the fire’s under control,” Knight said.

Korns said the California Highway Patrol, the sheriff’s office, the Hoopa Wildland Fire Department and the Hoopa Volunteer Fire Department are all on scene, with a helicopter and an airplane pulling water from the Trinity River to dump on the blaze. “At least one house burnt to the ground and others are in danger,” Korns said.

The Journal will update this post with more information as it becomes available.
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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

UPDATED: Nonprofit Sues Blue Cross Over Obamacare Networks

Posted By on Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 3:37 PM

A Southern California nonprofit filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday alleging that Anthem Blue Cross misled millions of customers when rolling out its plans under the Affordable Care Act, leaving many enrollees on the hook for large out-of-pocket expenses.

According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, the suit alleges that the insurance giant published inaccurate provider networks, causing many customers to purchase plans thinking their current doctors and health care providers were classified as “in-network.” The suit also alleges Anthem failed to inform customers that many of its Covered California policies wouldn’t reimburse for care provided outside of its approved network.

Anthem spokesman Darrel Ng is quoted in the Bee story saying the company has agreed to pay out-of-network claims from folks who received treatment from inaccurately listed doctors during the first three months of this year. Consumer Watchdog, the Santa Monica-based nonprofit that filed the suit, countered that the company intentionally misrepresented and concealed the limitations of its plans in order to capture a big market share in the newly created insurance exchange.

News of the suit may be of special interest here on the North Coast, where customers have had their share of frustrations over Anthem Blue Cross’ inaccurate provider lists, as detailed in past Journal coverage here. Currently, the lawsuit’s class consists of six plaintiffs from Los Altos Hills, Moraga and San Jose.

Laura Antonini, a staff attorney for Consumer Watchdog, said the lawsuit will be opened up to include all Anthem Blue Cross customers who purchased plans through the insurance exchange if it is ultimately certified by the court as a class action suit. But, Antonini said, that process could take years.

The suit was filed amid a recent flurry of concern surrounding Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California’s handling of their Covered California plans that resulted in the state’s launching an investigation into the companies’ practices last month. The California Department of Managed Health Care began its formal investigation June 20, with spokeswoman Marta Green telling the Los Angeles Times, “Our preliminary investigation gave us good cause to believe there are violations of the law.”

As a part of its investigation, the department has reportedly contracted with a consulting firm, PMPM Consulting, to call health care providers to survey the accuracy of the two insurance companies provider network directories. The California Medical Association sent out a letter to its members late last month, which was forwarded around locally by the Humboldt-Del Norte Medical Association, urging physicians to cooperate with PMPM’s survey. “This is an investigation into the accuracy of the plan directories and whether the plans have violated any laws, not an investigation of physician practices,” the letter states.

The CMA urges patients having trouble finding in-network providers under their Covered California plans to call the Department of Managed Health Care’s help center at (888) 466-2219.
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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

County Moves Forward with Tax Hike

Posted By on Tue, Jul 8, 2014 at 12:15 PM

There’s a tax measure coming to a ballot near you. In fact, if you live in a city, you’re likely to see a couple of them.

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this morning to move forward with putting a county-wide sales tax before voters in November, though there’s still some questions as to whether the board will opt for a .5 percent or a .75 percent levy.

County Administrative Officer Philip Smith-Hanes told the board that polling commissioned by the county found 63 percent of probable voters said they would likely vote in favor of such a measure and that the number didn’t vary much when asking voters about a tax of .25 percent, .5 percent or .75 percent. Smith-Hanes said a .25 percent tax is projected to bring in about $3 million in additional revenue for the cash-strapped county, while a .75 percent sales tax would generate a projected $9 million.

The tax would be implemented county-wide, meaning it would be levied in cities as well as unincorporated areas, and would be tacked on top of existing sales taxes. For example, Trinidad and Arcata currently have local sales taxes of .75 percent that they impose on top of the state’s 7.5 percent sales tax, bringing the total tax rate for purchases in the cities to 8.25 percent. The county tax would fall on top of that and, potentially, bring the tax rates there up to as high as 9 percent.

Smith-Hanes noted that the county tax will not be the only one on November ballots, noting that Fortuna is proposing a 1 percent sales tax hike, Blue Lake is putting a utility users tax on the ballot, Eureka is pushing to renew its .5 percent transaction and use tax and Rio Dell is also mulling putting forward a revenue-generating measure.

The board’s discussion Tuesday made clear the board is moving forward with gnashed teeth. Board Chair and 1st District Supervisor Rex Bohn, at one point, proclaimed that he hates both taxes and government but that he appreciates governmental services, which are in dire need of additional revenue. Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace countered that he likes government and doesn’t resent taxes any more than he does paying for something at the store. Taxes, Lovelace said, are simply a payment for services.

Lovelace and Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell both voiced support for moving forward with a .75 percent sales tax, but the balance of the board preferred the .5 percent version. The board agreed to return to the issue next week, when it will vote on a first reading of the proposed measure. For more on the county’s budget situation, read past Journal coverage here. And for more on the board’s tax options and polling done on the issue, see the county staff report from today's agenda packet here.
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