Friday, May 31, 2019

Test Shows 'Some Asbestos' in Material Found in Gist Hall

Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2019 at 3:25 PM

Humboldt State University - FILE
  • File
  • Humboldt State University
Material found in Gist Hall earlier this month “does indeed contain some asbestos," according to a statement posted today on the Humboldt State University website.

Other “loose materials” found in the building will also be tested, with results expected back next week. Meanwhile, HSU is working with an outside firm on a clean-up plan, according to the statement, which notes that no asbestos fibers were detected in the air.

“With the discovery of additional material found in the building, the scope of the cleanup will likely be wider than anticipated,” the statement reads. “As a result, Gist Hall will remain closed until mid-July out of an abundance of caution. The air will be tested again for the presence of asbestos fibers before the building reopens.”

For the time being, Gist Hall is off limits with “no exceptions” and the university directs employees to contact their supervisors with any questions.

“Based on the location of the materials and other factors, employees in Gist Hall were not exposed to disturbed asbestos, which is a naturally-occurring mineral and was commonly used in particular construction materials prior to 1978,” the statement reads.

Read the Humboldt State University statement below:

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Julie Benbow Tapped to Head Visitor's Bureau After Supes Extend Contract

Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2019 at 11:29 AM

  • Humboldt County Visitors Bureau
The Humboldt County Visitors Bureau’s board of directors has named Julie Benbow as the tourism organization’s interim executive director.

Benbow steps into the role Tony Smithers held for decades until his unexpected death in January. And the board’s announcement comes on the heels of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors’ unanimous vote Tuesday to extend the county’s contract with the bureau for another two years.

The board’s vote was a huge win for the bureau, as staff had recommended the board weigh continuing to give the bureau more than $350,000 annually to market Humboldt County against putting those funds out in a competitive request for proposals process. The city of Eureka took that step earlier this year and has since opted to spend its roughly $370,000 in annual marketing funds with another firm. (Two finalists — Humboldt Made and Eddy Alexander, based in Virginia, are currently vying for those funds.)

When the supervisors began discussing the issue Tuesday, it initially appeared the board was seriously considering moving away from the bureau, with Supervisor Estelle Fennell suggesting just a six-month contract, which would have allowed the bureau to continue marketing the county through the tourism season but give the board the flexibility to go in a different direction before next year. Supervisor Virginia Bass seconded Fennell's motion but said she'd like to see the contract extended a bit longer, pointing out that the bureau has been in "turmoil" since Smithers' unexpected death in January.

Supervisor Steve Madrone then voiced strong support for the bureau, saying he'd like to see it given another two years — enough time for it to regroup and develop a plan to work closely with other organizations and the county. Supervisor Rex Bohn liked the idea.

"You guys know I always agree with Supervisor Madrone," he quipped. "Jesus, this is going to be tough: He nailed it. ... I think (the bureau) got a wake up call and what you're going to do is have an invigorated visitors bureau."

As bureau Board President Mark Rowley indicated during public comment at Tuesday’s board meeting, the bureau is working to reinvent itself — conducing a full organizational audit and analyzing everything it is and isn't doing — and in a press release this morning it indicated staff plans to present a new strategic marketing plan to the board by the end of the year.

“The Board is committed to using this time to establish new strategies and collaborations with (the) goal of attracting visitors and increasing tourism revenue throughout Humboldt County,” Rowley said in the press release.

See the bureau’s full press release copied below and watch Tuesday’s board meeting on the issue below (the visitor's bureau conversation begins at the 2:03:00 mark).

News from Humboldt County Visitors Bureau
EUREKA, Ca – On Tuesday May 28th, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, acknowledging the importance of the tourism industry for economic development, voted unanimously to fund the Bureau for two more years. The Bureau has a history of successful marketing and getting valuable national and international media coverage.  In 2018, tourism brought an estimated $416,000,000 into the County. In the next few months, the Bureau will be working with partners and stakeholders to develop a strategic marketing plan to be presented to the Supervisors by the end of the year.
          With the sudden passing in January of Bureau Director, Tony Smithers, and the redirection of City of Eureka funding, the Board of Directors developed a transition plan and meet regularly to initiate the actions necessary to increase marketing initiatives and strengthen the organization’s scope and membership.
On May 29th, the Board named Julie Benbow the Interim Executive Director to provide support during this process and to lead the Bureau as it moves forwards. Julie comes with thirty years of non-profit leadership in San Francisco and Humboldt County.
“The Board is committed to using this time to establish new strategies and collaborations with goal of attracting visitors and increasing tourism revenue throughout Humboldt County,” said Board President, Marc Rowley.
For more information, please contact Julie Benbow at or 707-443-5097.
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UPDATED: Orcas Spotted in Humboldt Bay (With Video)

Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2019 at 10:00 AM

Orcas were spotted in Humboldt Bay. - SCREENSHOT FROM MADAKET VIDEO
  • Screenshot from Madaket video
  • Orcas were spotted in Humboldt Bay.
Biologist Mike Kelly, who writes the column “Washed Up” for the North Coast Journal, reported via Twitter that he also caught sight of one of the orcas but apparently missed seeing the pod catch a sea lion.

“The remaining sea lions did seem nervous,” he says, showing a picture of several huddled on a buoy at the bay entrance.

All in all, it seems it was a busy day for marine mammals around the jetty.

Kelly also reports seeing harbor porpoises, a gray whale and some other sea lions that hadn’t gotten the memo on the orcas, which appeared in Humboldt Bay just one day before the beginning of Orca Month.
A rare treat greeted some lucky folks this morning, when seven orcas were spotted by the captain of the Madaket.

According to a Facebook post, the whales were seen over by the county boat ramp on the North Spit by Capt. Cody Hills, who was aboard the survey boat Eagle.
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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Parolee in Fortuna Murder-for-Hire Case Faces Charges in Death of Eureka Woman

Posted By on Thu, May 30, 2019 at 3:35 PM

A man convicted nearly 30 years ago in a grisly Fortuna murder-for-hire case is now facing three felony charges and the revocation of his parole in connection to a fatal motorcycle crash that killed a well-known private investigator who worked on several major Humboldt County cases as a court appointed mitigation specialist.

Stephen Duane Chiara, who turned 48 on Sunday, is scheduled to be arraigned June 5 on charges of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI causing injury, driving under the influence and a misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license.

Chiara, a Fairfield resident, was driving his Harley-Davidson motorcycle on Interstate 80 in the Bay Area-adjacent city on the night of March 27 when he lost control and crashed.

His passenger, Eureka resident Max Hadley, died. The 55 year old was respected in local legal circles and worked on several high-profile cases, including researching the background of Marci Kitchen to search for mitigating factors the defense could present during the sentence phase.

Kitchen pleaded guilty in August to a series of charges more than two years after she ran down and killed two teenage girls, including her own daughter, after drinking. She was sentenced to serve eight years in prison two months later.

The charging document filed May 23 in Chiara's case states he was “under the influence of an alcoholic beverage and a drug,” at the time of the crash but does not detail what kind. He did not enter a plea at a court hearing held last week, according to the Solano County District Attorney’s Office.

A petition for revocation of parole — which was preliminarily granted last week by a judge who found “probable cause to support” the prosecution’s request — shows the Chiara was released on lifetime supervised parole in July of 2018.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Memorial Day Flag

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 11:39 AM

  • David Wilson
There will be many words written and sentiments expressed in honor of Memorial Day, but none will be as significant as the thoughts and feelings, wishes and prayers we hold within ourselves. One’s heart is a special place, and when we had our moments of silence this weekend it was in order to bring to that special place those parts of the outside world that strike us to our core, to make them forever a part of ourselves and to better ourselves through them. When we better ourselves, it improves the world.

I was a college student at Humboldt State University in 1991 when the Gulf War broke out, our first war against Saddam Hussein. As always, times of war bring with them much on which to reflect. I thought about this as I watched our country’s people respond in so many varying ways. While I tend to do most of my reflecting on such things internally, the gamut of human expression is wide and other people will express themselves in any number of ways.

Some will raise their voices visually. Not long after the Gulf War started in 1991, a striking visual beacon was raised against the night sky along U.S. Highway 101 between Arcata and McKinleyville: a gigantic flag flying along the freeway, hoisted by crane and stretched taught by a cable anchored to a roller. Impressive by day, the giant flag’s illuminated Stars and Stripes stood out spectacularly against the backdrop of night. It drew my photographic eye like a moth to a flame. I wanted to photograph it. I had no thought of speaking any messages with a photograph, only of crafting something visually appealing.
A giant U.S. flag flies beside U.S. Highway 101 between Arcata and McKinleyville, Humboldt County, California. 1991. Shot on 35mm film, this is an in-camera double exposure on a single negative; I made one exposure of the whole scene with the crane carrying the flag twisting in the wind. Then, without advancing the film, I took a telephoto shot of the flag filling the frame with its stripes flowing softly upward. The two images overlapped on the negative to produce this image. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • A giant U.S. flag flies beside U.S. Highway 101 between Arcata and McKinleyville, Humboldt County, California. 1991. Shot on 35mm film, this is an in-camera double exposure on a single negative; I made one exposure of the whole scene with the crane carrying the flag twisting in the wind. Then, without advancing the film, I took a telephoto shot of the flag filling the frame with its stripes flowing softly upward. The two images overlapped on the negative to produce this image.

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The Otters are Coming! The Otters are Coming!

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 10:53 AM

The otter sculptures ready to be shipped. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • The otter sculptures ready to be shipped.

A shipment of 100 otter sculptures is heading toward the North Coast, according to Jeff Black, who created the North Coast Otter Public Arts Initiative. All the way from Jolly Roger Sculptures in the Philippines, the arrival of the 3-foot-tall sculptures standing ready for an artist's touch will kick off a public art initiative scheduled for next summer.

The initiative will combine art and citizen science to “promote clean water and healthy habitats where we live and play,” using a fun scavenger hunt across five counties in the North Coast, a junior ranger program and an Eo Day/Otter collaboration to support the River Otter Citizen Science Project. The initiative is a celebration of otters, Black said.

Black is still continuing his search for sponsors and hosts, as the scavenger hunt will incorporate business across Humboldt, Del Norte, Siskiyou, Mendocino and Trinity counties. To learn more about hosting or sponsoring an otter click here.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Deadline Looms for Comments on Controversial Wind Power Project

Posted By on Tue, May 28, 2019 at 2:11 PM

An artistic rendering of what the turbines will look like from the town of Scotia. - TERRAGEN
  • TerraGen
  • An artistic rendering of what the turbines will look like from the town of Scotia.
With the deadline to comment on the draft environmental impact report fast approaching, debate over a proposed wind farm on a ridgeline to the south of the Eel River Valley is heating up.

The project, developed by Terra-Gen, a large, San Diego-based renewable energy company owned by the private equity firm Energy Capital Partners, would see up to 60 large wind turbines built atop Monument Ridge and Bear River Ridge. Once operational, the farm would contribute an estimated 155 megawatts of renewable energy annually, enough to continuously power 40,000 homes, according to the company. The project is slated to come before the Humboldt County Planning Commission — the governing body with authority over the project permits unless its decision is appealed to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors — in July. The deadline to comment on the project’s draft EIR is June 5.

Project proponents point to global climate change, stressing the urgency of transitioning local and national energy grids away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy sources, stressing that time is running out to reverse course. And while they concede the project comes with environmental impacts, they argue that those have to be weighed against the carbon footprint of doing nothing and carrying on with an energy grid largely tied to natural gas. To some extent casting critics as NIMBYs who want other communities or regions to suffer the impacts of their energy consumption, proponents argue that it’s only fair that Humboldt County shoulder the impacts of its energy usage.

“What is the environmental impact of more of the same?” Natalynn DeLapp, a project consultant, said on KMUD’s Monday Morning Magazine, adding that one of the impacts outlined in the draft EIR is the visual impact of placing as many as five dozen 600-foot-tall turbines dotting the ridgelines. Some might view that as a blight on the landscape, but DeLapp said she chooses to look at it differently.

“Personally, I look at them and see innovation and our human capacity to evolve and look for new solutions to our ongoing energy needs,” she said.

The project is also slated to create some 300 jobs during construction, as well as 15 permanent ones, and generate an estimated $2 million annually in local tax revenue once operational.

But critics of the project — including some in the environmental community, the Bear River Rancheria and the Wiyot Tribe — believe there has to be a better way. They stress the scope of environmental impacts associated with construction of the wind farm and its continued operations.

Adam Canter, tribal biologist for the Wiyot Tribe, said Bear River Ridge is a special place to the Wiyot, considered a “prayer spot,” from which one can see almost all of the tribe’s ancestral territory. He noted that the proposed site is a “giant coastal prairie” with high coverage of native grasses and plants that would be forever impacted by the project.

Additionally, Canter said the tribe worries about impacts to wildlife and migratory bird species, most acutely the California condor, which is planned to be reintroduced to the North Coast in 2020.

“It is probably the tribe’s most sacred bird and part of the Wiyot creation story,” Canter said.

The tribe believes in the urgency for renewable energy, Canter said, adding that most residences on the Table Bluff reservation have solar panels, but believes the proposed project “is going to be pretty catastrophic.”

Ken Miller, describing himself as a concerned citizen, appeared with DeLapp on the KMUD show and stressed that while many of the farm’s environmental impacts will be plain to see — 17 miles of newly paved access roads, a 25-mile clear-cut transmission corridor and thousands of trips by 90-foot trucks — he said others will be hidden. He charged that in all of its estimates of carbon-reduction, Terra-Gen has failed to factor in the carbon costs of construction and materials, which include tens of thousands of yards of concrete, more than 2 million pounds of carbon fiber for the turbine blades and some 24,000 gallons of oil annually to operate the turbines.

Canter and Miller both referred to the project as “green washing,” with Miller noting Terra-Gen is owned by Energy Capital Partners, a private equity firm with some $19 billion in energy sector holdings and just Monday announced the acquisition of all of Canadian Utilities fossil fuel-based electricity generation assets, which were valued at $621 million.

Having crunched the numbers, Canter points out that based on Terra-Gen’s own carbon displacement estimates, the proposed local project would reduce carbon emissions by 372,000 metric tons a year.

“You would have to build 162 wind projects of this capacity to reduce the national footprint by just 1 percent,” he said.

The problem with rejecting this project, DeLapp said, is there currently isn’t a better proposal on the table. Nearly a decade ago, she said she opposed a similar proposal from Shell Wind Energy and heard a bunch of concerns similar to those being voiced now. But times have changed, DeLapp said, and there’s more urgency than ever to move away from fossil fuels.

“Here we are 10 years later and Humboldt County is still no closer to having a decentralized energy system … and we are not meeting our energy goals,” she said in the KMUD interview.

Terra-Gen will be hosting a community meeting on the project this evening, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Old Steeple, 246 Berding St. in Ferndale, with another planned for 6:30 p.m. on June 3 at the Winema Theater, 125 Main St. in Scotia. Click here to read more about the project — including the 800-page draft EIR. Comments on the EIR can be sent to: Humboldt Wind Project Planner, County of Humboldt, Planning and Building Department, 3015 H St., Eureka, CA 95501 or emailed to

The deadline to comment is June 5.
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Pilot Walks Away from Garberville Plane Crash

Posted By on Tue, May 28, 2019 at 10:20 AM

  • Humboldt County Sheriff Office
A 1970s era low-wing Cessna plane crashed near the 1800 block of Sprowel Creek Road in Garberville on Sunday afternoon.

The pilot, a 48-year-old Garberville man, was reportedly practicing taking off and landing unaccompanied at the Garberville airport. According to the man, the plane engine reportedly lost power causing it to crash into the redwoods. After the crash, the man walked up a bluff to Sprowl Creek Road, where a driver transported him to the hospital. He was later transported to an out-of-area hospital for further treatment and is in critical condition.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Flight Standards District Offices (FSDO) are investigating the incident.

Read the full Humboldt County Sheriff's Office press release below:

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Monday, May 27, 2019

Teen Suspect Surrenders in Fatal Arcata Shooting

Posted By on Mon, May 27, 2019 at 6:34 PM

A 16-year-old Manila resident surrendered himself to the Arcata Police Department this afternoon in connection with the fatal shooting of another teenager in what officials have described as a marijuana deal that quickly turned deadly.

The APD said in a release that the agency will not be releasing the name of the suspect because he is a minor. He was booked into juvenile hall on suspicion of murder and attempted murder.

According to the release, Taevonne Latimer, 18, was shot multiple times in the torso just before 10 p.m. Sunday after he and some friends met up with another person at a bus stop on Foster Avenue, just east of Alliance Road, to conduct a marijuana transaction they had arranged on the social media messaging app Snapchat. One of Latimer’s friends was also shot in the leg but survived and has been released from the hospital.

A couple visiting from out of town rendered aid to the injured teens until help arrived. The shooter fled from the scene.

The release states APD officers, with the assistance of Humboldt State University Police Officers, California Highway Patrol Officers and personnel from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, “conducted an intensive search for the suspect and processed the scene for evidence.”

During the investigation, APD detectives “developed information that led to the identity of a 16- year-old Manila resident who is the suspect in this shooting.” He surrendered himself just before 1 p.m. while accompanied by a family member, according to the release.

Read the full APD release below:

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Kinetic Makes a Splash on Day 2

Posted By on Mon, May 27, 2019 at 12:35 PM

The Lion Kings of Rock-n-Roll roar into the bay. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • The Lion Kings of Rock-n-Roll roar into the bay.
The Kinetic Grand Championship made a splash on Day 2 as competitors hit Humboldt Bay with their sculptures.

Local photographer Mark McKenna was on hand yesterday to capture the water entry, which proved a bit too much for some. Check out his full slideshow below, and check back for more pictures as the 50-mile-long race draws to a close on Ferndale’s Main Street today.
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