Monday, June 24, 2019

Fatal Crash on State Route 36

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2019 at 5:01 PM


Around 4 p.m. June 23, California Highway Patrol responded to a vehicle collision on State Route 36, west of Dinsmore. According to the CHP release, a 1988 Honda Sedan crashed head-on with a 2018 Dodge truck driven by Eureka resident Nate Howle, 44. The driver of the Honda reportedly drove the car onto the shoulder before steering it back to the oncoming lane, where it collided with the Dodge.

The driver of the Honda, whose name is being withheld pending family notification, was pronounced deceased by emergency personnel after their arrival. Extreme speed and alcohol are believed to be a factor in the crash.

CHP is continuing its investigation and is asking anyone with additional information to contact the Humboldt Area CHP Office at 822-5981, or send an email to

Read the full press release below:

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Study: Humboldt May Need $2.5 Billion by 2040 to Combat Sea-Level Rise

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2019 at 3:53 PM

Eureka Slough during a recent king tide gives a glimpse of what sea-level rise will look like around Humboldt Bay. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Eureka Slough during a recent king tide gives a glimpse of what sea-level rise will look like around Humboldt Bay.

The United States will have to spend more than $400 billion by 2040 to protect coastal communities against sea-level rise, according to a study released this week.

The study, from the Center for Climate Integrity in partnership with the engineering for Resilient Analytics, found the problem would be particularly acute in Humboldt County, which would have to spend $2.5 billion (the second most of any California county) to build 142 miles of seawall (the third most of any California county). That $2.5 billion price tag, the study points out, equates to more than $18,000 per county resident, or roughly six times the county’s annual general fund.

The study points out that without a tremendous amount of aid from the state and federal governments, Humboldt County would be left with the difficult choice of imposing massive reductions to virtually all local services or simply abandoning coastal property and communities to be taken over by the encroaching sea. The second option would result in massive property losses and the flooding of critical infrastructure.

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A Single Quake Hit Saturday Night

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2019 at 12:56 PM

The seismograph at Humboldt State University recording of the quake. - REDWOOD COAST TSUNAMI WORK GROUP
  • Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group
  • The seismograph at Humboldt State University recording of the quake.

In case you haven’t heard — or didn’t feel what most of the county did on Saturday night — there was an earthquake. And a good-sized one at that. But just one.

The magnitude-5.6 that struck 3.7 miles off Petrolia was, according to the Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group, what is known as a “strike slip” — when the ground moves in a vertical motion — and was likely associated with the Mendocino fault.

In his assessment of the temblor, geologist Jay Patton notes that “contrary to what people have posted on social media, there was but a single earthquake.”

In the immediate aftermath of the quake, the U.S. Geological Survey website showed the temblor as a 5.4 that struck near Rio Dell. Within minutes, the site had re-posted with a more accurate description of the earthquake. It's not uncommon for initial reports to err somewhat in locations and magnitude but some local residents and media outlets took the double post to mean what North Coast residents felt had been two simultaneous quakes.

A magnitude-3.3 had hit nearby about 30 minutes earlier.

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Saturday, June 22, 2019

UPDATE: 5.6 Quake Rumbles Humboldt; No Tsunami Danger

Posted By and on Sat, Jun 22, 2019 at 9:11 PM


Minor damage has been reported from this evening’s magnitude-5.6 earthquake that struck southwest of Petrolia in areas of Southern Humboldt County, including Garberville and Redway.

The Shop Smart in Redway is currently closed while employees clean up damage to the store’s inventory and Ray’s Food Place in Garberville is only allowing customers in one at a time. “Just be patient with us,” said store employee Jacque Harmon. “We’ve got a lot of broken glass. It looks like maybe $300 worth of damage.”
  • Wine spill in Redway after the quake.
  • Submitted

A magnitude 5.6 earthquake struck southwest of Petrolia shortly before 9 p.m. sending rumbles throughout the county.

There is no tsunami danger from the quake, according to the federal warning system.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake hit at 8:53 p.m. with a depth of just less than 6 miles, about 3 miles southwest of Petrolia.

The numbers are preliminary and subject to change. Track the latest information on the temblor here.
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Friday, June 21, 2019

Downed Utility Pole Blocking State Route 36

Posted By on Fri, Jun 21, 2019 at 2:20 PM

State Route 36 just west of Hydesville will be closed into the evening after a single car crash knocked a utility pole across the roadway.

Traffic is backing up while being rerouted through Rohnerville Road after the 1 p.m. accident, according to witness Ed Denson and the CHP Traffic Incident Information Page.

A man in his 80s suffered a serious arm break and was being taken to the hospital, according to medical personnel speaking over the scanner.

At 2 p.m., CHP page states that PG&E estimates that the closure will last six to eight hours.
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Does California State University have a $1.5 billion slush fund?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 21, 2019 at 11:42 AM

Humboldt State University - FILE
  • File
  • Humboldt State University
A report released by California’s state auditor this week looked like a bombshell: California State University has been sitting on a $1.5 billion budget surplus, it found, failing to fully disclose the existence of the money to legislators and students even as it raised tuition and lobbied for more state funding.

That includes $62.4 million at Humboldt State University.

CSU, however, quickly disputed the audit’s conclusions, saying it has been transparent about the reserves and that it needs them to cover short-term debts, pay for one-time expenses such as new buildings, and hedge against a possible recession.

HSU spokesman Frank Whitlatch told the Times-Standard on Thursday that about two-thirds of those HSU funds were earmarked for certain expenses, including “housing, parking fees, which has a designated purpose, the student union, the university center.”

Readers who care about higher education might have questions. We thought we’d answer a few.

What exactly were the auditor’s concerns?
CSU tuition has almost doubled over the last decade, funding a sizable increase in the university’s reserves, State Auditor Elaine Howle found. But CSU, she wrote, continues to argue that it has only two options to avoid cutting programs: getting more state dollars or raising tuition even more.

“By failing to disclose this surplus when consulting with students about tuition increases or when projecting CSU’s resources and needs to the Legislature, the Chancellor’s Office has prevented legislators and students from evaluating CSU’s financial needs in light of its unspent financial resources,” Howle wrote.

$1.5 billion — that’s a lot, right?
The surplus could cover about two-and-a-half-months of expenses for CSU, says the university, which serves nearly 500,000 students. Chancellor Tim White likened it to a family savings account, or the state’s rainy day fund.

About $662 million is earmarked for short-term debts, White told CALmatters, such as when the university has to front financial aid checks to students before it receives the funds from the federal government. He said the university is saving $376 million toward capital projects, including deferred maintenance on buildings, and a final $459 million in case the economy goes south.

“If we didn’t have that reserve, when the economy flattens we’d either have to offer less or raise tuition more than we otherwise would,” said White. “We don’t want to do that.”

The revelation of the funds—which the university is holding in separate investment accounts outside the state treasury—comes a week after state lawmakers signed a 2019-2020 budget that increases CSU funding by about $400 million to pay for an additional 10,000 undergraduate slots at the overcrowded system.

“Had we known (about the surplus), would things have gone differently? That’s the $1.5 billion question,” said Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty of Sacramento, who chairs a subcommittee on the education budget. “Is that the right amount to have in a reserve, or are some of these monies available to address student needs today?”

Was this money really “hidden?”
The university says the reserve funds have been hiding in plain sight, pointing to a 2017 trustee meeting and other correspondence with legislators in which the investment accounts were discussed. CSU has even launched a new financial transparency website that allows users to view university spending down to the campus level.

The audit, however, says that while lawmakers might have known about the total balance in the accounts, they weren’t necessarily aware how much was being held in reserve.

“That issue never came up,” said McCarty, when asked if legislators discussed the surplus during budget hearings.

The law requires CSU to discuss any proposed tuition increases with the Cal State Student Association. But the university did not provide information about the reserves to students during conferences that led to a tuition hike in the 2017-18 school year, the audit found — an omission that student association president Mia Kagianas called “disappointing and concerning.”

“Students deserve accessible information on the institution’s budget in decision making processes that directly impact their lives,” Kagianas said in a statement.

Administrators didn’t bring up the reserves with students, White said, because they would never use such one-time savings to cover ongoing operating expenses.

That’s actually smart fiscal policy, said Kevin Cook, a higher education researcher at the Public Policy Institute of California. “It’s a good idea for the system to have these reserves, because if revenue goes away and they have to tap into the reserves, then they can preserve access,” he said. “But obviously if they’re making money and not disclosing it, then that’s an issue.”

Wait, didn’t something like this happen with the University of California recently?
Yep. UC President Janet Napolitano came under fire after a 2017 state audit found she’d set up a secret $175 million fund for special projects that she hid from the university’s regents.

The CSU reserves are nearly ten times as large as the amount Napolitano reportedly squirreled away. But there are key differences: Napolitano also faced accusations of using the money to provide above-market pay and benefits to her staff, and pressuring campuses to change their responses to an auditor’s survey. No such charges have been raised so far in relation to the current audit.

Still, CSU has faced criticism before for its financial management—including last year, when it gave raises to highly-paid executives just after successfully lobbying the Legislature for more funding. A pending bill would bar the university from raising executive pay within a year of any tuition increase.

What else did the audit find?
The audit also examined CSU’s parking system, criticizing the university for raising the cost of student permits as high as $236 a semester without significantly increasing the number of spaces. Administrators failed to consider alternative transportation options such as shuttles, buses and bicycles before building expensive parking garages, the audit found. Auditors focused that review on four campuses: Channel Islands, Fullerton, Sacramento and San Diego.

While the audit did not find that the university misused any of the parking proceeds, it highlighted disparities in parking fees, with students paying nearly three times what faculty and staff pay to park. The average parking permit for students costs about $171—compared to $68 for faculty and $70 for staff.

Mary Washington, a lobbyist for the student association, said students had hoped the audit would offer ways to ease the burden on them. Earlier this year, San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber had proposed a bill that would have required campuses to lower the cost of student permits, but it stalled.

As it stands, university labor contracts require faculty and staff to pay less than students.

“It’s one of those issues that’s so simple—anyone can understand it and see that it’s morally not the right thing,” Washington said. “Something should be done.”

White said he accepted the challenge to “think more deeply about alternative transportation” and agreed with students’ concerns that charging them more for parking was unfair. “I think as we go into the future, that will be something we will be working hard to make more fair for our employees as well as for our students.”

What happens now?
The Legislature’s audit committee could call a hearing, at which both the auditor and CSU would testify. Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, who sits on the CSU board of trustees, has also called for a discussion of the audit at the trustees’ July meeting.

— Adria Watson contributed to this report. This story and other higher education coverage are supported by the College Futures Foundation.
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UPDATE: Sheriff Outfits Some Jail Staff with Body-Worn Cameras

Posted By on Fri, Jun 21, 2019 at 10:44 AM

  • Submitted
In response to a sharp spike in inmate assaults on officers, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office is outfitting some correctional officers in the jail with body-worn cameras that it hopes will increase safety.

According to Capt. Duane Christian, the office purchased 14 cameras — seven to be worn on day shifts and seven on night shifts in the jail’s celled housing units. These units generally house the jail’s higher security inmates and have also been the locations of most assaults on officers.

Christian said outfitting correctional officers in the jail’s dormitory-style housing units would have been too costly at this time, noting that the sheriff’s office has committed $90,000 for the purchase and maintenance of the cameras — and legally required storage of the footage — for five years.

While the press release from the sheriff’s office touted the cameras tools to enhance safety in the jail, Christian said they will also be used to collect evidence for potential prosecutions of illegal activity within the jail and also as a means to vet allegations of employee misconduct.

The cameras will not be used in the medical wing  or in the jail’s pat-down room, where officers conduct intake interviews with people being booked into the jail. Christian said this is for two reasons.

“One is HIPAA privacy for the inmates and the other is the hope that if an inmate is experiencing a medical emergency, such as ingesting drugs, they would not be hesitant to tell the nurse out of fear of receiving additional charges,” he wrote in an email to the Journal. “The inmates’ safety is most important in those situations.”

While Sheriff William Honsal has long stated that he hopes to outfit his patrol deputies with body-worn cameras, the costs associated with purchasing another 50 cameras and storing all recorded footage for the legally required two years is high and has thus far proven prohibitive. Based on the cost of the 14 cameras for a portion of the jail’s staff, outfitting the entire patrol division could cost more than $300,000.

Additionally, Honsal said there are some other challenges. A full rollout of body-worn cameras would require that resident deputies and others working in remote areas be able to upload massive amounts of footage to cloud storage, which necessitates high-speed internet connections. The sheriff’s office would also need to dedicate one or two full-time staff positions to editing and redacting video footage to be used in court or released to the public, Honsal said, adding that some other agencies have “gotten themselves in trouble” by deploying body-worn cameras without fully understanding what the costs and staff demands would be.

Nonetheless, Honsal said he sees today’s announcement as the first phase of a tiered implementation he hopes will ultimately see all his deputies wearing cameras.

“It’s a great testing platform,” he said, adding that he hopes to review the program in a year or so with an eye toward planning a full, department-wide deployment of the technology.

And, Honsal added, the cameras in the jail are already having an impact. He says assaults on officers have decreased in the two months or so officers have been using them.

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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Missing Girl Reunited with Father After a Month

Posted By on Thu, Jun 20, 2019 at 1:49 PM

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office reports that a 4-year-old girl who has been missing for over a month has been reunited with her father.

According to a Facebook post, Ariana Bemis-Eib was “returned to her father last night at about 11 p.m.” The post also states she was reported to be "healthy and in good spirits."

Few other details were immediately available but the HCSO is asking for anyone with information about the girl’s mother, Delisse Lalee Jones, 37, to contact the department.

The father reported his daughter missing May 15, after Jones did not bring Ariana to daycare in the morning as arranged after an overnight visit.

“A vehicle associated with Jones was located nearby her last known residence in the Eureka area. Attempts to contact Jones have been unsuccessful,” a release at the time stated. “This case is being investigated as a child custody concealment case. Jones does not have legal custody of Bemis-Eib and is in violation of a custody order.”
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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Clearing Overturned Semi Will Close 101 for About an Hour

Posted By and on Wed, Jun 19, 2019 at 3:06 PM

A big rig crashed near Big Lagoon. - CALTRANS
  • Caltrans
  • A big rig crashed near Big Lagoon.
UPDATE: Caltrans is readying to shutdown U.S. Highway 101 for about an hour today, starting just after 3 p.m., to clear away a semi that crashed off the road near Big Lagoon.

The accident occurred around noon, leading to controlled traffic in the area, but the closure will be necessary for get the large “rig wheels-down,” according to a Facebook post.

The driver was uninjured, according to the CHP Traffic Incident Information Page. According to Thom McMahon, who reports he was second on the scene, there were two occupants of the big rig–neither had more than minor injuries.

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North Coast Night Lights: Vista Point, Humboldt County

Posted By on Wed, Jun 19, 2019 at 12:20 PM

A nighttime view over U.S. Highway 101 and the Eel River Valley beneath the Milky Way as seen from a Vista Point in Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • A nighttime view over U.S. Highway 101 and the Eel River Valley beneath the Milky Way as seen from a Vista Point in Humboldt County, California.
I am not a huge traveler but I’ve seen the marked exits up and down the state for Vista Point. It’s a geographical oddity somehow accessible from anywhere, and we are fortunate be home to the world-famous Vista Point here in Humboldt County.

I headed out there alone late one night to see if strange people or animals would get me, and when they didn’t I photographed some nighttime landscapes underneath the starry skies. A half moon hanging to the west spread its light over the world. It brightened the sky as well, washing out the fainter stars and removing some of the details and color from the Milky Way.
Streaks of humanity pierce the night even as the half moon bathes the forested landscape in its soothing luminance. At the far end a fellow traveler of the night sheltered in their car’s bubble of light. Vista Point, Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Streaks of humanity pierce the night even as the half moon bathes the forested landscape in its soothing luminance. At the far end a fellow traveler of the night sheltered in their car’s bubble of light. Vista Point, Humboldt County, California.
I wasn’t alone at this scenic overlook; two other cars were already present when I rolled in at 10:30 p.m., darkened, sleeping or enjoying the night. Who knows what happens in the dark watches of the night? At the far end I shut off the car and lights and sat in the still darkness. I thought about the other people there and wished I were alone. I didn’t want to wake up to read in the online news about something happening to me down there. I wanted to make some photographs and do the writing myself.

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