Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Sheriff's Office Releases Stats on Marijuana Enforcement Team

Posted By on Wed, Nov 20, 2019 at 3:07 PM

One of the grows the Marijuana Enforcement raided. - HCSO
  • HCSO
  • One of the grows the Marijuana Enforcement raided.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office has released stats for its Marijuana Enforcement Team, or MET, which just wrapped up its 2019 grant season.

According to a release, the team conducted 86 operations on unpermitted grows that eradicated more than 200,000 cannabis plants, seized nearly $100,000 in cash and resulted in the arrest of 16 people between October of 2018 and September.

Those operations, according to the sheriff’s office, were funded by a $200,000 grant from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, which has provided money to Humboldt County for the last two decades.
The scene at one of the operations. - HCSO
  • HCSO
  • The scene at one of the operations.
Over the summer, the National Guard was brought in to survey areas of Humboldt County for “illicit cannabis” grows.

“The National Guard is here at my request and they’re working with us to assist us with the illicit marijuana industry that has been a problem here in Humboldt County for years,” Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal said at the time in a Facebook video posted after concerns were raised about the flights.

The sheriff also said that his office’s actions were “complaint driven” and anonymous reports about potentially illegal grows could be made to the sheriff’s office hotline.

Read the full HCSO release below:

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Briceland Road to Close Saturday for Repair Prep

Posted By on Wed, Nov 20, 2019 at 11:17 AM

A culvert area in Whitmore Grove west of Redway is failing and undercutting the asphalt. - PHOTO PROVIDED BY SUPERVISOR ESTELLE FENNELL
  • Photo provided by Supervisor Estelle Fennell
  • A culvert area in Whitmore Grove west of Redway is failing and undercutting the asphalt.
Briceland Road will close Saturday beginning at 8 a.m. for the installation of a detour road that will allow traffic to continue to flow on one of the county's busiest rural roads as crews work on a culvert repair.

The closure at mile marker 11.20 is expected to last until 7 p.m. During that time, travelers will need to use Old Briceland Road as a detour, according to a county release.

While that may cause some inconvenience, the original plan was to shut down the road for the entire repair period, which is expected to span two weeks. Upgrades were made to Old Briceland Road in anticipation of an uptick in traffic.

Last week, County Road Division Manager Steve Finch said that the county had a new proposal for the collapsing culvert that could keep Briceland Thorn Road open while it is worked on, allowing one lane traffic to pass through the area during construction.

Briceland Thorn Road, which serves Shelter Cove and Whitethorn, among other coastal communities, sees an estimated 2,000 vehicle trips daily.

Find out more here and here.

Read the county release below:

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Monday, November 18, 2019

Crab Quality Delays Commercial Season Opening

Posted By on Mon, Nov 18, 2019 at 12:46 PM

Another crab season, another delay. - C. JUHASZ/CDFW WEBSITE
  • C. Juhasz/CDFW website
  • Another crab season, another delay.
The commercial crab season for Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties is being delayed due to “poor crab meat quality tests,” according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

But there’s still hope for crab by New Year's,  if not Christmas.

In a Nov. 15 memo, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham wrote that “quality tests conducted on Nov. 3, 2019, indicate the crabs will not be ready for harvest on Dec. 1, 2019.”

For now, the season is pushed back to Dec. 16. Another round of testing will take to place around Dec. 1 to determine if the crabs have fattened up enough, otherwise the start date could be delayed again until Dec. 31.

“The season can be delayed no later than Jan. 15, which is what happened in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons,” the CDFW release notes.

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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Overflow Crowd Again Turns Out for Public Hearing on Controversial Wind Farm Proposal

Posted By on Sun, Nov 17, 2019 at 12:49 PM

The debate over the proposed Terra-Gen wind energy project seemed no closer to resolution after a second heated five-and-a-half-hour public hearing at the County Planning Commission on Thursday.

Once again, the Supervisors Chamber was packed with people standing in the aisles. About 40 people who could not fit into the crowded room stood outside in the hallway, and another 50 or so people filled a conference room down the hall, where the proceeds of the meeting were piped in. People in the hallway yelled en masse, “We want in!” and “We can’t hear you!,” and despite Chair Robert Morrison’s admonitions, frequently applauded — and occasionally booed — speakers.
Project Site Boundaries and Surrounding Land - SOURCE: HUMBOLDTGOV.ORG

More people seemed to speak in favor of the project than the at the commission’s first hearing a week earlier, citing the necessity of doing something about earth’s relentless global warming. However, they were still in the minority. Most people stated that, regardless of planetary threats, the proposed project — which would see 47 600-foot-tall wind turbines erected on Monument and Bear River ridges south of Scotia to produce enough electricity to power more than 30,000 homes — was at an inappropriate site and would do more harm than good. Twelve members of the public supported the project, while 54 opposed it.

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Friday, November 15, 2019

Briceland Road Closure May Not Be Needed

Posted By on Fri, Nov 15, 2019 at 1:17 PM

A culvert area in Whitmore Grove west of Redway is failing and undercutting the asphalt. - PHOTO PROVIDED BY SUPERVISOR ESTELLE FENNELL
  • Photo provided by Supervisor Estelle Fennell
  • A culvert area in Whitmore Grove west of Redway is failing and undercutting the asphalt.
Steve Finch, the county of Humboldt’ road division manager, hopes the Briceland road closure might not have to happen.

The culprit, a failing culvert on Briceland Thorn Road just west of Redway, had State Parks and the county for ways to make the repairs, which originally included making upgrades on the only available detour — Old Briceland Road — then closing Briceland Thorn Road for an estimated two weeks of work.

While one of the most traveled rural roads in Humboldt County was closed for repairs, traffic would be diverted to Old Briceland Road, where improvements are currently underway.

Finch said that the county has a new proposal for the collapsing culvert that could keep Briceland Thorn Road open while it is being worked on, allowing one lane traffic to pass through the area during construction.

Finch believes that after repairing the culvert bed with concrete, a PVC liner can be used to repair the pipe.

New traffic signals for one lane traffic control were scheduled to be put in place today. Then, on Saturday, workers will begin digging on the failed culvert, removing a section.

After filling the voids in the damaged culvert, about two days of work, crews will then pull a flat liner made of PVC-type material through the culvert.
“They heat it up with steam until it is like a noodle,” Finch said.

The liner is then expanded to fill the existing pipe area. Afterward, cold air is pumped through the “noodle,” which fixes the liner into the new shape. This will take another day, he said.

“One lane, with this plan, will always stay open,” Finch said, adding it will cut the previous up to one-hour delays down to just minutes.

“If this option goes as planned, we will only have to keep one lane closed in [Whittemore Grove],” states a press release issued by the County. This means traffic will not have to be rerouted over Old Briceland Road.

“If this does not work, we will have to go to Plan B, which is a full road closure for approximately 10 days,” the press release notes.

Finch is very hopeful though. “I believe it will work,” he said.
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Sneaker Wave Threat Comes on Heels of Trinidad Rescue

Posted By on Tue, Nov 12, 2019 at 2:07 PM

The National Weather Service office in Eureka is warning of an increased risk of sneaker waves Thursday and Friday, a threat that comes on the heels of four teenage surfers — including one who is a state parks lifeguard — rescuing two swimmers off the shore of Trinidad State Beach yesterday.

According to the weather service, a “building large, long period west to northwest swell” will bring the possibility of the waves that can suddenly sweep up a beach, with the potential of taking beachgoers into the water.

“Remember to never turn your back on the ocean,” the notice states.

The swell will also “spread through the waters on Friday and Saturday, resulting in steep and hazardous seas for small craft,” according to NWS.

The deadly combination of cool waters and a rip current nearly took the lives of a 15 year old and a 20 year old visiting from Shasta County on Monday when they were rescued.

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County Sends Nearly 500 Cannabis Warning Letters

Posted By on Tue, Nov 12, 2019 at 10:28 AM

Last week, Humboldt County’s Commercial Cannabis Cultivation unit at Code Enforcement sent out about 470 warning letters to residents suspected of unpermitted cultivation activity.

As a result, consultants who help farmers through the permit process say they received multiple calls from panicky growers, with one saying in exasperation that the county has “carpet-bombed our community again.”

For his part, Humboldt County’s Planning Director John Ford, who oversees the program, describes the letters as a response to two community meetings in Southern Humboldt during which people asked for the courtesy of a warning letter before they received an abatement notice, potentially costing them tens of thousands of dollars a day in fines. Ford says these are those courtesy warning letters.
The county is sending out warning letters to cannabis growers. - FILE
  • File
  • The county is sending out warning letters to cannabis growers.

To some though, the letters signal the end to a way of life, not only for them but for their communities. As one farmer who received a warning letter for his 30 plants of cultivation explained, his family may have to leave the area. His kids go to a very small school with eight students. “When they leave, that school may close and the remaining kids may get bused out each day,” he told us.

The letters note that the county has observed activity they believe is cannabis cultivation. Ford says the letters are a request for a response. He said, “If it isn’t [marijuana cultivation,] contact us and tell us that. If it is, the county expects it to stop or [for the farmer to] get a permit and become legal.”

The letters in part read,
“You are receiving this letter as a courtesy to inform you of what appears to have been an unpermitted commercial cannabis cultivation operation on your parcel. A county land use permit and a state license are both required to legally cultivate cannabis in Humboldt County, and our records indicate that neither exist for this property.

While the overall cultivation area appears to be relatively small, it still requires an appropriate permit.

At this time you are not receiving a Notice to Abate Nuisance or a Notice of Violation …. but your attention and action are required.

You are encouraged to take one of the following corrective actions.

1. Cease the cultivation operation and remove any unpermitted structures related to the cannabis cultivation. For any unpermitted grading, apply for and obtain an after-the-fact grading permit to restore natural or preexisting grades.

2. Should your goal be to commercially cultivate cannabis, cease all cultivation, apply for and receive the required permits and licenses to cultivate cannabis before you commence any future cultivation.

For cultivation that existed prior to December 31, 2015, there is still an opportunity before the end of the calendar year to apply for a “pre-existing” cultivation permit.

It is a violation of County Code to cultivate cannabis without a permit. Code Enforcement staff will continue to monitor your property to confirm the cannabis operation footprint has been eliminated and that it does not appear in the 2020 cultivation season.

If unpermitted cannabis operation persists or reappear in 2020, you will receive a Notice to Abate and a Notice of Violation for an unpermitted activity.

At this time there is no obligation or requirement to contact Code Enforcement staff to discuss this issue or any potential violations of County Code.

If you have questions…you may contact the County Planning Department … .”

Ford said Code Enforcement was directed for the 2019 season to only send Notices of Intent to Abate to sites where the cultivation appeared to be using more than 6,000 square feet. He said these warning letters are for landowners with the smallest grow sites.

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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Eureka City Manager Contract, Emergency Declaration Approved

Posted By on Thu, Nov 7, 2019 at 3:46 PM

  • Dean Lotter
With little fanfare, the Eureka City Council this week approved a $170,000 contract for incoming City Manager Dean Lotter, who is scheduled to take over the job from a retiring Greg Sparks by Dec. 20.

Other than a question about the extent of his background check from Councilmember Kim Bergel, who commented that she was “really looking forward to working with Mr. Lotter” but added that “parts of the process really bothered” her, the item passed with unanimously with little discussion 4-0.

Councilmember Heidi Messner and Mayor Susan Seaman were absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

In a Thursday interview, Bergel tells the Journal that she was referring to “a couple of things” about the hiring process, including what felt liked a “rushed” council discussion on the final decision because fellow Councilmember Natalie Arroyo was on a tight timeline due to being on active U.S. Coast Guard duty.

But, she noted, that was no one’s fault and she felt Lotter’s selection was an “easy decision.”

Bergel says she believes the recruiting firm should also have instituted a more rigorous background check given the importance of the city manager position.

When Bergel asked about the process during Tuesday’s meeting, Sparks said he didn’t bring his notes but that the background check included credit, federal criminal registries, sex registries, reference checks and a “Google-type check.”

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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Gray Whale Found Washed Up on Agate Beach

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2019 at 3:20 PM

This photo of the gray whale washed up on Agate Beach was taken under permits NOAA 19091-01 and CA Parks 18-828-52 . - SUBMITTED BY DAWN GOLEY
  • Submitted by Dawn Goley
  • This photo of the gray whale washed up on Agate Beach was taken under permits NOAA 19091-01 and CA Parks 18-828-52 .
A gray whale was discovered washed up on Agate Beach yesterday amid an elevated number of strandings along the west coast of North America this year that has scientists working to uncover the reason for the anomaly.

The adult male’s beaching comes about two weeks after a humpback whale that was found entangled in fishing nets on Samoa beach, resulting in the animal being euthanized after a specialist determined the female would not be able to survive the trauma.

NOAA Fisheries recently declared what is known as an "Unusual Mortality Event," freeing up resources and triggering a multi-faceted scientific review to figure out why gray whales are dying at higher than normal rates.

Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 212 stranding were been reported along the coast from Mexico to Alaska, with 121 occurring in a U.S., including 34 in California, according to NOAA’s gray whale Unusual Mortality Event” page.

  • NOAA
Dawn Goley, a zoology professor at Humboldt State University and director of the Marine Mammal Education and Research Program and the HSU Marine Mammal Stranding Program, says the parks service reported this most recent beaching.

A team has taken blubber samples and other measurements to be sent to NOAA to help determine the cause of death, although — in this particular case — the whale was already well into the decomposition stage, making it harder to pinpoint why the animal died.

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Monday, November 4, 2019

New City Manager, Emergency Declaration on Eureka Agenda

Posted By on Mon, Nov 4, 2019 at 1:38 PM

The Eureka City Council will consider Tuesday formally appointing Dean Lotter as city manager, with a $170,000 annual salary and other benefits.

Currently the city manager of New Brighton, Minnesota, the council selected Lotter to replace Greg Sparks, who is set to retire next month, from a pool 40 and five finalists who came to Eureka for the last stage of the process. Lotter is slated to start Dec. 20.

According to an interview with the Journal soon after landing the job, Lotter and his wife Wendy are already in the process of buying a home they found online and serendipitously ended up in front of while driving around the city trying to get lost. (Read more in the story “Eureka, Meet Your City Manager” from the Oct. 24 edition.)

According to Lotter’s contract (see the employment agreement below), he will also receive five weeks of vacation, a $350 a month car allowance, moving expenses and other benefits.

In other business, the council will consider confirming Sparks’ Oct. 11 declaration of a local emergency due to the Public Safety Power Shutoff on Oct. 8, which left the city dark for 26 hours only to be followed soon after by a longer outage.

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