When Republican Frank Riggs ran for the Congress in 1990, he called himself an environmentalist and said he would not accept timber industry PAC money. On the issue of abortion, he called himself pro-choice. And when Riggs got to Washington, D.C., one of his first actions was to oppose United States involvement in the Persian Gulf War.

It was a far more conservative and hawkish Frank Riggs who kicked off his campaign for the U.S. Senate last month with rallies in Fairfield and Eureka.

Riggs, now a leading recipient of timber PAC money, said he approves air strikes against Iraq and for the first time called himself "pro-life," according to published news reports. (Riggs did not return telephone calls.)

Riggs said he is prepared to support a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion. He said his change in position was due to a greater awareness of religious values and a "journey" rather than an abrupt shift in position.

In his first term in Congress Riggs voted with abortion rights advocates 70 percent of the time, according to a scorecard compiled by the National Abortion Rights Action League, but by 1996 he had shifted to 83 percent against.

Although he is well-known to North Coast voters, Riggs lacks name recognition across the rest of the state. He is running against state Treasurer Matt Fong and businessman Darrell Issa in the June 2 primary. Incumbent U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer is unopposed on the Democratic ticket.

Riggs faces an uphill battle for his party's nomination considering he has the least money in the bank and is unknown to more than 80 percent of voters.


Soggy, wind-wrangled and occasionally powerless North Coast residents took their weather woes to the marketplace as February's storms prompted a run on power-producing generators and ice to keep frozen food solid.

Winds gusts reached 56 mph Feb. 6 at the National Weather Service's Woodley Island station -- but were worse in some rural areas where weather spotters typically don't calculate breeze speed. Trees fell across roadways, power lines and anything else in the way. Residents throughout the county were temporarily off the power grid from 24 to 72 hours. When all was settled, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said 41,324 customers were in the dark.

But some people just weren't willing to sit back and wait.

Within two days nearly every generator in stock from McKinleyville to Fortuna was sold out, with price tags ranging from $399 for a 650-watt engine to $8,500 for 12,000 watts.

Barney Barnhart, co-owner of Eureka Meat and Storage, said demand for dry ice was high as residents struggled to find ways to keep freezers cold. But with U.S. Highway 101 closed, Barnhart said he had no way of making deliveries.

As February drew to a close, rainfall on the North Coast was approaching 170 percent of normal. Nearly 45 inches of precipitation had been recorded so far in Eureka, compared to about 42 inches the same time in 1997.

Sun was becoming an increasingly rare commodity on the North Coast, which saw more consecutive days of rain in January and February than is normal, according to the National Weather Service.

But residents didn't need an expert to tell them that.

This month and in April expect more of the same as the Weather Service predicts the above average rainfall to continue.


Louisiana-Pacific officials are saying little about prospective buyers for most of the corporation's North Coast assets, but new owners may be announced by mid-March or early April.

"We've got people out there kicking tires," said Terry Davies, L-P corporate manager for government relations.

Davies, citing the confidentiality of the sales process, declined to identify those who advanced to the "non-binding-offer" stage of the process but sources say interested parties included Pacific Lumber Co., Simpson Timber and Sierra Pacific.

L-P announced in late October that it would be selling its Samoa pulp mill, the Big Lagoon sawmill, the peninsula town of Samoa, the popular Samoa Cookhouse and 70,000 acres of timberland near Big Lagoon and Crannell. The assets are being sold as part of the Oregon-based corporation's plan to divest $1 billion in timberland and mills throughout California.

A depressed pulp market due to declining Asian markets prompted a four-week shutdown of the Samoa mill in late December.


Humboldt County's arts community is in the green -- dark green.

A recent $825,000 grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund sparked an additional $1.6 million donation from the Humboldt Area Foundation and other donors.

Combined, the money is intended to "bring arts and culture into the everyday lives of people throughout the North Coast," according to the Humboldt Area Foundation of Bayside.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for the entire community, but especially for our young people," said Lea Mills, dean of Arts and Humanities at College of the Redwoods.

The combined fund, which is being called and arts and cultural initiative, will support new grant programs and partnerships among cultural organizations, artists and residents. A portion of the money will go to a cultural endowment to keep programs going.

The initiative followed a nine-month planning process.

Humboldt County's youth stand first in line to benefit from the funds. The contribution will fund arts and cultural programs improving conditions for young people. The youthful focus emerged after young people were identified as a primary concern in three major surveys.

This area's cultural heritage came in second and a joint Humboldt Area Foundation-Humboldt County Historical Society project is underway to preserve that treasure.

"The Humboldt County Historical Society, as lead organization, will videotape 300 oral histories, with the participation of young people. These will be made available to the larger public through a variety of forums called 'Living Biographies,' " according to the Humboldt Area Foundation.


St. Joseph Health System of Humboldt County will be giving its Heart Institute another try, but this time with the help of a Santa Rosa cardiac surgery group.

Weeks after hiring a new chief executive officer, the Eureka-based hospital announced it had formed a partnership with Santa Rosa Cardiac Surgical Group headed by surgeon Marshall Marchbanks.

Dr. Marchbanks and his group will be responsible for recruiting a new surgeon or surgeons who will be based in Eureka.


A battle is brewing over a government recommendation to return to the Eel River 15 percent of its water now diverted to the Russian River.

The proposal from state and federal agencies has angered Sonoma County leaders, who say the diversion would leave farmers without water during drought years.

North Coast representatives applauded the report because water flows would be increased in the upper main stem of the Eel River at critical times, enhancing the potential for young fish to migrate to the ocean and returning fish to reach their natural spawning grounds.

The recommendation follows a 10-year study that began when Pacific Gas & Electric Co. sought relicensing of its Potter Valley hydroelectric plant.

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