by Jim Hight

Photo by Mel Hunt, courtesy of The Lumberjack

The 12-year environmental battle took center stage last month, as a diverse crowd of more than 4,000 made a stand for ancient redwoods in the small community of Stafford south of Pacific Lumber's Scotia headquarters.

The demonstration turned out to be a far cry from last year's event, when more than 1,000 people were arrested and issued $10 citations for crossing a symbolic law enforcement line. This year, only two people were arrested the day of the rally Sept. 14, which moved in the 11th hour from Carlotta due to resident complaints.

However, arrests resumed the following week, as Earth First! activists took their crusade to the gates of PL property and the forest as well as the campuses of Humboldt State University and College of the Redwoods.

The environmentalists object to a federally brokered deal with Charles Hurwitz, the head of PL's parent company Maxxam Inc. Negotiations are being made between Pacific Lumber Co, state and federal wildlife agencies to preserve 7,500 acres of the 60,000 within the Headwaters Forest.

"We have the opportunity now to protect the Headwaters Forest ... and, through the habitat conservation plan process, to both preserve a critical habitat as well as create an environmentally sensitive timber harvest plan. I truly believe this is the last, best chance we have to save the Headwaters Forest," said U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in a prepared statement.



by Susan Wood

The sea is turning out to be an even stranger world than usual, with warmer Pacific Ocean temperatures penetrating Northern California shores recently. But weather experts say it remains to be seen whether or not the trend is due to El Niño -- a tropical weather phenomenon originating near South America.

Uncommon sightings and activities have been reported from the southern Oregon coast to Monterey, where aquarium care workers patiently await the effects of their solution to warm water on the temperature-sensitive marine life in the tanks.

Over the last month, Monterey Bay Aquarium aquarists have been running chilling units on the octopus and jellyfish tanks and spraying the aquarium's three-story kelp forest with Miracle Gro -- a common household plant food. Doing so is expected to replace nutrients lost by the lack of upwelling from deep waters off the Pacific, chief aquarist Barbara Utter explained.

The aquarium pumps its water from Monterey Bay, where record ocean temperatures at least 6 to 7 degrees higher than normal have been reported. National Weather Service Oceanographer Earnest Daghir calls the warm water mass a "huge heatsink" that's bringing fish from the south to northern shores.

Besides catching schools of albacore only three miles off Bay Area shores, fishing enthusiasts as far north as Washington state are landing exotic fish at least 400 miles from their normal latitude.

When Del Norte County Sheriff's Deputy Doug Oxford reeled in a 9-foot-long marlin off the shores of Crescent City several weeks ago, he barely knew what hit one of the six fishing rods he and his friends set out on a trolling ride looking for tuna. What they got was one wild ride from a fish known worldwide as the Rocky Balboa of sport fish.

"We were trolling along and I saw it hit. I grabbed the rod, dropped the tip and he took half the line."

As a seasoned fisherman with two 56-pound salmon mounted to prove it, Oxford knew he had to chase the 20-pound fish with the boat or it would "strip me." He sat on a cooler and braced himself with all his weight against the side of the boat in a so-called "fighting chair," while his friends screamed in excitement.

"My arms cramped before (the boat) even caught up to it," he said. It took 45 minutes to land the marlin, Oxford's first ever. Even then, the sheriff's deputy let it go -- but something amazing happened. Oxford claimed the fish, at about 15 feet from the boat, returned to its original color of purple and blue from a charcoal gray. "That's the color it turns into when it's stressed," he said.

The next day, Oxford took his boat off the shores of Brookings, Ore. -- the site of another recent marlin catch. There, he spotted "acres and acres of porpoises as far as you can see" doing cartwheels and blackflips. "It looked like Marine World," he said.

Humboldt County fisherman Ken Bay has also spotted the acrobats off the shores of Humboldt Bay. "They're a different species of dolphin than I've ever seen," he said, identifying them as black and white.

Though National Weather Service officials cannot directly correlate these effects with El Niño, most agree West Coast residents are witnessing the symptoms of an unusual warm weather phenomenon.

"We've had above-normal (air) temps since April," said meteorologist Nancy Dean of the Eureka bureau. Water temperatures locally have risen from their normal 62-degree mark to 68.

"Many fish are pushing the end of their environment," said Ron Dotson, a research fish biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service. "Normally, (marlin) don't go any farther north than Point Conception," he added of the region off the shores of Santa Barbara.

"There's no doubt that this is a major event," Dotson said. But what type of event is questionable, he cautioned. "When you have El Niño, every unusual weather pattern gets blamed on it."

Although many believe El Niño is associated with heavier than usual rainfall all along the Pacific Coast, Northern California may in fact receive the opposite -- drier conditions. Much of the outcome, Dotson said, is contingent upon a high pressure system buildup over the southern region between October and November.

"The one thing is, big El Niños may have the tendency to spread rain up the coast," said Kelly Redmond, a climatologist for the Western Regional Climate Center, an arm of the University of Nevada. "Looking over Eureka, it seems to be evenly split between wet years and dry years with El Niño."

Last season, La Niña -- a cold version of its counterpart -- brought on 50 inches of annual rainfall. During the last El Niño in 1982-83, Eureka's weather bureau reported 49 inches of rainfall, prompting significant flooding. But even with all the analysis and second-guessing, experts still can't gauge the weather.

"You just have to let winter happen. There's no vast predictability," Redmond noted.


by Jim Hight

Photo by Barbara Domanchuk,
courtesy of Humboldt Beacon



For 10 years or more the remote, windswept South Spit of Humboldt Bay has provided a refuge for people who are too poor, too independent or too mentally unstable to make it in mainstream society.

Between 200 and 300 people were living on the spit late this summer when the county initiated its "South Jetty Relocation Effort." A few were travelers enjoying free beach-side camping, but most were long-term residents of a community that had sunk deep roots in the shallow, sandy soil of the four-mile long spit.

Government officials -- from the Loleta Volunteer Fire Department to state Sen. Mike Thompson -- have sought for many years to clear the jetty of its illegal campers. A 1994 settlement between South Jetty residents, the county and the main property owner, Pacific Lumber Co., called for the county to help jetty-dwellers access social services and find new homes elsewhere.

But due to ambiguities in that agreement and the tenacity of jetty residents, the settlement changed little. It fell to County Health Officer Ann Lindsay and Environmental Health Director Dennis Kalson to deliver the eviction notice.

On Sept. 2 Lindsey issued an order declaring "conditions exist on the South Spit which constitute a danger to health, life, safety and welfare." At least eight cases of rare bacterial diarrhea were reported in the first eight months of 1997, she said, and more would certainly follow. The reasons: no running water, no sewage or septic systems, no refrigeration, no trash disposal.

"In public health we've known since 1900 that these are the conditions that lead to disease," said Kalson, who has experienced cholera epidemics at first hand in Ecuador, where he volunteered to organize sanitation programs.

With the emergency powers of her office and the support of other county departments and the Board of Supervisors, Lindsey installed a gate and posted sheriff's deputies around the clock to prevent new tenants from moving onto the jetty. Current residents were given ID cards and allowed to enter and leave at will.

She ordered water supplies and porta-potties and hired "community health workers" to help residents organize themselves to move elsewhere. She and Kalson have also raised funds from the Humboldt Area Foundation to help residents, and they've encouraged the HOPE Coalition and other groups to help with volunteer aid.

But Lindsey also made it clear that anyone not induced to leave voluntarily by Oct. 2 would be forcibly removed by sheriff's deputies.

On Sept. 3 Lindsey and Kalson took TV and print reporters on a tour of the South Jetty encampments. The journalists were able to see the conditions cited in Lindsey's evacuation order. But they also saw and heard abundant evidence of the strong community spirit that has sustained Jetty residents.

Most were living in buses, campers, motorhomes and cars. While many of the vehicles were obviously too decrepit to move, most encampments were well-tended, with fences and windbreaks made of driftwood, old appliances and tires. Some camps had chickens and at least one calf was seen. Sculptures and flags adorned yards and vehicles, and a simple but sturdy "church" built by the residents occupied the central spot in a "plaza" at the north end of the spit.

"People here are like family; they know each other, they help each other," said Danny Foos, 43, who claimed to have lived there since 1985. "If a person runs out of money for groceries, someone will help them out. I've seen people buy milk for other people's children."

"Everybody loves it here," said Shawna, a teenager who strolled up to reporters with two friends. "You can run around and be free and feel safe because everybody's looking out for everyone else."

Shawna's teenage friend Meredith agreed. "I live in a little camper now, but before that we were in a tent with a big hole. Somebody gave us the camper so we wouldn't freeze to death."

These and other residents expressed a range of feelings about the evacuation order. Some seemed resigned to going; others were angry, and a few predicted violent resistance. "You've got Vietnam vets here, former Army rangers," said one resident. "They're not going to leave without a fight."

Several residents verbally attacked Lindsey and Kalson. "To kick us out with no place to go, telling us we're all diseased, that's not the way to do it, Dr. Lindsey," said Michele Monterrey. "I forgot to say 'Heil Hitler,' Dr. Lindsey."

Lindsey and Kalson listened to the complaints with some sympathy but reiterated that the jetty must be cleared for public health reasons. They encouraged the residents to take advantage of the help being offered.

At the Journal's press deadline, the Eureka staff attorney for Redwood Legal Services was seeking a restraining order on the evacuation program from Judge John Buffington. She accused the county of not meeting its commitments in the 1994 settlement. "The deal they had with the jetty defendants was that they wouldn't interfere with the jetty campground until there was another place to go," said Jan Turner.

In particular, the agreement promised completion of the county's new housing general plan, which -- if approved by the Planning Commission -- would relax zoning standards for RV parks to accommodate poor people more easily.

Despite years of work by a volunteer task force and county planning staff, the housing plan hasn't come up for a vote before the commission.

Another sore point for low-income housing advocates is the lack of a permanent winter shelter for families. Public meetings are underway for the "Multiple Assistance Center," which the county and the city of Eureka are cooperating on. But it will not be established until late in 1998 at the earliest.


Timing is key with health care, noted Mad River Community Hospital Administrator Doug Shaw. That's why the Arcata hospital is opening the doors to a cardiac catherization lab at the end of the month.

The two-year, $1.6 million project is set to work in conjunction with Redding Medical Center's cardiac unit, which serves seven counties. Patients needing angioplasty or heart surgery will be referred to the inland hospital under a transfer agreement.

Under the agreement, the Redding hospital will send a fixed-wing transport plane that can accommodate up to two patients between the hospital cities' two airports.

"We give a call, and it's here in about 18 minutes," Shaw said.

"There are definitely enough cases to justify it," Shaw said, who added that the hospital plans to proceed with caution. "We're going to walk before we run."

The announcement comes but a few months after St. Joseph Hospital's much-heralded cardiac unit closed three months after it opened pending a review of patient outcomes. The unit's chief surgeon is on temporary leave and is assisting in the review.

Since then, a complaint was filed with the state Department of Health Services accusing the high-risk unit of negligence associated with a high death rate in patients receiving open-heart surgeries.

St. Joseph has been awaiting results from its own internal, case-by-case review as well as the state's review, said hospital spokeswoman Laurie Watson-Stone. She said the outcome of the reviews will determine when the cardiac unit will reopen.

Though the timing of Mad River's new cath lab opening seems coincidental, the health care facility had been planning to open a cath lab for quite some time.


A settlement has been reached between the state Department of Toxic Substances Control and Bug Press, a commercial printing firm owned by Arcata Mayor Jim Test, which was accused of dumping photochemicals down the drain last year.

As part of the settlement, the printing firm on M Street agreed to send Test's business partner, Robert Arena, to a seminar on handling toxics this month. The goodwill gesture significantly reduced the penalties from $7,000 in fines and administrative costs to $2,000.

"Like I told the state, if a permit was required, we thought the local waste-water people would tell us what to do," Test said. "I thought I was in compliance."

The state is concerned with the silver content in the developer from the film processing equipment, he said. The silver interferes with operation of the sewage treatment equipment.

Instead, Test arranged to have a photochemical waste hauler pick up the materials in containers a few times a month. "Theoretically, they dispose of it properly," he said.

"It's unfortunate. As a business owner, (Test) is extremely environmentally sensitive," said Steve Tyler, the city's environmental services director. "As soon as he was aware of (the violation), he did everything feasibly possible to take care of it.

"I think what's happened in recent times is so many regulations change so rapidly," Tyler said, thus making it difficult for business owners to keep up.


Six Rivers National Bank last month received approval from federal regulators to acquire four local branches of Bank of America. The branches are in Ferndale, Garberville, Weaverville and Willits.

The legal status of the bank has also changed. Six Rivers is now owned by Six Rivers Financial Corp., a holding company that was formed to further guard against a hostile takeover.

Humboldt Bank, Humboldt County's other locally owned bank, has tried on at least three occasions since 1994 to acquire Six Rivers. Six Rivers rejected the offers, characterizing them as hostile takeover attempts.

The four Bank of America branches will be changing signs sometime in November. All employees of those branches will be asked to stay on, according to bank officials.

Six Rivers is also looking to acquire other bank branches in southern Oregon. Construction on a permanent building in Crescent City is slated for next spring.


Attorney Jeanne Tunison-Campbell announced last month that she will run for Superior Court Judge against John Buffington.

It is so unusual for a sitting judge in Humboldt County to face a challenge that county elections staff couldn't recall the last time. Normally judges run unopposed and because of a unique law their names do not appear on the ballot.

Tunison-Campbell resigned earlier this year from the District Attorney's office after six years as a prosecutor. Prior to that she practiced general business law in Santa Rosa and San Francisco.

Two vacancies currently in the courts were created by the recent death of Superior Court Judge William Ferrogiarro of cancer and the death last month of Municipal Court Judge Dominic Banducci of heart failure.


On Sept. 11, the Coastal Commission postponed a decision on the controversial 63-unit gated Sand Pointe development in McKinleyville until its December meeting. The postponement was requested by developer Steve Moser.

The Commission will hear Moser's application at its Dec. 9-12 meeting in San Rafael.


On Oct. 7 the Eureka City Council will consider whether to allow a 140-foot radio communications tower to be constructed on Broadway.

Ben Hoover, owner of Commercial Radio and Electronics, is requesting a coastal development permit and a zoning variance to allow construction of the tower on a lot he's purchased for new offices. The site is now occupied by a California Lottery billboard.

"It will enable us to provide better service to our customers, primarily business and public safety agencies," said Hoover. "The whole community will benefit from better services for these people."

But many Eurekans oppose the project, including neighbors who live on the bluffs overlooking the location.

"The city spent a lot of money putting phone and utility lines underground because they thought it was unsightly at the entrance to the city," said Doug Beck. "Now they want to put up a tower that's 142 feet?"

Beck and others are also concerned that permitting the tower would set a precedent allowing such facilities all along Eureka's Highway 101 commercial zone. "If the tower goes in, the way that the laws are written anybody else can put in a tower of that size in a commercial zone," said Beck.

In a rare procedure, the matter goes to the council without a Planning Commission vote. The commission held hearings but due to lack of a quorum was unable to vote.


The Humboldt County Sheriff's office has a new computer database available listing all registered sex offenders in California. Using a zip code search, citizens can find the names, descriptions and in some cases photos of sex offenders.

The CD-rom database includes 366 people in Humboldt County, including six who are considered "high risk." "They've committed (a sexual offense) more than once and are considered more likely to offend again," said Records Supervisor Melva Paris.

Any citizen can use the database on Mondays and Wednesdays between 10 a.m. and noon and 1-3 p.m.


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