Monday, 15 July 2024


Fall-run Chinook salmon juveniles at Fall Creek. Photo courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Saturday that fall-run Chinook salmon fry released for the first time from its Fall Creek Fish Hatchery in Siskiyou County are presumed to have succumbed to gas bubble disease in the Klamath River.

On Monday, Feb. 26, CDFW released approximately 830,000 fall-run Chinook salmon fry into Fall Creek, a tributary of the Klamath River above Iron Gate Dam.

The fish were hatched at CDFW’s new, $35 million, state-of-the-art Fall Creek Fish Hatchery, which represents California’s long-term commitment to supporting and restoring both Chinook and coho salmon runs on an undammed Klamath River.

The salmon fry experienced a large mortality based on monitoring data downstream. Indications are the cause of mortality is gas bubble disease that likely occurred as the fry migrated through the Iron Gate Dam tunnel, old infrastructure that is targeted for removal along with the Iron Gate Dam itself later this year. Gas bubble disease results from environmental or physical trauma often associated with severe pressure change.

There is no indication the mortality is associated with other Klamath River water quality conditions such as turbidity and dissolved oxygen, which were reading at suitable levels on Feb. 26 and the days prior to release. The visual appearance of the dead fry detected by monitoring equipment points to gas bubble disease. Monitoring equipment documented other healthy yearling coho and Chinook salmon that came from downstream of the dam.

The problems associated with the Iron Gate Dam tunnel are temporary and yet another sad reminder of how the Klamath River dams have harmed salmon runs for generations. CDFW will plan all future salmon releases below Iron Gate Dam until this infrastructure is removed. Poor habitat conditions caused by the dams and other circumstances such as this are reasons why CDFW conducts releases of hatchery fish at various life stages.

CDFW’s Fall Creek Fish Hatchery continues to hold approximately 3.27 million healthy, fall-run Chinook salmon. Additional releases are planned later in the month.

The annual fall-run Chinook salmon production goal for the hatchery is to raise and release 3.25 million fish – 1.25 million released as fry, 1.75 million as smolts, and 250,000 as yearlings. The additional stock of fall-run Chinook salmon remaining in the hatchery exceeds the annual production goal and will help offset losses experienced with the initial release of fry.

NAPA COUNTY, Calif. — Napa County District Attorney Allison Haley on Thursday announced the denial of parole for Carlos Gabarrete, age 52, who is currently serving a life sentence in state prison for the sexual assault of a former girlfriend.

The California Board of Parole Hearings denied the prisoner’s parole for five years after a parole suitability hearing that took place on January 31, 2024, via teleconference at California Correctional Institution.

Gabarrete stands convicted of forcible sodomy, forcible oral copulation, assault with a firearm and false imprisonment in connection with an incident that took place on Sept. 21, 1999.

On that day, Gabarrete went to the home of his former girlfriend and lured her from her home by asking for help pulling his vehicle out of a ditch.

When she agreed to help him, he persuaded her to drive him to a secluded location, pulled out a small automatic pistol and threatened to kill her, and struck her in the face with the gun.

While brandishing the gun, Gabarrete forced the woman to orally copulate him, before ordering her into the passenger seat of the vehicle and forcibly sodomizing her. At some point during the sexual assaults, Gabarrete fired one shot from the pistol.

After the sexual assaults, Gabarrete ordered the woman to drive around, pull over and park, and threatened to kill himself. It was only after Gabarrete’s victim agreed to resume their relationship, if he promised to not commit suicide, that he allowed her to drive him to his car and end the incident.

The Napa County District Attorney’s Office routinely sends deputy district attorneys to parole hearings to ensure that victims and their families and friends are considered by the Board of Parole Hearings.

Napa County Deputy District Attorney Rolando Mazariegos, Victim Witness Advocate Alejandra Mendieta-Bedolla, and the victim attended Gabarrete’s parole suitability hearing to argue against his release based on the cruelty and callousness of the sex crimes, his continued lack of remorse or insight into the events of the crimes, his continued criminal activity and ongoing criminal thinking during his incarceration, his refusal of all counseling and coping programs offered in prison, and the extreme danger he presents to the community should he be paroled.

“Mr. Gabarrete is serving a life sentence, but the victim of the crime is serving her own life sentence, emotionally and mentally, as a result of his actions,” Deputy District Attorney Mazariegos said.

FAIRFIELD, Calif. — Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, on Wednesday voiced his strong opposition to a tech billionaire’s plans to erect a new megacity of up to 400,000 people on the outskirts of Fairfield in Solano County.

He called the so-called California Forever proposal deeply flawed and irresponsible suburban sprawl with the potential to displace farmers, worsen traffic congestion and hamper national security operations at the adjacent Travis Air Force Base.

“I’ve been skeptical since day one, but reserved my judgment as I gathered more facts,” Dodd said. “It is now crystal clear to me that this project is bad for Solano County. This group of mega-rich developers from Silicon Valley are trying to steamroll the surrounding community, bypassing a proper, thorough vetting which they know they can’t pass. What they’re proposing will drastically and irreversibly alter the area. It’s not right, and it’s time for all those who value thoughtful policymaking and Solano County’s future to stand up against it.”

Sen. Dodd joins a chorus of community leaders including dozens of elected officials who are speaking out against California Forever.

The list of opponents include Congressmen John Garamendi and Mike Thompson, Fairfield Mayor Catherine Moy and Suisun City Mayor Pro Tem Princess Washington.

Opponents cite a number of problems with California Forever including:

• No plan for traffic impacts on one of the most dangerous and congested roads in the county.
• Conversion of much needed agricultural land.
• Housing would interfere with Travis AFB, which plays a key national security role.
• Developers seek to bypass public planning processes and environmental reviews.
• Need for housing in the region, but this is not the location or way to do it.

With three iterations in already, it’s clear there are substantial problems with no answers in sight, Dodd’s office said.

Dodd represents the Third Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Yolo, Sonoma, Solano, Sacramento and Contra Costa counties.

MENDOCINO COUNTY, Calif. — Authorities are investigating a situation at the Mendocino County jail in which five male inmates suffered emergency medical issues and had to be administered Narcan, with one of those inmates later dying.

The situation unfolded early Friday afternoon, according to a report from Capt. Gregory Van Patten from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.

At noon on Friday the Mendocino County Jail control board operator received an intercom call from a cell located in a module within the facility's main jail building. The intercom call was initiated by an inmate housed in a two-person occupied cell who asked for a corrections deputy to respond to the cell, Van Patten said.

Van Patten said a corrections deputy responded and noticed one male inmate in the cell was unconscious with discoloring in the face which suggested a life-threatening breathing problem. The floor deputy immediately summoned the assistance of other correctional staff to include on-duty facility medical personnel.

The deputy entered the cell and began to provide lifesaving techniques for a potential choking situation as the housing unit had just concluded lunch in a group setting before returning to their assigned cells for housing purposes, Van Patten said.

During this process it appeared the inmate was not choking and multiple doses of Narcan were administered due to a suspected drug overdose. As a result, Van Patten said the inmate began to show signs of recovery and improved health.

During this time, Van Patten said a corrections lieutenant began to perform a walk-through of the housing module to assess the health and safety of the other male inmates housed in this specific housing module.

During an inspection of a nearby cell, the lieutenant found an unresponsive male inmate who was housed by himself. Van Patten said correctional staff and personnel with the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority entered the cell and began providing medical aid to include the use of Narcan.

Van Patten said the lieutenant continued the walk-through of the housing module and inspected a nearby cell which contained three male inmates. The lieutenant noticed one of the male inmates had an abnormally pale complexion and was sweating. Correctional and medical staff provided aid to the inmate to include the use of Narcan. These efforts resulted in an observed improvement in the inmate's physical condition.

The lieutenant continued the walk-through of the housing module and inspected a nearby cell which contained one male inmate, Van Patten said. The inmate was lying on the floor and was unconscious. Correctional staff and ambulance personnel, who had just arrived at the jail, entered the cell and provided medical aid to the inmate to include the use of Narcan.

Van Patten said the lieutenant continued the walk-through of the housing module and inspected a nearby cell which contained three male inmates. The lieutenant noticed one of the inmates had an abnormally pale complexion and was sweating.

As the lieutenant interacted with the inmate, he noticed the inmate began to display an altered level of consciousness. Van Patten said correctional and medical staff entered the cell and began to provide medical aid to include the use of Narcan on this specific inmate. As a result, the inmate began to show signs of recovery and improved health.

In total, five male inmates were provided medical aid for life-threatening suspected overdose conditions while being housed in the same housing module in the Mendocino County Jail, Van Patten said.

These five male inmates were alive during on-site medical aid efforts and were subsequently transported by ambulance to a hospital for further medical treatment for their continued life-threatening medical conditions, Van Patten said.

However, Van Patten said one inmate later died after arriving at the hospital.

The identity of the deceased inmate is not available for public release at this time pending notification of their next of kin, Van Patten said.

Van Patten said Mendocino County Sheriff's detectives and investigators with the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office are conducting investigations in connection with the Mendocino County Fatal Incident Protocol.

Highway 70 in Butte County, California. Photo courtesy of Caltrans.

BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. – Caltrans is alerting motorists that State Route 70 will remain closed through the upcoming storm this weekend.

The estimated time of reopening will be determined after the storm evaluation is completed. Caltrans aims to reopen the road to one-way traffic control by mid-week.

The closure will extend from Jarbo Gap to the Greenville Wye in Plumas County.

Neil’s Controlled Blasting, in collaboration with Caltrans' Geotechnical engineers, is actively scaling the mountainside along SR-70. Caltrans assures motorists that safety remains paramount during these operations.

Conducted by Caltrans geologists, a thorough assessment of the slope's stability has highlighted the critical need for a full closure, prioritizing safety.

Spanning an area of 100-150 yards, encompassing the mountainside along the canyon, these rock-scaling efforts are essential to limit more slides. Every endeavor is directed toward maintaining the highest standards of safety, Caltrans said.

Motorists are encouraged to check Caltrans’ QuickMap before traveling for current road conditions and chain requirements or download the QuickMap app from the App Store or Google Play.

Road information is also available on Caltrans’ website or by calling the California Highway Information Network automated phone service at 1-800-427-ROAD (7623).

Investigators look for the remains of Linda Mercurio in her home in Little River, California, on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. Photo courtesy of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.

NORTH COAST, Calif. — A Santa Rosa man has been arrested for the killing last week of his mother.

Fletcher Pinkham, 39, is being held on $1 million bail for the murder of 75-year-old Linda Mercurio of Little River, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.

At 7:40 a.m. Tuesday, personnel from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office were requested at the scene of a structure fire in the 39000 block of Little River Airport Road in Little River, Capt. Quincy Cromer said in a Saturday report.

Cromers said the request for law enforcement was made by fire personnel who were attempting to extinguish a multiple-story structure fire where it was believed the resident may still be inside the home.

Representatives from the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department were actively attempting to extinguish the fire when Sheriff's Office personnel arrived. Cromer said Mendocino County Sheriff's Office personnel were advised by the firefighters that the structure was unstable and too hot for search efforts to be conducted in the rubble.

The multiple-story residence collapsed on itself due to the fire, making it difficult to fully extinguish the fire to safely commence search efforts, Cromer said.

Fire personnel also informed the sheriff's office personnel they were familiar with the resident of the property, who they identified as Linda Mercurio. Cromer said the fire personnel stated Mercurio reportedly lived at the residence alone and her vehicle was at the scene and had burned during the fire.

Mercurio was believed to be missing and possibly inside the residence at the time of the structure fire, which prompted the request for sheriff's office personnel to respond, Cromer said.

Approximately five minutes prior to the arrival of sheriff's office personnel at the scene, fire personnel advised Mercurio's adult son had exited the nearby wooded area in an altered state and appeared to need medical attention, Cromer said.

Cromer said fire and medical personnel identified this subject as Fletcher Pinkham, who refused further medical treatment at the scene.

Due to the suspicious nature of the circumstances at the scene, Cromer said Pinkham was detained by sheriff's deputies while the incident was investigated.

During the initial investigation, sheriff's office representatives searched the wooded area where Pinkham was found by fire personnel. Cromer said sheriff's office personnel located firearms, ammunition, clothing and personal belongings, and a vehicle that were all believed to belong to Pinkham.

Based on the evidence located at the scene and nearby wooded area, investigators determined a violent interaction had occurred between Pinkham and his mother, Mercurio. It was also believed based on this evidence and statements provided by Pinkham that Mercurio was shot and killed and the fire was intentionally set to destroy evidence and conceal the violent nature of the crime committed against Mercurio, Cromer said.

Fletcher Pinkham, 39, of Santa Rosa, California, has been arrested for the murder of his mother. Mendocino County Jail photo.

It was determined that probable cause existed to arrest Pinkham for murder and use of a firearm during the commission of a felony resulting in death. Cromer said Pinkham was ultimately transported to the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held on $1,000,000 bail.

Further search efforts in the wooded area surrounding the residence were conducted with the assistance of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue team, Cromer said.

Cromer said the residence was described as a four-story wood-framed structure, on a cinder block perimeter foundation with a concrete slab. The structure had collapsed into the basement and a large amount of smoldering rubble was still burning at the scene.

Fire personnel estimated it would take numerous days of cooling and firefighting efforts to safely search through the debris for Mercurio's remains, Cromer said.

Sheriff's office personnel maintained scene security for multiple days and requested the assistance of additional fire personnel and experts from the Chico State University Forensic Anthropology Department to assist with searching through the rubble. Cromer said the sheriff's office also requested an arson investigator from the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority to also assist with this case.

On Friday morning, sheriff's office and fire personnel were able to safely search the remaining rubble of the structure with the help of experts from Chico State University, Cromer said.

After multiple hours of systematically searching the rubble, law enforcement personnel were able to locate and recover remains they believed were those of Mercurio. Cromer said additional testing and examination will be necessary to confirm the identification of the remains, but the legal next of kin for Mercurio was informed of the findings and circumstances of this investigation.

Cromer said the sheriff's office does not believe anyone else was involved or assisted Pinkham during the crimes committed against Mercurio during this investigation.

Anyone with further information regarding Pinkham or this case, is requested to contact the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office at 707-463-4086. Information can also be reported anonymously by calling the Sheriff's Office tip line at 707-234-2100.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office thanked the following organizations for their assistance with this investigation: Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department, Cal Fire, Cal Fire prevention officers, Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue volunteers, Ukiah Valley Fire Authority arson investigator and the Chico State University Forensic Anthropology Department.

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