Friday, 30 September 2022

Regional

NORTH COAST, Calif. — On Monday, March 14, at 10:30 a.m., the North Coast Railroad Authority, or NCRA, will hold its final meeting.

After nearly 30 years of controversy, massive policy setbacks and straddling bankruptcy for years — the agency that was charged with trying to bring rail back to the North Coast will officially cease operations, per state law passed by Senate Majority Leader Mike McGuire.

And, at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, the Great Redwood Trail Agency will spring to life.

This new agency, created by SB 69, will take over the rail corridor and is charged with advancing the master plan later this fall and building the Great Redwood Trail on top of the current rail bed.

When fully built, the Great Redwood Trail will run from the San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay, becoming the longest rail trail in America.

Sen. McGuire will be speaking to kick off their first meeting.

“The Great Redwood Trail will be a game changer for the North Coast. Over 25,000 miles of former freight rail line have been transitioned to trails over the past 30 years throughout America and we couldn’t be more excited to move the Great Redwood Trail forward here in Northern California,” said McGuire, the author of the legislative and budget items that created the new agency.

He added, “The Great Redwood Trail will be a world class destination for hikers, cyclists and nature lovers here at home and from across the globe. Stretching from San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay, the Trail will encompass 300 miles of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet. Monday will be a historic day for our region and we can’t wait to say goodbye to the dysfunctional North Coast Rail Authority and say hello to the Great Redwood Trail.”

The trail will serve not only as a recreational, social, and exercise path, but will quickly become an economic driver for the North Coast communities it runs through.

Outdoor recreation was a $93 billion industry in this state before COVID, and the revenue has been steadily climbing to return to that level.

The meetings will be held via Zoom.

NCRA’s final meeting:

Date and time: Monday, March 14, at 10:30 a.m.
Zoom Meeting ID: 825 2940 1844
Pass code: 808342

GRTA’s first official meeting:
Date and time: Monday, March 14, at 11:30 a.m.
Zoom Meeting ID: 833 3517 4933
Pass code: 808342

Dungeness crabs on fishing vessel. Photo courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Wildlife officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Enforcement Division have noticed an uptick in the number of commercial Dungeness crab cases in North Coast waters since December 2021.

Since Dec. 9, 2021, there have been five cases out of Crescent City and two out of Eureka regarding possession of undersize crabs by commercial crab fishermen.

The most common violation during this period has been commercial harvest of undersized crabs.

Commercial Dungeness crab fishermen are expected to measure their entire catch and keep only crabs that are equal to or greater than 6 ¼ inches, which is slightly more than the required 5 ¾ width required of recreational crabbers. There is a provision in the law to authorize possession of no more than one percent of the catch to be undersize.

In all seven cases, citations were written, the loads were seized and the proceeds from the sales of the crab were directed to the Wildlife Preservation Fund until the cases can be adjudicated in court.

Collectively in the seven cases, there were 575 undersized crab discovered during inspections in the past few months.

The illegal loads seized have ranged from 8 to 24 percent undersized, making them gross violations of the one percent undersized Dungeness crab allowance.

During the investigations, wildlife officers discovered evidence that some boat crews had attempted to avoid wildlife officers at the dock and had possibly dumped a load of short crabs. One of the cited violators had been recently warned by wildlife officers for possession of short crabs.

A slightly different type of Dungeness crab violation also occurred in December 2021 involving an anonymous citizen tip that a commercial passenger fishing vessel would be using 120 recreational traps in addition to their commercial traps to fish for commercial Dungeness crab outside of San Francisco Bay.

Their investigation revealed that the suspect fisherman was illegally using recreational traps prior to the commercial season opener to enhance his commercial landings. In total, 8,322 pounds of crab were seized.

“Wildlife officers hope word will spread through the commercial crab fishing industry that Dungeness crab violations will result in citations and possible permit suspensions or revocations,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “California’s commercial crab fishing industry has historically been a viable commercial fishery that contributes much to California dinner tables and the economy. The majority of commercial crab fishermen remain compliant. Our end goal is to simply reduce the violations of a few to zero.”

Both commercial and recreational crabbers are required to have a measuring device to ensure all Dungeness crab meet the minimum size limit of 6 ¼ inches for commercial harvest and 5 ¾ inches for recreational harvest, measured by the shortest distance through the body from edge of shell to edge of shell directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines).

While there has been an observed uptick in the number of commercial crab violations, CDFW commends the broader majority of the commercial Dungeness crab fleet for their compliance with the rules governing the fishery and their significant efforts to reduce the risk of whale and sea turtle entanglements.

A close-up view of the head and front section of a Chinook salmon.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Thursday announced that the Department of Water Resources, or DWR, will receive $1.5 million in funding for the Juvenile Salmonid Collection System Pilot Project in the McCloud Arm of Shasta reservoir.

This project is the first test of a collection system that would be an integral part of reintroducing endangered winter-run Chinook salmon and other runs of salmon to their historical habitat.

“The time for action is now; winter-run Chinook salmon need access to their historical spawning habitat,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Recent droughts have decimated winter-run Chinook salmon populations in the Sacramento River below Shasta Dam. Climate change is expected to repeat this situation with increasing regularity. With our state, federal and tribal partners, we can help this iconic run of Chinook salmon and increase the flexibility of California’s limited water supplies. We acknowledge and thank DWR for their initiative on this project. It would not have been possible without DWR’s leadership.”

The pilot project is designed to solve what may be the biggest challenge in reintroducing winter-run Chinook salmon to the cold McCloud River. Biologists and engineers need to collect juvenile salmon once they hatch in the river but before they swim into Shasta reservoir, where they are at risk of predators and other threats.

The collection system just downstream from where the river enters the reservoir would funnel colder water — and the young fish — to a collection point. The fish would then be transported around Shasta Dam and released into the Sacramento River to continue their migration to the ocean.

CDFW is leveraging funding from the Wildlife Conservation Board to reduce the impacts of drought on fish and wildlife. The grant awarded to DWR totals $1.5 million for this first year of testing the collection system.

“DWR is thankful for this funding and the ongoing coordination with our partners that will allow this important work to continue,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “Drought and climate change have exacerbated the challenges posed to Californians, as well as our ecosystems and native species. This pilot project is just one of many efforts being implemented to address these challenges head on as we navigate unprecedented dry conditions.”

The collection system consists of a debris boom, guidance net, fish trap and temperature curtain, which will be tested in the McCloud Arm of Shasta reservoir from mid-September to mid-November, after recreational activities wind down for the season.

Biologists and engineers from DWR, CDFW and NOAA Fisheries will test the collection system but will not yet release winter-run Chinook salmon into Shasta reservoir yet — this will occur once the collector is fully tested and its operation is successful.

“We have a window of time to recover California’s most endangered salmon, but that time is running out,” said Barry Thom, regional administrator of NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region. “Saving these native fish will take science, ingenuity and lots of collaboration by all of us who want to see winter-run Chinook swim in their original habitat once again.”

In the 1940s, construction of Shasta and Keswick dams blocked winter-run Chinook salmon from reaching their original spawning grounds in the McCloud River. They began spawning instead in the Sacramento River below the dams, where they are exposed to the summer heat.

Water managers release water from Shasta reservoir to lower river temperatures to improve survival of the eggs of this single remaining population. Drought and climate change will make that increasingly difficult and ultimately impossible.

This project will further state and federal fisheries recovery plans by laying the foundation for reintroduction of salmon into the McCloud River and advancing a more resilient and sustainably managed water resources system that can better withstand drought conditions.

This project furthers the goals of California’s Water Resilience Portfolio and CDFW’s State Wildlife Action Plan, as well as addressing limiting factors specified in state and federal recovery plans.

Officials said a Redding woman who claimed to have been the victim of kidnapping in 2016 has been arrested for making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer and engaging in mail fraud.

U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert, FBI Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan and Shasta County Sheriff Michael L. Johnson announced the arrest on Thursday of Sherri Papini, 39.

According to the criminal complaint filed in this case, on Nov. 2, 2016, Papini was reported missing, and extensive searches were conducted for her in Shasta County and California as well as in several other states.

On Nov. 24, 2016, Papini was found in Yolo County near Woodland. Papini had various bindings on her body and injuries including a “brand” on her right shoulder.

At that time, Papini told law enforcement officers and others that she had been abducted and held by two Hispanic women at gunpoint and held against her will. She also provided details of the alleged abductors to an FBI sketch artist.

Based on her account, law enforcement agencies were on the lookout for Hispanic women matching Papini’s description.

The investigation eventually showed, however, that this was a false narrative Papini fabricated. In truth, Papini had been voluntarily staying with a former boyfriend in Costa Mesa and had harmed herself to support her false statements.

During an interview conducted by a federal agent and a Shasta County Sheriff’s Office detective in August 2020, Papini was warned that it was a crime to lie to federal agents.

She was presented with evidence that showed she had not been abducted. Instead of retracting her kidnapping story, Papini continued to make false statements about her purported abductors.

In addition, Papini caused the California Victim’s Compensation Board to pay victim assistance money based on her kidnapping story.

From 2017 through 2021, Papini’s request for victim assistance caused approximately 35 payments totaling over $30,000, including for visits to her therapist and for the ambulance that transported her to the hospital after her return.

“When a young mother went missing in broad daylight, a community was filled with fear and concern,” said U.S. Attorney Talbert.

Talbert said the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office immediately began investigating, calling on the assistance of the FBI.

“Countless hours were spent following leads, all in an effort to bring this woman back to her family. Three weeks later, she was found 146 miles south of where she disappeared, and the focus went from trying to find her to trying to find her abductors. Ultimately, the investigation revealed that there was no kidnapping and that time and resources that could have been used to investigate actual crime, protect the community, and provide resources to victims were wasted based on the defendant’s conduct,” Talbert said.

“This case exemplifies the FBI’s commitment to working tirelessly with law enforcement partners and prosecutors to examine all facts and seek the truth, no matter how long that process takes or how complex the analysis may be,” said Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan of the FBI Sacramento Field Office. “We are grateful for the dedication of the agents, investigators, lab technicians, professional staff, and prosecutors who aided our collaborative fact-finding efforts. We are relieved that the community is not endangered by unknown, violent kidnappers, and thank the public and media for their patience and strong support for this case since the initial reports of Sherri Papini’s disappearance.”

“The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office is very thankful for the partnerships with all of the local, state, and federal allied agencies that have been involved with this investigation for the last five
plus years,” said Sheriff Johnson.

Johnson said Papini’s arrest was made possible by the “outstanding hard work” of a multitude of agents, detectives, DOJ criminalist, forensic analyst, crime scene investigators and support staff members that were assigned to this investigation.

“Everyone involved in this investigation had one common goal; to find the truth about what happened on Nov. 2, 2016 with Sherri Papini and who was responsible,” Johnson said. “The 22-day search for Sherri Papini and subsequent five-year search into who reportedly abducted her was not only taxing on public resources but caused the general public to be fearful of their own safety, a fear that they should not have had to endure. The Sheriff’s Office has appreciated the support and patience from the citizens of Shasta County and abroad. This investigation has always been a priority to get solved for the Sheriff’s Office as well as for our investigating partners at the FBI and the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Forensic Services and Bureau of Investigation.”

“At the California Department of Justice, we're proud of the work that our investigators and forensic experts do each and every day to provide critical investigative leads to our law enforcement partners across California,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. “No matter the circumstances, our team is committed to the facts. While this case deals with a tough situation, we'll continue to do our part to help secure justice. Thank you to our partners at the federal and local level for your commitment to seeing this case through.”

If convicted of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer, Papini faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

If convicted of mail fraud, she faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, officials said.

This case is the product of an investigation by the FBI and the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Forensic Services and Bureau of Investigation, and the California Highway Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Veronica M.A. Alegría and Shelley D. Weger are prosecuting the case.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, or CDFW, is issuing a statewide fleet advisory for the commercial Dungeness crab fishery due to a recent humpback whale entanglement, approximately 5 miles west of Cypress Point near Monterey Bay (Fishing Zone 4).

The entanglement was first reported in late January involving heavy line from unknown fishing gear and CDFW is encouraging the commercial fleet and all mariners to be on the lookout for any entangled whale in this area and across California waters.

If anyone sights an entangled whale, do not approach, or attempt to disentangle, but please immediately report it to the U.S. Coast Guard or call the Entanglement Reporting Hotline at 877-SOS-WHAL or 877-767-9425.

Based on recent surveys and historic migration patterns, overall entanglement risk remains low across California waters. CDFW is however issuing this Fleet Advisory for all fishing zones and reminds all in the commercial and recreational fisheries to implement best practices, as described in the Best Practices Guide. California is leading the way on the West Coast in its efforts to minimize risk of entanglement in our commercial fisheries.

“These efforts are supported by a strong collaboration with the fishing community, partner agencies and scientific advisors,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “We appreciate this ongoing collaboration and are committed to protecting our natural heritage while providing fishing opportunities to the citizens of California.”

For a map of all fishing zones, see here. For more information related to the risk assessment process, please visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page or more information on the Dungeness crab fishery, please visit CDFW’s Crab page, including FAQs for the 2021-22 season of the commercial fishery and FAQs for the new recreational crab trap regulations.

At its Feb. 8 board meeting, Turlock Irrigation District, or TID, announced Project Nexus, a pilot project to build solar panel canopies over a portion of TID’s existing canals to operate and research a truly innovative, multi-benefit, water-energy nexus project that can further California’s push toward water and climate resiliency.

Project Nexus, a public-private-academic partnership among TID, the Department of Water Resources, Solar AquaGrid, and the University of California, Merced, could contribute to a more water resilient future for California and position the State to meet its ambitious clean energy goals.

The first-ever solar panel over canal development in the United States, the Project will assess reduction of water evaporation resulting from midday shade and wind mitigation; improvements to water quality through reduced vegetative growth; reduction in canal maintenance through reduced vegetative growth; and generation of renewable electricity.

Groundbreaking on Project Nexus is scheduled for this fall, with project completion expected in 2024 at multiple locations throughout the TID service territory in California’s Central Valley.

The project will use existing TID infrastructure on already-disturbed land to keep costs low and efficiency high while supporting the region’s sustainable farming tradition.

Additionally, energy storage will be installed to study how storage facilities can support the local electric grid when solar generation is suboptimal due to cloud cover.

The $20 million project is funded by the state of California.

“In our 135-year history, we’ve always pursued innovative projects that benefit TID water and power customers,” said TID Board President Michael Frantz. “There will always be reasons to say ‘no’ to projects like this, but as the first public irrigation district in California, we aren’t afraid to chart a new path with pilot projects that have potential to meet our water and energy sustainability goals.”

While Project Nexus, especially if expanded beyond a demonstration project, offers benefits to TID, the project is seen as a template with potential to be replicated elsewhere in the state to help California achieve its water and energy goals. The inspiration for Project Nexus comes from the concept presented in a recent University of California study, published last March in the journal Nature Sustainability.

The UC study illustrated that covering all of the approximately 4,000 miles of California canals could show a savings of 63 billion gallons of water annually, comparable to the amount needed to irrigate 50,000 acres of farmland or meet the residential water needs of more than 2 million people.

According to the study, the 13 gigawatts of solar power the solar panels would generate each year would equal about one sixth of the state’s current installed capacity.

“The Solar AquaGrid model provides a combined, integrated response to addressing our water-energy nexus,” said UC Merced Professor Roger Bales. “It helps address California’s underlying vulnerabilities while meeting both state and federal level commitments to produce renewable energy, preserve natural lands, lower greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.”

DWR will oversee administration of the project, will provide technical assistance, as well as serve as a research partner.

“We are excited to explore new efforts to advance the integration of renewable energy into our water supply delivery system,” said Karla Nemeth, director of DWR. “The project offers great potential, and we look forward to collaborating with our local and academic partners to advance these types of multi-benefit projects.”

Turlock Irrigation District has retained Bay Area development firm Solar AquaGrid as project developers and program managers for TID and Project Nexus. The two agencies have been collaborating since the project’s inception.

Solar AquaGrid originated the project after commissioning the UC Merced Study in 2015 and has facilitated collaboration among the various parties to bring Project Nexus to fruition.

“Research and common sense tell us that in an age of intensifying drought, it’s time to put a lid on evaporation,” said Jordan Harris, CEO of Solar AquaGrid. “We are excited to partner with Turlock Irrigation District, DWR, and UC Merced to develop this first-in-the-nation pilot project and bring needed innovation to the Central Valley. Our initial study revealed mounting solar panels over open canals can result in significant water, energy, and cost savings when compared to ground-mounted solar systems, including added efficiency resulting from an exponential shading/cooling effect. Now is the chance to put that learning to the test.”

Upcoming Calendar

1Oct
10.01.2022 7:00 am - 11:00 am
Sponsoring Survivorship annual walk and run
1Oct
10.01.2022 8:00 am - 2:00 pm
Konocti Challenge
1Oct
1Oct
10.01.2022 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
1Oct
10.01.2022 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
20th annual Falling Leaves Quilt Show
1Oct
10.01.2022 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Weekly writing workshop
1Oct
10.01.2022 11:00 am - 6:00 pm
Lakeport Harvest Festival
1Oct
10.01.2022 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Harvest Dinner and Silent Auction
Peace and Plenty Farm
1Oct
10.01.2022 5:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Luau on the Creek

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