Tuesday, 23 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – The latest employment numbers released from the state's Employment Development Department are good news for Lake County.

Dennis Mullins of the Employment Development Department's North Coast Region office in Eureka reported the county's March 2007 unemployment rate was 7.8 percent.

That's well below the February 2007 rate of 8.3 percent and the March 2006 rate of 8.1 percent, said Mullins. The county's 7.8-percent unemployment rate compares to a seasonally unadjusted rate of 5.1 percent for California and 4.5 percent for the nation for the month of March.

March's figures earned Lake County a rank of 36th place among the state's 58 counties in March for employment, according to Mullins' report.

Colusa had the highest unemployment rate in the state with 16.2 percent, Mullins reported, while Marin and Orange Counties had the lowest at 3.4 percent. Other surrounding county rates included 6.1 percent for Mendocino, and 4.0 percent for Sonoma.

Lake County's civilian workforce equaled 26,530 in March 2007, nearly 400 higher than March 2006, according to Mullins' report.

Total industry employment grew by 190 jobs (1.3 percent) between March 2006 and March 2007, ending the year-over period with 14,610 jobs, Mullins said. That number does not include self-employed individuals, unpaid family workers, household domestic workers or workers on strike.

Mullins reported that year-over job growth occurred in the following categories: farm; natural resources, mining and construction; information; professional and business services; leisure and hospitality; and other services.

Natural resources, mining and construction led industry gainers for the year-over period adding 70 jobs, said Mullins. Leisure and hospitality gained 60; farm and other services each added 50; and information and professional and business services each added 20.

Year-over job losses, according to Mullins, occurred in manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; financial activities; private educational and health services; government.

Trade, transportation and utilities led industry sector decliners for the period shedding 40 jobs for the period, said Mullins. Manufacturing, financial activities, private educational and health services, and government dropped 10 jobs each.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


This is the third installment in Lake County News' ongoing series, Feeding Awareness: Food Insecurity in Lake County.

LAKE COUNTY They're not a company. They're not a club. They're not a registered nonprofit. They don't do any fundraising. So, just what is the Lake County Hunger Task Force?

An active advocacy group for food insecurity, hunger, and health education, the Hunger Task Force (HTF) starts up and maintains multiple community gardens to help feed Lake County's hungry and also

holds events and seminars on nutrition to help fight poor health and obesity.

"We figured we didn't need another agency," laughs nutrition guidance counselor Ron Jones, one of the founding and current active members.

So, they've kept it simple: "No one should go to bed hungry in Lake County" a motto that completely defines HTF's intentions and efforts.

Entirely volunteer-based, the group was formed in 2000 after Evelyn Conklin-Ginop initiated a study on hunger in Lake and Mendocino counties.

HTF works with Lake County Community Action Agency (LCCAA), AmeriCorps, the Rural Food Project, Lake County First Five, the Office of Education, local senior centers and other food pantries.

The connection? "We contribute food to their programs," says Lorrie Gray, community garden coordinator of HTF and also a founding member.

"We applied to the Lake County Wine Alliance some years ago for a grant and we received it," explains Jones. They've been operating on it for several years, using the grant money to purchase equipment and


HTF grows fruits and vegetables in multiple community gardens throughout the county. Typically, seeds are donated to HTF sometimes space in a private garden is donated and Gray and HTF member Pat Schuman of Lake County Social Services are usually the ones to initially plant the seeds and sometimes weed and garden, as well. Gardens are maintained by community organizations, schools, and other individual volunteers throughout the county.

Sometimes, property owners just want somebody to come out and help get rid of the overabundance of fruit or vegetables.

Volunteers who maintain the gardens are welcomed to eat from them, and the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables goes to food pantries around the county.

Many of the volunteers experience some level of food insecurity or poor nutrition, and they directly benefit from the program.

Lou Denny of LCCAA, another active member of HTF, says the group especially targets low-income families with children. "It's important for them to enhance their ability to get food because there is a

direct relationship between healthy food and achievement in academics."

"As part of the garden program, we try to get fresh fruits and vegetables into the hands of people who can't afford them," says Gray.

Gardens are even maintained in the winter, when spinach, lettuce, chard, kale, and other greens can be harvested.

"Most people we feed are the working poor," Denny adds. "They have jobs, but the money just doesn't stretch."

"The main reason we started the community gardens here is that during the summer time students are not getting subsidized lunches and food from school," says Gray.

In the participating schools, the gardens double as an educational tool, so that children learn, according to Jones: "You take care of the garden. You plant it, you water it, and then you get to eat from it."

Jones also holds educational seminars throughout the county that address all groups of people on how to read labels, how to manage weight without fancy diets, and how to make healthy meals easily.

"Ron Jones was one of the pioneers of the county for addressing food insecurity, hunger and nutrition," says Denny.

The other prominent members not yet mentioned are Tammy Alakszay of AmeriCorps, Bev Bergstrom of Senior Support Services, Annie Barnes from Tribal Health, nutritionist and WIC advisor Helen Sandager, and Hedy Montoya from the Rural Food Project.

People always are jumping on board to help out, too, according to Denny. Barry Miller, for example, is a tutor and professional gardener who is starting a community garden at Clearlake Community School in Clearlake.

"We do a lot of networking with people who want to solve problems with hunger," explains Gray. "For instance, we were granted permission from the Steele Wines farmers' market to set up an informational booth on the first Saturday of each month."

The Hunger Task Force, in conjunction with LCCAA, participated in the 2005 Hunger Survey for Lake County, conducted by Pacific Union College out of Angwin. The results were compiled into a booklet, which is available to all interested agencies.

"A big part of our group is addressing issues of health, growth, and, of course, longevity for seniors," says Denny.

Each year, HTF holds a countywide food forum on hunger and nutrition, and all are welcomed to attend.

HTF also gives free canning lessons each fall to best teach people how to use excess fruits and vegetables. The classes are taught by Lorrie's husband Brian. Every student engages in hands-on learning of how to can tomatoes and pears, and each participating household receives a water bath canner, jar lifter, book, and a case of canning jars to use at home.

But that's not all. HTF is always on the move.

"For several years," Lorrie Gray explains, "we've participated in Make a Difference Day a nationwide volunteer day held the last Saturday in October. They pick one organization per county is to honor their efforts; we were the honorees chosen from Lake County twice."

During Make a Difference Day, HTF in collaboration with AmeriCorps and other organizations, collects nonperishable food in front of Lake County's supermarkets to give to local food banks.

Hunger Action Day is May 8, and people from all over California join in Sacramento to educate their legislators about hunger and nutrition.

Explains Denny: "When we try to serve nutritious foods, it really has a greater impact on our society and its productivity. And it cuts down on healthcare costs."

He continues: "There are 2 million people in California who are eligible for food stamps who do not get them because it's a long process, they have to be fingerprinted, and various other reasons. We are pushing for some bills that will streamline that."

"The big stumbling block," adds Gray, "is a sense of shame. They're ashamed to take a handout and that's why we can't get them to sign up. There are still hungry people, and as a county with an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, we're trying to fill that void."

The Lake County Hunger Taskforce meets every fourth Monday of the month to deal with hunger issues in Lake County. The informal meetings are held at various sites around the county from 11:30 am. to 1 p.m. Most attendees bring lunch and drop-ins are welcome. Membership is not restrictive at all.

The next meeting of the Hunger Task Force will be held Monday, April 23, at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, 21396 Highway 175 in Middletown.

For more information on the Lake County Hunger Task Force, contact Lorrie Gray, 277-9227.

E-mail Penny Dahl at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


LAKE PILLSBURY – Small earthquakes have continued to shake the Lake Pillsbury area in the wake of a 4.8 quake that hit the area early Wednesday morning.

The US Geological Survey reported that eight more small earthquakes occurred throughout the day Thursday, the largest a 2.2 magnitude.

The microquakes were centered 8 to 9 nine miles west northwest of Lake Pillsbury, the location of the 4.8 quake, the US Geological Survey reported.

Late Wednesday, a 3.3 and a 2.9 hit Pillsbury along the same epicenter, according to US Geological Survey records.

In total, there have been 49 quakes at the Pillsbury area since Wednesday.

Seismologist David Oppenheimer of the US Geological Survey said the fault along which the large quakes are occurring does not have a name and not much is known about it.

Until faults break to the surface, it's hard to study them or know their exact locations and sizes, Oppenheimer said. A fault's length helps determine the size of its earthquakes, he added.

He said this week it's unlikely the unnamed fault would produce the kinds of quakes found along larger faults, like the San Andreas and Calaveras.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Fifty-seven of the 109 local students who will attend four-year colleges and universities gathered Thursday for a special recognition dinner. Photo by Harold La Bonte.


KELSEYVILLE The educational future of more than 100 Lake County high school students was celebrated at a special event at Kelseyville High School on April 19.

The purpose of the gathering was to honor the graduates who will be moving on to four-year colleges and universities.

Jamey Gill, curriculum specialist with the Lake County Office of Education (LCOE), coordinated the event and acted as the master of ceremonies.

Fifty-seven of the 109 local students who will be attending college or university – along with their parents and other guests – were treated to live music courtesy of Tom Aiken and the Kelseyville High School Jazz Band along with a dinner created and managed by Michelle Malm with help from several Kelseyville High students.

While the majority of students were accepted to Western-area colleges, two are looking to the Eastern seaboard as their home for the next four years.

Cory Gerths of Kelseyville was selected by four schools including Northeastern University in Boston. Kaila Budwell, a senior from Lower Lake High, is looking forward to her architectural studies at the University of Miami in Florida.

Following dinner, District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing delivered the evening's keynote speech.

Rushing admitted to having to rewrite her original address following the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech.

She praised the students as well as the parents who have helped motivate their children. Rushing encouraged the students to “follow the call to leadership in their chosen field” and to “always look ahead, never doubt your ability.”

Rushing, a Stanford University graduate, perhaps gave her most important advice by suggesting that the students “respect yourself, your body, watch what you put into it, respect those around you,” and added that youth doesn’t last forever.

The certificates were presented by representatives from LCOE as well as Yuba College, Mendocino College, UC Davis, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Cruz, Sacramento State, DeVry University and the University of California's Office of the President (UCOP).

Closing comments from Angel Max Guerrero, UCOP, echoed those by Rushing. He also encouraged all of the soon-to-be-college students to explore all opportunities, examine every option, travel as much as possible, and do their best to continue to expand every horizon including learning second and third languages.

LCOE Superintendent Dave Geck was visibly pleased with the event and very proud of the students as well as the entire LCOE staff.

“Being involved in this program and being recognized this way helps inspire them to continue on, removing some of the barriers of self doubt,” Geck said. “We're helping them build confidence, we're helping them really see the potential they have.”


Students and their parents were treated to a dinner and an evening of music and speakers. Photo by Harold La Bonte.


Supervisor Denise Rushing gives the evening's keynote address. Photo by Harold La Bonte.


Jacqueline Wilson of Lower Lake listens to Supervisor Denise Rushing's keynote address. Wilson will study nursing at St. Mary's in Moraga. Photo by Harold La Bonte.


The Kelseyville High Jazz Band was part of the night's entertainment. Photo by Harold La Bonte.





LAKE COUNTY – A bill that will fund flood protection around the country – including Lake County – has passed the House of Representatives.

On Thursday night the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed its version of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (WRDA), HR 1495, according to Anne Warden, spokesperson for Congressman Mike Thompson's Washington office.

The WRDA authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to construct flood protection projects and improve the nation's rivers and harbors. The bill authorizes a reported $15 billion to hundreds of projects around the nation.

The bill passed the House of Representatives Thursday by a vote of 394-25.

The legislation, Warden reported, will help restore wetlands, protect communities from catastrophic floods and enhance natural resources across the country.

Thompson said federal authorization for those projects is “long overdue.”

"This legislation will give our communities added flood protection and enhance natural resources nationwide,” he said.

Here in Lake County, the bill will hopefully result in the Middle Creek Restoration Project moving forward.

The project will restore 1,200 acres of wetlands and 500 acres of floodplain in the Clear Lake area, Warden said. It entails reconnecting Scott's Creek and Middle Creek to the historic Robinson Lake wetland and floodplain. These two watersheds provide 57 percent of the water flow into Clear Lake.

The bill included an authorization for the project added by Thompson, Warden said. Thompson was successful in adding language to this legislation that will fund, design and construct the Middle Creek Ecosystem Restoration Project.

"Restoring Middle Creek is a critical step toward enhancing the area's flood protection and improving the wetlands surrounding Clear Lake," said Thompson.

Thompson has been working with local officials on the legislation for years. He also had also lined up authorization for Middle Creek in a version of WRDA that died without action in Congress late last year.

That the WRDA bill failed last year isn't exactly a new occurrence.

The legislation, which is usually passed each year, was first introduced in 1974. A backgrounder on WRDA by the National Wildlife Federation says that legislation is an important vehicle for water projects the US Army Corps of Engineers would plan and develop. WRDA also helps enact policy changes in the Corps' water resource programs and projects, the federation reported.

However, no WRDA bill has been passed since 2000, a fact that's been attributed to a desire to reform the Corps' policies and prevent pork barrel politics. In the past, members of Congress have added earmarks to the legislation that will no longer be allowed under new reforms.

The legislation states that the Middle Creek project will cost $45.2 million, with an estimated federal cost of $29,500,000 and an estimated non-federal cost of $15,700,000.

Bob Lossius, Lake County's assistant director of Public Works, said they're not asking for that $29 million this time around. “All we're asking for at the federal level right now is $1.2 million,” said Lossius.

That would help the county begin the project's design phase, which is estimated to cost $1.6 million, said Lossius. The rest of the funding can come from other sources, such as the state or the county.

Lossius said he's talked with state Sen. Patricia Wiggins' staff about a bill to authorize the project at the state level and allocate 50 percent of the nonfederal share of $15 million. The county's Flood Control and Water Conservation District also has funds set aside in next year's budget to get the first phase started, he said.

In February, Lossius sent a letter to Thompson and Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein asking for their help in getting the project back on track.

“We've been this far before,” said Lossius, who also has been disappointed before when the bills stalled in Congress.

He said he met with Boxer's office earlier this week to reemphasize the need for the project.

“I do get a sense we're closer because of the overwhelming approval in both houses (of Congress),” said Lossius, noting how quickly the bill moved through the Senate committee and the House.

One issue which hasn't been worked out so far in the House version is a matter of transfering a parcel of land into trust for Robinson Rancheria.

The tribe owns 30 acres which will be flooded in the project, Lossius said. The county wants to help Robinson transfer other land the tribe owns – located a mile from the project area – into trust in exchange for the property that will go underwater. That issue has been perceived as “trust hunting” by some members of Congress, and in the past has become a point of contention.

Lossius said the issue will need to be worked out either on the Senate floor or in a joint committee when the two houses come together to arrive at final legislation.

“Everybody wants to get this bill passed,” said Lossius, adding that he's concerned that they don't want to throw in the tricky trust issue for fear of stalling the bill.

Lossius said the bill would have until the end of this year to pass Congress or else meet the fate of earlier failed versions.

However, he said he doesn't recall it being passed out of the House this early before.

Warden said Senate and House members hope to have a final version on President Bush's desk by July 4.

"President Bush indicated that he opposes the bill's level of authorization, but has not threatened a veto,” Warden said. “Since the previous majority in Congress neglected to pass this bill last year when it was supposed to be reauthorized, we strongly encourage the president not to veto these critical authorizations."

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




LAKE PILLSBURY – A 4.8 quake that shook residents of the Lake Pillsbury area awake early Wednesday morning was the area's largest quake since 1977, according to a seismologist.

The earthquake was recorded at 1:42 a.m. by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The series of almost 40 aftershocks that followed the quake included a sizable 3.3 magnitude temblor that occurred at 8:52 p.m. Wednesday.

David Oppenheimer, a seismologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, said the last time there was an earthquake above magnitude 4.5 in the Lake Pillsbury area was Nov. 22, 1977.

That quake, he said, happened nine miles southwest of the lake, rather than nine miles west northwest, the area where Wednesday's quake was centered.

Area residents said they definitely felt it when it happened.

“It just about knocked us out of bed,” said Soda Creek Store owner Nick Uram.

Despite the early morning shaker's magnitude, Uram said items weren't knocked off the shelves at his store, although his home on Lake Pillsbury Ranch was shaken up “pretty good.”

No one coming into his store Wednesday reported any damage, Uram said.

Dixie Offt of Lake Pillsbury Resort & Marina said the resort's full-time caretaker was awakened moments before the quake by his cat.

The caretaker checked the water lines, cabins and marina for the resort – which will open for the season on Memorial Day – and found everything to be all right, said Offt. “We sustained no damage.”

As for the lake and its dams, they also escaped damage, according to David Eisenhauer, a spokesman for Pacific Gas & Electric, which oversees Lake Pillsbury.

As soon as the earthquake occurred, Eisenhauer said, PG&E staff inspected both Cape Horn and Scotts dams and found no problems.

“We're keeping a close eye on all of our facilities up there, but so far everything is looking sturdy,” said Eisenhauer.

Oppenheimer said there is a “persistent band of seismicity” that goes through Lake Pillsbury.

“It's a bit unusual to see behavior like what's happened with this earthquake,” he said.

Particularly unusual, said Oppenheimer, was the quake's aftershock sequence, with nearly 40 smaller quakes occurring throughout the day.

“We don't know exactly why some earthquakes have robust aftershock sequences and others don't,” he said.

An earthquake's behavior is influenced by a variety of factors, said Oppenheimer, including rock type or fluid pressure in the fault zone.

Serpentine, a common rock found in the state's coastal ranges, tends to be associated with faults that creep a lot and have larges number of small earthquakes, said Oppenheimer. “So maybe there's some serpentine in this fault zone.”

Oppenheimer explained that strain in the earth's crush is released through the state's larger faults – such as the San Andreas and Calaveras. The larger faults account for up to 90 percent of overall plate motion. Oppenheimer said the size of an earthquake tends to correlate to the total length of the fault.

Along with those major quakes, there are secondary and tertiary faults, and there are enough of them that seismologists don't even know where they all are because the smaller faults don't break through to the surface.

Such is the case with the fault along which Wednesday's quake took place. There are no mapped faults for the quake's epicenter, Oppenheimer said. “We don't know about these faults until they pop off.”

It's also hard to guess just how big of a quake could ultimately occur there, although this week's quake could be at the fault's upper limits, he added.

“It's not a major player in releasing strain in California,” Oppenheimer said. “Those are the ones that do come to the surface, like the San Andreas fault.”

There are other named faults in that area, said Oppenheimer, such as the Maacama fault. As to concerns about the aftershocks triggering a quake from that fault, Oppenheimer said the probability is “exceedingly low.”

For people worrying about “the big one,” Oppenheimer says it's doubtful that it would occur on the unnamed fault.

“The big one, if you're a seismologist, is a repeat of the 1906 earthquake,” he said, referring to the massive 7.8 earthquake that occurred along the San Andreas fault near San Francisco 101 years ago Wednesday.

Oppenheimer said scientists are learning all the time about the state's seismicity.

“We don't have a very complete picture of earthquake activity in California,” he said. Monitoring only began in the 1930s, reaching current standards in the 1970s.

Seismic activity isn't organized, he said, with some faults not showing activity for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


LAKE PILLSBURY – Earthquake activity has continued at Lake Pillsbury, with another sizable quake hitting the area Sunday afternoon.

The US Geological Survey reported that a 3.1 magnitude quake, with its epicenter located 9 miles west northwest of Lake Pillsbury, was recorded at 1:10 p.m. Sunday.

It was preceded by a 2.0 quake in the same location at 10:34 a.m. A microearthquake measuring 1.5 hit at 10:49 p.m. about a mile away from the earlier quakes.

Quakes have been recorded in that same area for the last several weeks, with a sizable 4.8 quake hitting early Wednesday, followed later that day by a 3.3 magnitude quake.

US Geological Survey seismologist David Oppenheimer said last week that the fault along which the quakes have been occurring has not been named by scientists, and not much is known about it. He added, however, that it isn't thought to be a large fault capable of larger quakes.

In recent weeks, however, activity has measurably increased, according to US Geological Survey records. While seismic activity is a daily occurrence in the Cobb, Anderson Springs and Geysers areas, Lake Pillsbury rarely showed up on daily seismic charts until earlier this month.

Nearly 70 earthquakes have been recorded in the same area west northwest of Lake Pillsbury in the last week alone.

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LAKE COUNTY Hydrologists are saying that a recent snow survey in the Mendocino National Forest shows one of the driest years in decades, at the same time as county officials say that less precipitation overall has resulted in low stream and lake levels.

Phebe Brown, spokesperson for the Mendocino National Forest reported that snowfall in the forest in February replenished the nonexistent snowpack on Anthony Peak, elevation 6,200 feet. Forest hydrologist Bob Faust said Anthony Peaks sits in the middle of the forest, between the Sacramento River and Eel River watersheds.

Thanks to that snow, Anthony Peak reached 92 percent of average depth and 67 percent water content, Brown reported.

Since the February survey, however, officials say snow and moisture levels in the forest have plummeted.

A March 30 snow survey conducted by Covelo Ranger District employees Conroy Coleman and Jordan Saylor revealed that the snow pack had dwindled to 26 inches (40 percent of average depth) and 12 inches of water (43 percent of average), Brown reported.

Saylor and another forest staffer, Fred Burrows, checked out the Plaskett Meadows snow course on April 2, said Brown. Seven of the 10 snow sample sites were bare, said Brown. Average snow depth was 2.6 inches with only 1/10 inch of water.

"This is the driest April reading on record since 1944," said Faust. "More recent dry years were 1972 and 1997 when there were 6 to 7 inches of snow and about 1 inch of water content."

Brown said Mendocino National Forest has been measuring winter snow depths and moisture content since 1944 and the averages are calculated based on all those years.

Precipitation from Anthony Peak drains down the Grindstone watershed, into Stony Creek and the Black Butte Reservoir, ending up in the Sacramento River. Precipitation from Plaskett drains to the Black Butte River and into the middle fork of the Eel River, Brown reported.

The sparse snow pack will affect area lakes and streams, Faust said.

Water in Lake Mendocino dropped from last month's 101 percent of average to 90 percent, Brown reported. The same was true for Black Butte Lake in Glenn County, with water levels dropping from 99 percent of average to 88 percent.

The Central Valley Project water regulators are keeping Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville full at 107 percent and 113 percent of average, respectively, Brown reported.

Past snow measurement records show that there are years when the snow pack has increased during the month of April. However, Faust cited a report from the state's climatologist, which says that a La Nina pattern is expected to develop in the Pacific over the next three months, which means ocean temperatures will become cooler than average near the equator.

Those conditions are expected to lead to below normal precipitation throughout California for the rest of this year and into the winter.

"Longer term concerns with a strong La Nina are dry to drought-type weather conditions next winter for the western U.S.," the report stated.

Brown said the Covelo Ranger District snow survey team will make one more reading this season on Anthony Peak prior to May 1. The measurements are a part of the statewide California Cooperative Snow Survey program run by the California Department of Water Resources.

Lake County doesn't rely on snowpack

Tom Smythe, water resources engineer in the county's Water Resources Division, said Lake County is definitely drier this year.

The county's watersheds aren't dependent on snowpack, Smythe said. “If we were, we'd be in big trouble,” he said.

However, rainfall has been sparse this year, Smythe said.

Rainfall levels tracked by the Cobb Area Water District and the City of Lakeport show a much drier year this year, especially as measured against last year's extremely rainy conditions. Cobb's measurements show totals at roughly half of average. In Lakeport, numbers from the first four months of of this year amount to about 20 percent of last year's total.

The result is lower levels in local creeks, said Smythe.

A US Geological Survey stream gage reading for Kelsey Creek, one of the creeks responsible for the most flow into Clear Lake, was at 16 cubic feet a second (cfs) on Friday, substantially below the median flow of 39 cfs.

Putah Creek east of Hidden Valley Lake is flowing at 30 cfs, while the median is 93 cfs, according to the US Geological Survey stream gauges. The North Fork of Cache Creek at Hough Springs (above Indian Valley Reservoir) is flowing at 28 cfs, where the median flow is 60 cfs.

Smythe estimated that the other streams are probably in similar flow conditions.

"This will reduce late season groundwater recharge and probably lead to lower groundwater levels through the summer and fall," Smythe said. "We do not have sufficient information on how much lower than normal groundwater levels will be this year."

Smythe said Water Resources recently completed measurements of 86 wells in the county's major water basins in order to know local groundwater conditions. “Our groundwater basins are pretty close to normal,” he said, thanks to above-normal rainfall from previous years.

The ultimate result will be seen in Clear Lake. The lake on Friday was at 5.85 feet Rumsey, below the median level of 7.18 feet Rumsey. The lake peaked at 6.14 feet Rumsey on March 30, said Smythe. The lake's average level is 7.21 feet Rumsey.

Despite the drier conditions this year, Smythe said the county has been in an unusually wet period. This will be the fourth year in the last 15 years that Clear Lake has not filled above "full," which is 7.56 feet Rumsey, he said.

“Basically, we've been full for five years in a row,” he said, adding that he's also seen several-year runs of a lake that didn't hit the full mark.

The lake also is a its lowest point since 2001, when the lake's highest point was 5.20 feet Rumsey.

"We don't anticipate any major problems in Clear Lake due to the lake level," he said.

The biggest impact will be to Yolo County Flood Control, said Smythe, which will have approximately 85,000 acre-feet less available form Clear Lake for irrigation supplies in Yolo County, down from its normal annual allocation of 150,000 acre feet.

Yolo County is already warning its farmers about the water shortage, he said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


LAKEPORT – Will BoardStock take place in Lakeport this September? The question was opened once more at Tuesday night's City Council meeting, but the event organizer says he now has an offer from Konocti Vista Casino to host the event.

Rob Stimmel of BoardStock Promotions has been trying to find a new home for his event since mid-February, when Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa said the event wouldn't be welcomed back for a third year.

Stimmel said the reason cited at the time was a concern about the resort losing its alcohol license, an issue that Stimmel maintains is less about his event and more about the resort's security operations.

Not long after that decision, Stimmel and Ron Campos of Campos Casuals approached the City of Lakeport to ask that BoardStock be hosted there.

Talks continued for about a month before the City Council voted on March 20 to decline hosting the August event.

Stimmel went back to the council Tuesday to ask them to reconsider. The council voted to do just that, and to have a May 1 public hearing. But the council once again voiced numerous concerns about BoardStock, and showed little enthusiasm about seeing the event come to town.

“It wasn't bad but it wasn't good,” said Stimmel Wednesday of the previous night's meeting.

Stimmel said he had expected more of a public workshop at Tuesday's meeting. Instead, the council limited discussion to its members, setting the public meeting for another two weeks out.

The original August dates for the event aren't workable now, said Stimmel, and he's instead asking the city to consider the third or fourth weekend of September. That date change already has lost him some event sponsors, he said.

“I'm really at a point of critical mass,” Stimmel said. “I have to make a decision really quick about where I'm going to go and what I'm going to do.”

Enter Konocti Vista. Stimmel said he's been talking with the casino for several weeks about holding the event there.

Having the event go to Konocti Vista was a concern Mayor Roy Parmentier voiced at Tuesday night's meeting.

If BoardStock was based in Lakeport, said Parmentier, they could require Stimmel to pay upfront for police and emergency services. That wouldn't be possible if it went somewhere else nearby, he said.

That may well be what ends up happening with BoardStock, said Stimmel.

On Wednesday, Stimmel said Konocti Vista “handed me a contract today.”

The casino, he said, is asking for a few stipulations, one of them being that if they reach an agreement to host the event, that Stimmel must commit to stay there and not to pull out should the city decide to welcome him.

“They pretty well want me locked in,” Stimmel said, on either of the September weekends he's already suggesting.

Stimmel said he's going to go over the Konocti Vista contract with his attorney before making any decision.

Where is he inclined to go? Stimmel isn't sure.

“I honestly don't know what I'm going to do,” said Stimmel, noting there are benefits for both locations.

While downtown Lakeport would look great on television, the lake near Konocti Vista might end up being better for event competitors, Stimmel said.

“If my attorney tells me that this is all good and I should go forward with the deal with Konocti Vista, I would probably do that,” he said.

Stimmel said he's still considering whether to continue discussions with Lakeport's city staff and council.

“I can't really afford to wait another two weeks and then have the council vote it down again,” Stimmel said.

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Volunteers worked along Soda Bay Road Saturday before the rains arrived. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


THE BLACK FOREST – Several dozen volunteers came out on Saturday morning to help clear cut brush and make the Black Forest safer before the coming fire season.

The Earth Day project at the Black Forest, which Buckingham resident Joel Witherell led the charge in organizing, resulted in an estimated 25 cords of fire hazard material being cleared and chipped, Witherell estimated Sunday.

Cal Fire (formerly known as CDF) crews had begun cutting the brush and fallen trees early last week in preparation for the weekend volunteer effort. Carle High School students worked during the week to drag the cut materials to the roadside. Volunteers then put the materials through the chippers, which Witherell said worked a total of 10 hours over both Friday and Saturday.

Witherell estimated it will take a 15-person Cal Fire crew to finish the chipping of materials still located along a portion of Soda Bay Road.

He reported that Cal Fire Captain Todd Nelson said the work has helped created "defensible space needed by fire agencies," and that the work that the volunteers did “gives fire personnel a chance to extinguish a fire before it gets out of hand.”

“I think we had nine chain saws going all morning,” Witherell said of Saturday morning's effort.

About 130 different people worked throughout the week on the project, he added. County staff assisted in providing signs and permits for road closure, Jeff Rein of the administrative office pulled together the money to pay for the chipping, Kelseyville Fire's Howard Strickler and Brian Burnham kept an ambulance on hand in case of injuries to volunteers.

Carle High School Principal Bill MacDougall and his students worked on the project for two days, said Witherell. Teachers Tami Kramer of Kelseyville High and Oscar Dominguez of Clear Lake High also brought students Saturday. Even the Brownies came to help work – and play – in the forest.

Others who were important in the effort included Adam Nichols of Nichols Tree Service, Jack Pauling of Paulin Family Tree Service, and Dave Mostin and his crew, which worked for two days. Bob Braito worked on Saturday clearing brush off Soda Bay Road, said Witherell.

The county's deputy redevelopment director, Eric Seely, spent hours in the forest with a 42-inch chain saw, cutting up dead trees. County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox was a steady force during the day, working tirelessly to load brush into the chippers.

Witherell thanked Karen MacDougall and Phyllis Clement for working at the registration table; Helen Finch and Victoria Brandon; Steve Devoto, who worked at a chipper Saturday and helped handle the original escrow papers that saved the forest from logging several years ago; Neil Towne, Sandy Moura and others who did trash pickup for miles; the Big Valley Lion Club members who directed parking; Don Fehr, another Big Valley Lion, who provided 15 pizzas for the celebration lunch; Wayne Scott; Jodelle Scott; Kevin, Karen and Frank Bradley; and Kris Perkins.

He also recognized Julie Berry of the Buckingham Homes Association, who he called an “amazing support” during the six months of planning the event, as well as working at the registration table during the morning and organizing the lunch for volunteers at the association's clubhouse.

Witherell, who has spent months organizing the event, had the support of his entire family in the project, including wife Virginia, and his sons and daughters.


On Sunday, Witherell said the difference in the forest was strikingly apparent in the wake of so much brush and debris being cleared out.

“The deer are grazing in the background and have quickly recovered from the chain saw activity yesterday,” he said. “The cars are slowing down and looking into the forest. The huge rocks with bright green moss shimmering in the sun. One family that worked yesterday said they wanted to bring their Girl Scout Troop back and have a picnic in the Forest. They had no idea what was behind the brush along the road.”


He added, “There was an amazing community spirit in Lake County for the Earth Day-Black Forest project.” 

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Event organizer Joel Witherell takes a break for lunch Saturday. Courtesy photo.



LAKE COUNTY State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell has announced up to 1,257 grantees will share $32 million in Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) grants.

Among the recipients are several local schools districts, receiving grants totaling more than $27,000.

"These grants help bridge the digital divide between the ‘have’ and ‘have-not’ students," said O’Connell. "All of our students, regardless of where they live or their parents’ income level, need to be prepared for today’s more global and technologically challenging economy. The appropriate use of technology in the classroom can be a critical component in students’ education and all students need access to technology."

The 1,257 grants represent both the formula and competitive portion of EETT that is funded through Title II, Part D of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

EETT is designed to assist every student in becoming technologically literate by the time they finish eighth grade, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, family income, geographic location, or disability.

Local districts receiving funds are Kelseyville Unified, $3,280; Konocti Unified, $12,580; Lake County International Charter, $277; Lake County Office of Education, $598; Lakeport Unified, $4,771; Lucerne Elementary, $718; Middletown Unified, $2,189; Upper Lake Union Elementary, $2,029; and Upper Lake Union High, $696.

In the original application for EETT funding, eligible grantees included those schools with the highest number of students from low-income families and had a substantial need for help in acquiring and using technology in the classroom.

Some of the funding must be used to provide ongoing, intensive, high-quality professional development in the integration of advanced and emerging technologies into curricula and instruction, and in using those technologies to create new learning environments.

All the applicants must have a technology plan approved by the California Department of Education that met the EETT and State Board of Education criteria.

As a result of these conditions, no application was needed for this round of funding and the California Department of Education automatically generated and mailed the grant award documents each year funding was available.

This round of funding represents a 45-percent decrease from the previous year and a 62-percent decrease over two years because of federal funding reductions in the No Child Left Behind program.

The grant awards range from a low of $8 to a high of $4 million, with almost half of the EETT Formula grants under $2,000.

The drastically reduced funding is anticipated to only help school districts maintain their status quo and may fail to help them make progress toward their technology plans. The EETT program is currently slated for elimination from the federal budget in fiscal year 2008-09.

"The possibility that the EETT program could be eliminated is disturbing in light of the obvious need for more technology in the classroom," O’Connell said. "I am urging Congress to reestablish EETT funding to the 2004-05 level.”

He added, “California schools have invested enormous time, energy, and resources into creating an infrastructure and learning environment for our students to use technology as a tool in the classrooms. This progress must be continued to best prepare our students for success in our competitive global economy."


Derik Navarro, 35, of Kelseyville. Photo courtesy lakesheriff.com


LAKEPORT – A week after his employment ended with the Lake County Sheriff's Office, a former deputy was arrested on felony charges of having sex with an underage girl and a misdemeanor charge involving a second minor female.

Derik Navarro, 35, of Kelseyville, faces a total of 18 felony counts and two misdemeanor counts of criminal wrongdoing, according to District Attorney Jon Hopkins.

In brief statements released Wednesday, Hopkins and Sheriff Rod Mitchell reported that Navarro had just been arrested that morning on charges of committing lewd and lascivious acts with a minor, sodomy with a minor and having sex with a minor under age 16.

Hopkins said the arrest followed a lengthy investigation by his office into allegations of sexual misconduct while Navarro was still a deputy sheriff.

Mitchell reported that his command staff received information on Jan. 23 that led to an internal investigation into “allegations of misconduct” by Navarro.

“The matter was of such consequence that we asked Lake County District Attorney investigators to conduct a separate and independent criminal investigation,” Mitchell stated.

Navarro was placed on administrative leave on Jan. 23, said Mitchell, pending the internal investigation's outcome.

The majority of the charges against Navarro involve a female juvenile, said Hopkins. Navarro is alleged to have had a sexual relationship with the 14-year-old girl from May 2005 through May 2006, after she had turned 15.

The complaint against Navarro also includes one misdemeanor charge stemming from his alleged involvement with a second female juvenile, Hopkins reported.


None of the alleged crimes took place while Navarro was on duty as a sheriff's deputy, Mitchell said.


Navarro joined LCSO in December 2002. Last week, on April 11, Navarro's employment with LCSO ended, Mitchell reported.

Chief DA Investigator Michael Clements arrested Navarro Wednesday on a felony arrest warrant issued by Superior Court Judge Richard Martin.

Navarro was booked into the Lake County Jail, with bail set at $20,000. A court appearance has been scheduled for April 20.

Mitchell thanked the District Attorney's Office for taking the lead in the investigation. “The DA's investigators' willingness to handle the criminal investigation into this matter allowed my staff to promptly focus on their administrative duties,” he said.

Mitchell said his department would release no other information on the matter. Instead, he deferred any other comment on the case to the District Attorney's Office, saying that state law prohibits him from “disclosing details of matters pertaining to personnel investigations and/or employee discipline.”

In an unusual footnote, last year Navarro was honored by the Lake Family Resource Center as Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for his work on domestic violence cases.

Hopkins asks anyone with information about the case to contact Chief DA Investigator Michael Clements or Deputy District Attorney John R. DeChaine, 263-2251.

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