Saturday, 01 October 2022

News

WASHINGTON – On Wednesday the House of Representatives passed the Children's Health and Medicare Protection Act of 2007 (The CHAMP Act, HR 3162).


This historic legislation reauthorizes the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which provides health insurance coverage for millions of children in working families with incomes slightly too high to qualify for Medicaid.


The CHAMP Act also includes important Medicare provisions, which benefit providers and beneficiaries alike.


"Keeping kids healthy today means that the government will inherit a healthier Medicare population tomorrow," said Congressman Mike Thompson. "Investments in our children are both common sense and cost-effective."


The CHAMP Act maintains current SCHIP eligibility requirements, but it provides states with the resources needed for outreach to eligible children not yet enrolled in the program. As a result, five million new children will be able to obtain health care.


The bill also makes critical changes to the Medicare program. Without this legislation, physician reimbursement rates would be slashed by 10 percent next year, and by an additional 5 percent in 2009.


"This legislation will provide five million new kids with healthcare and millions of children already in the SCHIP program will keep their benefits," added Thompson. "With this legislation, physicians will avoid the biggest rate cut in the history of the Medicare program, which would have triggered a mass exodus of doctors from Medicare. Today, Congress took an historic step and dramatically improved healthcare for millions of Americans."


The CHAMP Act also expands preventive healthcare available to Medicare beneficiaries, and it provides critical new funding for rural healthcare.


"For many reasons, it's much harder for seniors in rural areas to access high-quality healthcare than it is for their urban counterparts," said Thompson. "This bill extends key bonus payments for rural providers, ensuring that doctors, ambulances, home health agencies and other providers will keep their doors open in rural communities like ours."


Thompson also noted that the CHAMP Act does not increase the deficit. Consistent with the Democratic Majority's commitment to Pay-As-You-Go rules, of which Thompson is a long-time advocate, the CHAMP Act is fully funded.


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LUCERNE – A travel trailer that caught fire Monday afternoon caused an outage of Mediacom Internet and television services along much of the Northshore and parts of Lakeport.


Northshore Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Lou Dukes said firefighters were dispatched to the fire at 11:23 a.m.


The fire broke out in the 40-foot trailer as a local man who had borrowed it was returning it to Clearlake. As he drove eastbound along Highway 20, Dukes said the man noticed the fire.


“He looked in his rear view mirror and flames were coming out of the trailer,” Dukes explained.


Firefighters arrived minutes later to find the trailer parked in front of the Paradise Cove subdivision east of Lucerne, said Dukes. By that time, the trailer already was fully involved.


Northshore Fire and Cal Fire sent a total of five pieces of equipment and eight firefighters, said Dukes.


Dukes said there was potential for the fire to get into nearby vegetation, but by 11:32 p.m. firefighters had contained it, and completely extinguished it a short time later.


It took another hour to mop up the smoldering trailer, said Dukes. No injuries were reported, and the cause of the fire isn't yet known.

 

The fire did, however, manage to damage a Mediacom cable line, said Dukes.


The trailer had been pulled off the road, where it was sitting underneath Mediacom's fiberoptic line and power lines, said Dukes. The power lines were OK, but the cable lines were burned enough to knock out service.


A Mediacom service representative reported that the fire took out service in Nice, Upper Lake, Lucerne and the Robin Hill area of Lakeport.


Cable and TV services in the affected areas weren't restored until 7 p.m., two hours after Mediacom originally estimated repairs would be complete.


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


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A Cal Fire engine and crew at the scene of the fire putting out hot spots on Sunday. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

 

 

NICE – Firefighters continued their work Sunday mopping up at the scene of a 128-acre fire that was contained Saturday night.


Cal Fire reported that the fire broke out behind Robinson Rancheria Saturday afternoon, quickly climbing up the hill and into steep terrain. Firefighters from Cal Fire, and Northshore and Lakeport Fire Protection Districts fought the blaze.


At the scene Sunday, the trail of the fire was clearly visible, making its way from behind Robinson Rancheria Bingo & Casino, traveling over the hill and back toward more steep terrain near Pyle Road.


Firefighters cut trees and dealt with remaining hot spots around the area of the fire, which left a huge blackened footprint.


Rachelle Trimmer of the Cal Fire Incident Command Center reported that 80 firefighters were on duty Sunday, including a five-engine strike team and supervisors, and a water tender.


Trimmer said one engine with four firefighters would remain at the scene overnight.


Northshore Fire District Chief Jim Robbins said the fire was the largest his agency has fought so far this fire season.


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


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About 80 firefighters were on the scene Sunday, with that crew being reduced to one engine and four firefighters Sunday night. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

LAKEPORT – The movie that is currently galvanizing both Republican and Democratic citizens around the country about health care reform, Sicko, is opening at Lakeport Cinema 5 this Friday, Aug. 3.


After receiving numerous requests from Lake County citizens, theater manager Justin Hamaker said in an announcement Tuesday, "The only way we could accommodate Sicko was to bring it in for a single matinée showing each day at 12:15 p.m.," which he realizes is not an ideal time for everyone, but his only other option was not to show it at all.


Sicko is currently playing in Ukiah until Thursday, Aug. 2.


Michael Moore's latest documentary is bringing people from all political affiliations, backgrounds and beliefs together around the crisis of health insurance in the United States.


Susan Carson, a recently retired family physician, said in an article published by the Capital Times, a Madison, WI-based newspaper, that nationally, one in six people have no health insurance at all. "None of us have adequate health insurance," she said.


Half of personal bankruptcies have to do with health care bills, said Carson, who is active with Physicians for a National Health Program, a nonprofit group of 14,000 physicians, medical students and health professionals who support a single-payer national health system, the Capital Times reported.


In the current U.S. system, there are thousands of different health care organizations, Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and billing agencies. With so many different payers of health care fees, there's an enormous amount of administrative waste, the Capital Times reported.


"The only way to control costs in a for-profit system is to not provide care," Carson said.


Since 1970, the number of health administrators increased by 2,500 percent, she said. Of every dollar spent on health care, 31 cents goes to administrative costs, Carson said in the Capital Times article.


"There are currently 700 health policies in Wisconsin. As a doctor, I could not cope with this," she told the Capital Times. "People would ask me, Is this covered? Is this not covered? I would tell them they had to call their insurance company and ask."


In California, SB 840, The California Health Insurance Reliability Act authored by Sen. Sheila James Kuehl (D-CA), proposes to provide a fiscally sound, single-payer health insurance coverage to all Californians, provide every Californian the right to choose his or her own physician and control

health cost inflation.


"Single payer" is a type of financing system that has one entity acting as administrator, or "payer." A single-payer system would be set up with a government-run entity collecting all health care fees and paying for all health care costs according to the Capital Times.


District 1 Assembly Member Patty Berg (D-CA) and District 2 Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-CA) are coauthors of the bill.


SB 840 also proposes that eligibility for coverage be based on residency, instead of on employment or income. Income being a factor determining if you can pay for a health insurance policy for you and your family if you are self employed or unemployed.


According to Kuehl, SB 840 will eliminate waste by consolidating the functions of many insurance companies into one comprehensive insurance plan, saving the state and consumers billions of dollars each year.


Currently it's estimated that half of every dollar spent on health care is squandered on clinical and administrative waste, insurance company profits and overpriced pharmaceuticals, according to Kuehl.


SB 840 was re-referred to the Appropriations Committee on July 10.


According to a 2004 report by the Institute of Medicine, "lack of health insurance causes roughly 18,000 unnecessary deaths every year in the United States. Although America leads the world in spending on health care, it is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not ensure that all citizens have coverage," which is what Moore's documentary is all about.


For more information, visit the following sites.


www.healthcareforall.org/factsheet.pdf


http://michaelmoore.com


www.lakeportcinema.com


www.iom.edu/?id=19175


www.cinemablend.com/new/Sicko-Spurs-Audiences-Into-Action-5639.html


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


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LAKE COUNTY Lake County's June 2007 unemployment rate was 7.2 percent, matching last month's rate, but up slightly from the year-ago June 2006 rate of 6.7 percent.


This compares to a seasonally unadjusted rate of 5.2 percent for the state and 4.7 percent for the nation for the month, according to Dennis Mullins of the Employment Development Department.


Lake County's unemployment rate ranked it No. 42 among California's 58 counties, according to statistics Mullins provided.


Surrounding county rates included 8.7 percent for Glenn, 10.7 percent for Colusa, 4.3 percent for Sonoma and 5.1 percent for Mendocino, Mullins reported. Marin had the lowest rate in the state with 3.7 percent and Imperial County had the highest at 16.6 percent.


Total industry employment in Lake County grew by 220 jobs (1.4 percent) between June 2006 and June 2007, said Mullins, ending the year-over period with 15,910 jobs.


Year-over job growth occurred in farm; natural resources, mining and construction; trade, transportation and utilities; information; leisure and hospitality; and government, Mullins reported. Year-over job losses occurred in financial activities, and professional and business services.


Industry sectors with no change over the year included manufacturing, private educational and health services, and other services, according to Mullins' report.


The Farm sector again led industry gainers for the year-over period adding 130 jobs, Mullins noted. Government gained 60. Natural resources, mining, and construction added 30 jobs and trade, transportation, and utilities was up 20. Information, and leisure and hospitality were each up 10 jobs. Professional and business services was down 30 and financial activities dropped 10 jobs for the period.


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LAKE COUNTY – Last week Lake County Sheriff's Office (LCSO) deputies and members of a recently formed task force conducted an operation to make sure convicted sex offenders are following registration requirements.


A report from LCSO Det. Mike Curran of the said that on July 23 and July 24, a sex registrant compliance and enforcement sweep was conducted by the Region II Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Task Force in the City of Clearlake and south Lake County.


The Region II SAFE Task Force is funded through a grant from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and covers 12 counties along the North Coast from Monterey County to Del Norte County.


Approximately 130 registrants were contacted to ensure that they are in compliance with their sex registrant requirements, in particular that the registrants are residing at the address given during registration, Curran reported.


Registrants with parole and/or probation search terms were also subject to search conducted at the time of contact. Several arrests were made and additional investigations were initiated as a result of alleged registration violations.


Staffing shortages at the sheriff’s office have created a real challenge for the patrol and investigations divisions to perform brief quarterly compliance checks, reported Curran, as well as initiating investigations on registrants known to be out of compliance with their sex registration responsibilities. Periodic compliance/enforcement operations such as the one just completed will take place on both ends of Lake County.


Agents assigned to the task force coordinate with agencies within their respective counties for operations such as the one just completed in Lake County, and also assist agents within the region with operations in their own respective county, according to Curran's report.


SAFE Task Force Agents from Santa Clara County, Humboldt County, Del Norte County and Napa County participated in the operation, Curran reported.


Additional agencies involved in the operation were the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, Clearlake Police Department, Lake County Probation Department, Lake County District Attorney’s Office, Lakeport Police Department and State Parole. Curran, a Lake County SAFE Task Force agent, coordinated the operation.


Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith submitted the grant for the task force, which was approved and funded by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Service, Curran reported.


Smith’s desire to pursue a regional task force has added a seriously needed tool for law enforcement not only for her county, but for every county, especially the smaller ones covered within the grant boundaries that allows funding and staffing for sex registrant compliance/enforcement operations, according to Curran's report.


Thanks to Smith's innovative efforts, LCSO – which might otherwise not have been able to carry out such an operation due to a lack of available funding – is able to participate in this most-needed aspect of protecting the public, Curran reported.


Sheriff Rod Mitchell expressed his gratitude to Smith for including Lake County in the grant funding, and said he applauded her for her initiative and innovation.


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HOPLAND – Two local men were arrested over the weekend when they were found in possession of methamphetamine at a local casino.


A report from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office explained that Elliott Brackett, 51, of Upper Lake and John W. Feeney, 45, of Lakeport were arrested Saturday night at Hopland Sho-Kah-Wa Casino.


Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to Sho-Kah-Wa just after midnight Saturday on a report that tribal police had detained two subjects possessing a controlled substance, the report stated.


Tribal police told deputies arriving at the scene that a female subject – who had left the casino to use the phone – told them she had just purchased suspected methamphetamine from the men, who were sitting in the casino's parking lot, according to the report.


The woman turned over the drugs to tribal police, the report noted, saying she had paid $40 for the substance.


Checking the parking lot, tribal police located Brackett and Feeney, detained them and called the sheriff's office, the report stated.


Deputies interviewed the suspects, who denied any wrong doing and requested to speak to an attorney, according to the sheriff's office.


Both men were arrested for sales of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and later transported and booked into the Mendocino County Jail, with bail for each set at $15,000, according to the report.


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


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A Solares House Moving truck tows the Ely Stage Stop toward its new location. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



KELSEYVILLE – After weeks of final preparations, the Ely Stage Stop was moved to its new home on Sunday.


The move was originally scheduled to take place over the next week, with the house being moved in stages across Highway 29 and then through cattle pastures and oak woodland.


However a lot of prep work completed this past week apparently allowed Solares House Moving – the Bay Area firm with the contract to complete the move – to complete the move in one day.


On Thursday the house had been moved from its original location to a staging area down toward S Bar S Ranch where it would cross the highway. A trail also was cleared across the open ground to the site of a new Ely Stage Stop museum along Soda Bay Road, which will be owned by the county but run by the Lake County Historical Society.


The work day began early on Sunday, with Caltrans closing the highway at 6 a.m. and California Highway Patrol standing by.


A Pacific Gas & Electric crew worked to raise power lines to let the house – reportedly built around 1859-1860 – pass underneath.


With the lines raised and the house hooked up to a semi towing truck, the house began to move across Highway 29 and then through the fields just before 8 a.m.


Historical Society President Randy Ridgel and wife Jackie, the group's secretary, along with Board of Directors member Kevin Engle, were on hand to witness the move, recording it with both film and photography.


The house movers stopped to build a bridge over a part of Thurston Creek and continued the move in the afternoon.


Kelly Cox, the county's chief administrative officer, watched the move throughout the day. He said the house finally moved up the hill to the museum site at about 5 p.m. after a few hours of “painstakingly slow” progress. At the final push the movers used a cable to pull the house up, inch by inch, said Cox.


County Deputy Redevelopment Director Eric Seely, who was away this week and unable to be there for the move, was given an update on the progress via cell phone, said Cox.


Seely has spent several years working to make the museum project a reality. Cox said Seely was glad to hear the house had survived the move and safely arrived at its new location.


Cox said next come the foundation, roof and siding, which will be done in stages. Seely said the work will be done in stages, as funding allows.


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


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A Pacific Gas & Electric crew prepared the power lines to be raised so the house could pass underneath. Photo by John Jensen.

 

 

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The stage stop building, just before it began its move across the highway. Photo by John Jensen.

 

 

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On Sunday, the house was towed along a dirt path cleared for the trip. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



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A Cal Fire air tanker drops fire retardant on a fire that began behind Robinson Rancheria Saturday. Photo by Dave Hendrick.

 

NICE – Northshore firefighters took on their largest wildland fire of the season so far, battling a Saturday afternoon blaze that burned 128 acres near Robinson Rancheria.


Suzie Blankenship, a Cal Fire fire prevention specialist, said the fire was reported at 3:45 p.m. It broke out in steep, rugged terrain behind the rancheria's playground, which is located behind the main area of the rancheria.


Witnesses at the scene said the fire then burned up into the hills toward Nice.


Northshore Fire Protection District, Cal Fire and Lakeport Fire Protection District responded to the scene, said Northshore Chief Jim Robbins. The Lake County Sheriff's Office also was at the scene to control traffic.


Blankenship said Cal Fire sent seven engines, four dozers, three fire handcrews, one air attack, five air tankers and three helicopters, along with two officers on the ground helping an incident commander organize the effort.


Another five engines from Northshore Fire responded, said Robbins, along with two four-wheel drive attack units, he and a battalion chief. Lakeport Fire also sent an engine.


Blankenship said firefighters had difficulty fighting the fire because of high-tension power lines in the area, which limited the use of air crews.


The fire was contained at 7:15 p.m., said Blankenship.


However, the fire was far from out at that point, said Robbins.


“There's still a lot of hot spots,” he said from the scene.


Because of the need to monitor the area, Robbins said crews were being ordered in overnight.


No single family dwellings were threatened, said Robbins, although a few small sheds that were buried in the remote area's brush were destroyed.


There were no injuries to area residents or firefighters, said Robbins.


Robbins said it was the biggest blaze that Northshore Fire has had to fight so far this season.


The wind helped the fire spread rapidly, said Robbins.


“We went from 20 acres to about 60, 70 acres in less than 20 minutes, it had such a good westerly wind on it,” he said.


The cause of the fire is under investigation, said Robbins. A Cal Fire official was at the fire scene Saturday evening in an effort to determine the source.


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


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LOWER LAKE – With its wells running low, the Lower Lake County Water Works board held a public hearing Monday night to discuss an urgency ordinance to impose emergency conservation restrictions.


The meeting, which lasted more than two hours in Lower Lake's Brick Hall, was at times contentious, as district customers voiced their frustration over issues ranging from what they perceived as the district's failure to plan for the future to wondering why they hadn't heard about the issue sooner.


More than 30 district customers attended, along with Supervisor Ed Robey and County Counsel Anita Grant, who also acts as counsel for the district.


District Board Chair Frank Haas explained that the meeting was held to discuss the four-page conservation ordinance.


In the form handed out Monday, the ordinance suggests prohibiting all landscape and outdoor water usage, putting fines in place for overuse, cutting off service in cases where overuse continues, preventing new service connections and cutting off customers from outside of the district.


Haas, however, conceded that the ordinance was a “boiler plate,” and would be changed before the board accepts it, likely at a yet-to-be-scheduled meeting in early August.


District General Manager Al Tubbs explained that due to less rain this past year, the wells are down. The district's pumps are going 24 hours a day, but still can't fill the district's pumps, he said.


Tubbs said if the district's customers can't start conserving by 15 to 20 percent of the 560,000 gallons the district pumps each day, he's concerned that the district will be in desperate straights.


The situation became critical in early June. At that time Tubbs went to the board to notify them that the district's pumps were having to run much longer because of lower water levels, as Lake County News previously reported.


The board decided to shut down a standpipe on Morgan Valley Road that 12 Morgan Valley families – who are outside of the district's bounds – use to supply potable water to their homes because of their own low or dry wells.


After the families appealed to the district, the board held a special meeting where it decided to compromise. It cut off commercial trucks using the potable water to spray down construction sites and allowed the Morgan Valley families to continue using the pipe through July 31.


Tubbs admitted Monday, “The standpipe is a very, very minuscule amount of water.”


The consensus from district customers Monday was that the families who use the standpipe, despite being technically outside of the district, are customers, and should not be cut off. But Grant said that the district's ability to sell water to out-of-district customers is defined by California water law.


“State law speaks particularly to the idea of users outside the district,” she said.


The district must define its water needs and then, if there is a surplus, the standpipe use for outside district users can continue.


But Tubbs did not have any hard numbers of what would amount to a surplus. The board did say, however, that the standpipe users would continue to be supplied for at least another month.


Grant said the board couldn't discuss the out-of-district users formally because the item wasn't on the meeting's agenda.


She also surprised some audience members by saying that, in an emergency, the district could cut off water to certain customers if it deemed it necessary. “The ramifications for these things can be quite dire.”


Tubbs handed out information about the level of water use over the last four years.


On a daily basis in July 2003, the district pumped 393,335 gallons of water, Tubbs reported. This past month, it pumped 584,912 gallons on a daily basis, an increase of nearly 50 percent. Overall the district serves close to 900 households.


Tubbs neither explained the reason for the increase in usage nor provided data on new hookups to account for the increase.


When questioned about plans for the future, Tubbs said the district is in the process of creating a rate structure to penalize overuse, and that he's going to meet with the Konocti water district in August to ask for an emergency system tie-in.


He said he also would like to put in a $500,000 surface water treatment system so they could purchase surface water from Cache Creek from Yolo County, but that he has thus far been unsuccessful in obtaining grant funding. Robey said he would try to help Tubbs find the money.


Several audience members suggested they would be willing to pay more money now against a loan for the treatment system in order to address the district's water shortage.


Robey told the district board that he believed the ordinance stipulations against outdoor water use and accompanying penalties would be hard to enforce. He did suggest adding surcharges for overuse and putting a temporary stop to hookups to the system, which would demonstrate to the Konocti water district that they were serious about finding solutions.


He added that water conservation doesn't need to be painful. “It's possible to conserve water without suffering very much.”


C.J. LeBrun said she was upset that the district was only now telling customers about its water problems. Haas said the board itself only found out in June about the problems, when Tubbs notified board members.


By the end of the meeting, frustration and tempers had subsided, with customers asking for guidance on conservation.


Carl Cunningham, one of the Morgan Valley out-of-district customers, summed up the district's situation this way: “It's not an emergency, it's a matter of growth.”


He said he and other customers want to help the district improve, and are looking for ways to help in ways that include conservation and finding agencies to support system upgrades and expansion.


Another Morgan Valley resident, Roger Lipman, added “The reality is, the whole district has to conserve.”


The district board moved to hold over approval of the ordinance until it has time to update it with input from the meeting.


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


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The third Bartlett Springs Resort lodge, pictured May 6, 2007. This lodge was built after its predecessor blew down in a 1988 windstorm. The lodge was destroyed by a fire Saturday. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

 

 

BARTLETT SPRINGS – This weekend, two local buildings with important connections to the county's past met very different fates.


On Sunday, the Ely Stage Stop began its move to a new museum location. A day earlier, the reconstructed Bartlett Springs Resort lodge was burned to the ground.


“It's completely gone,” said Zane Gray, the resort's caretaker since 1982, of the main lodge building.


The fire was reported Saturday afternoon, said Gray. On Sunday, he went to survey the damage, which included five acres of brush land and the building.


A US Forest Service investigator is working to determine the fire's cause, Gray said. The Mendocino National Forest office in Willows couldn't be reached over the weekend for comment.


However, Gray said he believes it was arson, saying that fire officials told him Sunday that the fire appears to have started in the lodge building.


“It couldn't have started by itself,” he maintained, explaining that the propane tanks were removed several years ago, and the electricity was turned off.


“Somebody had to match it, that's all,” he said.


The lodge building that burned Saturday was located at the site of the resort's original lodge, which burned down in 1934. It was rebuilt, with that incarnation of the lodge blowing down in a windstorm in 1988, said Gray.


“I had the building all totally rebuilt in 1989,” said Gray. “It cost the company $171,000 at that time to do the upgrade on it.”


The nearby gazebo, said Gray, was spared in Saturday's fire. “The fire burned right to it but never touched it.”


Gray said he rebuilt the gazebo in 1985, installing new timbers and lumber in an attempt to put it back the way it was at the turn of the 20th century.


The Bartlett Springs Resort's history stretches back to the 1870s, after a mineral spring was discovered there by Napa resident Greene Bartlett during a camping trip, according to The Bartlett Springs Area: Past & Present, written in 2005 by Upper Lake resident Michelle Wells.


Bartlett, who suffered from rheumatism, believed in the springs' healing abilities, Wells' history reports, so he filed a claim for the 160 acres around the spring.


A resort would later be built there, Wells wrote, that included three hotels, camping areas, two stores, mineral steam baths, a bottling facility, a concert hall, stores, a doctor's office and numerous recreational activities – swimming, golf, croquet, tennis, riding, bowling and more.


A Justice of the Peace and constable even were stationed at the resort, Wells wrote, explaining, “because it was so isolated it became more like its own little town as well.”


Known by friends and neighbors as “the mayor of Bartlett Springs,” Gray, who will be 80 in September, has cared for the 1,990-acre property for the last 25 years.


A self-described “pretty tough old man,” Gray is a World War II veteran who moved to Lake County in 1978 with his wife, Frances.


During the time Gray has acted as caretaker, the resort has changed hands a few times, purchased by the French water bottling company Vittel in 1984, who later sold the property to Nestle in 1993. The Vittel bottling plant was later sold separately, and is today the home of Tulip Hill Winery in Nice.


Gray has worked hard over the years to preserve and improve the remaining resort buildings.


The resort suffered damage in the 1996 Fork Fire, said Gray. The two-week Fork Fire reportedly burned 83,000 acres in the Mendocino National Forest and on private property, destroying 11 structures.


Of those structures destroyed, one was a small second house on Gray's 12-acre property near the resort.


A member of the Northshore Fire Protection District, Gray helped fight the Fork Fire and tried to protect the resort then as well.


“We were able to save the lodge at that time and all of the buildings, except for two of the old cabins that were from the 1890s era, and I had just restored them,” he said.


In recent years, despite his care, Gray has been fighting a losing battle against vandals intent on destroying the resort buildings.


Vandalism has been going on in Bartlett Springs “nearly forever,” he said, adding, “It's picked up in the last two years.”


He's found a lot of people on the property – mostly young people, he added – and despite chasing them off the problems have continued.


A visit this reporter made to the lodge in May – granted access by Gray – revealed windows, walls bashed in, bullet holes, kicked in doors and evidence of parties, including trash and beer bottles.


There have also been bouts of arson in the area, said Gray, with a “firebug” around caught there a few years ago after setting some fires.


Gray said he notified Nestle of the building's destruction, and hasn't received word what the company might do. He said he doesn't think that they will rebuild the lodge.


Editor's note: Zane Gray is the great-uncle of Lake County News Editor Elizabeth Larson.


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The historic Bartlett Springs Resort gazebo, restored in 1985 by caretaker Zane Gray, pictured on May 6, 2007. The gazebo escaped the fire that burned the resort's lodge on Saturday. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


The US Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Department says it will reexamine several endangered species decisions that may have been interfered with by a former assistant secretary.


The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced July 20 that it will reconsider eight decisions involving endangered species that were overseen by former Assistant Secretary of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald.


MacDonald was a Bush appointee who joined the Department of the Interior in July 2002. She resigned April 30 following an investigation by the Department of Interior’s Inspector General that found she had used her position to violate the Endangered Species Act, rewrote scientific reports, browbeat agency scientists and colluded with industry lawyers to generate lawsuits against the Fish and Wildlife Service.


During a July 2 Congressional hearing in Vallejo, MacDonald's role in influencing environmental decisions in the Bay-Delta came to light in testimony given by Steve Thompson, manager of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife's California/Nevada Operations Office, as Lake County News previously reported.


Congressman Mike Thompson questioned Steve Thompson about if the agency had been under political pressure to change science used for decisions in the Bay-Delta, similar to how Vice President Dick Cheney used political influence in a decision last year that resulted in the death sof 70,000 salmon in the Klamath River.


Steve Thompson said MacDonald had shown interest in the agency's work on delta smelt, a seriously threatened fish that calls the Bay-Delta home.


But he said he couldn't discuss the issue further, as another Inspector General's investigation is under way into the matter.


Growing concern over the role MacDonald might have played in compromising science in the name of politics has resulted in calls for Fish and Wildlife to reconsider decisions that may have been tainted by her influence, as well as Congressional hearings on the matter.

 

Red-legged frog decision slated for reconsideration 


The final critical habitat designation for the California red-legged frog is one of the endangered species decisions that will be re-examined because the decision was potentially tainted by MacDonald, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that helped bring MacDonald's actions to light.


The red-legged frog was made famous in Mark Twain's 1865 short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”


The frog once ranged across most of California, according to a Fish and Wildlife report. In the late 1800s and early 1900s it was harvested excessively for food, and today only occurs in about 10 percent of its historic locations.


The frog is found in 238 streams and drainages in 23 counties statewide, including Lake County. Project documents from the county's proposed Middle Creek Ecosystem Restoration Project state that the red-legged frog is among several “special-status wildlife species” that the plan could help by creating additional wetland, riparian habitat and open space. Other county planning documents reveal that major projects must ensure that they don't impact the frogs.


In 2006 the Fish and Wildlife Service slashed the critical habitat protection for the red-legged frog by 90 percent, which the center called “a giveaway to the development industry” and which conservation groups called “a recipe for extinction of the frog.”


The service cited a biased and controversial economic analysis as justification for cutting the original designation from 4.1 million acres to 450,288 acres of critical habitat, according to the center. The final critical habitat designation excluded much of the areas the service had previously determined are necessary for the long-term survival and recovery of the frog.


The other species which will get another look from Fish and Wildlife include:


  • White-tailed prairie dog;

  • Preble’s meadow jumping mouse;

  • 12 species of Hawaiian picture-wing flies;

  • Arroyo toad;

  • Southwestern willow flycatcher;

  • Canada lynx.


The Center for Biological Diversity issued a statement in which it said that, while it's glad these species will receive consideration for additional protection, but that the effort falls short of what's needed to address MacDonald's damage to endangered species protections. The center added that it appears to be more a token effort to deflect criticism.


“Fish and Wildlife’s reconsideration of eight decisions tainted by former assistant secretary Julie MacDonald is a day late and a dollar short,” said Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Despite no scientific training, MacDonald interfered in dozens of scientific decisions concerning endangered species--only a full and transparent accounting of all the decisions tainted by MacDonald’s malignant influence can undue the damage she has done.”


The center said the list fails to include decisions to not list the Mexican garter snake, to potentially delist the marbled murrelet, and to sharply reduce critical habitat for the bull trout, even though regional directors of the Fish and Wildlife Service specifically requested that these decisions be reconsidered because of MacDonald’s influence.


The list also fails to include reconsideration of critical habitat for the Sacramento splittail, even though a story by the Contra Costa Times revealed that MacDonald may have illegally limited designation of habitat to avoid an 80-acre farm she owns in Dixon.


The center reported that MacDonald is known to have been involved in reversing numerous other decisions by agency scientists to protect species, including decisions over Gunnison sage grouse, Montana fluvial arctic grayling, Mexican garter snake, Southwestern bald eagle and many others. These decisions should also be reconsidered.


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


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