Saturday, 13 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – Highway 20 was closed shortly before 10:30 p.m. Friday as a result of the day's heavy rains.

The California Highway Patrol and Caltrans reported that Highway 20 was closed in both directions from its junction with Highway 53 to Interstate 5 in Williams due to flooding over the roadway and rock slides.

Flooding in the road was reported at early as 5:30 p.m., but it wasn't until nearly five hours later that officials finally closed the roadway, according to the CHP incident logs.

Farther up along the highway, at Hillside Lane at Clearlake Oaks, CHP reported that rocks were falling into the roadway.

CHP's Ukiah Dispatch Center said it was unknown when the highway would reopen.

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MIDDLETOWN – Just days after announcing that she would not seek the District 1 supervisorial seat in the upcoming election, Voris Brumfield was hospitalized for observation on Thursday morning, but was released later in the day.


The former supervisor and current Code Enforcement Division manager went to Sutter Lakeside Hospital Thursday morning after suffering pains in her left arm over the last few days, according to county Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Cox.


Although it’s not known if she suffered a heart attack, Cox said doctors would not release her and decided to transport her to Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa for further medical evaluation.


Cox said he saw Brumfield shortly before she was transported, and noted she kept saying, “This is ridiculous.”


Said Cox, “Knowing Voris as I do, I can envision her telling her doctor that she doesn’t have time for this and plans to return to her office at the courthouse before the end of the day! I’ve never known anyone in my life who has as much energy and drive as Voris Brumfield. Nothing will keep her down.”


Cox's prediction may have held true. Brumfield was released from the hospital shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday.


Brumfield is active in the Middletown community and her church, and she cited those involvements as a reason for deciding not to run for Supervisor Ed Robey’s seat this year. Robey announced last year that he would not seek reelection at the end of this, his third term.


Lake County News will provide an update as soon as more information becomes available.


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The proposed Blue Ridge Berryessa Natural Conservation Area. Courtesy of Tuleyome.


LOWER LAKE – At a presentation on Saturday, Jan. 19, more than 50 people gathered to learn what a Natural Conservation Area designation would mean to 800,000 acres, which may include a large portion of Lake County.

The Sierra Club Lake Group hosted the town hall at the Brick Hall in Lower Lake.

Victoria Brandon – chair of the Sierra Club Lake Group and board member of Tuleyome, a nonprofit organization that advocates and protects the Cache Creek and Putah Creek regions – introduced two speakers to give an overview of why a Natural Conservation Area designation would be beneficial to Lake County.

The proposed Natural Conservation Area runs from Fairfield and Vacaville in Solano County to the south, west to Middletown, east to Rumsey and along the mountains of the Northshore up into Mendocino National Forest and possibly to include the Snow Mountain Wilderness, although the exact boundaries have not yet been determined.

“I think it’s wonderful, and I support the concept. I hope we can make it happen,” said District 1 Supervisor Ed Robey, who attended the town hall event.

The proposed Natural Conservation Area would include a large portion of Lake County’s District 1.

Bob Schneider, president of Tuleyome, which was instrumental in ensuring that Cache Creek was designated as a California Wild and Scenic River, said the Natural Conservation Area designation would “protect agricultural lands, provide new opportunities for recreation, conservation and stewardship and support the local economies of the adjacent communities.”

A Natural Conservation Area designation, “will have no effect on local jurisdiction or on water rights,” Schneider said.

The public lands in the proposed Natural Conservation Area, according to Dr. Susan Harrison, an expert on botany and serpentine soils with the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, are listed as one of the world’s 25 biodiversity “hot spots.”

Harrison gave an overview of the unique environmental factors – the Mediterranean climate, the topography and soil types – that make designating this area as a Natural Conservation Area critical for conservation.

The designation will not affect private lands within the area unless landowners choose to participate in some way, it will only affect public lands, the speakers explained.

“If we’re going to protect this region,” Schneider said, “We’re going to have to preserve the agricultural heritage,” but private land owner participation is voluntary.

One way a Natural Conservation Area designation can assist private landowners within the the area is by providing conservation easements to ranchers because “ranchers benefit from and play a critical role in sustaining the regional landscape,” Schneider explained and they are, “increasingly jeopardized by development,” in this area.

According to research by the California Department of Finance, the fast growing counties of Yolo, Napa, Lake, Colusa and Solano, which all have lands in the proposed Natural Conservation Area, are expected to grow by 28 percent. That means an increase of 200,000 residents by 2020, which will severely impact the agricultural and wild lands within the proposed Natural Conservation Area according to Tuleyome’s Web site.


Schneider told the audience that there would be an economic benefit for the Natural Conservation Area designation because it is a national-level designation and the entire Blue Ridge Berryessa Natural Conservation Area can be promoted as a destination for recreation and tourism.

What a Natural Conservation Area designation does, Schneider explained, is to create a formal name for the geographic area, Congressional recognition of the region, establishes a public advisory committee and will provide funding for multiple agencies (National Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, California Department of Parks and Recreation, County governments) to come together and develop a regional management plan for the public lands.

For more information on the Natural Conservation Area proposal, visit; to see a slide show of photos taken in the proposed area, visit

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Dr. Susan Harrison describes the unique attributes of a Mediterranean climate and how that impacts plants and animals in that region. Photo by Terre Logsdon.




Bob Schneider, President of Tuleyome, tells an audience what the benefits of a National Conservation Area designation will have for Lake County. Photo by Terre Logsdon.






LAKE COUNTY – Friday's extremely wet weather is filling up area creeks, saturating the ground and causing trees and utility lines to fall.

The California Highway Patrol reported that area roadways were affected by small rock slides, fallen trees and power lines because of wet conditions Friday.

Caltrans crews responded to rock slides on Highway 20, with county road crews removing large rocks from Soda Bay Road near Clear Lake State Park, CHP reported. County crews also had to respond to remove a tree from the road at Floyd Way and Lakeview in Nice Friday morning.

CHP reported it was snowing up on Bartlett Springs Road at about 3 p.m. Friday, with water crossing the road about four miles up from Highway 20.

Lake County Public Works reported that chains are still required on Elk Mountain and Bartlett Springs Roads. Chain restrictions were lifted in Cobb.

Carson Street in Nice was closed due to a downed tree, Public Works reported.

Pacific Gas and Electric crews removed a downed power line along Highway 20, CHP reported. However, that didn't appear to have caused any power outages, according to Jana Schuering, a spokesperson for PG&E.

As the day progressed into night, officials had to close Highway 20 from its junction with Highway 53 to Interstate 5 in Williams due to flooding and rock slides. Slides were reported on Highway 20 at Paradise Cove and near Clearlake Oaks.

Just after midnight Caltrans had to remove a tree that was blocking the westbound lane of Highway 20 near Cora Drive between Glenhaven and Lucerne, CHP reported.

At Morgan Valley Road at Highway 29 a mudslide was reported at about 1 a.m. Saturday, according to CHP.

The Northshore had steady, heavy rain during most of the day, with Weather Underground reporting that 3.31 inches was recorded at a personal weather station near Clearlake Oaks as of midnight.

Lower Lake also received a lot of rain, according to Weather Underground, with 3.21inches as Friday's total.

Lakeport had a daily total of 1.06 inches, according to Weather Underground.

Rainfall totals were not available for Cobb; however, area resident Roger Kinney reported heavy rainfall and snow melt Friday afternoon.

Shortly before 6 p.m. Friday snow began to fall in Cobb once more, Kinney reported.

Chris Rivera, coordinator of Lake County's Office of Emergency Services, said his office had received reports of swollen creeks due to ground saturation from previous storms.

“We're just advising people to be aware of what they're doing, where they're going,” he said.

Rivera said drivers should not cross roadways covered with water and to be careful around the small creeks and tributaries that are filling up due to the rains.

The US Geological Survey stream gauges showed Kelsey, Putah and Cache Creeks to be running high, with Clear Lake at 3.41 Rumsey, just off its 3.53 Rumsey measurement on the same day last year. A full lake measures 7.56 Rumsey, according to the Lake County Water Resources Division.

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A thick blanket of snow still covered the higher elevations in Cobb on Wednesday. Photo by Roger Kinney.


LAKE COUNTY – County road crews remained at work late Wednesday and were prepared to work through the night as weather forecasters warned of a storm that could bring more snow Thursday.

The National Weather Service issued a snow advisory for southern Lake County that remained in effect until 4 p.m. Thursday.

Forecasters predicted as much as 3 inches of snow overnight in the coastal mountains, with rain expected to arrive and continue through the weekend and into next week.

County road crews continued the round-the-clock work of keeping roadways cleared on Wednesday, said county Roads Superintendent Steve Stangland.

All county roads were open late Wednesday, said Stangland, although chains were required on Elk Mountain and Bartlett Springs Roads in Upper Lake, Socrates Mine Road in Middletown as well as Cobb area roads.

In Cobb, chains were necessary because of ice, Stangland said.

Road crews were busy plowing Wednesday afternoon with plans to continue plowing through the night ifs snow arrived, said Stangland. “We have a normal rotation schedule of another road crew coming in at 4 a.m.”

Stangland estimated that this week's snowfall was similar in size to that as the last snow that hit the county earlier this month.

Snow was still on the ground in various higher-elevation areas of the county, including the Hopland Grade. Light snow was falling in Lakeport around 8 a.m.

On the way to Lake Pillsbury, a lot of the snow had melted off Wednesday night leaving mud, said Mike Shanahan, whose father-in-law owns the Soda Creek Store.

“You can make it in and out,” Shanahan said.

Cobb resident Roger Kinney, who has kept Lake County News apprised of weather and road conditions in that area this week, said the weather climbed to a “pleasant” 40 degrees before temperatures dropped and snow began to fall again late Wednesday afternoon.

Road crews were stationed at the Cobb Shell station and south of Whispering Pines, said Kinney, who added that he still had 8 inches of snow accumulated on the deck of his home, which is located at the 3,000-foot elevation.

The California Highway Patrol reported only a few accidents on county roadways Wednesday, but none appeared to be weather-related. Caltrans reported that all state highways passing through Lake County remained open.

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Yards still looked like winter wonderlands in Cobb. Photo by Roger Kinney.



Snow fell on drivers traveling along the Hopland Grade on Wednesday. Photo by John Jensen.



LAKE COUNTY – Highway 20 is once again open for travelers between Highway 53 and Interstate 5.

Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol reopened the highway at about 5 a.m. Saturday.

The highway was closed late Friday night due to flooding and mudslides.

CHP is still reporting mud and debris at other points along the highway as it follows the Northshore, specifically near Clearlake Oaks.

Friday's heavy rains triggered the flooding and slide activity.

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CLEARLAKE – The City of Clearlake must repay more than $18,000 in grant funds to the state because they could not find documentation on how the money was spent for the city’s youth center.

With no other option, the City Council voted 5-0 Thursday night to repay $18,006 out of the general fund to the state Department of Parks and Recreation after City Administrator Dale Neiman said the city could not account for the funds.

Between 2004 and 2006 the city received $38,878 from the state to repair the city’s youth center, The Hot Spot, Neiman reported. The total grant for the center was about $44,000.

Neiman said the state audits the grants. In reviewing the funds neither the state nor the city could find adequate documentation for how $6,049 was spent; another $11,957 was completely unaccounted for, he explained.

That leaves $21,570 for the youth center. Neiman said the city might have to pay back more money if the state continues to find discrepancies in the audit.

The grant’s terms required that The Hot Spot must be operated for 10 years as a youth center – and maintained in an acceptable manner, according to Neiman. If the center isn’t open and kept in good condition, the city would have to return another $20,872 – the amount of grant funds that the city was able to justify.

Neiman suggested using the remaining $21,570 as seed money to build a new skate park facility.

City Councilman Roy Simons said the inability to account for the money “smacks of gross negligence” or corruption.

He asked if a criminal investigation had been undertaken. Neiman said no.

Councilmember Joyce Overton said she supports the skate park but she was opposed to taking money from The Hot Spot to build a new park.

There are negotiations under way to expand the youth center to Lakeport and Middletown, so the center is working, she said.

However, she said The Hot Spot needs a new floor, new roof, gutters and much more.

“This money really was for the youth center and I think it should stay there,” Overton said.

Ronda Mottlow, one of the adult co-chairs of the skate park committee, said they would love to have a new park but she also supported the youth center, which has sponsored the skate park committee’s meetings.

Councilmember Judy Thein asked how many years the city was into the 10-year lifespan of the youth center; Neiman said he was unsure.

He said the state has come to make several inspections of the facility; during a few of those visits the state found the youth center wasn't open.

Thein asked if the city should spell these requirements out in the youth center’s lease. Neiman said they should but the current lease has expired.

“This is a hard choice here,” said Thein. “We need to support our youth one way or the other but we need to protect the city also.”

Overton said it was time the city invested in its youth. Otherwise, gangs and graffiti would worsen, she said.

Neiman agreed, suggesting in the long term the city should develop a parks and recreation program.

Mayor Curt Giambruno said he knew $8,000 of the grant had been spent on a basketball court for city youth.

Giambruno attributed the city’s inability to account for the funding to a previous administration and council, adding that they needed Neiman to help the council sort out the issue and make a plan going forward.

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On Wednesday the House of Representative failed for the second time to override the president's veto of a health care bill aimed at the nation's neediest children which Republicans said raised spending too much.

The House voted 260-152 on HR 3963, the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007 (SCHIP).

The final tally on the bill, which is meant to offer millions of families health care for their children, failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to override President George W. Bush's veto last year.

Bush has so far vetoed the bill in two different incarnations, with vetoes coming in October and December.

The bill would have continued coverage for the 6.6 million children currently enrolled in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), including nearly 1,700 kids in Lake County, according to the office of Congressman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena), who has been a steadfast supporter of the bill.

SCHIP also extends coverage to 4 million uninsured children who qualify for the program, but aren’t currently enrolled, Thompson's office reported.

Thompson, back to work in the Capitol after undergoing surgery for diverticulitis last month, was one of those voting for the bill Wednesday, according to his Washington spokesperson, Anne Warden.

The Wednesday vote closely followed party lines, with only 42 Republicans offering their support. Only 1 Democrat voted against the bill, according to Congressional voting records.

Thompson called the override failure an “especially devastating blow to millions of families that are struggling under increasingly challenging economic conditions.”

“Thousands of families in Northern California are unable to cope with the rising cost of heat, food, gas and health care,” Thompson said in a Wednesday statement. “And as unemployment in California grows, so does the number of people without health insurance. As our economy worsens, providing health coverage for the children from the neediest families is more critical than ever.”

Thompson accused the president of playing politics with the health of the country's neediest children as the country faces an economic crisis. He added that too many of his colleagues in Congress followed Bush's lead with their votes Wednesday.

“This bill was crafted by Republicans and Democrats and it is supported by 43 governors and the vast majority of Americans,” he said. “Had Members of Congress voted in the best interest of their constituents, today’s veto override would not have failed.”

Economic conditions in California – combined with the state’s budget shortfalls – make expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program especially critical, said Thompson.

With California’s unemployment rate rising – the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the state's December unemployment rate was 6.1 percent, well above the national average of 5 percent – the struggling housing market, and rising gas and energy prices, Thompson is concerned that more families will be unable to provide their children with health care.

Thompson said the second version of SCHIP included changes requested by President Bush after his first veto, such as making sure the lowest-income children are served first.

However, in November the White House criticized the second bill, saying it would cost even more over the next five years than the previous version which the president had vetoed.

On Wednesday White House Press Secretary Dana Perino issued a statement that said Bush strongly supports reauthorizing the program “in a way that puts poor children first.”

The president opposed the “misguided legislation” because it would have expanded SCHIP to higher income households while increasing taxes, Perino said.

In December Congress passed legislation to extend SCHIP to March 31, 2009, legislation which the president supported.

“Ultimately our goal should be to move children who have no health insurance to private coverage not to move children who already have private insurance to government coverage,” Perino said.

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LAKE COUNTY – Three Washington men have received hefty fines for their part in a poaching case last fall.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff reported Friday that James Booth, Michael Johnson and Michael Bruins pleaded no contest on Tuesday to possessing more than the legal limit for crappie and received fines totaling more than $7,000.

The legal limit of crappie in Clear Lake is 25 per day and 25 in possession, said Hinchcliff.

He explained that the possession limitation means that no matter how many days a person spends fishing, they can possess no more than 25 crappie at one time.

Hinchcliff said that on Nov. 15, 2007, state Department of Fish and Game Wardens Loren Freeman and Nick Buckler received an anonymous tip of fishermen taking and keeping more than the legal limit of crappie.

Freeman and Buckler set up surveillance in the Kono Tayee area and observed a black bass boat with three men catching crappie, according to Hinchcliff's report.

After the men left the area, the wardens contacted them at Indian Beach Resort, said Hinchcliff, where the three men told Freeman and Buckler the fishing had not been very good.

The wardens found only 12 fish in the boat, which were all the fish the men claimed to possess, said Hinchcliff.

However, Booth, Johnson and Bruins admitted they had fish in a freezer at their motel after the wardens told the men that they could inspect their vehicle and any freezers or ice chests, and that failing to exhibit all fish was an additional crime, Hinchcliff reported.

In all, the two game wardens found a total of 151 crappie, said Hinchcliff.

Hinchcliff said he charged Booth with possessing 18 fish over the limit, Johnson with 18 fish over the limit and Bruins with 40 fish over the limit.

He said the standard fine is $780 for the first fish over the limit and $68 for each additional fish over the limit.

After the men pleaded no contest to the charges Tuesday, Judge Stephen O. Hedstrom fined Johnson and Booth $1,900 each, and Bruins was ordered to pay a fine of $3,447.

Hinchcliff, who oversees the poaching cases that come through the District Attorney's Office, said crappie and deer are the major poaching victims in Lake County.

As or crappie, “The last couple of years we've prosecuted at least half a dozen people for catching over limits,” said Hinchcliff.

In 2003 Hinchcliff prosecuted an out-of-county poacher who was found in possession of 122 crappie over the limit and received thousands in fines.

Crappie used to be seen in more abundance in Clear Lake, said Hinchcliff, who grew up locally and fished for them himself.

“They pretty much disappeared for a long time,” he said, adding that the fish population has its ups and downs.

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LAKE COUNTY – The chief of the Lake County Fire Protection District is improving after a lengthy battle with pneumonia.

Jim McMurray was placed in a Santa Rosa hospital's intensive care unit for pneumonia over the holidays, as Lake County News previously reported.

However, on Wednesday he was moved to Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital in Marin County, according to Chuck Doty, the fire district's chair.

“He's doing much better,” said Doty.

Doty added, “Every day, it's a better day.”

Fire district officials encouraged the community to send notes to McMurray while he's convalescing, saying he's looking forward to hearing from friends.

Notes and cards can be sent to McMurray at Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital, 1125 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Kentfield, CA 94904.

Assistant Chief Bud Moore was appointed to supervise the fire district's day-to-day operations during McMurray's absence, the fire district previously reported.

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NORTHSHORE – Fires visible Wednesday night along the hilltops that run along the Northshore are nothing to worry about, according to local fire officials.

Northshore Fire Protection District Chief Jim Robbins said late Wednesday that the US Forest Service is conducting controlled burns along the ridgeline.

When a house fire on the Jones Ranch was reported Monday night, firefighters at first thought that it was actually the Forest Service carrying out their plan to burn, said Robbins.

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