Tuesday, 03 October 2023


AltaRock Energy's drill rig on its pad, located above Middletown on land leased from the Bureau of Land Management by the Northern California Power Agency. The rig already has begun drilling in a 20-year-old well, and will begin fracturing bedrock in August 2009 in an effort to harness heat from deep within the earth. Photo courtesy of AltaRock.



This is the first of a two-part article on a new geothermal drilling project at The Geysers.

THE GEYSERS – In the coming months, a two-year project to test the viability of a developing geothermal technology will begin in The Geysers.

But while the technology is heralded by some in the geothermal industry as a promising new clean energy source, it's also known to cause sizable earthquakes at some of its test sites around the world.

That's raising concerns for the earthquake-prone Geysers area's residents, who already contend with small earthquakes on an almost daily basis.

AltaRock Energy, based in Sausalito and Seattle, is a venture capital company with $36 million in private investment and government funding which plans to try out its engineered geothermal system (EGS) at The Geysers.

The company will drill down thousands of feet and create fractures in bedrock, and then will inject water into those fractures in an effort to harness the heat deep in the earth to create steam for geothermal energy production.

Jeff Gospe, an Anderson Springs property owner and president of the Anderson Springs Community Alliance, has closely monitored seismic issues in the area over the years.

He said the community isn't against geothermal, but they feel AltaRock's project was rushed through a less-than-transparent process, that the company wasn't upfront about the problems inherent in EGS technology and that they ignored critical seismic data in their environmental assessment.

“It doesn't feel like a real honest process,” he said, adding that he wished there had been more study of the project.

Gospe said the geothermal industry is glossing over the fact that earthquake numbers near The Geysers are growing. There have been 360 earthquakes in the area this year alone, averaging about one a day that can be felt by residents. In addition, the numbers of earthquakes measuring 4.0 and above also are on the rise.

AltaRock Chief Executive Officer Don O'Shei and Senior Vice President Jim Turner said they wanted to work in The Geysers because it's the largest geothermal operation in the United States today, and has had a history of geothermal production going back to 1921.

Turner said The Geysers is operating at only half capacity, with some areas of its steamfield already depleted. It's also one of the best studied areas in the US, which helps their work since they'll know where the existing faults are located.

Murray Grande, geothermal facilities manager for the Northern California Power Agency (NCPA) – which owns and operates two geothermal power plants and a steamfield at The Geysers – said AltaRock has a two-year agreement with NCPA to conduct a demonstration project on its EGS technology.

NCPA's members include 15 municipalities and utilities around California, including Ukiah, Healdsburg and the Alameda Municipal Power. Lake County currently is not a member, although officials have mentioned joining the group, which benefits from local facilities.

AltaRock approached NCPA, said Grande, which agreed to let them use an unproductive well first drilled 20 years ago which since has been used for water injection. That well is located on property that NCPA leases from the Bureau of Land Management. The steam would be run to NCPA's power plant in order to generate electricity, Grande said.

The infrastructure is in place for work to begin immediately, said Turner. Using a drill rig that sits at an elevation of 3,150 feet and is visible on a hill above Middletown, AltaRock has begun drilling down 3,200 feet through the well's casing. O'Shei said drilling has taken place in the area in the past with no incident.

The EGS technology has raised concerns because of a 2006 incident in Basel, Switzerland, where it triggered a 3.4-magnitude earthquake and another 3,500 quakes over the following year, with millions of dollars in insurance claims paid out in Switzerland, France and Germany. AltaRock wasn't involved in that project, Turner and O'Shei emphasized.

They explained that Basel – which suffered severe damage in a 14th century earthquake – has a large fault running underneath it. The Basel project – which located the drill in the middle of the medieval town – drilled down directly into the existing fault and injected water into it. There were no fatalities or injuries, but the populace was badly shaken up by the incident.

Faults build up stress and then release, said O'Shei. Injecting water into the fault at Basel lubricated the fault and caused a slippage which, he noted, likely would have happened at some point anyway.

The Basel project made a number of mistakes that “we're not looking to repeat,” said O'Shei.

Another EGS project is taking place in Soultz-sous-Forêts, France, where large amounts of water are being injected into fractures five kilometers deep, according to the Geophysical Journal International.

The project – which isn't AltaRock's – involves three wells. Between 2000 and 2005, 700 seismic events of magnitude 1.0 to 2.9, the journal reported. One of the wells had a greater seismic response due to being closer to large faults.

The journal noted, “The future EGS programme will have to drill wells in zones free of large faults to avoid poor hydraulic performance and inconvenience to the population.”

AltaRock's environmental assessment notes that EGS sites in Australia and the United Kingdom also experienced earthquakes of 3.7 and 3.1, respectively.

Because NCPA is a public agency, the project went through a California Environmental Quality Review, said Grande.

Grande said a seismologist will be on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to monitor seismicity.

Mark Dellinger, administrator for Lake County Special Districts, is one of the county's most knowledgeable officials when it comes to geothermal, having worked for years on The Geysers pipeline.

He said AltaRock submitted permits that went through the Community Development Department for seismic monitoring. Because the project is located on a federal lease, Dellinger said he's not sure those county permits technically were needed.

“I think there needs to be mitigations, and I think there are adequate mitigations for this project,” said Dellinger.

He added, “Nobody knows what's going to happen,” but he thinks monitoring is going to help. “That's a very important thing.”

The benefits to NCPA are twofold, said Grande. First, if it works, they'll have access to a new heat source. Second, they could then purchase the steam from AltaRock, which will allow NCPA to generate more renewable geothermal energy.

Grande said EGS technology has the potential to expand geothermal productive to areas across the western United States that haven't been traditional geothermal production areas.

“There's a a huge potential to create many many megawatts of energy that would otherwise not be available,” he said.

Calpine, which is reportedly looking at expanding its Geysers operations, said it won't use the EGS technology.

“They're not planning any of these new techniques,” said company spokesman Jason Barnett.


However, Dennis Gilles, Calpine's senior vice president of renewables growth, explained that the corporation is doing “enhanced geothermal system” work – also known as “EGS.”

Enhanced geothermal involves going into an existing geothermal reservoir, like The Geysers, and injecting water into the existing cracks in the in the bedrock, which heats the water to steam and facilitates geothermal production.

Calpine has received Department of Energy grants for its geothermal projects in the past, Gilles said.

The public process is faulted, say neighbors

Turner said AltaRock officials began attending community meetings in Anderson Springs last October, which they plan to continue doing. They're also attending twice-yearly seismic monitoring council meetings. He said the company wants to be active in the community and responsive to its concerns.

Rich Eastabrook, a petroleum engineer with the Ukiah BLM office, said the lease for the land where AltaRock's project will take place has been in effect since the 1970s.

He said an environmental assessment process took place, in partnership with NCPA, which was the lead agency under CEQA.

AltaRock solicited geophysicists to complete the 218-page project review, available on its Web site (http://altarockenergy.com/media.html), about the possible impacts. That document used as a source data from the environmental impact report completed on The Geysers pipeline, Grande said.

“It was pretty well concluded that, yes, there are going to be some microearthquakes that are generated by this project, but the impact of those are going to be fairly insignificant compared to what already occurs at The Geysers,” Grande said. They're also confident they won't additionally impact the neighboring Anderson Springs community.

The assessment said the largest earthquake that's been attributed to EGS is 4.6 in magnitude, with quakes measuring less than 3 in magnitude expected to result from AltaRock's project.

But Gospe and fellow Anderson Springs residents believe the project's environmental assessment document has problems. They said it relies on outdated information and omits or ignores a lot of readily available seismic data provided by the US Geological Service and even the community itself at its Web site, www.andersonsprings.org .

Meriel Medrano, who said AltaRock's drill rig is located up the hill about a mile and a half from her home, called the environmental assessment “absolutely ridiculous.” It didn't include any of the 12 years of information collected by the county's seismic monitoring committee – which has been meeting since 1997, said Gospe – but instead used outdated materials.

Getting information about the project out to the public in the first place drew criticism from residents.

BLM put a small public hearing notice in the legals section of the local newspaper on March 25, said Medrano. That notice announced a public meeting on the evening of April 9 at the Calpine Visitor Center in Middletown, which the night of the meeting was moved to a nearby church.

The public comment period on the project lasted from March 19 through April 17, said Medrano.

She said “very few” local residents attended, estimating at most there were 10 of them there.

Anderson Springs resident Joan Clay said the community meeting was the first time the community really had heard about the project. She said no notices were mailed to the community. Gospe said the only notice they saw was mailed to the Anderson Springs Community Services District.

Eastabrook said copies of the draft environmental assessment were sent to residents in the impacted areas, but he added, “We kind of dropped the ball a little bit there.”

“They dropped it but good,” said Medrano.

He said BLM relied on a mailing list provided by a project consultant and NCPA. “It turns out the mailing list was not as inclusive as it should have been,” with some residents in the target area of Anderson Springs and Cobb not getting the information that they should have gotten.

“We take full responsibility for that,” he said.

Although the noticing technically met the legal requirements, Eastabrook said BLM wants to go beyond that. So when they found out some residents hadn't received the documents, they had the assessments shipped out immediately.

At the hour-and-a-half-long April 9 meeting, Gospe presented updated seismic information along with the community's concerns, and AltaRock made some responses. He said the company never disputed his facts, instead claiming that they had no bearing on the project.

A permit already has been issued to deepen the existing geothermal well where AltaRock plans to drill, said Eastabrook. BLM also will issue a federal “sundry” notice.

Said Medrano, “It was a fast shuffle. It really was. It was very unfair to the community.”

Eastabrook said the project will have “fairly strict” monitoring requirements. There will be seismic trigger points; if those are reached, the drilling would have to be curtailed or suspended.

Just what the trigger points are hasn't been stated specifically in terms of magnitude. However, it has been described in terms of the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale.

Quakes at a level IV – which awaken people at night, are felt indoors by man during the day and have a sensation like a heavy truck striking a building would result in modifications, according to project documents. A level V – felt by nearly everyone, breaking some dishes and windows, and awaking most people at night – could shut the project down.

“Our role is going to be one of monitoring, inspection and enforcement,” said Eastabrook.

He explained that BLM is supposed to get daily reports on the drilling. If anything goes wrong, he said, “We will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action.”

AltaRock was straightforward in sharing seismic data with BLM, said Eastabrook.

However, “They never told us that the Basel project had been shut down because of the seismicity,” Eastabrook said.

In fact, a word search for “Basel” in the environmental assessment document finds only two passing references to Basel, with no discussion of that project's impacts.

As well, Gospe accused AltaRock of a coverup because, at the April 9 meeting, he said they sold it as a demonstration project that they had done before. The big quake and the thousands of smaller quakes in Basel were omitted, he said.

“I don't think that's a deal killer,” Eastabrook said of Basel, adding, “I would have liked to have known that.”

But O'Shei said Basel is well known in the geothermal industry, and they didn't hide that fact. “There's nothing secret about what happened in Basel.”

An updated version of AltaRock's report does incorporate information provided by Gospe and Anderson Springs community members.

In the next installment, a seismologist describes the layout and operations of the Geysers steamfields, AltaRock gets involved in the community and company officials describe interest in renewable energy.

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



Read the second part of this report here:

Company says proposed geothermal project holds promise for renewables






The AltaRock Energy derrick sits up high on a ridge at 3,150 feet. Photo courtesy of AltaRock.

KELSEYVILLE – On Saturday the Kelseyville Business Association and Clear Lake Performing Arts (CLPA) hosted the seventh annual Lake County Home Wine Maker’s Festival.

The event provided home winemakers a forum in which to show off their hobby, and also gives local wineries a place to offer tastings of their products.

The festival is the largest annual fundraiser for CLPA, which promotes music education, community concerts and student scholarships in Lake County.

This year's festival was well-attended, with people from all areas of Northern California including Lake, Mendocino, Sonoma, Yuba, Colusa and other counties.

The festival was open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to the offerings from home brewers, small wineries and some of the larger local wineries, there was food, live music, and arts and crafts available.

There were several raffles and a silent auction held throughout the event, along with ribbons awarded to the brewers and winemakers. Local businesses were open throughout the event including Focused On Wine, Rosa D’Oro, and Wildhurst tasting rooms.

The competition's results follow.

People’s Choice Awards:

  • Best Booth – Two Dude Brew

  • Best Beer – Two Dude Brew

  • Best Wine – David Pretari for Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

  • Best Label – Paul Lew for Dark Horse Stout

Beer Awards:

  • Best in Show – Ron Chips, Irish Ale

  • Ale: First, tie – Ron Chips and Two Dude Brew; Second – Paul Lew

  • Porter/Stout: First – Paul Lew

  • Wheats: First – Two Dude Brew; Second – Paul Lew

  • IPA: First – Two Dude Brew

Wine Awards – Reds:

  • Best in Show Red Wine: Greg and Jeff Conley, Gamay 2006

  • Gamay: Gold – Greg and Jeff Conley, Conley Winery 2006

  • Merlot: Gold – John Bristow, Garden Hill Winery 2007; Silver – Dennis Koenig, Koenig Winery 2007; Bronze – Ed Bublitz, Full Moon Rising 2007

  • Malbec: Gold – Danny Morrow, Eastside Winery 2003; Silver – Danny Morrow, Eastside Winery 2004

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Gold – Kirk DeAlba, Tres Amigos 2006; Silver – Kyle Mahoney and Nick Wolfe, Wolfe Mahoney Winery 2007; Bronze – Greg and Jeff Conley, Conley Winery 2007

  • Cabernet Franc: Gold – Kyle Mahoney and Nick Wolfe, Wolfe Mahoney Winery 2007; Bronze – Conn and June Murray, Muritage Winery 2006

  • Zinfandel: Gold – Kyle Mahoney and Nick Wolfe, Wolfe Mahoney Winery 2007; Bronze – Tom and Nancy Harty, Mother Mountain Winery 2007

  • Syrah/Petite Sirah: Gold – John Bristow, Garden Hill Winery 2007; Silver – Ron Chips, Ron Chips Winery 2006; Bronze – Danny Morrow, Eastside Winery 2006

  • Red Blend: Gold – Scott and Sue Simkover, Smiling Dogs Ranch 2008; Silver – Paul Spillane and Troy Shankels, Panty Dropper 2004; Bronze, tie – Tom and Nancy Harty, Mother Mountain Winery 2008 and Danny Morrow, Eastside Winery 2004.

  • Sangiovese: Gold – Clear Lake Performing Arts Wine Group 2006; Silver – Conn and June Murray, Muritage Winery 2006

Wine Awards – Whites:

  • Sauvignon Blanc: Gold – Conn anad June Murray, Muritage Winery 2006; Silver – Leo D’Agostino, D’Agostino Winery 2005.

Wine Awards – Fruit wines:

  • Best in Show and Gold – Bruce and Cindy Lightfoot, Lightfoot Pear Wine 2008

Wine Awards – Dessert wines:

  • Best in Show and Gold – Greg and Jeff Conley, Conley Winery, Zinfandel Port 2005.

Providing tastings were:

  • Cobb Mountain Brewing Co. – Wheat beer, brown, stout;

  • Dusinberre – Napa Valley Champagne;

  • Full Moon Rising – Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot;

  • Steele Winery – Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache, Zinfandel, Viognier;

  • Potter’s Honeycut – Merlot;

  • Bell Hill – Merlot;

  • Mother Mountain Wine – Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon;

  • Muritage – Sauvignon Bland and Musque blend, Cab Franc, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon;

  • Ron and Cheryn Chips – Irish Red Ale, California Ale;

  • Cesar Toxqui Cellars – Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir;

  • Ployez Winery – Zinfandel;

  • Hidden Oaks Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon;

  • Barn Owl Winery – Syrah, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon;

  • David Petrari – Cabernet Sauvignon;

  • Garden Hill Winery – Syrah, Merlot;

  • High Valley Wines – Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Fume Blanc;

  • Luna-Lake Syrah – Syrah;

  • Party Dropper Wines – California Red, Cabernet Sauvignon;

  • Wildhurst – Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve Chardonnay, Muscat Canelli, Reserve Zinfandel, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon;

  • Six Sigma – Rose, Sauvignon Blanc;

  • Triangle – Meritage;

  • D’Agostino Vineyard and Winery – Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah;

  • Wolfe Mahoney – Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel;

  • The Lightfoots – Pear Wine, Cabernet/Syrah, Syrah/Cabernet;

  • Bill and Leanne Gilbert – Cabernet Sauvignon;

  • Shed Horn Cellars – Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc;

  • Conley Wines – Zinfandel Port, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay;

  • Tres Amigos – Cabernet Sauvignon;

  • Eastside Winery – Red Wine Blend, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Syrah;

  • Rosa D’Oro – Barbera, Syrah, Primitivo, Chardonnay, Muscat Canelli;

  • Koenig Family Cellars – Merlot;

  • Tulip Hill – Reserve Chardonnay, Zinfandel, White Mirage Rose;

  • Sommelier Stephanie Green of Focused on Wine was pouring – Amber Knolls Vineyard, Six Sigma “Piquenique,” and Girls on the Vineyard Cabernet.

If you would like to learn more about the Clear Lake Performing Arts, you can visit them online at www.clearlakeperformingarts.org or contact them at Clear Lake Performing Arts, P.O. Box 974, Lakeport, CA 95453.

Ross A. Christensen writes about food and wine for Lake County News.

LAKEPORT – A judge has issued an arrest warrant for an actor and model who failed to show up for his trial on misdemeanor charges that indecent exposure.

Judge Arthur Mann issued the bench warrant for Justin Force Lazard, 42, late last month.

Lazard was due to show up in Lake County Superior Court on May 26 for trial on misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure, disorderly conduct and annoying or molesting a child under age 18, according to court documents.

Prosecutor Ed Borg confirmed to Lake County News that those are the current charges against Lazard.

Lakeport Police arrested Lazard in Library Park on July 4, 2006, after three officers on foot patrol encountered him allegedly sitting on the railing with his genitals exposed, according to police reports. During the arrest he allegedly began fighting the officers, who used a Taser on him.

The annoying/molesting a child charge was lodged against Lazard because officials alleged that a young girl had been in the area and had seen him exposing himself.

Last fall, Lazard donated playground equipment to the city of Lakeport for placement in Library Park, near where the incident occurred, as Lake County News has reported.

On May 26, Lazard didn't appear in court, but his attorney, Paul Swanson of Lakeport, asked for another continuance in the case, which has had several since it began, according to court documents.

Borg said Judge Mann found there was no good cause for Lazard's non-appearance. Once Lazard didn't appear, Mann issued an arrest warrant he already had prepared before the trial date.

Swanson did not return calls seeking comment on the case.

The current charges would carry a maximum sentence of a year in the county jail; Borg said in a previous interview that it would be rare for Lazard to receive that jail time, and that probation would be more likely since Lazard had no criminal record previous to 2006.

If convicted, however, Lazard would be required to register as a sex offender in California and, possibly, in his state of residence, New York.

On May 30 Lazard sent a letter to Mann, which the court received on June 2.

“I am doing everything I can to turn my life around and live as a descent (sic), upstanding Christian man,” wrote Lazard. “I realize I had a lapse of sanity and reason and behaved in an inappropriate manner. I am sorry. Truly.”

Lazard explained to Mann that his 4-month-old daughter suffers from Velo-Cardio-Facial Syndrome, a genetic disorder that includes cleft palate, cardiac defects and a characteristic facial appearance, according to the Web site for the Upper Midwest VCFS/DGS Community.

He said his baby daughter is between heart surgeries. In addition, he stated that he's worried for his wife, model Shannon Fluet, noting “my legal problems in California” have weighed heavily on her.

“If there is anything I can do to not have to register as a sex offender for the sin I have committed, I would really appreciate it,” Lazard's letter to Mann said. “I don't think any of us would be able to handle it.”

He added, “I'm sorry I wasn't able to make it out for the hearing, but I had to put my family first. I hope you can understand that.”

Mann has not rescinded the $25,000 warrant for Lazard, who lives in New York.

“After a warrant issues, if someone in law enforcement has some idea of where the subject of a warrant might be, then typically there will be some effort to locate the subject,” said Borg. “Here, Mr. Lazard has no local ties, so that is not an option.”

The case has been subject to repeated continuances. Court documents report that Lazard has been in and out of psychiatric wards – in St. Helena, Massachusetts and France – since the 2006 arrest.

He had been scheduled to go to trial earlier this year, but received a continuance when his wife was suffering health issues during the final stages of her pregnancy, which he had blamed on media coverage of the case.

Court proceedings also have been delayed due to legal actions to place Lazard in a conservatorship. Local attorney Steve Brookes, who was involved in that process, did not return a call seeking comment.

Borg said an additional misdemeanor charge for failure to appear could be filed in the case, but added, “at this point I cannot comment as to whether this office is contemplating doing that.”

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

Craig Smith of Citrus Heights brought his 1966 Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia. The cars were relatively low-cost, sporty cars that were meticulously assembled by the West German coachbuilder Karmann and designed by the Italian styling house, Ghia, according to a vehicle history. The sheet metal was largely shaped using large wooden bucks and specialized hand tools as opposed to massive form stamping machines. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – Volkswagen fans and car lovers in general braved Saturday's hot temperatures to visit downtown Lakeport for the VW Show and Shine.

The annual vintage Volkwagen car show, held at Library Park, is sponsored by the Silver Circle Chapter of the Vintage Volkswagen Club of America .

About 50 cars participated in this year's show, with everything from sporty Karmann Ghias to Beetles to VW vans on display along Park Street.

Car owners and visitors alike grabbed whatever shade they could in between looking at the vehicles.

Another show and shine event is scheduled in Clearlake's Austin Park in August.

Harold LaBonte contributed to this report.



A 1967 Volkswagen bus, ready for its next road trip. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




At left, the 1979 VW Beetle convertible owned by Dawn Blaine of Round Mountain. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Beetles lined Park Street on Saturday, June 27, 2009, as part of the VW Show and Shine. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




About 50 cars were entered in this year's event. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


Natural builder Massey Burke and a group of volunteers used soil, straw and bamboo to build a tea house during the Rainbow Bridge Festival on Saturday, June 27, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



BACHELOR VALLEY – This weekend, the first-ever Rainbow Bridge Festival is taking place on a hilltop overlooking nearby Bachelor Valley and Clear Lake.

The festival, which began Friday, continues through Sunday evening.

Offerings include music, vendors, yoga, meditation, drumming circles and a small electric car display.

Organizers also are honoring the late peace activist Marla Ruzicka, who was raised in Lake County and died in Iraq in 2005 as the result of a car bomb. Her mother, Nancy, and brother, Mark, spoke Friday at the dedication of the festival's peace garden.

On Saturday afternoon, as children played in an improvised swimming pool made from hay bales and a tarp, adults sat in the shade and listened to speakers including solar expert Harvey Wasserman.

Nearby, natural builder Massey Burke and a small group of volunteers toiled on a round “tea house” structure being built with earth, straw and bamboo.

Another full slate of events is planned for Sunday, including a talk by Kevin Danaher, a friend of Marla Ruzicka's, who will speak about her life at 10 a.m. on the festival's main stage. Wasserman also will will again on Sunday, discussing election protection and US history at 11 a.m.

Activities throughout the day will include yoga, nature hikes for children and plenty of music. A closing prayer and gratitude circle at the main stage will close the event at 10 p.m.

For a full schedule and driving directions, visit www.rainbowbridgefest.com/activities.html .

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



A peace garden was dedicated to the memory of late peace activist and Lake County native Marla Ruzicka on Friday, June 26, 2009, during the Rainbow Bridge Festival. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




An improvised swimming pool, made from hay bales and a tarp, helped children at the festival keep cool during the Rainbow Bridge Festival on Saturday, June 27, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.



I was broadcasting on Internet radio when I received a text message that Michael Jackson had died. I thought it was a gag. Then I lost my Internet connection and my phones started ringing. It was true. On the heels of Farrah Fawcett this morning. Wow. My business day was effectively terminated at that point.

When my Internet connection returned, I noticed it was saturated with the agony and ecstasy of the Michael Jackson legend. I’m glad that I don’t have cable television. Aural stimulation is plenty for me.

As I write this I’m listening to the Jackson 5’s second album, “ABC,” and I’m getting a good visual of the young, exuberant MJ.

I’ve called several friends and colleagues to get their take on the phenomenon, Michael Jackson.

M says: “My earliest memory of Michael Jackson was him at about the age of 8 on television singing with his brothers. I just thought he was the cutest little something that could be. I had no idea he would develop into the icon he became. Even though I’m older than him, he made me feel younger than him as I grew up. I just adored him and when I heard it on television today, I just went down to the floor. What I’m having a problem with is how the media can’t separate what he allegedly did in his personal life from his sheer artistic genius. We are all human and subject to error … I’ve been meaning to purchase the 25th anniversary edition of “Thriller” and “We Are The World.” I called Barnes and Noble almost immediately and they were already sold out. I had to order them …”

A says: “It’s a devastating thing to lose two icons in one day. Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. I was in the military during the Vietnam War era when Michael Jackson came out with “ABC.” We marked time with him. It’s like when you’re a child and your parents mark the door frame or the wall to indicate how tall you were. Then to know that he had a painful childhood and the ridicule he endured as an adult because he was different, not perfect enough for some people. His music, though, moved the spirit of people. I don’t care what you say about him, he had a global effect on people. Tonight, a whole ocean of tears will fall. People were married and made love on Michael Jackson music, babies were conceived …”

R says: “The comparison to Presley is almost frightening. When you go that far you have no where else to go. Celine Dion says it the best. She says how you continue to try to beat yourself? You have no one else to out do so you try to out do yourself. Once you reach that pinnacle of success you have to learn how to coast through it. Celine went to Las Vegas and relaxed. Hendrix and others blasted themselves right out of here. Michael’s exit was slower. They are saying he was pretty sick. They also just reported that his will stipulates the Beatles catalog goes back to Paul. That he regretted losing Paul’s friendship.”

And so the saturation continues. CNN reported on the story well into the night. Well, into the ocean of tears that A refers to above.

Me? I agree with Michael’s intonation at the beginning of “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough”:

You know I was, I was wonderin’, you know, if we could keep on

because, the force has got a lot of power and

it make me feel like

it make me feel like … Oooh.”

I believe the King of Pop has returned to the force from whence he sprang.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool events:

Bill Noteman & The Rockets play the Lakeport Summer Concerts at Library Park, 200 Park St., on Friday, June 26, at 6:30 p.m.

The Neville Brothers, Jeffrey Osborne, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Eric Bibb, Elvin Bishop, Denise Lasalle and more at the Monterey Bay Blues Festival from Friday, June 26, through Sunday, June 28, at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, 2004 Fairgrounds Road, Monterey, CA. Telephone, 831-394-2652 or online www.montereyblues.com .

Smokey Robinson in concert, 7:15 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, 8727 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Telephone, 800-660-LAKE, or online at www.konoctiharbor.com .

The Four Tops in Concert, 9 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Cache Creek Casino Resort, 14455 Highway 16, Brooks. Telephone, 888-77-CACHE, or online at www.cachecreek.com .

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at www.teewatts.biz .

ST. HELENA – On Sunday morning firefighters successfully contained a fire at Lake Berryessa in Napa County that was reported the night before.

Cal Fire Captain George Gonzalez reported Sunday that the vegetation fire, located at Lake Berryessa's south end, was reported Saturday at 11:17 p.m.

Gonzalez said the fire was inaccessible by roads and firefighters had to be ferried across the lake by the Napa County Sheriffs Department Boat.

Cal Fire, Napa County Fire, California Department of Corrections and the Napa County Sheriff's Office joined forces to fight the blaze, which firefighters contained the fire at 7:41 a.m. Sunday, Gonzalez reported.

He said a total of 125 firefighters helped battle the 20-acre fire.

No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is under investigation, Gonzalez said.

You can now follow me on Twitter! Log onto www.twitter.com/foodiefreak and see what events I’ll be visiting.

Here are July's events to enjoy.

July 2

– First Thursday featuring Asian flair at Focused On Wine, 3940 Main St., Kelseyville. 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Enjoy Asian style appetizers with saketinis and wines with Stephanie Cruz-Green. $12 at the door $10 in advance. Telephone, 707-279-2112.

July 3

– Art Show & Wine Reception, Lake County Wine Studio, 9505 Main St., Upper Lake. Art show and discussion, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., wine and appetizer reception, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Bronze sculptor Rolf Kriken will be featured, as well as Jim and Diane Fore of Fore Family Vineyards. Sample their wines and gourmet cheeses, appetizers, chocolate and more. $10 for wine tasting. Telephone, 707-275-8030.

– First Friday Fling, Lake County Arts Council's Main Street Gallery, 325 N. Main St., Lakeport, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wildhurst will pour their wines before the concert in the park. Telephone, 707-263-6658, or online, www.lakecountyartscouncil.com .

– Meet the Winemaker, The Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eric Stine will pour Langtry Estate wines. Telephone, 707-275-2244, or online, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

– Clearlake Oaks fireworks display, Clearlake Oaks public boat launch, 12684 Island Drive, approximately 9:30 p.m. (dark).

July 4

– Lakeport Independence Day festivities and fireworks display, Library Park, 200 Park St., Lakeport. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., with fireworks at dusk. All day street fair with arts and crafts, music, food and beverages. Free admission. Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce, telephone 707-263-5092, online at www.lakeportchamber.com .

– Clearlake Independence Day festivities, at Austin Park, 14077 Lakeshore Drive, Clearlake. Activities include the annual International Worm Races, kinetic sculpture race, live music, car show, arts and crafts, barbecue, children’s activities and more. Daytime events begin at 11 a.m.; the fireworks display in Austin Park, approximately 9:30 p.m. (dark). Free admissions. Clearlake Chamber of Commerce, telephone 707-994-3600, online at www.clearlakechamber.com .

July 5

– Sunday Brunch in the Garden, The Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Brunch served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. George Husaruk Trio performs from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Telephone, 707-275-2244, or online, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

July 6

– Monday Blues, The Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Bill Noteman & The Rockets will perform. Telephone, 707-275-2244, or online, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

July 7

– Sunday Brunch in the Garden, The Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Brunch served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Michael Barrish and Scott Sommers on guitar & vocals, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Telephone, 707-275-2244, or online, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

July 10

– Fondue Fridays, Lake County Wine Studio, 9505 Main St., Upper Lake. Takes place from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Cheese fondue available with wine. Telephone, 707-275-8030

July 12

– Sunday Brunch in the Garden, The Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Brunch served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sax-O-Rama saxophone quartet performs from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Telephone, 707-275-2244, or online, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

July 13

– Monday Blues, The Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Side of Blues will perform. Telephone, 707-275-2244, or online, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

July 14

– Winemakers Dinner, The Saw Shop Gallery Bistro, 3825 Main St., Kelseyville. 6 p.m. Enjoy a five-course dinner with five wines by Wildhurst winery. $60 per person. RSVP to the Saw Shop, 707-279-0129.

July 16

– Winemakers Dinner, Zino’s Ristorante, 6330 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. 6 p.m. Enjoy a six-course dinner with six wines by Robledo family winery. $60 per person. RSVP at Zino’s, 707-279-1620.

July 17

– Fondue Fridays, Lake County Wine Studio, 9505 Main St., Upper Lake. Takes place from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Cheese fondue available with wine. Telephone, 707-275-8030.

July 19

– Sunday Brunch in the Garden, The Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Brunch served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Blind Spot guitar trio performs 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Telephone, 707-275-2244, or online, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

July 20

– Monday Blues, The Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Soul Doubt will perform. Telephone, 707-275-2244, or online, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

July 24

– Fondue Fridays, Lake County Wine Studio, 9505 Main St., Upper Lake. Takes place from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Cheese fondue available with wine. Telephone, 707-275-8030.

July 25

– Lake County Wine Adventure, day one. Participating wineries and tasting rooms around the County. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. $30 includes a glass, wristband and admittance to nearly all of Lake County’s wineries for tasting and food pairings. For information and to purchase tickets: www.lakecountywineries.org .

– Concert in the Vineyard Series, Moore Family Winery, 11990 Bottle Rock Road, Kelseyville. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. $10 per person. Music featuring the Lake County All Stars. Food, wine and other beverages available for purchase. Telephone, 707-279-9279, or online at http://moorefamilywinery.com/ .


July 26

– Lake County Wine Adventure, day two. Participating wineries and tasting rooms around the county. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. $30 includes a glass, wristband and admittance to nearly all of Lake County’s wineries for tasting and food pairings. For information and to purchase tickets: www.lakecountywineries.org .

– Sunday Brunch in the Garden, The Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Brunch served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m .MisDemeanors of Jazz perform from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Telephone, 707-275-2244, or online, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

July 27

– Monday Blues, The Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Will Siegel & Friends will perform. Telephone, 707-275-2244, or online, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

July 31

– Fondue Fridays, Lake County Wine Studio, 9505 Main St., Upper Lake. Takes place from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Cheese fondue available with wine. Telephone, 707-275-8030.


The New Cool at Konocti Harbor featuring David Neft: Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa hosts “The Piano Man” David Neft, playing the grand piano from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Friday and Saturday in the relaunched dining room. Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, 8727 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Telephone 800-660-LAKE, or online at www.konoctiharbor.com .

Certified Farmers Market, Steele Winery, 4350 Thomas Drive at Highway 29, Kelseyville. A variety of produce grown in the area as well as flowers, coffee, pastries and bread, arts and crafts, and live entertainment. Saturdays, 8 a.m. until noon, May through October. Telephone, 707-279-9475, or online at www.steelewines.com/ .

Langtry Estate and Vineyard Tours: Langtry Estate and Vineyard is offering exciting and innovative tour programs. Guests ride in battery-operated Global Electric Motorcars. Tours are offered Tuesday through Saturday. The Tephra Vineyard Lunch Tours are offered at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. $40 per person includes lunch and wine tasting. Reservations required 24 hours in advance. 21000 Butts Canyon Road, Middletown. Telephone, 707-987-2385, or online, www.guenoc.com .

Tuscan Village Friday Concert Series: Main Street, Lower Lake. Live music, food, wine tasting. Presented by 2Goombas and Terrill Cellars. 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Telephone, 707-994-3354.

A Taste of Lake County Wine Tours, countywide: Spend the day sipping fine wine, enjoying a gourmet picnic amongst the vines, taking in the rustic beauty of Lake County. Tour includes picnic lunch and tasting fees. Perfect for small groups. Tours of Napa also available. Telephone, 707-987-1920, or online, www.aeroshuttleservice.com .

Beer Master Dinner Series: Molly Brennan’s 175 N. Main St., Lakeport. Second Tuesday of each month, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Different brewery featured each month, with beers paired with each course of a five-course meal including dessert. Advance reservations required. Telephone, 707-262-1600.

Lake County Wine Tours, countywide. Experience the “Undiscovered Wine Country” that is Lake County. Taste award-winning premier wines at friendly tasting rooms and in stunning vineyards. Knowledgeable guide, all tasting fees and a gourmet picnic lunch included. Telephone, 707-998-4471, or online, www.lakecountywinetours.com .

If you have a food or wine related event and would like to have it listed in the coming months, please call Ross Christensen at 707-998-9550.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.

LAKE COUNTY – After a month of cooler-than-normal temperatures in Lake County and throughout Northern California, the weekend weather is predicted to heat up and usher in hot summer temperatures.

After a pleasant Thursday afternoon, the mercury is forecast to begin climbing through the weekend according to The Weather Channel, beginning Friday, with temperatures predicted to reach the mid- to upper-90s.

Be prepared for daytime highs to be near or over 100 degrees on both Saturday and Sunday as hot summer temperatures return to Lake County and much of Northern California, The Weather Channel predicts.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento (NWS), has issued a special weather statement for Lake County and interior California as a strong high pressure system builds over Northern California from the eastern Pacific.

Overnight temperatures will drop to the upper 50s to low 60s.

If you're planning on outdoor activities in Lake County this weekend – and there are several to choose from (follow the link for "calendar" at the top of the page) – the NWS reminds everyone to avoid strenuous activity during the heat of the day and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

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

Upper Lake's streets will soon have an updated look, including new streetlights and sidewalk improvements. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


UPPER LAKE – Over the next four months, a long-awaited redevelopment project will take place in Upper Lake, updating infrastructure, enhancing the town's visibility with a new archway and adding decorative touches to its distinctive look.

Lake County Redevelopment Agency officials said Upper Lake's improvements began this past week.

Redevelopment agency funds are paying for the $1.3 million project, which will make improvements to both sides of Main Street from the intersection at Highway 20 to the intersection at Second Street.

Officials said the scope of the project includes under-grounding of utilities; curb, gutter, and sidewalk improvements with bulb-out intersections formed from decorative stamped concrete; installation of decorative streetlights; reconstruction of Main Street; and the installation of a welcoming gateway arch across Main Street at the entrance from Highway 20.

While contractor Argonaut Constructors carries out the four-month-long project, it will still be business as usual for local shops, which will keep their doors open, redevelopment officials said.

Full closure of Main Street will encompass just 12 days of the project, according to the redevelopment agency. Traffic control on Main Street will begin on Monday, June 29, and will remain in effect over the course of the project.

The agency said it will issue updates regarding the timing of street closures and alternative parking locations will be made available as the project progresses.

“Once this project is completed, Upper Lake will still have its pioneer charm, but it will be more visible from the highway and the shops will be more accessible to customers and business owners,” said Kelly Cox, the county's administrative officer and executive director of its redevelopment agency.

Cox said the project will make the town “a great place to go for a stroll and enjoy shopping, dining and special events.”

Businesswoman Debbie Hablutzel, president of the Upper Lake Community Council, said they're very excited about the project, which will beautify Upper Lake, draw attention to downtown and light it up with blocks of new streetlights.

She said the council began talking about streetlights 15 years ago, and tried to raise money to do the project on their own.

The lights – which will extend over Main Street and feature small wagon wheels – were folded into the larger project, which she said went through design review in 2002, when the community worked on planning what they wanted.

It was in 2002 that the arch – which will have concrete pillars and a steel structure that passes over Main Street – was designed. Hablutzel said the arch will help draw people to the main part of town and let them know there is actually a town center.

Some people didn't feel the arch was necessary, said Hablutzel. Many people wanted to put it over Highway 20, just as Willits' arch passes over the highway, but Caltrans wasn't open to the proposal.

Despite criticism of the arch, “We weren't going to take it out,” said Hablutzel. “I think once it's done everyone is going to like it.”

The intersection of past and present

Upper Lake, founded as “Upper Clear Lake” in 1854, has always had its own distinctive look and feel – arising from both its twin ranching and timber heritages.

In the past century and a half, the little town has had to be resilient as it has passed through good times and bad.

A new set of historical plaques now grace the town, highlighting interesting facts in the town's fascinating history.

Upper Lake had its first post office in 1858. Other milestones include construction of the original Tallman Hotel in 1866; arrival of the first telegraph lines – stretching from Colusa County to Upper Lake – in 1874; and construction of the Odd Fellows Hall in 1898.

By the 1870s, schools, churches, the grange and the Odd Fellows had arrived. Also in the 1870s, Upper Lake served as the terminus for both the Cloverdale and Clear Lake stage lines, which brought visitors to nearby resorts – Witter Springs and Saratoga Springs, and Le Trianon at Blue Lakes.

But it may have been the many lumber mills in the area that had the greatest impact on the town. A plaque on the building that now houses Gracious Ladies on Main Street explains that by 1870 lumber mills were being built in the nearby Mendocino National Forest. At one time, as many as 42 such mills were in the forest.

Other important industries for the area were dairy farming, with a cheese factory at one point located on Sabini Street, and the Blue Lakes green bean cannery, which started business in 1896.

At one point, Upper Lake had all manner of shops – from dry goods to bakeries to ice cream parlors.

The town had its share of troubles. In 1895 the Tallman House Hotel burned down and later was rebuilt and later renamed for Hank Riffe, the son-in-law of the building's owner, Rufus Tallman, according to a history of the building at www.tallmanhotel.com .

But perhaps the greatest blow to the town was dealt in 1924, when a fire swept through Upper Lake, destroying much of it.

However, one portion of town at First and Main survived – the fire spared the rebuilt Riffe's Hotel and the livery stable next door, the Odd Fellow's Hall, the Bank of Upper Lake and the old ice house across the street. A few blocks away, the Harriet Lee Hammond Library also made it through.

The town rebuilt, and continued to be vibrant for decades. County Deputy Redevelopment Director Eric Seely, who grew up in Upper Lake, said his grandparents came to the area in the 1950s. “At that time Upper Lake was much more vibrant,” he said. “Timber was still a going concern.”

But in the 1970s Upper Lake began to face serious economic challenges, due in part to the depletion of the local timber stands.

“When the timber shut down, a lot of folks retired,” said Seely, and with that properties began to change hands, Main Street businesses closed and many like Seely watched the town go into a slow decline.

Remaining business owners in the 1970s worked to keep it looking look good with new awnings, said Seely. In the late 1980s, Main Street was reconstructed and repaved after the new sewer system was installed. Before that, the streets had been layer upon layer of chip seal.

Seely said he began to see improvements in the town in the 1990s.

Since then new property owners and business people, such as Tony Oliveira, who owns Oliveira's Antiques, and Linda Powell of Powell's Antiques, arrived and began renovating the downtown.

The town took another blow when it suffered a flood on New Year's Eve of 2005. Much of the downtown saw several feet of water flowing through businesses and homes. Once again, the town picked itself up, dusted itself off and got back to work.

Seely credits the town's residents for their work to rejuvenate Upper Lake. “The agency's goals are certainly to assist and partner,” he said.




The work that went into (from right) Lynne and Bernard Butcher's Tallman Hotel and Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe, and Sheldon Steinberg's livery stable, encouraged the Lake County Redevelopment Agency to expand its street improvement project to tie in with the historic properties. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



Rebirth of a historical district

The town's future is closely tied to its past.

In fact, the redevelopment project now getting under way expanded thanks, in part, to investment in that historic core of buildings that survived the 1924 fire.

As business owners began bringing new shops to line the downtown, redevelopment was encouraging renovation of the historical buildings that anchored the far end of town.

Several years ago Sheldon Steinberg purchased and renovated the livery stable, which in the 1880s had been one of three such stables serving the bustling town, according to the new historical plaque gracing the building.

Today, the livery stable houses “The Elegant Bowl,” an antique plumbing fixture business open by appointment and during special occasions such as the recent Wild West Day. A visit inside reveals dozens of ornate clawfoot tubs, delicate porcelain sinks and many a fancy water closet.

Next door to the livery stable had sat the empty Riffe's Hotel. After being purchased at a tax lien sale, the building sat empty for 40 years, looking like a fragile storefront from the set of “Gunsmoke.”

Then Lynne and Bernard Butcher came to the rescue, undertaking a painstaking but ultimately magnificent restoration and expansion. Next door, they built the Blue Wing Saloon & Tavern where once a similarly named establishment was located.

The Tallman Hotel was added to the California Register of Historical Resources as a point of historical interest in 2007. It's widely considered to be one of the Northshore redevelopment area's triumphs.

Across the street, Tom Carter took the old Bank of Upper Lake and renovated it. Today, it is home to Olivia's Organic's, a health food store. On the roof of the building sits a jaunty iron rooster.

The original conceptual plans for Upper Lake's redevelopment project go back several years, said Seely. Those plans stretched from Highway 20 down to Washington Street and included the planned archway at Main Street's entrance into town from the highway.

In 2006, after Deputy Redevelopment Director Andy Peterson retired, Cox and other members of the county's administrative office toured the town and evaluated the project's existing scope, Seely said.

Looking at the investment and improvements by Steinberg, the Butchers and Carter, Seely said county officials decided to add to the project in order to support the community's investment.

“Because of the capital investment the business and property owners were making, we felt it was appropriate to expand the project so that the public and private efforts had a greater synergistic effect than either one by themselves,” said Seely.

Seely credited the Butchers with making a tremendous investment in their property and, as a result, drawing a lot of business to the downtown.

As the project ties the livery stable, Tallman and Blue Wing into the rest of town, it will include better sidewalks and pedestrian access, as well as improvements to parking.

In another tip of the Stetson to the town's heritage, community members asked for the rustic wooden sidewalk in front of the saloon and hotel to remain, and so they were incorporated into the plan design, said Seely.

Argonaut Constructors also will construct samples of sidewalk finish treatments which Seely said community members will help select during the course of the project. Choices will range from concrete that's stamped and dyed to look like wood to use of a weathering technique to make new sidewalks blend in with the older ones that will remain.

Seely said he expects the project will move quickly, as paving will become more challenging as fall and winter arrive.

At the Lake County Wine Studio, across from the Tallman and Blue Wing, proprietor Susan Feiler said she thinks the redevelopment project will help the town. Upper Lake is a great area for business, and she said she hopes to see more shops locating there.

“I have high hopes for this area,” she said. “I really do.”

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



Olivia's Organics health food store, left, and the Odd Fellows Hall both survived the 1924 fire that devastated Upper Lake. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

LAKE COUNTY – Lake County is home to numerous fireworks shows during the Fourth of July holiday, many of which dazzle the skies over Clear Lake, illuminating the water’s surface.

The city of Lakeport hosts its Independence Day fireworks show following a lighted boat parade. Other fireworks shows include the City of Clearlake fireworks display, the Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa fireworks display that follows a concert, the fireworks show at Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino, and more.

The following is a sampling of fireworks shows and festivals. For a complete listing, call the Lake County Visitor Information Center at 800-525-3743.


Maxine Sherman Memorial Fireworks Show, Clearlake Oaks

For a spectacular show, the best viewing area for the Maxine Sherman Memorial Fireworks display is on the water, anchored east of Rattlesnake Island, where the fireworks twinkle overhead and reflect off the waters of Clear Lake. From the shore, Clearlake Oaks Beach on Island Drive is a great spot. Show begins as dusk. Admission is free. 707-998-9563, www.clearlakeoaks.org


Lakeport Independence Day Festivities, Lakeport

An all-day street fair featuring vendors selling arts and crafts, food and beverages. The night ends with a lighted boat parade around 9 p.m. followed by fireworks over Clear Lake. Sponsored by the Lakeport

Main Street Association and the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce. Library Park, between First and Third streets. Festivities begin at 11 a.m. Admission is free. 866-525-3767, 707-263-5092,

www.lakeportmainstreet.com , www.lakeportchamber.com

City of Clearlake Independence Day Festivities, Clearlake

Street fair, kinetic sculpture racing, live music, car show, arts and crafts, barbecue, children’s activities, and more. Sponsored by the Lakeshore Lions Club and the City of Clearlake. Parade begins at 11 a.m. at Redbud Park, 14655 Lakeshore Drive, and ends at Austin Park, 14077 Lakeshore Drive, where festivities will be held. Fireworks over Clear Lake with Americana music provided by BiCoastal Media, will begin at 9 p.m. Admission is free. 707-994-3600, www.clearlakechamber.com

Clearlake International Worm Races, Clearlake

Forty-second-annual worm race competition at Austin Park with competitors ranging from children to senators and congressmen. This internationally recognized event has attracted the attention of Animal

Planet, NBC and Bay Area Backroads. Held in conjunction with the city of Clearlake Independence Day Festivities and sponsored by the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce. Austin Park, 14077 Lakeshore Drive. 707-994-3600, www.clearlakechamber.com

Tulip Hill Winery’s Red, White, Blush & Blues and Wine and Food Pairing, Nice

Sample savory summer fare paired to perfection with select wines perfect for summer sipping. The all-star band, Dr. Rocket, featuring Ms. Taylor P. Collins, Levi Lloyd, Randy McGowan, Joost Vink and Pamela Arthur provide the musical backdrop for a festive fourth. Doors open at 3 p.m., music from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. $10 per person includes limited wine tasting and food pairing. Bring a blanket or a lawn chair. Wine available for purchase by the glass and bottle. 4900 Bartlett Springs Road. 707-274-9373, www.tuliphillwinery.com

Mendocino College has entered into escrow to purchase a 14-acre parcel on Merritt Road in Kelseyville, which the college is proposing to use as the site of its new Lake Center. Photo by Caitlin Andrus.


KELSEYVILLE – With its eye on building a new center to serve local students, Mendocino College has entered escrow on a 14-acre parcel slated to be the future home of its Lake Center, but the plans may face some challenges.

On June 3, the Mendocino College Board of Trustees approved entering into escrow to buy the land, owned by Kelseyville farmer Greg Hanson, according to Mike Adams, the college's director of facility services and a county resident.

The property is located in the 3300 block of Merritt Road in close proximity to the new Kelseyville Lumber home center.

The college will pay the agreed-upon price of $770,000 from proceeds of Measure W, a facility improvement bond measure voters approved Nov. 7, 2006, Adams said.

Measure W authorizes $67.5 million in bond funds for upgrades to college facilities in Ukiah as well as new centers in Willits – where property also is currently being purchased – and Lake County, according to the college's quarterly bond report, issued in March.

Originally, the Measure W budget called for spending $15 million on the Lake Center, but that has since been reduced to $7.5 million, of which more than $132,000 had been spent as of March on items including surveys, legal fees and consultant services.

The choice of the Kelseyville site over Lakeport surprised city officials, who carried on a steady campaign to keep the center there. The college's current county center is located in rented buildings at 1005 Parallel Drive in Lakeport.

Lakeport Redevelopment Agency Director Richard Knoll said it was a “big disappointment” that the college wouldn't be making its home in the more centralized location of Lakeport, where services are readily available.

He said the city made no secret about wanting to keep the college there, suggesting several potential locations – some of them similar to the nearly two dozen sites now being scrutinized for a new county courthouse location.

“I think that Lakeport is the place for the college and I think that more of an effort, frankly, should have been put into trying to find a site here that worked for them,” Knoll told Lake County News on Wednesday.

The plan also has caused concern for the Lake County Farm Bureau and Sierra Club Lake Group, who are concerned that the property is zoned for agriculture.

“We're going to fight this one root and branch,” Sierra Club Lake Group Chair Victoria Brandon said. “Quite aside from the assault on ag land, we think community colleges belong in communities, in locations serviced by public transit and bike lanes and where amenities ranging from restaurants to concerts – essential adjuncts to education – are readily available.”

The college began looking in Kelseyville after its favored choice, a 31-acre parcel located at 2565 Parallel Drive in the newly annexed part of Lakeport, fell through at the start of this year, Adams said.

Tom Adamson, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based developer who bought the land in 2005, had previously proposed building a 130-lot subdivision on the site, as Lake County News has reported.

Adams said the college had looked at the property for almost two years, and spent a year actively working with Adamson on a purchase proposal.

However, the property's appraised value came in at $1.53 million, well under Adamson's $2.9 million asking price, said Adams.

“The property owners wanted more for the property than we were willing to pay, and we weren't willing to exercise eminent domain to acquire it,” Adams said.

Settling on a new location

Adams said college officials had a long list of other possible sites in Lakeport, as well as several in Kelseyville, they also had been looking at during that time. With the Parallel Drive site off the table, they began looking at those other locations.

Knoll said the college told the city they wanted a fairly large parcel, on the order of the Adamson property. He said the city proposed the Indian Prayer Hill/Campbell Hill area, as well as south of Lakeport Boulevard, and west of S. Main Street and Highway 29.

“They posed a couple of possibilities, but some of them didn't have any roads going to them,” said Adams.

Adams said college officials didn't think they could find a site in Lakeport to meet their needs, so they began looking more closely at Kelseyville for a site no smaller than 10 acres.

They had to be mindful of regulatory matters dealing with seismic issues, soils, being outside of a two-mile radius of the airport, highway access and turn lanes, and Americans with Disabilities Act requirements that the topography not be too steep, he explained.

Availability of water and sewer services also was important; Adams noted that water and sewer lines extend to the site.

“Visibility was an issue that was important to us,” he added.

The Merritt Road property they ultimately chose wasn't on the market at the time.

Hanson, whose family has been farming in the county for several generations, heard that the college was looking for property, and he thought his land might be perfectly suited for the campus.

Purchased by Hanson in 1991, the land currently is a Sauvignon Blanc vineyard. He plans to continue farming grapes, walnuts and pears on another 52-acre parcel he owns.

Adams and Hanson, who are friends, took a Lake County Farm Bureau board member's invitation and attended the group's regularly scheduled meeting on June 10 to give them an update on the plan.

Farm Bureau Executive Director Chuck March said the item wasn't on the agenda so there was very little discussion.

“The board was pretty much caught off guard on it,” he said.

March said the Farm Bureau board will have it on their July 8 agenda.

Under their current policy, they're definitely opposed to the college building the campus on agriculturally zoned land, and will evaluate the process for lodging formal complaints, said March.

The Farm Bureau had opposed the Kelseyville Lumber project in 2003 due to concerns about encroachment into ag lands and the lack of buffers.

Brandon said the Sierra Club looks forward to working closely with the Farm Bureau and Lake County Agricultural Commissioner Steve Hajik “in sinking this very bad idea.”

Planning, studies still ahead

Just what the college facility might look like, and how large it will be, are still to be determined, said Adams.

He and Mark Rawitsch, the Lake Center's dean of instruction, attended a Wednesday meeting to discuss concepts for the property.

Adams said they hope in a few months to have conceptual drawings of what the campus might look like and how it will fit into its environment.

There's a lengthy due diligence process for the college to complete, he said, as well as the possibility of a full environmental impact report and other California Environmental Quality Act documents due to the agricultural location.

The proposed campus property will need to be annexed by Lake County Special Districts for sewer and water services, and that process would go through the Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO), Adams said.

The approval process in some other ways will be notably different from that encountered by most projects.

For one, the college isn't subject to zoning rules, and if the Farm Bureau wanted to oppose the project, its concerns would have to be lodged with LAFCO, said Adams.

Knoll explained that state law contains a provision allowing the college board of trustees to vote to override local zoning laws. “That's a political decision,” he said.

It becomes more of a political issue, Knoll suggested, to build a facility on a vineyard in a county that prides itself on its wine production.

Adams and Rawitsch said it will be a few years before anything is done on the land.

“We currently don't have a state match, and there may not be one coming any time soon,” Rawitsch said of funding for the project.

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




Another view of the Merritt Road property, currently owned by Kelseyville farmer Greg Hanson, where Mendocino College officials hope to build their new Lake Center. Photo by Caitlin Andrus.

Upcoming Calendar

10.03.2023 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm
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10.03.2023 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
East Region Town Hall
10.05.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
10.06.2023 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
David Arkenstone & Friends in concert
10.07.2023 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Sponsoring Survivorship Breast Cancer Run & Walk
10.07.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
10.07.2023 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Falling Leaves Quilt Show
10.08.2023 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Falling Leaves Quilt Show
Columbus Day

Mini Calendar



Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 



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