Monday, 27 May 2024



LAKE COUNTY – March is going to be a very exciting month for three of the county’s local watershed groups, along with the citizens who live in the Kelsey Creek, Middle Creek and Scotts Creek watersheds.

Thanks to a $400,000 grant awarded to the West Lake Resource Conservation District, studies will be conducted in these three watersheds that will allow these groups to gather information about both the historical and current conditions of the natural resources in these areas.

These watershed assessments will be used in making management decisions and obtaining funding for restoration, fuel load management, habitat improvement, water quality and various other projects in the future.

In order to put together the most comprehensive documents possible, it is vital that the local communities participate in these studies.

This grant opportunity was specifically designed for the citizens in each of these watersheds to participate in the process, and help in developing the information that goes into these assessments.

The three watershed groups in the participating areas will be holding meetings in March, and citizens in these areas are urged to attend.

Are you concerned about clean air, clean water, fire safety, erosion problems, development, and the day-to-day issues we all deal with? Well, we all live in a watershed, and if you live in one of the three included in this grant opportunity, now’s your chance to share your opinions, your concerns and your knowledge of the area in which you live.

If you reside in the vicinity of Kelsey Creek from Forest Lake on Cobb Mountain to Clear Lake itself, you live in the Kelsey Creek Watershed, and are encouraged to attend the Big Valley CRMP meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 6. The event will be held at the American Legion Hall, corner of Second Street and Gaddy Lane in Kelseyville.

If you live in the vicinity of Clover Creek, Sam Alley Creek, the town of Upper Lake, or the areas near the East Fork and West Fork of Middle Creek to Rodman Slough, you reside in the Middle Creek Watershed. Please make it a point to attend the next meeting of the Middle Creek CRMP at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 14. This month’s meeting is being held at the Upper Lake High School Library, 675 Clover Valley Road (corner of First Street and Clover Valley Road), in Upper Lake.

There are a number of communities included in the Scotts Creek Watershed. If you live in the areas of Saratoga Springs, Witter Springs, Bachelor Valley, Blue Lakes, Scotts Valley, Cow Mountain, and Tule Lake to the confluence at Rodman Slough, you live in the Scotts Creek Watershed. The date to mark on your calendar is 6 p.m. Thursday, March 15. The meeting will be hosted by the Scotts Creek Watershed Council and held at the Scotts Valley Women’s Clubhouse, 2298 Hendricks Road, Lakeport.

Each of these meetings will be facilitated by Korinn Smith of the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Lakeport. The meetings will be structured to gather the information which will be used to develop the purpose and goals of these assessments. Greg Dills, watershed coordinator for East Lake and West Lake Resource Conservation Districts also will be on hand to answer questions and share his knowledge of the process.

This is an opportunity to participate and have a voice in the issues that concern your community. You may be the person that helps to identify an issue others know nothing about!

What do you want your watershed to look like in five, 10 or 50 years? Now's your chance to have a say in the future of your own community. Don’t miss this opportunity to get involved. To quote one of the watershed volunteers, “This is a really big deal!”

For questions or additional information, call Dills at 263-4180 x12 or Linda Juntunen at 263-7950.





LAKE COUNTY - A winter storm warning remains in effect for Lake County until 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Sacramento.

Residents in Lakeport, along with others areas in Lake County, started their day with falling snow, frozen sidewalks and hazardous road conditions.

While rain was predominant throughout the day, the NWS has issued a winter storm warning for Lake County and a hazardous weather outlook for inland Mendocino County that will last overnight and into Wednesday afternoon.

The NWS predicts that 2 inches of snow will fall to nearly 1,000 feet overnight - with overnight temperaturess in the mid 20s to low 30s.

During the next 24 hours to 36 hours, the NWS believes the hazardous weather across Northern California will continue, with significant snowfall totals possible above 1,500 feet - with nearly a foot of snow possible below 4,000 feet.

Twenty-four to 30 inches of snow may fall over the higher elevations by Wednesday afternoon, according to the NWS.

Six to 10 inches of snow are forecast above 4,000 feet, with 2 to 6 inches possible above 2,000 feet in Lake County and above 1,500 feet in inland Mendocino County overnight.

Strong winds are also possible with localized gusts up to 45 mph which may cause white-out conditions overnight and into tomorrow.

On Wednesday, snow levels are expected to stay in the 2,000-foot range, with high temperatures in the mid-40s at lower elevations.

A winter storm warning means significant amounts of snow, sleet and ice are expected or will occur, according to the NWS, making travel very hazardous or impossible.

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


LAKE COUNTY – The District Attorney's Office's new unit created to prosecute cases involving driving under the influence has just won its first conviction.

The DA's Office, led by District Attorney Jon Hopkins, successfully prosecuted Anthony Francisco Moreno, who was found guilty on Feb. 22 of felony driving under the influence of alcohol, felony driving with a blood alcohol level above 0.08 percent and misdemeanor driving on a suspended license, according to a statement from the DA Office's Victim-Witness Division.

The charges were felonies because Moreno had been convicted of at least three previous driving under the influence cases, including one felony for which he was on probation in Sonoma County.

The jury further found that Mr. Moreno willfully refused a blood or breath test.

Moreno crashed his vehicle on Highway 175 near Mathews road on Thanksgiving night, and refused to submit to a blood test even after the California Highway Patrol officer explained to him that he was required by law to submit to the test.

Upon Moreno's refusal to take the test, the CHP officer called for additional officers to meet him at the hospital where a blood sample was obtained without Moreno’s consent.

That test showed that Moreno had a blood alcohol level of 0.14.

This was the first felony DUI jury trial for the Lake County District Attorney’s new DUI Vertical Prosecution Unit.

The unit’s primary focus is the investigation and prosecution of all DUI cases in Lake County. Members of the unit also provide community outreach to raise public awareness on the dangers of driving under the influence.

Funding for this program is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“This is the type of case we had in mind when we applied for the grant from OTS, and this is the type of defendant we want to target in order to make the streets of Lake County safe to drive,” Hopkins said. “I want to commend our team, and we plan on them having this same success in the future.”


LAKEPORT – After a day of nitpicking newspaper coverage by the defense and nibbling at its findings by the prosecution on Wednesday, there was still no decision regarding a change of venue motion for the trial of Renato Hughes, a young black San Francisco man charged with murder by accomplice of two of his companions in an alleged burglary.

On Wednesday, the hearing of the motion filed by Hughes' attorney Stuart Hanlon concluded 13 hours of testimony with the likelihood that Lake County Superior Court Judge Arthur Mann will render his decision when the hearing resumes Friday morning.

Hanlon and his key expert in the hearing, Craig Haney, spent most of Wednesday going over 72 articles from assorted publications regarding the case, which stems from the alleged forced 4 a.m. entry into the Clearlake Park home of Shannon Edmonds on Dec. 7, 2005.

Hughes' companions, Rashad Williams and Christian Foster, also black, were fatally shot down by Edmonds after the alleged break-in, where the men were allegedly attempting to steal marijuana that Edmonds claims he uses for medicinal purposes.

Hughes, however, is charged with causing their deaths under the provisions of a law that holds the perpetrator of a felony responsible if the felony results in a lethal response.

Hanlon concluded his final argument in the hearing Wednesday afternoon and District Attorney Jon Hopkins was all but finished with his presentation when Mann ended the proceedings.

Hanlon reasserted his position against trying the case in Lake County because of pretrial publicity and the county's racial demographics.

According to research Hanlon has presented, only a little over 2 percent of the county's population is black.

In his final comments, Hanlon told Mann, "The only way you can find (that Hughes) will get a fair trial here is by disregarding the testimony of Mr. (Bryan A.) Stevenson and Mr. Haney. No one is calling this county racist; we're saying he can't get a fair trial."

Stevenson, the executive director of an Alabama civil rights group, and Haney have supported Hanlon's claim that a representative jury cannot be selected for Hughes in Lake County.

"It is speculation on his (Hanlon's) part to make it an emotional issue rather than a judicial one," Hopkins countered. He added that he didn't believe Mann's decision could be decided "simply on numbers."

Hanlon and Haney presented statistics showing that blacks comprise 6 percent of the state's population and pointed out that only nine of the state's 58 counties exceed the state percentage, most notably San Francisco County (13.7 percent), where Hughes lives.

Hopkins questioned if Hanlon and Haney believe that all trials for crimes which blacks are charged with should be tried in those nine counties that exceed the state average in order to get a fair trial.

Hanlon, meanwhile, castigated Hopkins for responding publicly to a document and comments issued by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a civil rights organization in support of Hughes.

Among other things, Hopkins called civil rights-oriented charges by the Baker group a "smokes screen" and he questioned why a well-meaning organization such as this one would comment when he said it didn't know all the facts.

Hanlon said that Hopkins' comments "polarized the community" and by contributing to advance publicity the district attorney was giving "the perception of a problem."

Neither Hanlon nor Hopkins made mention of a document on the letterhead of Hanlon's law firm that surfaced early in the case.

Presumably circulated to raise funds for Hanlon to take over Hughes' defense from Steven Carter, the document asserted that Hughes was being "railroaded" by the Lake County justice system.

Hanlon claimed that he had no knowledge of the document at the time.

Haney occupied the witness stand for easily half of the 13 hours the hearing has taken up so far.

Throughout his time on the stand his theme was the word "allege," which he cited as missing from many of the 72 newspaper articles and other news documents in the case.

Hopkins, however, pared the documents down to 14 by eliminating duplications and sources that prospective jurors in Lake County would never see, such as the Willits News, a law profession publication and comments made on an FM radio station.

Hanlon criticized Hopkins also for failing to bring his own experts to the hearing to refute the findings of Stevenson and Haney.

"The burden's on the defendant," reasoned Hopkins. "I don't think it's my burden to bring in experts.”

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


A snow plow travels the Hopland Grade Tuesday morning. Photo by John Jensen.

LAKE COUNTY – With snow falling in the higher elevations, commuters need to be prepared for adverse conditions as they travel area roads and highways.


The California Highway Patrol reports that Mount St. Helena is now closed due to snow, according to Josh Dye, public information officer for the Clear Lake CHP office. 

This afternoon, the county's Public Works Department reported that four-wheel drive and chains are required on Elk Mountain Road, Bartlett Springs Road, Bottle Rock Road and Gifford Springs Road.

As for area highways, at 3 p.m. Caltrans reported no delays or restrictions on Highway 175 over the Hopland Grade.

However, earlier in the day, due to the snowy condition across Highway 175 to Hopland, chains were required on all vehicles except those with both four-wheel-drive and snow tires on all wheels.

For those traveling along Highway 101, Caltrans reported chains or snow tires were required from seven miles north of the Sonoma/Mendocino County line to the junction of Highway 175 in Hopland. There also were chain requirements near Willits, Caltrans reported.

No traffic restrictions are reported for Highways 20, 29, 53 or 281, according to Caltrans.

Please use caution when driving, and be particularly cautious of ice on the roadways.

Lake County News will update you on any adverse changes in weather conditions.

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


LUCERNE The Lucerne Alpine Senior Center will be the site of a community meeting hosted by Greg Dills, watershed coordinator for the East Lake and West Lake Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs.) The event will be held on Wednesday, March 7, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., and will discuss a new method of resource management for the area.

Citizens of Lucerne recently approached Dills to see if the Coordinated Resource Management and Planning (CRMP) process might work for their watershed, as it has in so many other areas of the county.

This voluntary, grassroots approach to land management and planning originated in the 1950s and is still an effective problem-solving method today.

This system of management has seen successful throughout the entire state, but perhaps nowhere more than Lake County. Many of the sub-watersheds in the Upper Cache Creek Watershed have formed successful groups; if the citizens of Lucerne decide to adopt the process, it would be the tenth such group in the county.

The neighboring Nice Watershed Group was recently nominated for the Stars of Lake County Volunteer Group Award, and has been extremely instrumental in cleaning-up the Nice area.

It also was influential in the passage of the new OHV ordinance. The group's concerns about erosion and subsequent damage to water quality, caused by illegal off-road vehicles, put a spotlight on this serious trespassing issue.

Other groups have also made valuable contributions to their local watersheds.

The Big Valley CRMP, Lower Lake Watershed Council, Middle Creek CRMP and Scotts Creek Watershed Council all participate in annual creek cleanups in their areas. Along with watershed group volunteers, local high school students, 4-H members, Boy Scouts and other concerned community members participate in these events. It's hard work, but very rewarding, and their dedication contributes to the reduction of illegal dumping.

The different groups may focus on different concerns, but the approach is the same. Volunteers work together with the tribal, city, county, state, and federal governments, their neighbors, local businesses and other service organizations to solve local problems at the local level, in a cooperative manner.

The Scotts Creek Watershed Council worked with the West Lake Resource Conservation District, Bureau of Land Management, State Department of Conservation, and private landowners to secure grants to complete a fire break on the ridge line of Cow Mountain. They also held meetings for fire safety education.

The Lower Lake Watershed Council works with award-winning Carle High School students, and has developed a student water quality monitoring team. The group is also in the process of implementing a stream-bank restoration project. The project entails working with local, county, state, and federal agencies, but is accomplished by volunteers at the local level.

The Middle Creek CRMP quite literally dug an abandoned earth moving equipment out of the creek. These dedicated volunteers worked diligently with county officials and local business owners to see this task accomplished.

The group also designed and installed road signs along a dangerous stretch of road for the protection of wildlife and unsuspecting motorists. In addition, they join together with the Scotts Creek Watershed Council to support West Lake RCDs very popular "Kids in the Creek" program.

The Chi Council for the Clear Lake Hitch monitors and collects data on this historic fish. Volunteers all over the county stop at bridges and creekside turnouts to track the Clear Lake Hitch, found only in Lake County.

Volunteers from all of the groups in the Upper Cache Creek Watershed trained and participated in a citizens' water quality monitoring team. This team was given special recognition by the Upper Cache Creek Watershed Alliance at the recent Year in Review; an event that celebrates and highlights the accomplishments of the watershed volunteers throughout the entire county.

The list of contributions that East Lake and West Lake Resource Conservation Districts and their various watershed groups make to the communities in Lake County is long and impressive. Citizens of Lucerne who attend this meeting may choose to adopt the same path to problem-solving success that these other groups have enjoyed.

Voris Brumfield, code enforcement manager for the County of Lake, will also address those in attendance. Brumfield will report actions the county will be taking on Morrison Creek and other areas.

Don't miss this informative meeting at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center, located at 10th and County Club Drive in Lucerne.

Be sure to mark March 7, 6:30 to 8 p.m. on your calendar, and plan to attend.

Contact Dills at 263-4180 x12 for questions or additional information.


THE GEYSERS – A 3.3 earthquake hit The Geysers early Wednesday morning, followed by several smaller quakes.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the first, and largest, temblor took place at 2:47 a.m.

The quake was recorded at a depth of 1.2 miles, and was centered one mile east northeast of The Geysers, according to the USGS.

About 10 minutes later, a 1.8 magnitude quake followed, the USGS reported, followed by three more small quakes, ranging in size from 1.5 to 1.9 in magnitude, over the next two and a half hours, all centered at The Geysers.

So far this week there have been 15 small earthquakes recorded in Lake County, according to the USGS, most of them centered in or around The Geysers area.

The second-largest quake of the week, at a magnitude of 2.9, took place Sunday morning just after 8 a.m. at a depth of 1.3 miles three miles east southeast of The Geysers and three miles from Anderson Springs, the USGS reported.

A 1.8 magnitude quake was recorded by the USGS on Tuesday at 2:27 a.m. at a depth of seven miles, and centered eight miles from Hidden Valley Lake.

Two quakes hit near Lake Pillsbury on Tuesday, a 2.3 magnitude at 5:27 a.m. and a 2.5 at 2:50 p.m.

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


NICE – A local couple are suing the City of Burlingame and several of that city's police officials over allegations of civil rights violations.

Dennis and Angela Ostini of Nice filed the case in U.S. District Court Feb. 16. It names the City of Burlingame, Police Chief Jack L. Van Etten, Officer Jarel Peters and Sgt. Jeff Downs.

The Ostinis are asking for $1.4 million in damages for an incident they say occurred in 2005, while they visited family in the city.

The couple themselves have law enforcement connections: Dennis Ostini is a Lake County Sheriff's sergeant. “He supervises Boat Patrol for us,” Sheriff Rod Mitchell said Friday.

The attorney for the Ostinis, who discussed the case with Bay Area news outlets over the last week, declined a request by this publication to interview her clients.

Angela Ostini told the San Francisco Chronicle last week that on July 10, 2005, she found out her brother, Samuel Giardina, had died unexpectedly. Her loud weeping caused neighbors to call the police to report a disturbance.

When they arrived, she told the Chronicle that Peters put his hand on her and kept telling her to calm down, and Ostini told him to remove his hand. Peters then reportedly shoved her into a chair. loudly berated her and threatened to have her taken for a mental evaluation.

Burlingame City Attorney Larry Anderson said Monday the city didn't have an official statement on the lawsuit.

“We tried to come to some resolution last year with Mrs. Ostini and weren't able to do so,” Anderson said.

Ananda Norris, Ostini's attorney, told Lake County News that Peters had lost a family member shortly before the confrontation with Ostini.

“The Burlingame Police Department was aware that Officer Peters was emotionally unstable and was unfit to carry out his duties as a police officer,” said Norris.

She added that Peters should have been able to have had a mourning period away from the “rigors of ordinary police work.”

“The Burlingame Police Department not only required him to be at work but asked him to go out on calls of distress involving potential acts of violence that were likely to trigger the debilitating emotions that would afflict any human being in a similar situation,” Norris said.

By doing so, said Norris, Burlingame Police put community members at risk.

Ostini and her brother were very close, Norris said. Giardina was nine years older than Ostini, and the last member of her immediate family. “They spoke daily and saw each other at least three days a week,” Norris said. “Angela and Sammy suffered the loss of both of their parents and helped each other to remember the good times they experienced as a family. Sammy was Angela's best friend and true confidant.”

Norris said Angela Ostini has been in a “state of arrested grief” since the July 2005 encounter. “She remains traumatized by Officer Peters' actions and the department's failure to resolve this matter fairly and swiftly has compounded her emotional distress,” Norris said.

Proceedings in the case aren't scheduled to begin until May, when a case management conference is on the calendar.

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


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – Two men reportedly lost overnight in the Mendocino National Forest were found Monday afternoon.


Lt. Pat McMahon of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported Monday that the Lake County Search and Rescue Team found 29-year-old Cody Dobbs of Clearlake and Nicholas T. Lolonis, 24, of Upper Lake, who had gotten lost in the forest on Sunday.

At 8:57 a.m. Monday Dobbs' girlfriend, Jenny Sutherland of Upper Lake, had reported that Dobbs and Lolonis had driven to the forest's Bear Creek area on Sunday, looking for a piece of property, McMahon said.

They had last spoken to Sutherland via cell phone at 4 p.m. Sunday, when they reported they had gotten lost but obtained a map for a forest ranger, reported McMahon.

Authorities early on Monday hadn't been able to identify the ranger with whom the men had reportedly been in contact, McMahon added.

Search and Rescue, along with U.S. Forest Service personnel, began searching the area Monday, and were concerned that weather – including possible snowfall – might complicate the search.

However, the men were located early Monday afternoon, McMahon said. No injuries to the men were reported.

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


NICE – A Monday traffic stop led to a Southern California man's arrest on various drug charges, including possession of LSD.

Lt. Patrick McMahon of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported Tuesday that Deputy Mike Brown stopped a vehicle driven by Jeffrey B. Myers, 27, of Bellflower at 11:50 p.m. Monday.

Brown stopped Myers for a mechanical violation, and for weaving on Highway 20 near Lakeshore Boulevard in Nice, McMahon reported.

When Brown contacted Myers, he detected the odor of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle, said McMahon. Myers told Brown that he was returning home to the Los Angeles area after a visit to Arcata in Humboldt County.

While investigating the odor of marijuana, McMahon said Brown recovered a glass bottle of LSD from the Myers' jacket pocket.

The bottle contained approximately 20 milliliters of suspected LSD in liquid form. McMahon said a subsequent search of the vehicle led to the seizure of almost 1 pound of psilocybin mushrooms, 8 ounces of marijuana, 32 grams of hash (concentrated cannabis) and one gram of Dimethyltryptamine or “DMT,” a hallucinogen.

Most of the items were recovered from the trunk of the vehicle, McMahon noted.

Brown subsequently arrested Myers, McMahon reported.

Myers's booking sheet shows that he faces one misdemeanor and five felony charges, including possessing and transporting a controlled substance for sale, possession of LSD and possession of concentrated cannabis.

He remains in the Lake County Jail on $66,000 bail.


LAKE COUNTY – While car thefts were down statewide in 2006 and more stolen vehicles were returned to their owners statewide, local statistics show a sharp growth in car thefts, according to a recent report from the California Highway Patrol.

Locally, 155 vehicles were stolen and 152 recovered, said Josh Dye, public affairs officer for the Clear Lake CHP Office. The following year, 186 stolen vehicles were stolen, and 160 recovered, Dye added.

That amounts to a 20-percent increase in local car thefts, relative to statewide statistics.


The CHP said there was a 5.5-percent decline in car thefts statewide between 2005 and 2006, which amounts to 14,399 fewer cars stolen.

In 2006 the majority of cars stolen were recovered, according to the CHP, which said 90 percent of the 247,896 cars stolen in 2006 were reunited with their owners.

CHP Commissioner Mike Brown said car theft is a “crime of opportunity.”

“A little bit of prevention can go a long way, but when a car is stolen, the tools we have now are helping to return the stolen cars to their rightful owners,” Brown said.

The CHP reported it's a part of 16 county-funded vehicle theft task forces across the state, which include various law enforcement agencies that use bait cars to combat auto theft.

Those bait cars are outfitted with a global-positioning system (GPS) and a video camera, which hep track the location, speed and direction of the vehicle being tracked, the CHP reported.

Officers are tipped off when a thief attempts to steal a car; as soon as officers are in position, the engine can be disabled with the click of a computer mouse and officers can arrest the suspect inside, according to the CHP. The video footage is then used as evidence in court to prosecute the suspect.

That bait car technique, the CHP said, has proved to be a successful deterrent – more than 95 percent of the time, if an activation occurs on a bait car, the thief will eventually steal the car and will also be arrested.

The CHP reported that in 2006, the department made 357 arrests from bait car deployments.

“Criminals are beginning to wonder what is, and what isn’t, a bait car,” said Brown.

In the effort to recover stolen cars, the CHP uses the automated license plate recognition (ALPR) system, which has helped the agency to seize or recover 868 wanted or stolen vehicles, worth more than $7 million. In the process, CHP also arrested 535 suspects through the period ending September 2006.

The system, mounted onto marked patrol cars, reads license plates of vehicles and compares them against the state's database of stolen and wanted vehicles, the CHP said. Currently, the CHP reports it has a 73-percent recovery rate using ALPR.

“It’s like an electronic hot sheet; it allows officers to obtain information instantly on a car’s license plate to see if it belongs to a stolen car,” said Brown.

Stanislaus County, an area particularly hard hit by vehicle theft in recent years, has noticed a difference since the implementation of the new auto-theft technology. That county saw a 40.6 percent decrease in the number of vehicles stolen from 2005 to 2006.

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


The Bottle Rock Power plant has been under renovation for about a year. Photo courtesy of Gary Snedaker.

KELSEYVILLE A long-closed geothermal plant is expected to be online once again in early March.


Santa Monica-based US Renewables Group (USRG) purchased the Bottle Rock Power plant in September 2005, said Lee Bailey, USRG's co-founder and a partner in the firm.


USRG is involved with a number of alternative power operations, said Bailey. Their holdings include biomass, landfill methane, ethanol and biodiesel plants.


Bottle Rock is USRG's only geothermal plant, Bailey said, although the company is proposing to build two to three other such plants in California.


Last June, Riverstone Holdings and The Carlyle Group, in the form of the Carlyle/Riverstone Renewable Energy Infrastructure Fund I, acquired from USRG a "significant stake" in the Bottle Rock plant, according to a company statement.


Riverstone is a New York-based private equity firm that focuses on energy and power.


The Carlyle Group, based in Washington, D.C., is a multinational firm that has major defense and aerospace contracts. Some of those connected with the company over the years have included former President George Bush and Secretary of State James Baker, along with former British Prime Minister John Major. Some critics of the current war in Iraq have accused the company of war profiteering.


The Bottle Rock plant was built and operated by the Department of Water Resources (DWR), said Bailey, who used the power for its own operations.


Gary Snedaker, the Bottle Rock plant's project manager, said DWR closed the plant in 1990 due to a "lack of steam." However, he said, the plant required significant repair, cleaning and new drilling, and DWR wasn't receiving very much compensation for the energy it was producing.


When the plant shut down at noon on Sept. 16, 1990, it was producing 12 megawatts, said Snedaker, although its capacity is 55 megawatts, a level it had operated at when it opened in 1985.


Fifty-five megawatts, he said, can power about 55,000 homes, he said. When the plant comes back online, it will produce 20 megawatts.


"We fully intend on getting the plant past 30 megawatts," said Snedaker.


Bailey said USRG already has an exclusive contract with Pacific Gas & Electric, who will purchase the power the plant generates.


After DWR closed the plant, Bailey said, it changed hands, eventually purchased for $5 million by partners from Little Rock, Ark., and New Orleans.


Those owners, he said, were found to be involved in an illegal pyramid scheme scheme, and were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. At the same time, he said, the Securities Exchange Commission put the plant into trusteeship.


Bailey said USRG found out about the plant and bid for it through court proceedings.


The purchase was scheduled to close Sept. 1, 2005, but Bailey said the stock certificates and ownership documents were located in New Orleans. In a safe. Underwater.


USRG had to wait until the documents could be retrieved and brought to California, said Bailey; in the mean time, more bidders were trying to come forward.


"It was a colorful transaction," he said.


Plant renovation, said Bailey, began in February 2006. The three-story plant is located on 160 acres that are leased from the Coleman family.


An East Coast native, Snedaker is partner in Integral Energy management, a company partially owned by USRG that has the Bottle Rock plant's operations and maintenance contract. He was sent out to lead the renovation because of his extensive experience with energy production, from coal and gas turbine plants to a Nevada geothermal plant.


Snedaker said when the plant was closed, some of the major equipment was mothballed, and the geothermal wells plugged. For the most part, he said, most of the major pieces of equipment had been left sitting, with little attention.


There's been a lot of work involved in getting the plant back online, said Snedaker.


"It has been a significant overhaul," he said. "We have gone over every system in the plant."

A staffer repairs a piece of equipment at the plant. Photo courtesy of Gary Snedaker.


When DWR operated the plant, Snedaker said, they had 10 production wells that produced steam. DWR had plugged those wells, seven of which have been successfully reopened, Snedaker said, and two new ones are now being drilled.


The wells, between 8,000 and 9,000 feet deep, produce water that averages 345 degrees, he said. When the plant reaches the 30 megawatt level, it will produce between 500,000 and 600,000 pounds of steam per hour.


The plant's 19 permanent employees are local, said Snedaker, with a former Calpine employee appointed to the plant manager spot.


There have been a number of regulatory requirements at all different levels of government, including county and state, in order to get the plant back producing geothermal power again, said Snedaker.


Those included public hearings, he said, which had good turnout.


"The residents of this area are very well-informed about geothermal," he said.


The result was intelligent questions. "We were very pleased with the feedback from the community," he said.


That doesn't mean there were no objections or concerns, and Snedaker.


However, he said, community members treated them fairly with their questions. The public hearings were held this past September, he said, and the plant eventually got the approval to move forward.


The company doesn't anticipate concerns with increased seismic activity as a result of geothermal power production, although that concern has been raised in the community in recent years.


Bailey said he doesn't believe there's any evidence to show that steam reinjection increases seismic activity.


However, Calpine has acknowledged that reinjection at the Geysers has increased frequency and magnitude of seismic activity in the area.


The Web site for The Geysers, owned by Calpine, states: “The phenomenon of seismicity associated with geothermal power production has been known and acknowledged for decades. With the expanded geothermal development beginning in the in the 1970's, there was a measurable increase in the frequency of 'microearthquakes,' or earthquakes registering under 3.0 on the Richter scale.”


When it comes to geothermal production, Snedaker said Lake County is a key area.


"This is the largest area of geothermal in the world," he said.


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



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