Saturday, 13 July 2024


LAKEPORT – The case of a young Iraq war veteran making its way through the local courts raises questions about the aftermath of war and how brain injuries may lead to potentially criminal activities in civilian life.

Derick Hughes, 21, of Upper Lake is facing a felony charge of possession of stolen property and a misdemeanor charge of possessing a billy club.

His defense attorneys, Stephen and Angela Carter, have taken the unusual step of speaking publicly about Hughes' case before his sentencing.

The Carters say the circumstances of Hughes' case warrant a deeper consideration of how to deal with people accused of nonviolent criminal charges. As well, they say the case illustrates a looming problem – young vets with brain injuries who may end up in the criminal system.

District Attorney Jon Hopkins would not comment on the case's specifics. “I don't think we can take a final position on the sentencing of Mr. Hughes until the end of the sentencing hearing,” he said.

Hughes was stopped on Dec. 15, 2006, in Nice by Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Tom Andrews. Court documents report that Andrews found Hughes in possession of a bat – classified as a billy club – and two ballistic panels used by the Marines for body army, as well as concentrated cannabis.

Andrews called the Marine post at Twentynine Palms in Southern California where he spoke with the officer of the day, Angela Carter reported. When the officer told Andrews that Hughes should not have the panels, and that they were Marine property, Hughes was charged with possession of stolen property.

Court documents state that Hughes was cooperative with law enforcement officials and admitted occasional drug use.

The Carters say that their defendant's case is colored by his service in the military and his time spent in Iraq, where he saw some of the war's fiercest fighting, and which has left him affected with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

To me, what's different about this case is his service in Iraq,” said Angela Carter.

Carter said Hughes was raised in Lake County by his grandmother – who died last year – and his aunt. His mother admitted to drug use while pregnant with him.

Hughes enlisted in the Marines because he was drawn by the idea of travel and regular pay, according to court documents. Hughes attended boot camp at Camp Pendleton, completed the School of Infantry and was assigned to Twentynine Palms.

Deployment anxiety

When he found out he was being sent to Iraq, Hughes began smoking marijuana out of anxiety and failed a urine test, Carter said. However, the Marines still sent him to Iraq.

Carter said Hughes has admitted he should not have had the ballistic panels. She said he had them because of fear and the belief that he needed to protect himself.

He's facing this,” said Carter. “He's not making any attempt to deny what happened.”

While in Iraq, Hughes said he “had to kill various people,” according to court documents. On Dec. 1, 2005, he was involved in the fighting in Fallujah, were 10 of his platoon members were killed by a roadside bomb explosion during a promotion ceremony. An additional 13 platoon members were wounded. A platoon is typically 30 to 50 soldiers.

The incident in Fallujah is the event that triggered Hughes' PTSD, according to Dr. Albert Kastl, the clinical and forensic neuropsychologist the Carters brought in to evaluate Hughes.

Hughes would suffer a dislocated shoulder during his service. When he was sent back stateside, Carter said Hughes suffered severe nightmares. To avoid sleeping, he took methamphetamines. When he once again tested positive for drugs, he was discharged without medical care for his shoulder or counseling, Carter said.

Angela Carter said Hughes has no criminal background, yet is being charged with a felony that could earn him as many as three years in state prison.

After Hughes' initial arrest, he was released on his own recognizance, said Carter. However, she said he became confused about his appointment with the Probation Department and missed it. When he next came to court for a hearing, the judge had him remanded into custody, where Carter said he has remained for nearly two months.

Hughes was due in court for sentencing April 20, but the sentencing was continued until this Friday because Judge Richard Martin was out of town and unavailable to hear the case, Angela Carter said.

Carter said the Probation Department recommended Hughes be sentenced to 280 days in county jail rather than prison.

However, the Carters are asking Martin to consider reducing Hughes' felony charge to a misdemeanor. In their legal argument, the Carters assert that the charge could be construed as a “wobbler,” a charge which could be either a felony or a misdemeanor.

It's a motion the Carters say the District Attorney's Office is opposing.

I, for the life of me, can't figure out why they want a felony on this guy,” said Carter.

She said individuals are normally charged on felonies based on two things: the value of the property and previous criminal behavior.

Carter said she doesn't know how much the value of the materials, but she said Hughes has no criminal history.

Clear case” of PTSD

Dr. Kastl, himself a vet, said Carter, believes that Hughes' is a “clear case” of PTSD, and that he would

benefit greatly from treatment. Kastl, she said, found Hughes personable and outgoing.

Kastl will testify about his findings in the case at Hughes' sentencing this week, Carter said.

It's unusual to put experts on the stand at sentencing unless it's a much larger case, like a homicide, said Carter.

We want to make sure that we really get our points across,” Carter said. “We want Derick to explain what he went through in Iraq.”

Young vets coming home struggle with transitions

Bob Penny, the assistant service officer at the Lake County Veterans Services Office, said his office is seeing many young vets coming home from war seeking various kinds of help, including counseling. Right now, he said, he's working with 12 young vets locally.

There are many young Lake County natives service in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, Penny said, referring to the Wall of Honor featuring local servicemen and women in the courthouse in Lakeport.

Those returning vets are having problems adjusting to civilian life, said Penny, especially if they've served more than one tour of duty. “That takes a toll on you psychologically,” he said.

Because of the difficulty in adjusting, Penny said, young vets have more of a propensity for getting into trouble. He said the state legislature passed a law last year to try to address that issue and keep them out of the courts.

When they leave active service, Penny said, veterans aren't getting “nearly enough” counseling and help, a responsibility that has been handed over to the Veterans Administration.

A Government Accountability Office report from last year showed that the Veterans Administration budget was flawed, and that the agency had no plan for treating veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Studying the war's impact

Whether a person does or doesn't agree with the Carters' arguments in Hughes' defense, the issue of a growing number of young vets returning to U.S. shores with PTSD is a looming social issue.

A report released last August says the numbers of vets suffering from PTSD, which is considered a brain injury, is growing dramatically.

Last year, the Veterans Health Administration's Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards studied Veterans Administration services sought by veterans of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Of the 588,923 veterans who had left active duty at that time, 31 percent – or 184,524 – had sought VA health care since 2002.

Of those vets, an estimated 63,767 were diagnosed with possible mental disorders, which include PTSD by definition.

And, finally, 29,041 of those vets were diagnosed with PTSD specifically, with more than 20,095 others diagnosed with depressive disorders; 10,573 with affective psychoses; 4,566 with alcohol dependence; 2,020 with drug dependence; and 2,004 with “acute reaction to stress.”

The Veterans Health Administration Web site features a paper by Brett T. Litz of the National Center for PTSD called “A Brief Primer on the Mental Health Impact of the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are the most sustained combat operations since the Vietnam War, and initial signs imply that these ongoing wars are likely to produce a new generation of veterans with chronic mental health problems associated with participation in combat,” writes Litz.

Litz cites a 2004 study that examined the mental health impact of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and found that the risk of PTSD for the Iraq War was 18 percent – a rate he called “alarmingly high” – versus 11 percent for service in Afghanistan.

In fact, that 18 percent rate of PTSD among vets who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq is three percent higher than the estimated prevalence among Vietnam veterans, according to the 1988 National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study.

Many studies indicate that more frequent and more intense involvement in combat operations increases the risk of developing chronic PTSD and associated mental health problems,” Litz wrote. “Initial evidence indicates that combat operations in Iraq are very intense.”

Litz said the study notes that PTSD rates will decrease over time unless “the mission is experienced as a failure, if soldiers deploy more than once, if new veterans who need services do not get the support they need, or if post-deployment demands and stressors mount, the lasting mental health toll of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq may increase over time.”

Young veterans coming home also appear reluctant to ask for help, according to Litz. Of the 80 percent of soldiers who acknowledged they had a mental health problem, only 40 percent were open to receiving help and 26 percent reported receiving formal mental health care, due to the fear of stigma and its possible effects on their careers.

How will the system deal with young veterans?

There are no hard numbers yet for young veterans who become subject to criminal prosecution.

Although Hopkins would not comment on Hughes' case, he said that, generally, his office would deal with such individuals “on a case by case basis.”

There are some war vets who present a danger to the community, and some who just need some help,” he said. “Most of those who need help and have committed a crime should be on supervised probation to get the maximum benefit we can offer. There are some who do not need the supervised probation, of course, and we find other ways to assure they will not repeat their crimes.”

Hopkins added, “The crucial issue, in the final analysis, is to determine what needs to be done to protect the community. How a person got to where they are committing crimes can be different when dealing with a war veteran, and that is taken into consideration, but we make the same determination for the resolution of the case as with anyone else. There are often more services available for veterans, and those are utilized as much as possible.”

For her part, Carter said she believes the case will test the idea of “supporting the troops” beyond just their service in war, but after they return home.

Derick Hughes will be in Lake County Superior Court in Lakeport at 9 a.m. Friday, April 27.

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


CLEARLAKE OAKS – An Arcata man whose pickup went off the highway and into the lake Saturday night died of his injuries.

The 55-year-old man's name has not yet been released by California Highway Patrol.

CHP reported the man was driving his 1986 Toyota pickup southbound on Highway 20 west of Henderson Drive at Clearlake Oaks at 10:20 p.m. Saturday when the accident occurred.

The man was driving at an unknown rate of speed, and the highway was wet due to rain, the CHP reported.

For reasons that aren't known, the man lost control of his vehicle, crossed the eastbound lane of traffic and went down the embankment south of the roadway, according to the CHP. The pickup rolled over and ended up on its roof, partially submerged in the lake.

The driver was trapped in the pickup and rescuers had to use the Jaws of Life to extract him, CHP reported.

Rescuers transported the man to Redbud Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The CHP reported the man was not wearing his safety belt.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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



LAKEPORT – Authorities are looking for a woman accused of kidnapping a child from Glenn County last weekend and bringing him to Lakeport.

Meantime, the woman's brother – who may be the child's father – was taken into custody for obstructing an officer and child endangerment.

Tabitha Pasalo, 24, who lives part-time at both Glenn County's Grindstone Rancheria and the Big Valley Rancheria in Lakeport, reportedly took the child Saturday, said Lt. Rich Warren of the Glenn County Sheriff's Office.

Pasalo had gone to visit the child at the Grindstone Rancheria home of his mother, 20-year-old Dahnna Burrows, Warren said. He said the child's paternity hasn't been determined, but that Pasalo's brother, John Michael Pasalo, 22, is believed to possibly be the father.

Burrows left the child at the home with Pasalo for a brief time while she ran errands, Warren said. When Burrows returned home the child and Pasalo were gone.

On Sunday the child was found at John Pasalo's home on Soda Bay Road, said Chief Deputy Russell Perdock of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Pasalo initially agreed to turn the child over, then changed his mind and tried to bolt out the door with the child. Perdock said Pasalo was arrested for child endangerment and resisting an officer because of his attempt to escape.

The child was turned over to Lake County Child Protective Services, who returned him to his mother, said Warren.

As for Tabitha Pasalo, authorities are still looking for her, Perdock and Warren said.

“She has not been arrested at his time, but we are going to be seeking charges against her,” said Warren, adding that those charges will likely include kidnapping.

The case is still under investigation, said Warren, with detectives trying to determine what part John Pasalo may have played in the child's abduction.

If he's found to have been involved, Warren said, he could face conspiracy and kidnapping charges as well.

The Glenn County Sheriff's Office hopes to have the investigation wrapped up by Thursday at the latest, said Warren.

If John Pasalo is charged with conspiracy, Warren said they will request that Pasalo be prosecuted in Glenn County by District Attorney Robert Holzapfel, since that's where the abduction took place. Meantime, the child endangerment charges will be prosecuted in Lake County by District Attorney Jon Hopkins' office.

Warren said Glenn County Sheriff Larry Jones and his department were very grateful to Sheriff Rod Mitchell and the Lake County Sheriff's Office for their help on the case.

“Based on their work over there we were able to get this child back very quickly,” Warren said.

John Pasalo was booked into the Lake County Jail and remains in custody on $26,000 bail.

Anyone with information about Tabitha Pasalo is asked to call the Lake County Sheriff's Office, 262-4200.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

direct relationship between healthy food and achievement in academics."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LAKE PILLSBURY – Tuesday proved a busy day for seismicity in Lake County, with a 3.0 earthquake hitting the Lake Pillsbury area within a few hours of a 4.4 quake rocking The Geysers, Anderson Springs and Cobb areas.

The Pillsbury quake was reported at 3:32 p.m., centered eight miles west north west of the lake, at a depth of a 0.1 miles, according to the US Geological Survey.

This is the fifth quake of a magnitude of 3.0 or above to occur in the Lake Pillsbury month alone.

The quakes are occurring along an unnamed fault near Lake Pillsbury, according to US Geological Survey seismologist David Oppenheimer.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



LAKE COUNTY – A sizable earthquake followed by smaller temblors hit The Geysers area this afternoon.

The US Geological Survey reported a 4.4 magnitude earthquake at a depth of 1.1 miles occurred at 2:08 p.m.

The quake, which could reportedly be felt from Middletown to Hopland, was centered one mile east southeast of The Geysers, five miles southwest of Cobb and six miles from Anderson Springs, according to the US Geological Survey.

Anderson Springs resident Meriel Medrano said she was on her back deck when the quake occurred.

“It lasted about six seconds,” she said. “It was a pretty long one.”

She said the quake “rolled heavily” for a few seconds, let up a little, then started rolling again.

Another Anderson Springs resident, John Engels, was at work at his office in downtown Middletown when he felt the quake.

“It shook pretty good,” he said, but not enough to knock anything off the walls.

When he got home to Anderson Springs nothing was damaged, Engels added.

Medrano said they're used to having lots of smaller quakes in that area, but larger quakes haven't occurred in a while.

Because of the shallower depth, Medrano believes the quake was a result of the area's geothermal production and injection.

Medrano said she didn't feel the three small quakes that followed within a few minutes of the 4.4 shaker.

A series of eight smaller quakes, the largest a 2.5, followed the 4.4 quake during the afternoon.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lake County doesn't rely on snowpack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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