Saturday, 26 November 2022

News

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Firefighters rushed to put out a fire that broke out along the Hopland Grade Monday morning. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 

 

LAKE COUNTY – Officials are still investigating the cause of a three-acre fire that broke out Monday morning along the Hopland Grade.


Alicia Amaro of Cal Fire's Incident Command Center said they received the report of the fire at 10:30 a.m. Monday.


The fire was located on Highway 175, about two and a half miles west of Highway 29. It appeared to have started at the edge of the westbound lane.


Amaro said Cal Fire sent five engines, two dozers, two fires crews, two air tankers and one air attack. In to total, about one dozen engines were on scene, with mutual aid coming from Lakeport and Kelseyville Fire Protection districts, and the U.S. Forest Service. About three dozen Department of Corrections firefighters also helped fight the fire.


The California Highway Patrol briefly closed Highway 175 to all traffic as firefighters worked to contain the blaze. A Cal Fire helicopter made a dozen or more water drops while a fixed-wing aircraft made several passes to drop retardant on the fire. Another airplane acted as a spotter.


Firefighters on scene noted that the summer fire season is shaping up to be a bad one.


Amaro said the fire was contained at about 3:40 p.m., with a cause note yet determined.


Another wildland fire broke out along Tule Lake Road near Highway 29 in North Lakeport on Monday afternoon.


Keith Hill of Cal Fire's Incident Command Center said the second fire was reported at 2:43 p.m., but did not have a time for its containment. All told, Hill said only a few acres were burned, with the cause unknown.


Cal Fire sent the same response as it did to the first fire – five engines, two dozers, two fires crews, two air tankers and one air attack. Hill said that's the planned response on “high dispatch” days like Monday, when officials look at temperature, the burn index and other factors to determine what's needed to quickly contain the fires.


Hill said Lakeport and Kelseyville Fire also were on scene.


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

 

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A Cal Fire plane drops retardant on the fire. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

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LAKE COUNTY Home sales decreased 5.4 percent in May in Lake County compared with the same period a year ago, while the median price of an existing home increased 3.6 percent, according to information gathered from the Lake County Multiple Listing Service (MLS).


"Sales fell in part because of tighter credit standards and growing concerns about the impact of subprime loans on the market," said Phil Smoley, owner/broker of CPS Country Air Properties. "Throughout the county inventory levels have increased to their highest levels in recent years, giving buyers more time to view a greater variety of homes and sellers who set realistic prices an edge in the market."


Closed escrow sales of homes in Lake County totaled 69 in May according to the MLS compared to 73 reported a year ago. However, May's sales activity improved by just one sale over April 2007. Statewide home sale activity decreased 27.8 percent from the 516,960 sales pace recorded in April 2006.


The median price of a home in Lake County during May 2007 was $299,000, a 3.6 percent increase over $288,500 median for May 2006, the MLS reported. The May 2007 median price increased 3.1 percent compared with April's $299,000 median price.


"Although the median price of a home in Lake County continues to rise, this reflects the fall-off in sales in the lower-priced markets of the county where new home inventories and foreclosures are competing with the existing home market," said Smoley. "Fewer sales from these regions coupled with

modest gains in some of the stronger neighborhood markets are pushing the median price for the County up slightly."


Highlights of Lake County's housing figures for May 2007:


  • Lake County's Unsold Inventory Index in May 2007 was 19.3 months, compared with 17 months for the same period a year ago. The index indicates the number of months needed to deplete the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate.

  • Thirty-year fixed-mortgage interest rates averaged 6.25 percent during May 2007, compared with 6.51 percent in May 2006, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable-mortgage interest rates averaged 5.57 percent in May 2007 compared with 5.62 percent in May 2006.

  • The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 160 days in May 2007, compared with 157 days for the same period a year ago.


For a full look at sales around the county, see below.

May Home Sales


Realtor Ray Perry is a member of the CPS/Country Air Kelseyville office. Visit his Web site at www.rayperry.com.


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WASHINGTON – The day after three dozen members of Congress from Oregon and California called for an investigation into Vice President Cheney's role in the death of 80,000 spawning salmon, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee announced he will hold a hearing.


In response to a letter by 36 Democratic members of Congress, among them Rep. Mike Thompson, Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) released the following statement:


"This Committee has already begun examining the penchant for this Administration to favor politics over science in the implementation of the Endangered Species Act, which was highlighted during a May 9th hearing and in the resignation of the Interior Department's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks over the fiasco.


"In light of the revelations being made over the situation in the Klamath River Basin, it is my intention to again convene the Committee to delve into the issues raised by the Members of Congress from California and Oregon. It certainly appears this Administration will stop at nothing to achieve political gain from natural resources disasters. Ultimately, it will be hardworking Americans and their healthy environment that will lose if we fail to act."


The request by West Coast Democrats came after a Washington Post investigative report found that Vice President Cheney instigated the damaging water policy that resulted in the largest salmon kill and fishing disaster in our nation's history.


The Post indicates that Cheney manipulated scientific evidence in order to win votes from farmers who would benefit from the diversion.


"I am pleased that Chairman Rahall is committed to getting to bottom of the vice president's involvement," said Thompson. "The courts found that this water policy was in direct violation of the Endangered Species Act, and the American public should know if their vice president caused science to be manipulated for petty political gain."


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CLEARLAKE OAKS – A Clearlake Oaks man who failed to register as a sex offender after having previously been convicted of a violent sex crime was sentenced to prison on Monday.


Judge Arthur Mann sentenced Clarence John McCarty, 36, to five years in state prison for failing to register as a sex offender, according to a report from the Lake County District Attorney's Office.


McCarty is required to register pursuant to penal code section 290 as a result of a felony sexual battery conviction in 1999.


Deputy District Attorney John R. DeChaine reported that McCarty pleaded guilty on Feb. 23 to one felony count of failing to register as a sex offender, in violation of Penal Code section 290(a)(1)(D).


A felony penal code section 290 violation normally exposes the perpetrator to a maximum prison commitment of three years, DeChaine reported.


However, McCarty admitted at the time of his guilty plea that he had previously served two prior prison terms and had not remained free of prison custody for more than five years between each prior prison commitment, according to DeChaine's report.


The effect of McCarty admitting both prior prison terms, said DeChaine, was that his prison sentence of three years was enhanced to five years.


At the conclusion of the sentencing hearing, Judge Mann remanded the defendant into custody.


Det. Mike Curran of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case with the assistance of Deputies Chwialkowski and Hall, said DeChaine.


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LAKE COUNTY – With the Fourth of July holiday around the corner, the fun will get started this weekend.


If you don't already have something planned, check out what's going on in the coming days, which offer everything from worm races to dancing, barbecues and fireworks.


Saturday, June 30


Clearlake Independence Day Festivities


The City of Clearlake takes the lead this year, holding its Independence Day Parade – with Congressman Mike Thompson as this year's grand marshal – beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday. The parade begins at Redbud Park, 14655 Lakeshore Drive, leading down to Austin Park, 14077 Lakeshore Drive.


At Austin Park, following the parade, there will be a street fair, kinetic sculpture racing, live music, car show, arts and crafts, barbecue, children’s activities and lots more.


And, of course, it wouldn't be July in Clearlake without the 40th annual International Worm Races, also at Austin Park.


United Veterans Council barbecue


The United Veterans Councils is sponsoring a fundraiser barbecue in conjunction with the parking lot sale at the Riviera Shopping Center.


The barbecue will will serve up Italian sausages and hot dogs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, and Sunday, July 1.


Proceeds will support the Military Funeral Honors Team of Lake County, going to repair rifles and replace worn uniforms.


Hospice Services of Lake County Anniversary Celebration, Lakeport


Every year, Hospice helps hundreds of families, offering medical care and comfort to those in the end stages of life, and counseling to their families.


Hospice is celebrating its 27th anniversary this year, and will hold a special night of disco dancing, dining and celebrating from 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday at Fritch Hall at the Lake County Fairgrounds, 401 Martin St., Lakeport. Tickets cost $75 each. Hospice can be reached at 263-6222.


Maxine Sherman Memorial Fireworks, Clearlake Oaks


The Clearlake Oaks/Glenhaven Business Association will hold its fourth annual fireworks display in honor of the late Maxine Sherman, a business association member who supported the annual fireworks displays by holding numerous fundraisers.


The fun starts at dusk at Wigeon Bay. Info: (707) 998-4210, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or www.clearlakeoaks.org.


Monday, July 2


Robinson Rancheria Fireworks Show, Nice


Robinson Rancheria will add some holiday excitement to Monday, with a fireworks that can be viewed from the parking lot in front of the casino.


The free show starts at dusk. Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino is located at 1545 E. Highway 20. For information call 800-809-3636.


Tuesday, July 3


Fireworks Show and Barbecue, Hidden Valley Lake


The Hidden Valley Lake Association’s Greenview Restaurant staff will host a late afternoon barbecue with music and fireworks to be launched from the dam.


The barbecue takes place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. The fireworks start at dusk, and are best viewed from the lake area, beaches and marina at Big Beach Park, 18174 Hidden Valley Road. For information, call 987-3138.


Wednesday, July 4


Lakeport Independence Day Festivities, Lakeport


Independence Day in Lakeport begins with an all-day street fair, arts and crafts, plus music and food at 11 a.m. at Library Park.


The fun lasts until throughout the day, with the event culminating in the lighted boat parade at 9:30 p.m. and fireworks over Clear Lake at dusk.


American Legion Fourth of July barbecue, Kelseyville


The Kelseyville American Legion Post No. 194 will hold its 41st annual Fourth of July barbecue from noon to 5 p.m. at the Legion Hall, located at Second and Gaddy Lane.


On the menu is barbecue beef and chicken, beans, salad and garlic bread. The requested donation is $8 for adults, $4 for children under 12.


Proceeds from the event go to support community programs such as nurses scholarships, Boys and Girls State, environmental camp for kids, and the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary's Fourth of July and Christmas parties at the Yountville Veterans Home.


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


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The Westwind fire burned three homes early Wednesday morning. Photo by Kim Clymire.

 

LOWER LAKE – An early morning fire on Wednesday burned three mobile homes at a Lower Lake mobile home park.


The fire broke out at the Westwind mobile home park at about 2 a.m. Wednesday, reported Chief Jim McMurray of the Lake County Fire Protection District. The park is located on Konocti Vista Drive off of Pt. Lakeview Road.


McMurray said two mobiles were completely destroyed, with a third burned but not as seriously as the others.


Two more homes were in the fire's immediate path, said McMurray, with many other homes in the park jeopardized as well.


No injuries to residents or firefighters were reported.


A total of five engines, three water tenders, one rescue and one medic unit were on scene, said McMurray, with units coming from his district as well as Kelseyville, Lakeport and Cal Fire.


Cal Fire, said McMurray, remains well-staffed in Lake County despite resources that are needed to fight Lake Tahoe's Angora fire.


McMurray estimated that 25 firefighters battled the blaze, which was contained by about 3:30 a.m., with all equipment returned to quarters by 6:30 a.m.


The cause of the fire is still under investigation, McMurray reported. “They had a lot of debris to go through to make a determination.”


Information about the individuals who lost their homes was not available by publication time.


In situations where people lose their homes to fire, Georgina Lehne, executive director of the Lake County Community Action Agency, said the Red Cross is the first responder.


However, those in need can receive food from the agency's emergency food pantry as well as clothes, Lehne said. LCCAA can be reached at 995-0495.


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

 

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The burned homes were closely surrounded by other mobiles. Photo by Kim Clymire.
 

 

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LAKE COUNTY – The Clear Lake office of the California Highway Patrol will conduct another sobriety check on the Fourth of July, officials reported.


Sobriety checkpoints will be staffed by CHP officers who are trained in the detection of alcohol and/or drug impaired drivers.


CHP Drug Recognition Experts, certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will be on site to provide on the spot assessments of drivers suspected of drug use. The officers also will be equipped with state-of-the-art, hand-held breath devices which provide an accurate measure of blood alcohol concentrations of suspected drunk drivers.


“Our goal is to ensure the safe passage of each and every motorist by targeting roads where there is a high frequency of drunk driving,” said Clear Lake Area Commander Lt. Dane Hayward. “A sobriety checkpoint is an effective tool for achieving this goal and is designed to augment existing patrol operations.”


By publicizing the effort, Hayward said CHP hopes they can deter motorists from drinking and driving.


Lt. Hayward emphasized, “traffic volume permitting, all vehicles will be checked and drivers who are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or unlicensed, can be expected to be arrested.”


He added, “Our objective is to send a clear message to those considering mixing alcohol and/or drugs with driving during summer vacation the CHP will be keeping a watchful eye out for you.”


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LAKEPORT – A Kelseyville man will spend the next four years in prison for failing to register as a sex offender.


Charles Henry Sparks Jr., 40, was sentenced to four years in state prison June 22 for failing to register as a sex offender, according to Deputy District Attorney John R. DeChaine, who prosecuted the case.


Sparks has been required to register pursuant to Penal Code section 290 since he was convicted of rape in 1995, according to DeChaine.


On April 6, Sparks pleaded guilty to one felony count of failing to register as a sex offender, in violation of Penal Code section 290, DeChaine reported.


Failing to register as a sex offender carries a maximum prison sentence of three years; however, Sparks also admitted to having served a prior prison term, thereby enhancing his prison commitment to a maximum of four years, according to DeChaine's report.


Sparks had been out of custody on bail of $15,000 prior to June 29, reported DeChaine, when he was sentenced and remanded into custody.


Judge Richard Martin presided over the taking of the guilty plea as well as the June 22 sentencing hearing, DeChaine noted, and Det. Mike Curran of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case.


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LAKEPORT – After five years, numerous trial reschedulings, one trial that ended in a hung jury and another that stretched over the past nine weeks, it took a jury just an hour and a half to convict a Clearlake man of a 2002 murder.


The jury in the trial of Edward James Munoz, 26, accused of the 2002 murder of Leah Leister, came back with a guilty verdict at 3 p.m. Wednesday, reported Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff.


Munoz was accused of the March 11, 2002 murder of the 26-year-old Leister, a single mother whose body was found in her Clearlake apartment.


Munoz pleaded not guilty to the crime, as Lake County News previously reported.


Hinchcliff said Munoz stabbed Leister 16 times, cutting her throat several times as well. “When he finished that, he duct-taped her hands together and her feet together,” said Hinchcliff, who has been with the case since its beginning five years ago.


Hinchcliff said Munoz initially told investigators that he was ordered to kill Leister by Nortenos gang leaders out of Pelican Bay State Prison because she was stealing drugs from the gang.


But at trial, Munoz changed that story and claimed he was lying initially, said Hinchcliff.


Speaking of the trial, Hinchcliff said, “It was a frustrating, long, tiresome ordeal.”


The same can be said of the entire process that led to this point.


Munoz has been in custody in the Lake County Jail since April 2002. Hinchcliff said there were numerous changes of attorneys, either at Munoz's request or when attorneys chose to leave the case. The result was that his trial was rescheduled 13 times before it finally started in Judge Arthur Mann's courtroom last fall.


George Boisseau, a private criminal defense attorney from Santa Rosa, came to defend Munoz, and was the man at his side during last year's trial, which ended on Oct. 11 in a hung jury, 11-1, over the issue of Munoz's guilt.


Boisseau was again at the defense table for the retrial, which Hinchcliff said started jury selection on April 24 and began two weeks later. During the past nine weeks, Hinchcliff estimated he called about 20 witnesses to the stand, some testifying for as few as 15 minutes, some for a day or longer.


This time, the jury came back in short order with a conviction, finding Munoz guilty of first degree murder with a special gang allegation. “The jury was firmly convinced of his guilt,” Hinchcliff said.


Munoz's sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 27, although Hinchcliff said it's a date that likely will be changed.


“There's a good chance that it's going to take probably about four months to get him sentenced just because of motions the defense is likely to file and we'll have to respond to,” said Hinchcliff.


Among those, Hinchcliff expects Boisseau will file a motion for a new trial.


Munoz, however, is not facing the death sentence, said Hinchclif, who explained that the District Attorney's Office is instead seeking life without the possibility of parole.


Death penalty cases, said Hinchcliff, must meet certain statutory guidelines, including multiple homicides or the murder of a peace officer, and a defendant's extensive prior criminal record. “It was our opinion that this case didn't satisfy the factors, so we were not seeking the death penalty.”


Going through the retrial process, Hinchcliff said, “My main concern was for the victim's family and her mother, and how frustrating it was for her.”


Leister's family wanted closure and for Munoz to be held accountable for the crime. “Finally, that's done for them.”


Next, the family must decide if they'll give victim impact statements at Munoz's sentencing, said Hinchcliff.


Munoz's conviction brings with it another tragic backstory. His older brother, Richard Munoz, is currently serving a 25-years-to life sentence for a murder that took place in the late 1990s. Retired Clearlake Police Captain Ron Larsen said Richard Munoz, while still a juvenile, cut the throat of a 14-year-old boy at Clearlake Commons Apartments.


This isn't the first case that Hinchcliff has seen to a conclusion after years of delays and investigation. Last summer, he won a murder conviction in the case of Paul James Smiraglia, 47, who was found guilty of murdering 43-year-old Diedre Coleman in July 2002. The jury in that trial, which lasted about a month, also returned a verdict quickly, deliberating only two hours.


Hinchcliff said he has some other homicide cases to prepare for, and will next go to trial in a home invasion burglary case Sept. 5.


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


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The first worm race of the day in the 6-10 age group on Saturday. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


 

CLEARLAKE – A parade through town, worm races and fireworks – that was Saturday in Clearlake, which kicked off the county's Fourth of July festivities this year.


Things got started with the parade from Redbud Park to Austin Park at 11 a.m., with the 40th annual International Worm Races immediately afterward, hosted for the eighth year by Worm Master Bill Edmunds.


Then in the evening there were fireworks in both Clearlake and Clearlake Oaks, where the annual fireworks display in honor of Maxine Sherman helped light up the night sky.


For photo galleries of Clearlake's parade and worm races, go to http://lakeconews.com/component/option,com_wrapper/Itemid,37/.


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

 

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The parade featured fire trucks, hot rods and a Wells Fargo stagecoach pulled by a four-horse team. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

 

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The Angora fire, looking west from Lira's Market in Meyers. Photo by Mike Guarino.

 

 

LAKE COUNTY – With the Angora fire still endangering South Lake Tahoe, firefighters from here in Lake County are at the fire now, working to contain it.


The fire, which broke out Sunday, has burned 3,100 acres south of Lake Tahoe and east of Fallen Leaf Lake, according to the US Forest Service's Incident Information System.


So far, 251 homes have been destroyed and three people injured, the US Service reported. The fire is 55-percent contained, with containment expected July 3.


On scene are 164 engines, 51 crews, 21 helicopters, four dozers and 15 water tenders, staffed by an estimated 2,174 personnel.


The fire is under federal jurisdiction, which means fire resources from National Forests have been called from around the state.


Hinda Darner, a fuels technician with the Mendocino National Forest's Upper Lake Ranger District, said Thursday that the district sent and engine and a hand crew – consisting of about 20 people – to the Angora fire. The group left at the beginning of the week, she said.


The Upper Lake district is rating fire danger as high, especially with the big weekend and the Fourth of July holiday around the corner, said Darner. During that time, she said, “We get a lot more public use and campfires.”


Darner said the district has a responsibility to make sure they have enough resources, which means not sending off more firefighters than they can spare.


So far, 32 firefighters and logistical personnel and five from the Mendocino National Forest have gone to work the Angora Fire, said Punky Moore, a spokesperson for the forest's main office in Willows. The forest employs a total of 260 staff – including firefighters – during the summer season.


Moore said some of the personnel who had gone to Tahoe already have returned from the fire. There was a “big push” to contain the fire on Wednesday, Moore said. The Forest Service reported that fire crews on Wednesday night increased efforts to secure firelines around the fire's perimeter.


During the “ramp up” period of a fire, when it's just getting under way, Moore said it's important to get as many people on scene as you can. Now, however, the effort appears to have reached its peak.


“At this point we're not sending more people unless more orders come in,” Moore said.


A report from the Cal Fire Command Center noted that Cal Fire's Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit has sent a total of five engines manned by 20 personnel, plus a hand crew strike team – consisting of another 30 firefighters – to work the Angora fire. However, they don't anticipate sending any more because no new orders for crews have come in.


Cal Fire is an important responder on many fires, as seen in the Westwind mobile home park fire early Wednesday morning.


Lake County Fire Protection District Chief Jim McMurray reported that Cal Fire's staffing remains strong in Lake County, which is important as the local fire season ramps up. “It hasn't been real bad yet, but it's starting very early,” said McMurray, who noted that the weather is much drier much earlier.


McMurray is hoping things will “stay quiet,” as they approach the July 4th holiday, when fireworks are a problem.


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


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SACRAMENTO – The amended version of Sen. Patricia Wiggins' bill to address the light brown apple moth's arrival in California passed the Assembly Agriculture Committee on Wednesday.


Wiggins introduced the bill last month, which originally proposed to create a task force to advise state Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura on the apple moth. The task force, which Kawamura would choose, would then submit a report to him by Sept. 1.


The bill passed the Senate by a 35-1 vote on May 29.


Since its introduction into the Assembly, Wiggins has amended the bill to give agricultural commissioners and the state the tools they need to eradicate the pest, according to a statement from Wiggins' office.


The light brown apple moth has so far reached nine California counties, as Lake County News previously reported. The latest report from the California Department of Food & Agriculture says that 4,292 moths have been found in those nine counties, with trapping activities continuing in 50 counties statewide.


“I said when I introduced SB 556 that it was a work in progress, intended to reflect the needs of the state in this situation,” Wiggins said in a written statement. “This bill will fully reflect the nature and scope of the effort to detect, control and eliminate the moth as a threat to California agriculture.”


The amended bill, called the Light Brown Apple Moth Act, calls for additional staffing and logistical support geared towards eradication.


New aspects of the bill include:


– Creation of the “LBAM Program” within the Department of Food & Agriculture, requiring Kawamura to provide appropriate levels of staffing and logistical support for eradication.


– Establishes an “LBAM Account” within the Department of Food & Agriculture Fund, and requires that funds be made available for the purpose of eradication.


– Requires the Department of Food & Agriculture report to the Legislature annually, beginning January 10, 2008, regarding its expenditures, progress and ongoing priorities in combating the moth.


– Contains an urgency clause that puts it into effect immediately should Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sign the bill into law.


The light brown apple moth was discovered in the Bay Area in February. It's known to damage as many as 250 host plants, fruits and trees.


Since its discovery in California, state and federal quarantines have been implemented to stop the pest spreading any farther.


One light brown apple moth was found in Napa County in May. Earlier this month, state and federal officials began eradication treatments in Napa and Contra Costa counties, using an organic insecticide in the hopes of protecting the state’s $38 billion agriculture industry.


David Miller, Wiggins' spokesman, said the bill may return to the Senate for approval of the amendments. He said Wiggins is hopeful that SB 556 will get to the governor’s desk soon.


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


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