Sunday, 21 July 2024


SAN FRANCISCO California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. is accusing the Bush administration of siding with the auto industry by illegally adopting “dangerously misguided” gas mileage rules for SUVs, pickups and minivans.

Brown, in a lawsuit backed by 11 states and several environmental organizations, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s new mileage standards violate federal law by ignoring both the environment and our country’s growing dependence on foreign oil.

The lawsuit, which was argued Monday in a San Francisco federal appeals court, accuses the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of ordering only a trivial increase in vehicle mileage standards an increase from 22.2 mpg to 23.5 mpg by 2010. Such administrative action is contrary to federal rules mandating energy conservation, according to a statement from Brown's office.

The administration should have considered the effects of the vehicles' greenhouse gas emissions on global warming when formulating new mileage standards, the lawsuit alleges. Had the administration done so, the government would have demanded greater fuel efficiency, according to the lawsuit.

“After years of neglect, it is unconscionable to increase vehicle mileage standards by only one mile per gallon,” Brown said outside the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the case was argued Monday. “We are asking the court to reject this dangerously misguided policy that exacerbates global warming and enriches foreign sponsors of terrorism.”

When approving the regulations last year, the Bush administration primarily emphasized the financial costs to the auto industry instead of seriously considering the cost to the environment and people's health, lawyers for Brown and the other plaintiffs argued Monday to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Suing along with Brown are Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, the District of Columbia, New York City, the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense and the Sierra Club.

About 8 percent of the United States' greenhouse gas emissions come from the vehicles at issue.

Some say global warming does not exist, but even the U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged it, according to Brown's statement.

On April 2, the Supreme Court demanded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency consider adopting regulations to combat climate change.

In that case, the high court wrote "the harms associated with climate change are serious and well recognized." The Supreme Court noted environmental changes "have already inflicted significant harms" from retreating glaciers, to early spring snow melts to an "accelerated rate of rise of sea levels during the 20th century relative to the past few thousand years."

The lawsuit accuses the Bush administration of violating the Energy Policy and Conservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, and says greater fuel efficiency is vital "to avert environmental disaster."

The National Environmental Policy Act and other regulations require the Bush administration, when formulating new mileage standards, to consider the effects of the vehicles’ greenhouse gas emissions on global warming, which the Bush administration failed to do, Brown said.

Instead, the Bush administration adopted a standard oblivious to how manmade pollution is harming the environment and changing the climate, Brown claimed.

On Monday, at the same time as the lawsuit was being argued in San Francisco, President Bush gave an address in the White House Rose Garden in which he stated his desire “to cut America’s gasoline usage by 20 percent.”

Brown said that he applauded the president’s favorable comments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and cutting back on gas-guzzling, but urged the president to take two immediate steps: tell the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to grant California and 12 other states permission to reduce vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and junk last year’s token 1-mile-per gallon increase in fuel efficiency standards and “propose something real.”

“The president doesn’t offer a single concrete proposal on how to combat global warming and instead directs his bureaucracy 'to work together’ to come up with a plan,” Brown said. “California already has a plan that can be adopted immediately.”

Arguing for California and the other states is California Deputy Attorney General Susan S. Fiering.

A decision by the three-judge appeals court panel is expected anytime.

The case is California v. National Highway Traffic Safety Agency, 06-72317.

Court records in the case can be found at:


Mother's Day is a great time to have fun with your camera and make some memories with mom. Photos by Aaron Mankins.



There is a folder on this photographer's home computer desktop named BACKUP. Inside of that folder are a dozen folders named after various topics such as travel, action, Mendocino, school, etc. The one folder that gets opened the most lately is filed under PERSONAL and is titled: MOM PICS. In this MOM PICS folder are the results of a half hour shoot that took place in my studio two summers ago.

My mother was here visiting from Florida and we decided to have some fun in the studio. We matched outfits, fixed our hair and had a blast. We posed together, and we posed separately. My mom was such a sport. She wore boxing gloves, cowboy boots, sat in a movie star chair, and even decided to get out her favorite antique ring and show it off. Some of these photos are too serious, some are too silly and some are just right. We sat in front of a white background with two studio lights facing us at 45 degree angles.

We both looked at the camera, posed cheek to cheek, hugged and laughed. It is probably the only time we have actually sat still and focused on each other and us as mother and daughter.

My favorite image is of mom alone looking off camera with a soft side light. She had just declared, "I am the family matriarch." The look in her eye is one of pride and strength. As a widow who took care of my Dad through his battle with cancer, and now the single parent of three grown daughters she is the head and heart of our family. I will always be honored to pose in a photo with her.

On this Mother's Day or any day real soon, I urge you to either schedule a formal sitting with your mom at a local studio, or at least get out your own camera gear and choose a location that has a simple but complementary background.

You can borrow a family member who has decent photography skills and ask them to try to capture a portrait of you and your mom. Make sure you shoot solo photos of mom to study later and please, let her be herself. You might capture some digital movie of her as well.

If your mom is the shy type and says she doesn't want to be photographed, just remind her how beautiful she is and tell her what she means to you and how these photos are as much for you as they are for her. Then quick take the photo before she wells up with tears.

Suzette Cook-Mankins is the ROP Photo Teacher at Ukiah High School and a 20-year veteran of photojournalism. Send comments, questions, requests to


Tule elk are once more at home at Lake Pillsbury, thanks to efforts from state and federal agencies, and a conservation organization. Photo courtesy of the Mendocino National Forest.


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – A small herd of tule elk is thriving at Lake Pillsbury thanks to efforts during the past three decades to reintroduce the animals, which were nearly hunted to extinction.

Tule elk once were at the brink of disappearing due to habitat changes and overhunting, said Lee Morgan, a Mendocino National Forest biologist.

Beginning in the state's Gold Rush era, “market hunters” – who shot the animals and then sold the meat – began to erode herd numbers, Morgan explained.

Within 30 years, market hunters had nearly wiped out the tule elk statewide, said Morgan, a situation he said was similar to what happened to the American bison.

Different historical accounts put the tule elk's lowest numbers at between two and 20, he said.

The elk had also been at home in Lake County, which Morgan said is on the edge of the tule elk habitat.

Beginning in the 1970s, the state Department of Fish & Game began reintroducing the animals to the Lake Pillsbury Basin, according to a report by Phebe Brown, the forest spokesperson.

Fish & Game initially brought in 20 animals, Brown reported. Several years ago, Morgan said, another group of elk were brought in.

In January, forest biologists counted 68 elk, including 17 branched bulls, Brown reported.

Morgan said it's a steadily growing herd. “We're expecting to see about a dozen calves this year,” he said, which would bring the herd size to about 80.

“It's the only tule elk herd on our forest that's regularly present,” said Morgan, although some tule elk sometimes travel in from other areas, such as Covelo.

Mendocino National Forest and the Los Padres National Forest in Goleta are the only two national forests in the state to have tule elk, Morgan reported.

The Pillsbury elk can't be hunted, said Morgan, as there's no elk hunting season in that area.

What's a tule elk?

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a conservation organization based in Missoula, Mont., reports there are four elk subspecies: the Rocky Mountain, found in the Rocky Mountain West region; Roosevelt's, found along the Pacific Coast; the tule, in central California; and the Manitoban, found in the northern Great Plains.

Tule elk are a smaller breed of elk, Morgan said, normally about two-thirds the size of a Rocky Mountain elk.

The cows they've collared in the Pillsbury herd range between 300 and 350 pounds, he said, with the biggest bull weighing in at roughly 500 pounds.

Tule elk tend to prefer flatter ground, he said, and don't range as far as some other elk species.

Although Rocky Mountain Elk are found in California, Morgan said that there is some disagreement among scientists about whether or not that elk subspecies is actually native to California.

Grants helped elk project

The effort to make the elk at home once more was aided by a partnership between the Mendocino National Forest, Fish & Game and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation gave the effort a grant to help pay for radio telemetry, which is used to county and monitor the elk and their habitat usage, Brown reported. Fish & Game and the Forest Service have worked together to capture and monitor the elk.

Brown reported that several types of recent projects have benefited tule elk around the lake. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Fish & Game and California Deer Association have provided grants that, combined with Forest Service funding, helped pay for work that improves forage for tule elk, deer, and other wildlife.

Visitors can see mechanical brush management and burning projects that have been completed on several hundred acres on the flats at the north end of the lake, Brown reported. The work produces additional food for wildlife as well as reduces fuel concentrations that pose a threat to adjacent homes and forested habitat.

The National Forest has initiated several new forest thinning and fuel reduction projects that will create additional understory forage on more than 1,500 acres on ridges to the east and west of the lake, according to Brown. Elk forage and elk use had been limited on those ridge locations prior to project work, but elk use has already increased where that work has begun east of the lake. Planned future understory burns should help maintain favorable forage conditions while keeping fuel profiles reduced.

Morgan said an Elk Foundation grant will help fund a 100-acre project that this year that will burn older chaparral to provide better feed for area deer and elk. When the chaparral grows back, the elk find the younger growth more palatable and will mow it down, he said, which in turn helps control the brush.

The forest's tule elk also enjoy wild clovers and grasses, he said, and when the main grasses dry out, they'll focus more on the green summer and fall foliage around Lake Pillsbury's edges.

Fish & Game overflies the herd monthly, said Morgan. The National Forest monitors the elk from the ground; Morgan said he comes over monthly to check on them, making more visits during calving season.

Fish & Game wildlife biologist David Casady said the agency is excited about how the elk are doing at Pillsbury.

“There are more elk here than we thought and the herd is growing nicely,” he said. “We have learned new information about local elk movements and relative habitat usage from the telemetry so that land managers can better plan elk enhancement projects near the lake.”

He added, “We are hoping the ongoing bull telemetry will show if some animals are moving between here and adjacent herds.”

Knowing where the elk go and along what general routes can help prioritize future habitat work to improve habitat linkage between elk herds, Casady said.

Elk herd the visible sign of success

Wildlife enthusiasts can consistently view tule elk and other wildlife at Lake Pillsbury, though they are not necessarily all visible all day long, Morgan said.

It's also important to remember that the animals are wild, Morgan said.

“Nature watchers need to remember that these elk are wild animals and not to approach too closely,” he said. “Folks can often park on a road and get a good view of the elk with binoculars from their car without spooking the elk into the cover.”

He added, “Elk viewing can be pretty special here, between the views of the elk, the lake, and adjacent mountains, coupled with the sounds of the elk and waterfowl around the lake. Some of the resident tule elk are visible every day if you know where to look. They are usually most visible early and late in the day and spend many hours out in the lake bed as the water drops.”

Forest Supervisor Tom Contreras said the results of the partnership between government and private agencies are visible in the herd itself.

“Successful partnerships like the ones we have forged around Lake Pillsbury help us to manage our national forests to benefit both wildlife and people,” Contreras said.

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


SACRAMENTO – The Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday approved the following bills by Senator Patricia Wiggins (D – Santa Rosa):

– SB 557, which seeks to include qualified doctors of audiology among those medical professionals who may be appointed by the administrative director of the Division of Workers' Compensation as qualified medical evaluators.

The bill’s sponsor, the California Academy of Audiology, asserts that an audiologist is the most qualified professional to determine whether a hearing loss would impair a worker's ability or whether a hearing loss was secondary to noise exposure on the job.

– SB 565, which would create the position of hospital and health services director at the Yountville Veterans’ Home.

Yountville is the only state veterans’ home with a hospital. Yountville has an emergency room, skilled nursing facility, pharmacy, and an Alzheimer unit. Yountville has a medical director and a nursing director but no one to administer and coordinate the medical care and medical personnel for all the facilities on the property.

Veterans and veterans’ advocacy groups believe that patients would be better served with a hospital and health services director on-site.

– SB 581, which would transfer the Volunteer Firefighters Length of Service Award System away from CalPERS and direct administrative responsibilities of the program to the California State Fire Employees Welfare Benefit Corporation.

Currently there are approximately 54 fire departments participating in the program, and 128 volunteer firefighters who are receiving monthly payments and who are eligible for the death benefit. The total membership is comprised of 3,983 volunteer firefighters and the balance in the fund is approximately $2.6 million.

In 1998, CalPERS changed the methods and assumptions it used in determining the administrative costs of the VFLSA. Since that time, the administrative costs have increased from $10,000 to an estimated cost of $139,025 for 2007-08.

The system is funded entirely by contributions from contracting fire entities and investment earnings.

– SB 861, which would authorize the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) to use $5.5 million in previously allocated state funds for environmental cleanup of rail lines.

Specifically, this bill would allow the NCRA to use $5.5 million in funds allocated through the Transportation Congestion Relief Program to meet cleanup obligations under an environmental remediation consent decree ($4 million), along with some administrative responsibilities.

The authority would be prohibited from spending more than $500,000 annually on administrative expenses.

Monday's actions mean that all four bills are now eligible for a vote by the full Senate.

Wiggins represents California’s 2nd Senate District, which stretches from Solano County to Humboldt County and includes part or all of Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma Counties as well. Visit her Web site at



Terrace Middle School students are raising awareness and money for the upcoming Relay for Life event. Photo courtesy of Patricia England.



Terrace Middle School students recently went all out for “Paint Our Town Purple Day.”



Students decorated the trees in front of the school with purple ribbons, wore purple clothes and some had purple hair or faces. The effort is to raise funds and support for the upcoming Relay for Life.



The whole school had a "Purpleist" contest with each grade level chosing the "purpleist" class whose students were treated to purple doughnuts. A student from each winning class was chosen to compete for the "purpleist" student in the school and the winner, Jessica Henson, received special gifts.



There is a money jar in the office to support American Cancer Society Relay For Life. The students who donate money can put a name on a purple paper heart to go on a large banner on the window. The theme is The Power Of Purple. The students have donated more than $240 so far.



The Lake County Relay For Life will be held from 10 a.m. Saturday May 19, to 10 a.m. Sunday May 20, at Clear Lake High School's Don Owens Stadium. Everyone is invited to attend.

There will be entertainment the full 24 hours and special ceremonies to honor cancer survivors and to remember those lost to cancer.



 The Relay For Life committees extend special thanks to the students, teachers and staff of Terrace Middle School for supporting Paint Our Town Purple Day.


SACRAMENTO – A key Senate committee gave unanimous approval Wednesday to SB 813, a bill by Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) to clarify state elections code.

Specifically, the bill would clarify that a provision in the state elections code pertaining to the death of a candidate prior to a vote of the people applies only to primaries and not runoff elections.

A statement from Wiggins' office said the bill is meant to prevent a repeat of the 2006 Mendocino County District Attorney's Race. In that instance, incumbent Norm Vroman died 47 days prior to the November runoff, a situation which led to a long and controversial election.

Existing law provides that when a candidate dies after the 68th day before the election, the votes cast for the deceased candidate are to be counted in determining the results of the election for that office.

If the deceased candidate receives a majority of the votes cast for the office, he or she shall be considered elected and the office to which he or she was elected shall be vacant at the beginning of the term for which he or she was elected. The vacancy shall be filled in the same manner as if the candidate had died subsequent to taking office for that term (Elections Code Section 15402).

However, there's another twist to election law. If an incumbent runs for a nonpartisan state or local office against only one other candidate, and either of the two candidates dies after the 68th day before the election, the law states that another election can't be held. If it is, the ballots will be declared void.

In those circumstances, a special election is required when the death of either candidate occurs. This provision is located in an area of the Elections Code (Section 8026) that pertains only to primary elections and was never intended to apply to runoff elections. The Wiggins bill merely seeks to clarify that intent.

Section 8026: History

Elections Code Section 8026 was enacted in 1988 in response to the 1986 election for San Mateo County Sheriff. The popular incumbent, Brendon Maguire, drew only one opponent, who was considered by some observers to be unqualified for the office.

After the close of the nomination period but prior to the primary election, Maguire died. Fearing that an unqualified person might be elected sheriff, then-Assemblyman Lou Papan authored successful urgency legislation (AB 2739 of 1986) to cancel the election and require a new one.

However, AB 2739 was overturned by the State Supreme Court and the election between the deceased sheriff and the challenger proceeded. Sheriff Maguire won the election with nearly 80 percent of the vote. The office was eventually declared vacant and a special election was held to fill it.

In order to prevent the possibility that such a situation could result in an unqualified candidate winning a future nonpartisan election, the Legislature enacted Section 8026, which cancels a primary election if the incumbent has only one challenger and one of them dies prior to the primary.

That legislation, AB 2582 of 1988, was not intended to address runoffs, the reasoning being that if a challenger is able to force a runoff against an incumbent, that challenger must be deemed qualified for the office in the eyes of the electorate.

A case in point: The recent Mendocino election

The 2006 election for Mendocino County District Attorney featured three candidates running in the June primary: incumbent Norm Vroman, attorney and former deputy D.A. Meredith Linott and Myron Sawicki.

Vroman received 36.08 percent of the vote, Sawicki received 21.77 percent and Linott received the most votes at 42.01 percent. Since no candidate received a clear majority of the votes (50 percent plus one), a runoff was scheduled between Vroman and Linott.

Vroman died of a heart attack just 47 days prior to the runoff. Given that it was a runoff election the county invoked a provision of the election code (Section 15402) requiring that the ballots be counted. The county was subsequently sued, however, over whether the provision rendering the election null and void (Section 8026) should have been invoked instead.

The Appellate Court ruled against the county and ordered a special election be held that negated the primary, setting a new precedent given the intent and history of Section 8026.

Fixing the Problem: SB 813

“In light of the turmoil resulting from the 2006 Mendocino County D.A. race and the subsequent lawsuit and court ruling, I introduced SB 813 to clarify that Section 8026 of the Elections Code does indeed apply only to primary elections,” Wiggins said.

“Furthermore, my bill would clarify that if a candidate dies within 68 days of a runoff election, Section 15402 applies to govern the results of that election,” she added. “The Legislature never intended Section 8026 to apply to runoff elections and doing so results in unnecessary costs, delays, and added confusion for voters.”

For more about Wiggins' bills or to contact her office, visit


Cal Fire crews work to complete cleanup along the Black Forest edge last week. Photo by Joel Witherell.


BLACK FOREST – The first phase of the Black Forest demonstration project was completed last week, thanks to additional help from state and local officials, and community volunteers.

The project has been going on since last month, and was aimed at creating a fire break along Soda Bay Road at the forest's edge.

On Wednesday, proud and exhausted members of Cal Fire's Konocti 5 Unit climbed into their big red truck and headed home for dinner and to be ready to fight a fire tomorrow rather than prevent one today. The young men even took time out to rescue some wild turkey eggs and build a nest for them and the mother turkey, using some of the cut branches.

Cal Fire was joined by three chipping operators Ray and David Mostin, Adam Nichols and Jack Paulin; volunteers Hans Dobusch and Kathy Johnson from the Big Valley Lions Club; Buckingham Homes Association volunteers Kris Perkins, Gail Dyne, Wayne and Jodelle Scott, and Neil and Bobbi Towne. All of them worked very hard to finish the Black Forest Fire Prevention Phase I work started during Earth Day Week in April.

The Black Forest has begun to be transformed back to the way it looked before Soda Bay Road was constructed and the "new sunlight " allowed the underbrush to grow unmitigated along the road.

The former canopy of the large Black Forest trees caused firefighters to nickname it the "asbestos forest" because it stayed moist all year round due to its northeast exposure. Only one fire that got "nowhere" in 1950 can be remembered. The 15-foot-high rocks always stayed green from moss, until recently.

However, the road construction that allowed our family to buy a home in the Black Forest also created a detrimental change in the road environment leading to a critical fire danger level.

The formerly held private property owners were not held to a fire safety standard that is expected today in Lake County. Undergrowth awaited the fire of a cigarette or an overheated car to engulf the forest in fire and destroy the $650,000 investment of both public tax money and donations, and possibly the neighboring subdivisions.

The recent LA Zoo fire is a reminder of how fragile our open space is due to both deferred maintenance and careless smokers.

When the 250-acre forest property was transferred to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in September 2004, a "fire prevention prescription" was adopted calling for removal of the unmitigated underbrush. The plan calls for ultimately removing 300 feet of underbrush from the road. Pine and Douglas fir over 3 inches and all sizes of oak and madrone trees were maintained, with only limbs removed up to 10 feet. This is to prevent fire laddering and may allow fire personnel to extinguish the fire before it gets out of control.

Phase I removed 100 feet of underbrush along an estimated 75 percent of the portion of Soda Bay Road adjacent to the forest.

Phase II, which will continue cleaning up the forest and making it safe from fire, is scheduled to begin Saturday, September 29, as part of National Public Lands Day, if volunteers continue with their support and BLM is able to continue with financial support. BLM paid for all costs for Cal Fire services, chipping and support for the volunteers who have worked for the past month on the project.

On May 11 a celebration of Phase I and an informal discussion of Phase II took place in Buckingham, across from the forest.

Contact Joel Witherell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


On Thursday night, the House of Representatives passed an emergency spending bill that would provide much-needed funding for rural schools, the Pacific salmon fisheries disaster, agricultural disaster relief and wildfire emergencies.

HR 2207 passed with a strong bipartisan vote of 302-120, according to Congressman Mike Thompson's office.

The bill would provide $425 million for a one-year extension of the county payments law, known officially as the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, Thompson reported.

Lake County receives funds from that bill, which allocates money for rural schools and roads based on historic timber receipts. The county's most recent payment was about $1 million, according to local school and county officials.

The county payments law ran out last year, and the 109th Congress failed to pass a renewal bill, as Lake County News previously reported.

Provisions to extend the bill were then included in a recent Iraq War supplemental bill, which President Bush vetoed earlier this month because, among other things, it included timelines for troop withdrawal from Iraq.

The bill also includes $60.4 million for California and Oregon's commercial salmon fishing industry, a provision introduced by Thompson. The relief is needed for fishermen, tribes and businesses impacted by the commercial fishery failure of 2006, which Thompson's statement attributed to irresponsible Bush Administration water policies.

"The emergency relief for our salmon industry is long overdue," said Thompson. "Last year's commercial salmon fishing closure was the largest in U.S. history. The affected families and businesses need aid right away, and the president's claim that they should take out loans is illustrative of his disconnect from the real needs of working Americans."

"Due to the fishing closure last year, my business lost $50,000," said Deniel Caouette, owner of Deniel's Place Café in Klamath. "That may not seem like much to the president, but we're holding on by a thread and his suggestion that we just 'borrow' the money reveals how out of touch he is with plight of working people on the Klamath River."

In addition, the bill includes $500 million for wildland firefighting, and money for agriculture disaster relief.

A Bush statement of administration policy, issued May 10, said if presented with the bill, the president would veto it, calling the $7 billion included in the bill “unrequested spending that is unjustified and not appropriate for an emergency spending bill.”

In addition, the administration said the bill circumvents the new House “pay-as-you-go” rule and stretches the definition of “emergency.” The statement called the $500 million in wildfire suppression activities the bill proposes as “unnecessary, saying this year Congress has appropriated enough funding for such emergencies.

Regarding the county payments law provisions, the statement noted that the administration has “serious concerns” with the bill's provisions, and that the president has proposed his own “responsible” extension for the law that includes funding for a more sustainable level of timber harvest, with phase-out provisions.

"This president says he wants to leave no child behind while simultaneously keeping funding out of our schools," continued Thompson. "This veto signals that he doesn't care about getting rural students a good education."

Oregon Congressman Greg Walden also took issue with the administration statement. “To say that the closing of jails, schools and libraries as is occurring right now in my district and in others is not somehow an emergency is to simply ignore reality of what's happening in the rural west. It is outrageous.”

Walden said the federal government has failed to properly fund wildfire suppression, with 10 million acres of federal land burning last year at a cost of $1.5 billion to taxpayers to extinguish those fires. He said the government also has failed to replant those forestlands.

"Without funding, our county schools are at severe risk," said Jan Moorehouse, Superintendent of Del Norte County Unified School District. "These funds should have been secured last year and the president's callous disregard demonstrates he is ignorant to the needs of rural communities in the West."

The spending bill, entitled the Agriculture Disaster Assistance and Western States Emergency Unfinished Business Appropriations Act of 2007, now goes to a vote in the Senate.

Thompson's office reports there is enough support in the House to override the president's veto.

To view Rep. Thompson's floor speech click here:

To see the White House statement of administration policy, visit

To learn more about the bill, visit and search for HR 2207.

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


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – The Mendocino National Forest's final snow survey of the season showed still more low readings during what forest officials say has been one of the driest years on record.

Forest staffers Jordan Saylor and Conroy Colman conducted the recent snow measurements at Anthony Peak, at an elevation of 6,200 feet, according to a report from Phebe Brown, the forest's spokesperson.

Forest Hydrologist Bob Faust says Anthony Peak is located in the middle of the forest, between the Sacramento and Eel River watersheds.

The measurements conducted by Saylor and Colman found snow depth and water content to be 60 percent below average for this time of year, Brown reported.

One of the samples at the snow course was bare dirt, although the other nine sites were covered, Brown said.

The average snow depth was 23 inches, or 43 percent of average, said Brown. The water content was 9.4 inches – which amounts to 41 percent of average.

A snow survey of the area conducted March 30 found the snowpack at 26 inches (40 percent of average) and 12 inches of water (43 percent of average).

“This is the lowest water content in 15 years,” said Faust.

Other recent low snow years were 1981, 1986 and 1990, he said.

The snowpack statewide has been down significantly this year.

The Department of Water Resources reported Tuesday that the state snowpack was at an average of 25 percent of normal. The more severe weather conditions can be attributed to climate change and global warming, Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow said last week.

Brown reported that the 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, she added.

With the irrigation season on and with low inflow, reservoir storage dropped dramatically, Faust said.

“Anyone driving by Lake Mendocino on Highway 20 can see a lot of shoreline,” said Faust. “This lake is 82 percent of average storage."

Faust compared that to other Northern California reservoirs, including Shasta Lake, which is at 99-percent storage; Lake Oroville, 105 percent; and Black Butte Lake, 68 percent.

Besides California, the states of Arizona, Nevada and Utah are also dry, Faust said.

Good snowpack areas, he added, can be found in Colorado, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

For the most part, Lake County is not dependent on snowpack, according to Water Resources Division officials, but rather on precipitation and creek flow into the lake.

Local creeks remain at extremely low levels according to Department of Water Resources stream gages.

On Tuesday, Kelsey Creek was at 9.9 cubic feet per second (cfs), with the creek's median level at 25; the north fork of Cache Creek measured 20 cfs, with a median of 35; Cache Creek at Lower Lake was at 142 cfs, with a median of 308; and Putah Creek was at 19 cfs, with a median of 74.

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


LAKE COUNTY – After months of declining home sales, the numbers have started to look up this spring.

Home sales increased in the county 13.3 percent in April compared with the same period a year ago, while the median price of a home decreased 8.7 percent according to information gathered from the Lake County Multiple Listing Service.

Home sales increased by eight extra sales to 68, up from last April’s 60. In addition, April's sales increased by three homes – or 4.4 percent – over March, which had 65 sales.

“The sluggish home sales activity is a reaction to an uptick in mortgage rates earlier this year along with tighter underwriting standards,” said Phil Smoley, owner/broker CPS Country Air Properties. “Moreover, recent news regarding foreclosures and the subprime situation had an adverse impact on the market psychology of many buyers, leading some to delay their home-purchase decisions.”

Closed escrow sales of existing homes in Lake County totaled 68 in April according to the Multiple Listing Service. Statewide, home resale activity decreased 20.8 percent from the home sales pace in March 2006, in which 539,170 sales took place.

The median price of home in Lake County during April was $289,975, an 8.7-percent decrease from the $317,500 median for April 2006, the Multiple Listing Service reported. The April 2007 median price decreased 4.9 percent compared with March’s $305,000 median price.

“Home sales have been gradually increasing over the last few months, ever since the asking prices have come closer to reflecting the reality of the current market,” said Smoley.

“Currently the difference between listing prices and sale prices is 10.8 percent,” Smoley continued. “Overall, listing prices have to come down much further in order to stimulate the market. Homes that are priced right are still selling while others that are overpriced will continue to sit on the market month after month.”

Lake County’s Unsold Inventory Index for homes in April was 18.4 months, compared with 17.8 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 6.875 percent during April, compared with 7.125 percent in April 2006, according to Del Whitehead of Cal Bay Mortgage. Adjustable-mortgage interest rates averaged 5.029 percent with a 3.4 percent margin in April 2007 compared with 4.011 percent with a 2.8 percent margin in April 2006.

The median number of days it took to sell a home was 166 days in April, compared with 146 days for the same period a year ago.


Highlights of Lake County’s housing figures for April 2007:

(Information listed from left to right includes area, number of listings, median price, average number of days on the market, number of sales, median sold price and the days on market.)

Buckingham 17; $667,500; 92; 2; $537,000; 166.

Clear Lake Riviera 88; $317,947; 121; 5; $274,000; 271.

Cobb 53; $339,000; 83; 4; $302,000; 142.

Hidden Valley 195; $389,000; 116; 9; $335,000; 190.

Jago Bay 2; $447,000; 92; 1; $233,000; 100.

Kelseyville 32; $369,500; 99; 1; $349,000; 264.

Lakeport North 88; $451,500; 129; 11; $289,900; 129.

Lakeport South 27; $429,000; 111; 1; $350,000;176.

Middletown 18; $549,750; 129; 1; $350,000; 21.

Riviera Heights 26; $382,500; 120; 2; $500,500; 253.

Riviera West 20; $434,250; 149; 1; $439,000; 184.

Soda Bay 4; $462,450; 69; 0; 0; 0.

Ray Perry sells real estate in Lake County. Visit his Web site at


SACRAMENTO – With state officials concerned about the spread of the light brown apple moth, a bill is now in the state legislature that proposes to form an advisory task force to address the pest issue.

North Coast Sen. Patricia Wiggins on Friday said she introduced urgency legislation, SB 556, to form a light brown apple moth advisory task force.

Appointments to the task force would be made by the California Department of Food & Agriculture secretary – currently A.G. Kawamura – with task force members required to issue a report on the pest to the secretary no later than Sept. 1, Wiggins' office reported.

The Department of Food & Agriculture reported that the light brown apple moth was discovered in the Bay area in February.

Since then, it has reached a total of eight California counties – Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Cruz.

A total of 1,979 moths have been found according to the most recent Food & Agriculture situation report, released May 8. Most of the moths have been found in Santa Cruz County, which officials believe may be the original infestation point.

Trapping is taking place in 40 counties, with more than 17,000 traps put into urban and rural areas, according to the Department of Food & Agriculture.

No traps have been put out in Lake County, according to the Department of Food & Agriculture. Traps have been placed in the neighboring counties of Sonoma, Mendocino and Yolo, but so far those traps have yielded no moth finds.

The presence of the moth has been confirmed in as many as 250 kinds of plants and trees, according to the Department of Food & Agriculture.

In particular, the moth has been known to damage pears and grapes, important North Coast crops.

The moth, originally from Australia, has since become established in New Zealand, New Caledonia, Hawaii and the British Isles, the Department of Food & Agriculture reported.

Moth infestations led the state Department of Food & Agriculture to announce April 20 that it was establishing quarantines in the affected counties. On May 2, federal agriculture department officials implemented a federal order restricting the interstate movement of various agricultural products originating from the same counties listed above, as well as Hawaii.

“California stands as the nation’s leader in agricultural exports, shipping more than $7.2 billion in food and agricultural commodities around the world in 2003 alone,” Wiggins said. “The light brown apple moth has the potential to cause significant economic damage due to increased production costs and the possible loss of international and domestic markets.”

SB 556 has been scheduled for its first legislative hearing on May 15 before the Senate Committee on Agriculture at the State Capitol.

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


CLEAR LAKE – The Lake County Sheriff's Office reported Tuesday afternoon that they had recovered the body of a Vacaville man who went missing in the lake Saturday evening.

A report from LCSO Lt. Cecil Brown said that 44-year-old John Leon Stockton, was found at noon.

Search and Rescue members and the North Shore Dive Team had been searching for Stockton since Saturday evening, after it was reported that he fell from the back of his boat and into the water, and didn't resurface.

They were joined in the efforts by Tom Tessier of Santa Rosa-based Aqua-Tec Inc., a company that operates sophisticated sonar equipment, Brown reported.

With Tessier's help, dive team members found Stockton's body underwater, Brown said, and later positively identified him.

Brown said Stockton's family was notified of his recovery Tuesday afternoon.

LCSO has initiated a coroner's investigation into the cause of Stockton's death, Brown said. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.

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


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