Saturday, 13 July 2024



I don’t want people to think that I am some sort of cooking savant. Every exhilarating recipe I create is the culmination of 10 or more trials that my family chokes down which are edible at best, but sometimes are just horrid to look at.

My love of cooking originated in the garden and my attempts to create the best tasting ingredients that developed into a love of cooking those things. So I have no formal culinary training to my credit, just years of trial and error and error and error.

Recently, for instance, I saw a covey of quail running around and they stuck in the back of my mind. I’m sure that most of us have seen quail running around our neighborhoods here in the county. But something that most people wouldn’t know is that most of what you are seeing is feathers. Once they are plucked clean the body is quite tiny and you get only a couple of bites of meat off of each bird, so you have to give a person several quail on their plate in order to have a meaningful meal.

I picked up some quail at the Nylander’s Red and White that I found in their frozen meats freezer. I love the taste of quail and knew I could have some fun fixing it. I noticed that there were several more packages of them so if I came up with something I really liked I could come back for more and repeat the recipe.

My train of thought was straight and fast, but as it turned out it was a little too straight and fast; my mind completely missed several pitfalls in my planning. Just keep reading and don’t drink any coffee right now or it may end up on your monitor.

I thought, “Deep fried quail!” This seemed logical since the quail are so small and the hollow of the body cavity will allow the oil to cook from the inside as well. I thought “How quick and easy can you get?”

So I dredged the quail in rice flour in order to make the skin crispy and then dropped two of the whole quail into hot corn oil. As the quail cooked the legs rose up high and spread out wide into a downright pornographic appearance.

I also didn’t take into account that while rice flour does get crispy it doesn’t brown like wheat flour does. The quail cooking so quickly didn’t give the rice flour any time to get any color. So now not only have my quail distorted into unfortunate positions but they are pasty gray in appearance, further making an unpalatable picture.

As two of the quail finished cooking I put them on a plate in the oven to stay warm and I proceeded to cook the next two. As those two finish I quickly toss them on the plate with the first pair and start the final two.

This method was working out very well and I was fairly pleased, until I threw the final two quail on the plate and removed it from the oven and see to my horror that I have created a Lilliputian orgy scene that would have easily graced one of Caligula’s banquets with honor.

I have several more explanations of what this plate looked like but they would never make it past any of my editors. It’s pretty bad when Caligula is part of the family friendly description!

As I look at this plate of entwined ashen gray birds, I’m at a loss for words. I can’t serve this ... I can barely look at this! All of a sudden I feel like I’m on some sort of reality cooking show and the people at home are watching and laughing at my misfortune, just waiting to see what I do next.

I quickly race to the spice rack and proclaim in victory, “Paprika!” Not only will it hide the pasty color of the quail, but it is smoked paprika and will add a great new layer of flavor. I start pulling the quail apart from their tangle and start shaking the paprika everywhere, praying nobody can actually see this x-rated comedy scene. Meanwhile, I’m steaming the broccoli and mashing the potatoes, knowing full well that those two things are going to be the mainstay of everyone’s meals. In the back of my mind there is this little Han Solo quote repeating over and over in my head, “It’s not my fault!”

My family is now assembled for dinner, and I admit my misfortunes up front and asked for a measure of kindness and please, nobody comment on them. My petting-zoo-vegetarian daughter says quietly, “Don’t serve me any quail please,” and I experience a silent sigh of relief that I don’t have to put the quail on her plate and have them accidentally intertwine into any version of what I just saw.

The quail were actually delicious, despite their peculiar appearance. They were perfectly cooked, but they were just too much work for my family. My daughter wouldn’t eat something that she can empathize with, and my wife can’t get past the amount of labor needed for such a small amount of food.

So this first attempt at quail was a failure, but one I learned a LOT from. I plan to make it again but next time, instead of hitting the ground running with an idea before thinking it through, I’ve already started planning my next attempt. Although I probably want to deep fry them again, next time they will definitely be de-boned first. This was my most recent and dramatic food mistake.  

Then there was my idea of grilling bacon. Come on, think about it: the flavor of bacon and the grill? How can this not already be on every street corner? Well, it turns out that even if you grill the bacon over indirect heat to avoid letting the drippings hit the coals and causing flare-ups, the amount of drippings will eventually become so large and get hot enough that they spontaneously ignite into a fireball and smoke cloud that could make China accuse us of an unauthorized missile launch they witnessed by satellite.

Stuffed squid? Never again. Not only did I spend time making the stuffing and then piping into the tiny opening of the squid body but I tried the new technique that the “TV chef” recommended, consisting of turning every tube inside out before filling in order to keep the bodies from shrinking too much.

This of course added another half an hour to the labor of gutting and cleaning each individual squid, but it turns out that it doesn’t keep the tubes from shrinking at all. They shrink just as much and you have wasted all of this time doing it. The squid shrinks down to bite-size appetizers, so when it comes time to serve I end up presenting what appears to be a plate full of bullets.

I try to purchase a variety of foods for my family but unfortunately the only thing that my wife and daughter both like to eat is chocolate, so no matter what I cook someone isn’t going to like dinner.

In my efforts to find things that everybody will eat I’ve tried cooking some more exotic things. This has only led us to the to the point where my family doesn’t trust me not to sneak freakish things like alligator meat into a soup, so when I am serving dinner I must now announce every item used in preparation of the meal as if I am in the confessional: “Bless me Father for I have sinned, there are anchovies in the sauce.”

Julie Hoskins of Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake can confirm that I am not the next Gordon Ramsay or Thomas Keller. Every month at her “Chef’s Table” night we have a cooking competition, and I never win. I’m OK with that (sort of) and actually hope I don’t win (so I tell myself). I’m more interested in the competition aspect and surprising people – sometimes a little too much – with the dishes that I create.

My lamb chops with watermelon sauce and my dessert made from bacon were meant to catch people off guard in the spirit of experimentation, more than to win the competition (yeah, that’s it). I mean, if she wants me to make a soup out of dill pickles I’ll try it ... it’s not like I have to eat it.

Hey! I just thought of another thing I could make to shock the judges: I’ll call it my “Roman Passion Party Quail.” It won’t win (again), but it will astonish the judges. Besides, I think the other contestants cheat anyway.

I’ve made many mistakes in my kitchen, but it’s all part of the development process. I’ve got some recipes that are still in the development stage, like the lime and tequila chili and the barbecue ribs in chocolate sauce. Hopefully I’ll have more successes in the future and you won’t hear about too many of the failures of nuclear proportion.

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

Denise Rushing and Brent Siemer visited the Bridge Arbor Trail Project on Thursday, April 23, 2009. Photo courtesy of Bernie Butcher.

UPPER LAKE – On April 23 District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing and County Public Works Director Brent Siemer hiked the levees along Middle Creek south of the Highway 20 Bridge at Upper Lake to evaluate the feasibility of a foot and bike trail along Middle Creek and into the Rodman Slough area. Both are eager to see this picturesque area with abundant wildlife opened to public access.

Assuming easements can be obtained from two landowners and the State Department of Water Resources, there is only one obstacle to making an off-road connection from Upper Lake along the old Bridge Arbor Road all the way to the Land Trust Visitors’ Center at the Nice-Lucerne Cutoff.

That one obstacle is a pedestrian and bike bridge over Scotts Creek near its confluence with Middle Creek. Heavy  pilings remain from the now washed-out bridge that previously carried the main road between Lakeport and Upper Lake.

Siemer was enthusiastic about the possibility of making use of these pilings to construct a replacement bridge over the 175 foot span.  He suggested a possible design competition to spur creativity or using a Bailey Bridge or other types of pre-fab construction.  

The project may qualify for grant funding through state and federal transportation programs and is generating interest in local fundraising efforts.

Bridge Arbor trail is one option contemplated within the local Konocti Regional trails plan, with a focus on promoting the region and improving the local economy.

Funds for the bridge and trail enhancements may be available from county reserves for bike access expansion plus local community fund raising efforts.

Rushing commented that the modest expenditures associated with opening up the beautiful Rodman Slough area to foot and bike traffic should provide a tremendous return on investment for the community.  It also would demonstrate how controlled public access over private land can be done in a responsible way without property-owner liability.

Also along on the hike were Tallman Hotel owner Bernie Butcher as well as Chuck Lamb and Holly Harris, who are spearheading the efforts for a broader Lake County Trails Network.

Harris said they’ve secured the services of a rural trail expert on a project basis and that individual will be available to help Denise and Brent move the Bridge Arbor project forward.

LUCERNE – A longtime Northshore festival is having a revival this weekend.


On Saturday, the Lucerne Booster Club and North Shore Business Association will presented the return of the Alpine Arts Festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Harbor Village Artists, 6197 Highway 20, Lucerne.


The event will feature the music of David Neft beginning at 10 a.m., a Youth Writes poetry showcase at 11 a.m., two skits from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by the Lucerne Elementary Drama Club, performances by the Upper Lake High School Band, an open mike, 50/50 raffle by Lucerne Elementary’s eighth grade class, vendor booths, game booths, eight art booths with activities for children, lots of food and fun.


Spearheading the festival’s return is the Lucerne Booster Club, led by President Lani Urquiza and Vice President Jim Hankins.


The festivals began in the 1930s, and originally were hosted by the local fire department auxiliary as a way to raise funds for Lucerne’s fire department, said Urquiza.


Later, the festival was turned over the booster club, but the festivals had stopped in recent years, she said.


Urquiza said Lucerne Elementary Principal/Superintendent Mike Brown asked her to begin putting the festival back together, a process which began last December, when Urquiza was elected the club’s president.


She said the experience has been a positive one, with a group of about 25 parents getting involved to get the new festival off the ground. Urquiza credited Hankins for also being a big inspiration, since he remember the original festival and had been involved with organizing them. Numerous businesses also have pledged their support.


The North Shore Business Association is partnering with the booster club in sponsoring the event, which Urquiza said is being held at the artists’ colony to put the spotlight on the area’s redevelopment. The Northshore Fire Protection District also is taking part.


She said it’s going to be a great event for the community’s children. “That was the main goal, to get our children involved in a positive, creative way, and bring our community together.”


Urquiza said Upper Lake High School’s art teacher will have a booth where children can enjoy art activities, while the Upper Lake Town Council will host suncatcher painting for children. There also will be face painting and activities for little children, including making bubbles and butterflies.


She said her husband will have a booth where children can build toolboxes, with Friedman’s donating numerous little tape measures to be included. Foster’s Freeze is donating ice cream prices.


“It’s very heartfelt,” said Urquiza. “So many people in the community have really pulled together to bring this event back.”


With local schools facing greater and greater budget challenges, booster clubs and the funds they raise are becoming crucial. “All of our schools are suffering big budget cuts,” she said. “We all are feeling it.”


Urquiza said this year the club raised around $5,000 to send the school’s fifth and six graders to science camp for the first time. The club also furnishes young author and citizenship awards, and is helping the eighth grade with its graduation.


Anyone who wishes to make a donation to the club can send checks to Lucerne Booster Club, P.O. Box 537, Lucerne, CA 95458.


For more information, contact Urquiza at 707-349-5457 or e-mail the booster club at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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

T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.

The power of philosophy
floats through my head
light like a feather
heavy as lead …

Bob Marley, circa 1978

Bob Marley, Robert Nesta Marley, really impacted my consciousness when his music broke through the airwaves here in America.

The song “I Shot The Sheriff” really resonated with me. It seemed to suggest an allegiance to a higher truth. The narrator in the story line of the lyric, readily and easily admits to shooting Sheriff John Brown. He asserts the sheriff hated him for reasons unknown. When the sheriff came aiming for him, he shot the sheriff first in self defense, “reflexes got the best of him.”

But our storyteller asserts, he didn’t shoot the deputy as the headlines screamed. The law and ensuing manhunt wants to pin the death of the deputy on him. Wow, I thought, the writer of this song admits to the seeming graver offense, the shooting of the boss, the sheriff, but not to the underling, the deputy. It seemed to me a liar wouldn’t make such a startling confession.

Having personally seen how the wheels of justice could spin in defiance of truth, I was an instant Bob Marley convert. Marley appeared at a very crucial time in history. We had witnessed political and artistic repression (Cointelpro), assassinations (The Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X), not to mention the “brainwash education” that Marley wrote about “to make us the fool.”

Of course, this is not a diatribe against the law. What we are talking about is the interpretation of it to the detriment of the unrich.

I actually talked to Bob Marley on the phone during the Wailers second American tour. A travel agent friend of mine called me one day with the information that Bob Marley & The Wailers were staying at the Cable Car Motel in South San Francisco. My friend suggested that since I loved Bob Marley so much, I should call him at the motel.

I took my friend up on his suggestion. To my surprise, they plugged me right into Marley’s room. When he got on the phone, I was speechless! I finally blurted something about how much I dug the music. He responded with an emphatic, “Yeh.”

To be continued next week …

Keep prayin’, Keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts!


Upcoming cool events:
The Spinners in Concert, May 16, at Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino, 1545 E. Highway 20, Nice. 1-800-809-3636.
T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at



NORTH COAST – People are being warned about a new Internet scam that’s affecting neighboring Mendocino County.

On Thursday, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office received a message on the agency's Tip-Line in regards to an Internet scam. A sheriff's office detective contacted the person who left the message and learned the following about a scam targeting potential renters.

On April 26, the caller was checking the listings for rental properties in Mendocino County, via the Craigslist Web site. The rental listing was for a three bedroom, two and a half bath, 2,300-square-foot, single-family home on 43 acres. The listing directed people who were interested to email “This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,” according to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s report.

The caller began to communicate with the supposed owner, James, via email. In these email communications "James" stated he was in Africa working for a charitable organization called "Go West Africa". James sent the caller a questionnaire and asked the caller to complete it and then email it back to him. The caller completed this questionnaire, which included the caller's full name, current address, monthly income, spouse's full name, occupations and telephone numbers.

James replied to the questionnaire by informing the caller they could rent the house provided they send $1,700 by Western Union to Africa ($1,200 for rent and $500 as a security deposit). James advised the caller that the residence was located at 4700 Orr Springs Road and told the caller they could check out the exterior of the home and property if they desired. James said he would not provide the caller with a key in order to see the interior of the house until after he had received the $1,700 money wire.

The caller did not send the money and began to do some research on the property.  The caller learned the home was currently listed for sale with a local real estate company and that "James" was not the first name of the property's owner.  The caller stated they were provided with two telephone numbers by James (2348027403145 or 0112348027403145) in case they wanted to speak with him in person but the numbers were never called.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office is warning the public of this specific Internet scam and others of a similar nature.  Any suspicious Internet postings of this nature should be thoroughly investigated and reported to local law enforcement prior to the wiring of any money under these circumstances.

LAKE COUNTY A sobriety checkpoint is in the works for the end of the week, according to a Wednesday report from the California Highway Patrol.


CHP, Clearlake Police Department, Lakeport Police Department, and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office are planning the checkpoint at some point in the next few days at an unspecified location.


“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,” said CHP Commander Lt. Mark Loveless.


He added, “Our goal is to ensure the safe passage of each and every motorist. DUI enforcement patrols as well as sobriety checkpoints are effective tools for achieving this goal and are designed to augment existing patrol operations.”


The agencies reported that they take a zero tolerance approach to impaired drivers on local roadways.

Each agency has received funding from the Office of Traffic Safety, and working together they have developed a plan to deploy DUI enforcement patrol teams and sobriety checkpoints through December of 2009.


The coalitions’ desired result is to save lives and make everyone’s family summer excursion, for both our community residents and those visiting our beautiful county, a safe and pleasurable memory.

Sobriety checkpoints will be staffed by officers and deputies from each department who are trained in the detection of alcohol and/or drug impaired drivers. 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 and deputies will also be equipped with state of the art hand-held breath analyzing devices which provide an accurate measure of blood alcohol concentrations of suspected drunk drivers.


Cal-Trans employees will be on site providing traffic control in order to ensure the safety of officers and motorists alike.

LAKE COUNTY – Lake County’s air has received recognition once again from the American Lung Association.

The association’s 2009 State of the Air report, released this week, gave Lake County an “A” rating.

The report ranked Lake County as having the lowest small-particulate concentrations in California and third-lowest airborne small-particulate concentrations in the entire United States.  Nationally, Lake County was right behind Gallatin, Mont., and Laramie, Wyo., which tied for best air. Last year the county was ranked No. 9.

It’s the best ranking the county has received since the American Lung Association began doing the reports several years ago, according to , said county Air Pollution Control Officer Doug Gearhart.

Lake was the only California county to rank in the top 10 cleanest counties in the United States for particulate matter, and was one of only 12 counties that did not have any days of ozone air pollution levels in the unhealthful range, Gearhart said. Among the top 25, the only other California counties to be ranked were Mendocino, Inyo and Nevada.

The report looked at the years 2005, 2006 and 2007, said Gearhart. During those three years, zone and small particles in the air never exceeded allowable levels.

Information on 2008, which saw Lake County skies clouded by thick smoke from wildland fires, wasn’t included, he added.

“We’re in our 20th year of clean air attainment in Lake County,” said Gearhart.

He credited the program’s success to strong community support and cooperation of local agencies, the local fire protection districts, Cal Fire, the local agricultural community and industry.

That community support, Gearhart added, has enabled the county to comply in full with Federal Clean Air Standards and the more rigorous California standards for ozone and other air pollutants for the past 20 years.

The clean air rankings have become controversial in recent years, with some area residents saying that they don’t believe the county’s high air quality rankings are representative of the true state of the air.

Gearhart explained that the county has three separate particulate monitoring stations in the county – in Lakeport, the Glenbrook/Cobb area and Anderson Springs – but is only required to have one.

Over the years, the county has established a burn ban beginning on May 1 and running through the fall, which is credited as another way of keeping the local air clean.

Gearhart said illegal burning still happens, but it’s becoming less frequent, with only about 2 percent of the local population being found illegally burning. He said educating people about burning rules, and making sure they understanding that the rules are there to protect them and their neighbors, has helped reduce the activity.

“The biggest challenge that we typically have is keeping people educated,” said Gearhart. “A lot of people don’t remember what it took to get here.”

Lake’s air basin gets help from coastal breezes, which can push out smoke and other particulate, but Gearhart doesn’t think that factor is a major one in determining local air quality. He pointed to Mendocino and Sonoma counties, which are on the coast but whose air quality isn’t as good as Lake County’s.

The Lake County Air Quality Management District, which has four full-time staffers and several part-timers, monitors air quality year-round, said Gearhart.

The majority of the district’s funding coming from permits – especially industry such as geothermal and gas stations. Gearhart said the district also receives funding from the state to enforce state air toxic control measures with a small amount of funding from the Environmental Protection Agency for specific monitoring.

“Our resources are fine,” he said. “We’re not feeling the same pinch that most agencies are feeling. We’re just feeling delays when we deal with the state, but our funding sources are still there, are still present.”

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

NORTH COAST With salmon populations still showing troubling declines, the federal government announced Thursday that it is extending fishing restrictions to protect the fish.


US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said Thursday he was extending the 2008 West Coast salmon disaster declaration for California and Oregon in response to expected poor salmon returns to the Sacramento River, which have led to management reducing commercial salmon fishing off southern Oregon and California to near zero.


Locke also announced that he would release $53.1 million in disaster funds to aid fishing communities.


“Salmon returns are expected to be near record lows again this year. The extension of the disaster declaration will ensure that aid will be available to affected fisherman and their families to help offset the economic impact of the closure of the commercial fisheries,” said Secretary Locke. “These funds can also aid fishing-related businesses, such as ice and bait suppliers, who may struggle with the financial effects of the closure.”


Locke’s announcement followed the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s April 8 recommendation that California’s commercial salmon fisheries be closed for the 2009 season. Following its recommendations, California's Fish and Game Commission took action to close recreational ocean fishing.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will formally adopt the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s full recommendations, made in April, halting virtually all commercial salmon harvests off the West Coast south of Cape Falcon, Ore. A recreational coho fishery and a limited commercial fishery will be allowed off Oregon. Salmon season formally begins May 1.


On April 21, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Oregon Governor Theodore Kulongoski sent a letter to Locke, requesting the disaster declaration extension of additional federal aid for those impacted by the closure. Schwarzenegger also declared a state of emergency in California in response to the salmon situation.


On Thursday, Schwarzenegger thanked Locke for taking the action. “California’s salmon are not only a vital part of our state’s overall economy, they directly affect the livelihoods of thousands of California fisherman and their families.”


NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service will work with the states and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission to distribute the $53 million in remaining salmon aid from last year’s $170 million Congressional appropriation to help fishing communities affected by the poor returns.


Based on the economic impact, of the remaining $53 million, Locke has allocated approximately $46.4 million to California and $6.7 million to Oregon.


Sacramento River Fall-run Chinook are the foundation of the West Coast’s commercial salmon harvest and in typical years 400,000 to 600,000 of them return to spawn. Under current federally approved rules for managing the ocean salmon fishery, a minimum of 122,000 Sacramento River Fall Chinook must be predicted to return to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River system before any harvest can take place.


Last year, barely 66,000 Fall Chinook returned to their spawning grounds in the system. This year, a greater number of Chinook are expected, but only marginally more than the 122,000 needed to maintain the health of the fishery. Agency biologists said the 2008 collapse was triggered primarily by climatic conditions that produced little food in the ocean, compounded by too much reliance on fish produced in hatcheries instead of the wild.


“NOAA will continue to work with the states and our partners in the region on habitat and hatchery issues that may be contributing to the difficult fishery management problems that the Sacramento River system has been experiencing,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator.


Earlier this week, three bills by Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) aimed at helping salmon and the industry based on them cleared a key legislative hurdle.


On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Water voted to approve Senate Bills 539, 670 and 778, which now move to the Senate Appropriations Committee.


Senate Bill 539, which the committee approved 7-4, directs the state Ocean Protection Council (OPC) to give the Legislature a report that ranks the solutions to reversing the alarming decline of salmon and steelhead populations and lists the costs to implement those actions. The OPC is the state arm that coordinates state agencies’ efforts to protect and conserve coastal and oceanic ecosystems.


In her testimony before the committee, Wiggins said that the OPC’s mission “is to ensure California maintains healthy, resilient, and productive ocean and coastal ecosystems for the benefit of current and future generations. SB 539 enlists the OPC in restoration efforts by authorizing it to engage in the full range of activities needed to bring back salmon and steelhead.”


Senate Bill 670, which the committee approved on a bipartisan vote of 8-3, prohibits the use of suction dredge mining equipment in rivers and streams that provide critical habitat to spawning salmon until the state Department of Fish and Game (DFG) completes its court-ordered overhaul of regulations governing the controversial recreational activity.


In presenting SB 670, Wiggins noted that “the salmon numbers are so low that the National Marine Fisheries Service has placed a ban on all salmon fishing along the coast of California and Oregon. This ban affects the livelihoods of thousands of commercial fishermen, fish processors, and charter boat operators. Yet while fishermen are being told to stop fishing, suction dredge mining is allowed to continue. SB 670 is about equity. We simply cannot ask an entire fishing industry to stop their work while a small group of hobbyists are allowed to continue.”


Senate Bill 778, which the committee approved on a bipartisan vote of 9-1, requires the state DFG to provide a thorough accounting of funds generated from commercial salmon fishing permits, known as “salmon stamps.” The self-taxation funds paid by fishermen are required to be spent on fisheries and habitat restoration.


There is growing concern in the fishing industry that the money is not getting to top priority projects. SB 778 would incorporate measures, based on an audit, to strengthen the program and, with agreement from fishermen, will increase the price of the “stamp” in order to ramp up protection efforts during the ongoing salmon crisis.


In her testimony, Wiggins said SB 778 “continues the tradition of commercial fishermen dedicating a portion of their permit fees to help restore the salmon fisheries that sustain their industry. The dedicated portion of the fee is managed by the DFG for salmon regeneration. Because of the salmon crisis, fishermen are volunteering to raise the cost of salmon permit to $350. The bill also seeks to require the DFG to provide a better accounting for the expenditures of this fund. This will ensure that the funding goes directly to priority projects, in a timely manner.”


Wiggins, who chairs the Joint Legislative Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, said that it’s imperative that the Legislature and the responsible state agencies do all that they can to protect the invaluable salmon populations.


“Salmon are not just trophy and sport fish. They form the backbone of California ecosystems, tribal cultures, local economies, a commercial fishing industry and a once-plentiful, wonderful food. We must work together to give these magnificent fish a chance to recover,” Wiggins said.



CLEARLAKE – On Tuesday a jury found a teenager guilty of voluntary manslaughter for the May 2008 death of a Clearlake man.


The verdict was handed down to 19-year-old transient Erik Michael McPherson Tuesday morning, according to defense attorney Stephen Carter of the law firm Carter & Carter.


The District Attorney’s Office had charged McPherson with murder and a special allegation of using a knife for the death of 40-year-old Nicolai Chukreeff.


However, after a week of deliberation, a jury convicted McPherson of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.


McPherson’s sentencing is scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. June 11 before Judge Stephen Hedstrom, who presided over the trial, which lasted two and a half months. Jury selection had begun on Jan. 13, according to the District Attorney’s Office.


McPherson could face as many as 12 years in prison, and must serve 85 percent of the term, said Carter, who noted that by the time of his sentencing McPherson will have been in jail for 13 months, which he’ll receive credit for as time served. He said that McPherson should be out of prison by the time he’s 30 years old.


Chukreeff’s family did not respond to messages left for them on Tuesday.


Carter said the jury had only been deliberating a few hours on Tuesday morning before they sent out a note requesting clarification on the manslaughter law.


Within a half hour they issued the verdict, which found McPherson guilty on the one count of voluntary manslaughter and the special allegation of using a knife, and acquitted him of the murder charge, Carter said.


Deputy District Attorney John DeChaine said he wouldn’t speculate as to the reason for the jury’s verdict, but said they were faced with a lengthy trial and arrived at a good result. “I think the evidence strongly supports that verdict.”


The verdict came just a day after another local teenager, 18-year-old Gabrielle Varney, reached a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office that allowed her to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter for the June 5, 2008, stabbing death of 17-year-old Heather Valdez, as Lake County News has reported.


DeChaine said it’s unclear whether Chukreeff and McPherson knew each other before the encounter at the Harbor Lite Resort in Clearlake on May 4, 2008.


Chukreeff and several friends were having drinks in the resort’s gazebo when McPherson arrived. DeChaine said the two got into a heated exchange and violence erupted.


The evidence, said DeChaine, was that Chukreeff was the primary aggressor in the fight, and that he died as the result of unreasonable use of deadly force by McPherson.


Carter, who spoke with a juror after the verdict was announced, said the fact that Chukreeff was the initiator of the fight appeared to be a key to the jury’s decision, and had been a point which he emphasized during the trial.


He said McPherson acted in response to being attacked by Chukreeff, whose blood contained high levels of alcohol and methamphetamine according to toxicology results.


As the two men fought, McPherson used two weapons – a chrome-studded leather belt, which left distinct bruising on Chukreeff’s back – as well as a knife, which DeChaine said McPherson used to slash a large wound in Chukreeff’s chest and then to stab him through his sternum, with the knife going into the heart.


“The pathologist testified that he could not conceive of a way that the slash and stab wound could have arose from one single action,” said DeChaine.


Complicating the case was the fact that no one actually saw McPherson with a knife, or saw the stabbing, said DeChaine. However, McPherson was seen running away from Chukreeff immediately before Chukreeff collapsed from the stab wound to his heart.


None of the witnesses knew McPherson by name, according to DeChaine, who added that solid police work by Sgt. Tom Clements and Detective Martin Snyder of the Clearlake Police Department led to McPherson’s identification and ultimate arrest.


DeChaine said that McPherson was wearing the belt he used to hit Chukreeff when Snyder contacted him. That belt, which Snyder seized as evidence, was matched to the bruising on Chukreeff’s back by Senior Criminalist Richard Mike Waller at the Department of Justice. In addition, McPherson’s thumbprint was found on a broken pair of glasses recovered from the crime scene.


The defense employed its own investigator, Rob Zehrung, who saw holes in the case and found witnesses who police hadn’t interviewed, said defense attorney Angela Carter of Carter & Carter.


The defense also presented testimony by a noted criminal forensic scientist, who testified on the investigation’s shortcomings, including compromised evidence and people being allowed to leave the scene without being thoroughly searched and before they had given statements, some of which were taken hours later, Angela Carter said.


Carter’s defense had included allegations that another man – who had been with Chukreeff that night – had actually committed the crime.


That individual’s DNA was found under Chukreeff’s fingernails, Carter said.


However, DeChaine said the jury rejected that theory, and said the exchange of DNA was easily explained because Chukreeff and the man in question were good friends. When law enforcement arrived at the scene, the man was found cradling Chukreeff’s head.


Carter said McPherson and his family were elated with the verdict. McPherson’s grandmother came from Colorado and attended every day of the trial, with her husband arriving to stay during the week of deliberations.


“I think the jury worked really, really hard,” said Carter.


Angela Carter said an appeal will be filed, which is standard operating procedure in California.


DeChaine said a grand theft charge, for which McPherson originally was arrested on May 7, 2008, is still pending against him.


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

LAKE COUNTY – The county’s roadways proved more hazardous than usual on Friday, with the California Highway Patrol reporting numerous collisions and hazards as rain returned to the county.

The CHP reported at least 10 collisions around the county on Friday, with no serious injuries reported.

One crash that occurred just after noon on Highland Springs Road at Rodello Lane involved a small Chevrolet pickup striking a power pole. The driver, who was alone in the vehicle, was said to have minor injuries.

Heavy rain was believed to be a factor in a single-car crash into an embankment on Highway 20 near Paradise Cove shortly after 4 p.m. No injuries were reported, according to the CHP.

Two vehicles were involved in a crash that occurred just after 4:30 p.m. on Highway 20 at mile marker 44, a stretch of highway about 15 miles east of Clearlake Oaks that has been an area of a number of crashes due to speed and wet conditions, as Lake County News has reported.

One of the vehicles rolled over and minor injuries were reported. The highway’s eastbound lane had to be shut down for a short time while debris from the crash was cleaned up.

Yet another noninjury collision on Highway 20 at mile marker 40 east of Clearlake Oaks, which occurred just after 7 p.m., nearly resulted in another collision because of a vehicle blocking the highway. There was oil and diesel in the road, according to the CHP, which required that Caltrans respond to put down sand.

The weather caused road hazards in other areas, including a downed line in Spring Valley, large rocks in the roadway on Highway 29 and an oak tree that fell across both lanes of Hendricks at Scotts Valley Road after 6:30 p.m., with the Lake County Road Department called to remove the tree.

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

With tender loving care and attention, this 25-year-old Arab gelding has made a recovery after being found neglected on February 4, 2009, by a Lake County Animal Care and Control officer. Photo courtesy of Lake County Animal Care and Control.



LAKEPORT – A horse who – when he was rescued earlier this year – was severely underweight and in bad condition has made a big recovery, and Lake County Animal Care and Control officials are hoping to find him a new home.


Animal Care and Control took the 25-year-old Arab gelding into custody due to neglect, according to Deputy Director Bill Davidson.


He said on Feb. 4 Officer Nehemiah White responded to a neglected horse call off of Highway 29 near Lower Lake.


Davidson said Animal Care and Control immediately called Dr. Jeff Smith of Middletown Vet Hospital, who estimated that the horse was approximately 150 pounds underweight, had parasites, long hooves and severe dental disease.


On Wednesday Davidson said that they've passed the two-month mark in the horse's recovery, and the veterinarian has given the all clear on the horse's condition.


The difference in the horse, said Davidson, is incredible.


When he was first brought in, the gelding's ribs and hip bones jutted out under his ragged, “flea-bitten” – denoting small flecks of color – gray hide.


Now, however, he's looking much healthier, with added weight and alert eyes.


“We did some dental work, parasite control, supplied the proper nutrition, and that's all it took,” said Davidson. “Following Dr. Smith's regimen of care we now have ourselves a healthy, energetic and potentially rideable horse.”


Davidson said Animal Care and Control will submit a case to the District Attorney's Office sometime next week, seeking animal cruelty charges against the horse's former owner.


They also have the happier work of looking for a loving, forever home for the gelding.


Davidson said they are accepting sealed bids from interested horse lovers through 5 p.m. May 18.


The minimum bid is $250, said Davidson. The highest bidder with an approved application will get to take home a new four-legged friend.


For more information, contact Lake County Animal Care and Control, 707-263-0278.


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


The gelding, as he looked when Lake County Animal Care and Control impounded him on February 4, 2009. Photo courtesy of Lake County Animal Care and Control.

CLEARLAKE OAKS – On Tuesday a Lake County jury convicted a Clearlake Oaks man of robbery.


The District Attorney’s Office reported that 40-year-old Shawn Sidney Hammond was found guilty of one felony count of robbery. The jury also found true a special allegation that a deadly weapon was used to commit the crime.


The jury deliberated for approximately two hours in Department Three in Lakeport before returning with the guilty verdict.


Deputy District Attorney Sharon G. Lerman prosecuted the case on behalf of the Lake County District Attorney’s Office. Defense attorney William Conwell represented Hammond. Judge Arthur H. Mann presided. The trial began last week on Tuesday, April 21 and lasted three days.


Hammond used a folding knife to rob a former construction contractor of $36 in front of a Pine Street residence in Clearlake Oaks on Dec. 1, 2008.


The District Attorney’s Office said Hammond did not previously know the victim, but he believed Warrington owed more than $1,000 to Carlos Cruz, an acquaintance, for a construction job completed in Clearlake last October.


With Cruz present, Hammond held the knife at his side in an aggressive stance and said to Warrington, “What are you going to do for him, here and now?”


Warrington opened his wallet and handed Cruz $36, then showed Hammond that his wallet was empty, according to the District Attorney’s report.


Lake County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Martin arrested Hammond on Dec. 13 after several days of investigation.


Hammond, who was on felony probation for theft at the time he committed this offense, faces up to six years in prison. A sentencing hearing will take place on June 1.

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