Thursday, 25 July 2024


MENDOCINO COUNTY – Mendocino County health officials are reporting a growing number of H1N1 flu virus cases.

The Mendocino County Public Health Department is reporting a total of 12 cases in that county, with one new hospitalized patient in stable condition. Six other patients who previously were hospitalized have been released.

Lake County has so far reported one case, as Lake County News has reported.

The Centers for Disease Control is reporting a total of 43,771 cases in the United States and its territories, and 302 deaths. In California, there have been 3,161 cases and 52 deaths.

The H1N1 influenza virus will continue to cause mild to severe illness throughout the summer and into the annual flu season, officials reported.

A vaccine for the virus currently is under development.

On Wednesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met to make recommendations for the vaccine's use when it becomes available, and to determine which groups of the population should be prioritized if the vaccine is initially available in extremely limited quantities.

The committee recommended the vaccination efforts focus on five key populations: pregnant women; people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age; health care and emergency services personnel; persons between the ages of 6 months through 24 years of age; and people from ages 25 through 64 years who are at higher risk for novel H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

Those groups total approximately 159 million people in the United States.

The novel H1N1 vaccine is not intended to replace the seasonal flu vaccine. It is intended to be used alongside seasonal flu vaccine to protect people.

LAKEPORT – Cash management issues in the county's animal control department that were discovered in a regular audit earlier have been resolved, according to county officials.

The recently released grand jury report noted in its overview of the county's administrative office that an internal audit found “significant cash management improprieties including undeposited receipts totaling more than $45,000 and several months of unpaid invoices, and veterinary costs in excess of $10,000 to treat a single animal.”

“The department was lax in its procedures,” said Deputy County Administrative Officer Jeff Rein. “As a result of audit, we have tightened procedures up.”

Rein said nothing appeared to have been missing, nor does it appear to be a criminal issue, more one of negligence. Deposits are supposed to be done on a daily basis, not once a month.

County Auditor-Controller Pam Cochrane said the discrepancies were discovered during an annual, unannounced department audit conducted earlier this year.

“When we were out doing our routine audit in March we discovered there were some irregularities with regards to a lot of money laying around,” Cochrane said.

Specifically, they discovered $4,900 in cash and $46,000 in undeposited checks amassed during a two-week period, from donations to licenses. There also were a few large checks from the cities of Lakeport and Clearlake, which have animal control services contracts with the county. Cochrane said her office encourages large departments to regularly make deposits.

Cochrane's office brought the discrepancies to the grand jury's attention, and also to that of the County Administrative Office.

However, when her auditors went back to audit Animal Care and Control again in June, the issue had been resolved, regular deposits were being made and the audit yielded no findings, Cochrane said.

Cochrane attributed the failure to make the deposits to a “transition in staff.”

Deputy Animal Control Director Bill Davidson said the department's procedures have improved by “leaps and bounds,” and they've been making regular deposits for several months. During the June audit he said the auditors said it was the quickest one they had ever done.

“Right now things are running smooth,” Davidson said.

He said Animal Care and Control Director Denise Johnson was privy to most of the specifics about the situation, but she's out on medical leave. Johnson suffered serious injuries in a fall from a horse earlier this month and currently is in a wheelchair.

Regarding the grand jury's statement about $10,000 spent on a single animal, Davidson said he didn't have a record of that much being spent, although it did cost the department $7,000 to care for a dog, dubbed Dixie.

Dixie was impounded last summer as part of an animal cruelty investigation, as Lake County News has reported. She had been hit by a semi truck and her owner didn't take her to the vet, letting her lie in the yard in pain for two weeks before Animal Care and Control was notified.

Davidson said the costs for Dixie's care – resulting from her severe injuries and a rare bacterial infection – snuck up on them.

Rein said Johnson looked to the administrative office to implement new polices and procedures to make sure the problems with cash management and deposits wouldn't reoccur.

“We will be watching them closely to make sure that this doesn't happen again,” Rein said.

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

UKIAH – The former chair of the water and fire board and assistant fire chief for the coastal hamlet of Westport was convicted last week of conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder in the 2005 shooting of a political rival.

Kenneth Allen Rogers, 51, who since has moved to Lake County, was convicted by a jury in Ukiah last Wednesday, according to his attorney, J. David Markham of Lakeport.

Markham, who was appointed by the court to represent Rogers after his previous attorney had to leave the case due to a conflict, said Rogers is facing 25 years to life on the conspiracy charge alone when he's sentenced in Ukiah at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 14.

Tim Stoen of the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office, who prosecuted the case, said Rogers could be looking at a life term.

Rogers was accused for conspiring with an employee, Richard Peacock, to kill Alan Simon, a political rival of Rogers', on June 17, 2005.

“It was a very dramatic case,” said Stoen.

Stoen said Rogers and Peacock hatched the plot due to a “cascading set of reasons.”

Rogers had chaired the water and fire board in Westport, a town of about 80 full-time residents north of Fort Bragg, where Rogers had lived since 1997, said Stoen.

Stoen said residents in the district claimed Rogers was harassing them, and a successful recall effort was launched, culminating in the Aug. 21, 2004, vote in which he was replaced by Simon.

“He took it hard,” said Stoen.

Then, in January of 2005, Rogers and Simon crossed paths again, when Rogers was fired as assistant fire chief, with Simon voting against him. Stoen said Rogers later won a lawsuit proving he had been wrongly terminated.

But Stoen alleged that Rogers' anger continued to grow. In May of 2005, a notary who visited Rogers said spittle was flying from his mouth at the mention of Simon.

Peacock – who Stoen called a “street thug” – was released from custody on March 26, 2005, after serving time for several felony charges including one involving a firearm.

The prosecution alleged that Rogers and Peacock conspired to kill Simon, with Stoen saying that Rogers had a “triple motive” – his recall, the firing and his belief that the recall had hurt his chances for higher political office in Sacramento. Stoen said Rogers, the chair of the Mendocino County Republican Central Committee, had claimed that the Republican Party was his “religion.”

Stoen alleged that Rogers and Peacock thought they had planned the perfect crime, with the shooting taking place on a Friday night.

Peacock went to Simon's home and fired nine shots into the front door. Stoen said Simon dove to the floor and was hit in the scalp and arm by the bullets.

Despite being injured, Simon was able to identify the suspect's distinctive vehicle – a Mazda Miata with a damaged front bumper.

The vehicle would be spotted later on the night of the shooting on Branscomb Road toward Laytonville. Stoen said as Peacock made his getaway, he turned into a remote area where Rogers owned property.

Peacock was arrested the next day and put on trial. He received 71 years to life because the shooting was his third strike, Stoen said.

After Peacock was convicted, the issue remained whether or not he acted alone. During Rogers' trial, Peacock was called to testify, but refused to turn on Rogers, which Stoen suggested was because Peacock didn't want a “snitch jacket” placed on him in prison.

Since Simon was shot, Rogers moved to Lake County, where he has property, said Stoen. Rogers went back and forth between Westport and Sacramento a lot, and so he also spent a lot of time in Lake County. “Clear Lake's been a central part of his life for some time,” Stoen said.

Markham said Rogers had been out on bail since his 2005 arrest, but was remanded into custody after the jury's verdict was delivered last week.

The conviction will be appealed, said Markham.

“I'm going to file a notice of appeal and that will simply get the process started,” he said.

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

The Toyota sedan involved in Wednesday's crash was hit from behind. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



LAKEPORT – Traffic on Highway 29 was snarled for nearly an hour Wednesday afternoon after a traffic collision sent at least one person to Sutter Lakeside Hospital.

First reported at 2:45 p.m. the collision, located just south of Thomas Drive on Highway 29, involved a 1995 Mazda van and a 2008 Toyota sedan.

First responders indicated via radio that four persons had suffered mild to moderate injuries.

Medics and fire personnel from Lakeport and Kelseyville were on scene as well as California Highway Patrol officers.

CHP Officer Mark Crutcher told Lake County News that a couple from Kansas was preparing to make a left turn from Highway 29 when the Mazda van struck it from behind.

The Toyota suffered serious rear-end damage, while the Mazda was damaged enough to require a flatbed truck to transport it from the scene.

Three persons involved were still on scene at 3:30 p.m. while CHP investigated the accident and medical personnel evaluated their injuries.

Both vehicles appeared to be registered in states other than California. The van carried plates from Washington state and the Toyota from New Mexico.

The roadway was opened to two-lane traffic by 3:30 p.m. although cleanup crews continued to remove debris that had been pushed to the side of the road.

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




Emergency personnel clean up the crash scene outside of Lakeport. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – The trial of a Carmichael man facing a felony boating under the influence charge for a fatal 2006 sailboat crash on Clear Lake got under way on Tuesday morning.

Bismarck Dinius, 41, was in court with his family, supporters and interested community members as opening arguments were presented in Lake County Superior Court's Department One before visiting Judge J. Michael Byrne.

By the end of the first day of testimony, the trial lost two jurors. The two young women were replaced by two males, changing the jury's composition from seven males and five females to nine males and three females.

Those developments also leave the proceedings with only two alternates – one male and one female – to get through the trial, estimated to take at least a month to complete.

District Attorney Jon Hopkins told jurors that he would present evidence that showed Dinius had responsibility for steering a sailboat owned by Willows resident Mark Weber during a nighttime cruised on April 29, 2006.

While the boat was under way – without lights, Hopkins alleges – it was hit by a power boat driven by Russell Perdock, an off-duty sheriff's deputy. Weber's girlfriend, Lynn Thornton, was fatally injured. As a result, Dinius is facing felony boating under the influence causing great bodily injury. Perdock was not charged.

Hopkins and Dinius' attorney, Victor Haltom, spent a total of an hour and 20 minutes presenting summaries of their versions of what happened that night.

Weber and Thornton were in Lake County on the day of the crash for the annual Konocti Cup sailing race, in which Weber's sailboat, the Beats Workin' II, took part, they said.

Later that night, after spending time with fellow sailors at Richmond Park Bar and Grill, Weber, Thornton and some new friends took a cruise across Konocti Bay.

Hopkins, in his opening, argued that the sailboat's lights weren't on, and that two fishermen that night saw a boat under way without lights.

Coming from the other side of the lake was Perdock, bringing with him a friend and the friend's daughter. People also saw Perdock's 24-foot power boat, said Hopkins, and there are a “wide range of estimates” about his speed that night.

After the crash, which occurred at about 9:10 p.m., sheriff's deputies and paramedics responded to the shore, while good Samaritans already had towed in the boat, so the exact location was hard to determine, said Hopkins.

“This is not like a car collision. You don't have skid marks. You don't have landmarks to tell you where it is,” he said.

Weber, said Hopkins, had a 0.18 blood alcohol level based on a blood draw, while Dinius' blood alcohol tested 0.12, according to test results. Perdock's blood draw showed no presence of alcohol or drugs.

When Hopkins asserted that, by law, Dinius was the sailboat's operator, Haltom objected. Byrne allowed it for the purposes of Hopkins' general introduction.

Hopkins alleged that the sailboat's light toggle switches showed the running lights weren't on, which he said is a crucial factor in the case.

He told the jurors that one of their biggest challenges will be having to listen to experts. “You're going to have to stay awake, pay attention and be patient.”

One of those experts, a Department of Justice criminologist, will testify that the filament in the sailboat's broken stern light has characteristics that indicate it was a “cold break,” meaning, the light was not on when it was broken, Hopkins said.

Hopkins stated that with Dinius at the helm, he was responsible for ensuring the running lights were on.

“Failure to have running lights on is a substantial factor in the cause of the collision,” said Hopkins.

During his statements, Haltom – accompanied by two attorneys from The Innocence Project – argued that Weber was “running the show” on the boat, not Dinius, who he said wasn't the operator.

“The evidence that you will hear in this case will show that that is not the case,” he said, noting that “any 6-year-old” can sit at a sailboat's tiller when there's no wind.

While the Beats Workin' II was on its cruise across Konocti Bay, “Things go horribly wrong,” with Haltom alleging that Perdock was going “very, very, very fast.”

A retired police officer saw Perdock's boat and noted to friends that the driver was “going to kill himself or someone else” said Haltom.

“The power boat is going so fast it literally devours the sailboat,” Haltom said.

Haltom told the jury that the key issue for them to decide is causation – and who, ultimately, is responsible for the crash.

He said the evidence actually show is that it is Perdock's “speed and recklessness” that is the crash's cause.

Haltom alleged that in the day after the crash, the sheriff's office left the sailboat unattended at the sheriff's boat yard, and that Perdock was treated “a little differently than you or I would have been.” That included getting a hug from Sheriff Rod Mitchell at the scene and not having a breathalyzer test administered to him on shore after the crash.

Also introduced to the jury was information about witnesses who Haltom said will testify that Perdock was at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa in the hours before the crash, with one witness allegedly spotting him at the bar.

“The evidence in this case will show that Russell Perdock and Russell Perdock alone is the cause of this accident,” said Haltom.

Witnesses questioned closely on sailboat lights

During the morning session, Hopkins began calling witnesses to testify.

Jim Ziebell, who helped skipper Weber's boat during the Konocti Cup on April 29, 2006, was the first to testify. He discussed the hours before the crash and his experience sailing on Clear Lake.

Ziebell said he saw the sailboat's stern light when it left on the cruise, but couldn't see the bow lights. “There's a position where even people on the boat can't see them,” he said. Having sat at the tiller of Weber's vessel, he could say that neither the stern or bow lights are visible from that position.

Haltom asked Ziebell if he knew of a reason why someone would turn off the boat's lights while under way. “I would never turn off the light,” he said. “I can't imagine any reason why I would.”

The lights aren't bright enough that turning them off would help with stargazing, he said.

While traveling home on his own power boat from Richmond Park at around 9:30 p.m. the night of the crash, Ziebell said he saw the silhouette of the sailboat being towed, but thought it was because someone ran out of gas.

Haltom asked Ziebell how long it would take to execute a turn in a sailboat if a boat was bearing down on it.

“I don't think it would be possible,” said Ziebell. “The boat behind me has the burden of missing me. I don't have the burden of missing him.”

The morning after the crash, Ziebell and some friends saw the unsecured sailboat sitting at Braito's Marina on the lakeshore at Buckingham Point.

Also called to the stand was Doug Jones, the past commodore of a local sailing club who knew Weber and had worked on his boats. Jones was at Richmond Park after the Konocti Cup and saw Weber, who he said was “loud” and intoxicated.

Jones said he “grabbed a burger and a couple of beers and came home” at around 6:30 p.m. After being driven home by a friend, he sat at his tenant's home on the lakeshore and spotted Weber's boat sailing by, about 300 to 400 yards out, at “deep dusk.”

“I did not notice any bow light,” said Jones, which caused him to pay attention because he was concerned about not seeing the light. “The light should be on by that time.”

Jone said he saw a bright stern light and a red glow that he realized were cabin lights. The sailboat also was running under full sail.

The night of the crash, Jones said close to 10 sheriff's patrol cars came down his driveway and said there was a boating crash. Jones went out to his dock and saw the boat being towed into view.

The next day he said he spoke to Lloyd Wells, a deputy sheriff with the Lake County Sheriff's office, who came to pick up Weber's boat trailer in Jones' boat yard.

Jones asked about the crash and said Wells didn't identify who drove the power boat. Wells also reportedly said the sailboat didn't have any lights one. Jones said he saw the lights on, and Wells replied that he couldn't have.

Fishermen describe night on the water

Most of the afternoon was devoted to hearing the testimony of Anthony Esposti and Colin Johnson, who were prefishing for a catfish tournament on the night of the crash.

The men, in a 14-foot aluminum fishing boat, noted in their separate testimony that the night was extremely dark. They both said they saw a sailboat without lights before witnessing the boat crash later in the night.

Esposti, who was more familiar with Clear Lake, said they put into the water at about 4 p.m. and fished until after dark.

He said he saw no lights on the sailboat, only seeing it after Johnson flashed it with a spotlight. However, he did see the stern light on Perdock's boat, which he said was very loud. Esposti estimated it was traveling about 40 miles per hour.

“We watched it on its course until it collided with something,” he said.

It was so dark, with no moon, that they didn't know what it hit, but he could hear the engine when it came out of the water as the powerboat flew over the sailboat, said Esposti. They could hear yelling for help, so he and Johnson approached the boat and found it with a broken mast.

Esposti said they heard screaming from the boat. Asked what he saw on the sailboat, he replied, “God ... blood.”

He and Johnson helped tow Perdock's boat to shore while two other boats which had come out to render assistance towed the sailboat.

In cross-examining Esposti, Haltom asked him about statements he'd made previously to investigators, including comments about going out later in the evening, at 7 p.m. Esposti insisted there were several hours of daylight when they started.

He believed he had seen the sailboat on its cruise between 7 p.m. and 7:30 pm. but couldn't remember it being under sail. Esposti believed the crash happened about two hours later, with the power boat traveling on a straight line before the crash.

When Johnson took the stand, his testimony contained several notable differences from Esposti's beginning with his assertion that they headed out for their fishing trip close to the time it began getting dark.

He said he heard people laughing and talking on the sailboat, but saw no lights of any kind – not even cabin lights. Johnson also didn't see a sail. Without his spotlight, they couldn't see the boat at all.

Johnson said they heard and saw the power boat as it moved across the bay. “Then all of a sudden it just jumped up in the air,” he said, describing how he saw the boat's navigation lights spin 360 degrees and they heard the crunching of the crash.

“I was clueless about what it ran into,” he said.

He and Esposti made their way over the sailboat; when they got there, Johnson stood and pulled himself up to look into the sailboat, where he saw a man doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Thornton. The side of the boat had blood on it, he noted. He then started yelling to the shore for help. Boats arrived to help shortly afterward.

When Haltom asked him about the speed of Perdock's boat, Johnson replied, “I think that it was somewhere between 40 and 50 miles per hour.”

During his testimony, Johnson said he flashed Perdock's boat with his spotlight when the boat was coming straight toward him. It then “tailed off” toward the sailboat.

With no speed limits on the lake, boats can travel at any speed, Johnson said. “You've got to watch out for yourself,” he said. “He was just coming too close to me for my comfort.”

Haltom wanted both Esposti and Johnson subject to recall for possible further testimony at some point during the remainder of the trial.

At the end of the day, Byrne admonished jurors not to read about the case or talk to anyone about it.

He said the evidence will come in phases. “It's important to keep an open mind,” he said.

The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

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.




It is an unprecedented alignment of the stars. Not wholly unlike the recent total solar eclipse or the appearance of Halley’s Comet.

The CyberSoulChildren who are alive and conscious on July 31, 2009, can be cognizant of the fact that not one, but two major Motown acts are appearing at the same time in and around Lake County, within 60 miles of each other. The Four Tops are appearing at Cache Creek Casino Resort. Smokey Robinson is appearing at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa.

This is an insightful, culture altering occurrence, juxtaposed against the golden anniversary of the birth of Motown. As a chronicler of the evolution of rhythm and blues, the time has come for me to offer up and perhaps correct some Sound Of Young America (as Berry Gordy called it) history.

I remember striving to find some semblance of that Sound on the airwaves when I arrived on the shores of Lake County in 1997. There was a commercial station that used to air a promo once or twice an hour that stressed that they played the best in Motown. They’d then follow it with a Billy Preston track or an Aretha Franklin track, neither of whom was ever a Motown artist.

Sometimes of course, they would play a legitimate Motown artist, but they would err (no pun intended) enough to make the CyberSoulMan uncomfortable. So, for those of you who are perhaps carrying around those suppositions as fact, here is the CyberSoulMan version of some Motown history. Be forewarned that I can’t squeeze the whole soulful slate into 1,000 words.

Motown was created by Berry Gordy on Jan. 12, 1959. Originally it was called the Tamla Records but incorporated as Motown Record Corp. a little over a year later.

At first it was simply a record label, a vehicle to expose to the world the very unique tapestry of the artists involved in the Detroit Sound. The first group signed to the label was the group formerly known as The Matadors. This was the group that Smokey Robinson sang lead for and when they signed with Tamla, they became The Miracles.

Other early Tamla acts were Marv Johnson, Mable John and Mary Wells. The first certifiable Tamla hit was “Money” by Barrett Strong, which charted at No. 2 on Billboard's R&B hit list in 1959.

The first million-selling record for Motown was “Shop Around” by The Miracles. The first Billboard No. 1 pop hit for the corporation was “Please Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes.

Berry Gordy amassed a stable of artists that also included Martha & The Vandellas, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, The Supremes, Gladys Knight & The Pips and The Jackson 5.

Somehow, it became ingrained in parts of the American psyche that Motown was an exclusively African-American company. Nothing could be further from the truth.

From virtually its inception forward, Motown has been integrated. It has had many artists and acts that were not African American. Among them, Chris Clarke, Rare Earth, Judas Priest, Dorsey Burnette, R. Dean Taylor, The Pretty Things, Stoney & Meatloaf, Shaun Murphy, Duke Jupiter, Teena Marie, Michael McDonald and the great Bobby Darrin, among others.

Some of you may recall the film “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown,” which documented the saga of The Funk Brothers, the extremely jazz savvy studio musicians who did all the instrumental tracks for Motown from 1959 to 1972. They, too, were an integrated band.

Motown also developed Motown Latino Records which focused on Spanish language Latin American music.

In addition, Motown employed songwriting/production teams that included Smokey Robinson, Holland/Dozier/Holland, Norman Whitfield and many others that reflected accurately this melting pot called America.

Clearly, Motown wasn’t all African-American in its scope. Similarly, all African-American music wasn’t Motown. To insinuate that Aretha Franklin music is Motown distorts history. Though Aretha grew up in Detroit she was never Motown. There is room enough in Detroit for more than one iconic style or genre.

Billy Preston and others incorrectly tagged by that aforementioned radio promo not withstanding, there are many distinctions within the canon of African-American music, some of them geographic, some stylistic, some differences subtle, some very overt. It helps to do the homework. There will only be a quiz on the above material if you choose to self administer it.

The last time Smokey Robinson appeared in Lake County, I believe, was in 2004 at Robinson Rancheria. I had not seen Smokey live since 1967 when he was still fronting the Miracles. Tammi Terrill opened that show at San Francisco’s Basin Street West and gave the Smokey a good run for his money.

I was pleasantly surprised when Smokey played Lake County last. Not only had he matured gracefully, but he was a better performer. And he was my favorite in 1967. For those of you who can’t make his upcoming show, KPFZ 88.1 FM will broadcast my 2004 interview with him on Saturday, Aug. 1, between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Duke Fakir is the only remaining founding member of the Four Tops. Obie Benson, Lawrence Payton and their great baritone lead singer Levi Stubbs have gone on to glory in Soul Heaven. Don’t let that hinder you from attending their show if you are so inclined. They have recruited former Temptation Theo Peoples and Lawrence Payton’s son Roquel to round out and continue their great sound.

For an awe-inspiring deeply emotional view of Levi Stubbs performing for the last time with his group (and the new replacements) go to: . Have your hankies on the ready!

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool events:

Sunday Brunch in the Garden, Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Brunch served 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Chris Forshay featured on guitar and vocals, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Information: 707-275-2244 or .

Will Siegal & Friends, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Blues Monday, July 27, Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Information: 707-275-2244 or .

Open Mike Night, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 30, Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Information: 707-275-2244 or .

Rootstock, 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 31. Library Park, 200 Park St., Lakeport.

Smokey Robinson in concert, 7:15 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa. 8727 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Information: 800-660-LAKE or .

The Four Tops in Concert, 9 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Cache Creek Casino Resort, 14455 Highway 16, Brooks. Information: 888-77-CACHE or .

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at

LAKEPORT – The details of forensic testing, chain of evidence procedures and testimony from a former sheriff's sergeant who stated he was ordered not to give a breathalyzer test at a crash scene were discussed during testimony Wednesday in a trial over a fatal sailboat crash.

The second day of Bismarck Dinius' trial took place on Wednesday.

The 41-year-old Carmichael man is charged with felony boating under the influence causing great bodily injury and two lesser included offenses of boating with a blood alcohol level over 0.08 and boating while under the influence.

Dinius is alleged to have had a blood alcohol level of 0.12 while sitting at the tiller of Willows resident Mark Weber's sailboat, Beats Workin' II, on the night of April 29, 2006. The prosecution alleges that Dinius, by steering the boat, was responsible for operating it, and that he failed to have the boat's running lights turned on.

The sailboat was hit by a powerboat driven by an off-duty sheriff's chief deputy, Russell Perdock. Witnesses on Tuesday gave estimates that Perdock was driving his boat between 40 and 50 miles per hour that night, which was extremely dark and moonless.

Weber's girlfriend, 51-year-old Lynn Thornton, was mortally injured in the crash and died a few days later.

Establishing the custodial chain and testing of key pieces of evidence in the case – including blood samples from Dinius, Weber and Perdock – was a focus of much of the day's testimony.

Sheriff's Det. Jerry Pfann, who manages the agency's evidence storage, explained how he was contacted shortly before 2 p.m. the day after the crash and traveled to the Lower Lake substation to pick up Perdock's blood sample, taken the previous night at Redbud Community Hospital. The hospital has since changed its name to St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake.

Pfann said all sworn personnel and some designated civilian personnel have access to the substation, which serves as patrol office and holding area for inmates for court, and has a room for evidence storage.

He found Perdock's sample in a small refrigerator and transported it to the sheriff's main office on Martin Street in Lakeport.

Pfann told the court that he placed Perdock's sample – along with those from Weber and Dinius – in an evidence refrigerator, at the back of a shelf behind other materials in evidence. “Because of the nature of the case and who was involved, I wanted to be the only person who knew where they were,” he said.

The next day – Monday, May 1, 2006 – Pfann found all the samples the way he had left them before taking all of the items to the California Department of Justice (DOJ) Lab in Santa Rosa for testing.

Pfann brought the samples – picked up from the DOJ earlier this month – to court on Wednesday, where District Attorney Jon Hopkins had him open the sealed plastic and paper envelopes containing the vials of blood and reseal them in new plastic bags before submitting them into evidence. Court had a brief recess while Pfann went to retrieve his portable heat sealing machine.

Beland testifies about night of crash

A former sheriff's sergeant who stated that he was ordered not to give a preliminary alcohol screening – or PAS, also known as a breathalyzer – test to Perdock at the crash scene also took the stand.

James Beland related how he got the call and volunteered to notify Sheriff Rod Mitchell before responding to the Konocti Bay area, where the crash took place.

Beland said Sgt. Dennis Ostini, the primary supervisor for the sheriff's Boat Patrol, led the investigation.

When Beland met up with Ostini and then-Sgt. Mike Morshed at the scene, he recalled, “I said, 'I have a PAS on board.' Do you want to use it?'

“Sgt. Ostini's response was, 'No, no no, Perdock has already volunteered to do blood,'” Beland said.

Beland said his patrol vehicle was one of the few at that time that had a mobile audio visual unit (MAV) which could be used for videotaping witness statements. Another deputy used the unit to take statements and Beland had to wait before being able to transport Perdock to the hospital, getting there, he believed, around 11:30 p.m.

After the blood draw, Beland said he and Perdock parted ways. He said he didn't see Perdock with any signs of intoxication.

During questioning, Beland also admitted that he had written the wrong date – April 30 rather than April 29 – on one of the pieces of evidence, which was brought to his attention several months later.

Haltom asked Beland if he was still with the sheriff's office. Beland replied that he was terminated last December.

“Was your termination related to this case?” Haltom asked.

“Yes,” Beland responded.

Hopkins objected to the question, and Judge J. Michael Byrne sustained the objection.

Under Haltom's cross-examination, Beland described seeing Mitchell arrive at the crash scene, where he walked up to Perdock and hugged him.

Beland explained that Ostini was the second-most senior sergeant in the sheriff's office at the time of the crash. Rather than press the PAS, Beland said, “I pretty much followed what those two had to say.”

“Were you ordered not to give a breath test to Russell Perdock?” asked Haltom.

“If I had done that I would have been written up,” said Beland, who was a new sergeant in April of 2006.

He added, “It was a discussion on how to handle the situation, but it was also an order.”

Beland said he had no reason to question Ostini. “He's a very fine upstanding person,” and also was a mentor.

It wasn't until a few months later that Beland said he became upset about the decision not to do the PAS. When Haltom asked why, Hopkins objected and Byrne sustained the objection.

Haltom asked Beland if he administered breath tests in other driving under the influence-type arrests. Beland said yes.

“Is it desirable to get as early a possible test result as you can?” Haltom asked, to which Beland again responded in the affirmative.

Beland explained that having the PAS results helps verify field sobriety test results. It also gives a timespan during which blood alcohol levels may be going up or coming down.

After Dinius' preliminary hearing, which took place in May and June of last year, Beland said he wasn't happy with his performance, so he researched his activities that night. Originally he couldn't remember exactly what he did after leaving the hospital – he'd stated in court last year that he and Perdock had driven around afterward, but he couldn't remember where he had taken him.

About the time that he gave testimony in the preliminary hearing in late May of 2008, Beland said he generated a report that stated he was ordered not to give the PAS at the scene.

Beland said the blood test was a good call, but he “couldn't say either way” about whether not giving the PAS was a bad call, since he didn't know how boating collisions were handled.

Hopkins asked if there was a difference between breath and blood tests. “So, blood's the best?”

Yes, Beland replied. Haltom objected and Byrne sustained.

Hopkins asked the question another way, questioning Beland about whether blood was better than breath and urine tests. Beland said yes.

Beland mentioned in his testimony that some of his reports where changed, including the original report that documented how he handled Perdock the day of the crash.

His original report stated that he notified Mitchell of the crash. He said Capt. James Bauman ordered him to take that part out.

Under continued cross-examination, Haltom asked, “Is it optimal to have both blood and breath?”

“If it was a vehicle accident, yes,” Beland said.

Hopkins, taking another turn at questioning Beland, challenged his assertion that his report was altered by the sheriff's office, but that he had changed it himself at the order of a commanding officer. That wasn't unlike Beland ordering his own patrol deputies to correct reports, Hopkins suggested.

Hopkins asked if it was standard procedure to have higher-ranking officers approve reports. It isn't standard for supervisors, Beland responded.

But Beland said he was an exception. “They wanted my reports approved.”

Criminalists explain testing procedures

Gregory Priebe, a senior criminalist with the DOJ's Santa Rosa lab, spent time on the stand Wednesday afternoon explaining the science behind blood alcohol testing, testing procedures, handling evidence and levels of impairment.

Priebe tested all three blood samples in the case. His analysis found no alcohol in Perdock's blood which, by agency protocol, was then sent to the DOJ toxicology lab in Sacramento because anything under 0.08 percent blood alcohol undergoes additional testing.

Weber's sample showed 0.18 percent blood alcohol and Dinius' 0.12, according to the testing done by Priebe, who said he has tested between 7,500 and 10,000 samples in his career.

Hopkins asked Priebe about the impacts of alcohol on human function and judgment. Priebe said effects range from impairment of a person's ability to process information and its impact on inhibitions and vision.

“You're just not processing information at same rate as you're processing it when you're sober,” Priebe said.

“Would that affect your ability to remember to turn your lights on, for instance?” asked Hopkins.

It could, said Priebe.

Priebe went on to explain, “Everyone is impaired at a 0.08 percent,” and most people are impaired at 0.05 percent.

At Hopkins' request, Priebe explained intoxication levels and how quickly they would change for a hypothetical 200-pound man, whose body composition would cause him to eliminate 0.018 percent alcohol per hour. That's about the rate that same man's blood alcohol level would go up for one 12-ounce beer, a 4-ounce glass of wine or one and a quarter ounce glass of hard liquor.

Priebe also stated that the DOJ blood draw kits have gray-stoppered tubes to hold blood that contain sodium fluoride, a strong enzyme inhibitor, which doesn't require they be refrigerated. The samples can safely be stored at room temperature, but handling samples is an issue determined by agencies. DOJ refrigerates samples to slow the enzymatic process, he added.

Under Haltom's cross-examination, Priebe explained that drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short time period would cause a person with an otherwise empty stomach to reach a peak intoxication rate within 15 to 30 minutes, while a person with a full stomach's peak intoxication would come between 30 and 90 minutes.

Priebe said this was the first time he's testified in a case involving a sailboat. His only experience on a sailboat led to the craft sinking in the bay.

He didn't know much about sailboats, but said he understood what it took to steer such a vessel. “I know how difficult it is because I sank one of these things,” Priebe said.

Haltom asked Priebe about a time limit for taking blood samples. Priebe said there is a three hour time period in which samples should be collected in order to accurately reflect intoxication levels.

Priebe, in response to another question by Haltom, said there was no rush in testing the samples in this case. “We have a bureau policy we turn around blood alcohol results, try to, within five days of receiving the sample,” he said, adding that toxicology labs take longer.

Being able to respond to conditions in a sailboat, said Priebe, takes longer than in an automobile.

Hopkins asked how many drinks a 200-pound man would have to drink to have a blood alcohol level of 0.12. Priebe calculated 6.6 drinks.

If that person's blood alcohol level actually was declining from a peak three hours earlier, Priebe calculated the peak would be 0.15.

Senior criminalist Gary Davis, who works at DOJ's Sacramento toxicology lab, discussed the drug testing conducted on Perdock's blood sample, which included screening for six groups of drugs, among them opiates and barbiturates.

An initial screening will indicate if a general type of drug is present, said Davis. A confirmation test identifies the specific drugs present.

“Can the screening test be misleading,” asked Hopkins.

“It can be wrong at times,” said Davis.

Haltom asked about the screening's results.

“The initial one was positive for opiates and nothing else,” said Davis, explaining opiates include Codeine, Vicodin, Hydrocodone, opium and Oxycontin.

“Are you testifying that that was a false positive?” Haltom asked.

“Yes,” Davis said.

False positives happen less than 5 percent of the time, Davis explained, and can be triggered by small bubbles that appear in the samples.

“I don't know what exactly happened in this case,” said Davis.

Hopkins asked if he asked for a second screening on the blood sample. Davis said yes, and the result was a negative test.

Phlebotomists, retired sergeant testify

During the day's testimony, the jury also heard from the two phlebotomists who drew the blood samples.

Andrea Estep, who works at St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake, took Perdock's sample at 11:30 p.m. the night of the crash. She acknowledged she wrote the wrong date – April 30 – on the sample.

Estep, who works late-night graveyards shifts, explained that she often dates materials for the next day and didn't double-check herself that night before turning over the sample to Beland.

LaDonna Hartman took Weber's sample at 11:15 p.m. and Dinius' at 12:05 a.m. at Sutter Lakeside Hospital and gave them to Sgt. Mark Hoffman.

Both Hartman and Estep explained how they took the samples and sealed DOJ blood draw kits before turning them over to the deputies.

Beland took Perdock's blood sample to the Lower Lake substation, where Pfann retrieved it the next day, while Hoffman took Weber's and Dinius' samples to the main sheriff's facility before logging them into the evidence facility.

Hoffman, now retired, was a sheriff's patrol sergeant in April of 2006. On the stand Wednesday he described being one of the first responders to the crash scene, where he was instructed to take Weber to the hospital for the blood draw.

Testimony continues on Thursday.

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

Note: This story contains information that some people may find disturbing.

KELSEYVILLE – A man shot and killed himself early Saturday morning during a traffic stop near Kelseyville.

Ryan Randall Williams, 28, of Kelseyville died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at the scene of the stop, according to sheriff's Capt. Rob Howe.

Howe said that Sgt. Andy Davidson was traveling northbound on Highway 29 a mile south of Soda Bay Road at approximately 12:28 a.m. Saturday, July 25, when he recognized the vehicle traveling in front of him as possibly belonging to Williams.

Davidson confirmed through Central Dispatch that the vehicle was Williams’. Howe said Davidson knew that Williams was on parole and was wanted for a parole violation.

When Davidson activated his forward facing red light, attempting to stop Williams at the corner of Highway 29 and Soda Bay Road, Williams slowed, turned on his blinker and turned onto Soda Bay Road near Kit's Corner, according to Howe.

Then Davidson activated his siren and overhead emergency lights, and Howe said Williams slowed and pulled onto the shoulder of the road but did not come to a complete stop.

Williams started to accelerate and pull back onto the roadway. Howe said Davidson accelerated onto the roadway, past Williams and tried to block his vehicle. At that point Williams’ vehicle accelerated and hit the driver’s side rear bumper of Davidson’s patrol vehicle then traveled in the oncoming traffic lane.

Howe said Williams’ vehicle left the roadway and was traveling parallel to the patrol vehicle on the embankment on the opposite side of the road. Williams then swerved back down the embankment, across the oncoming lane and collided with the driver's side of Davidson’s patrol vehicle. Williams' vehicle then left the roadway and crashed into a heavily wooded area.

Following the crash, Williams was found in the vehicle with severe head trauma, and a loaded handgun with one expended cartridge was also found in the vehicle near Williams’ feet, Howe said.

Williams was extricated from the vehicle and prepared to be flown by REACH to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Despite life saving efforts on scene, Howe said Williams died as a result of his injuries prior to being flown out.

The investigation revealed that Williams' head trauma was not caused by the vehicle collision, but by a single self-inflicted gunshot wound. Howe said it appeared that when Davidson attempted to stop Williams he decided to take his own life.

Editor's note: News agencies do not normally cover cases involving suicide unless, such as in this case, they involve an act that is committed in a public manner.

HIGHLAND SPRINGS – Officials reported the summer's first drowning on Saturday, which occurred at Highland Springs.

Shortly before 5 p.m. officials were called to Highlands Springs where a male subject had reportedly drowned.

Lakeport Fire and the Lake County Sheriff's Office controlled the scene, while the Northshore Dive Team was called, said dive team leader Capt. John Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said the drowning resulted from a swimming accident.

He and two other dive team members – including Keith Hoyt – responded to the scene.

Hoyt said once the team got in the water, Rodriguez found the victim – whose name and age were not available – after about 10 minutes.

The man's body was found about 75 feet offshore in about 12 to 15 feet of water, said Rodriguez.

“We had about a 5-foot visibility,” Rodriguez explained, noting that the area of the lake where they were searching had a lot of snags and thick weeds.

The team, however, had good information about where the victim had last been seen, which Rodriguez said was the key to the whole operation.

“It led us right to the victim,” he said.

Hoyt said a group of the victim's family members were at the scene, where an event was taking place.

Some good Samaritans who also were at the lake had done repeated dives in an effort to help find the man, but with no luck. Hoyt said they were very close to the location were the body ultimately was found, but the water was a little too deep and the man's body was completely covered by weeds.

Hoyst said the men were extremely upset after being unable to find the man.

He said he thanked them for what they did, which he told them was more than a lot of people would have done.

“They did the right thing,” he said.

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


MIDDLETOWN – A local man won more than $1.5 million at Twin Pine Casino this week.

On Tuesday the man, who requested anonymity, hit a MegaJackpot of $1,501,686.39 by playing a “Marilyn Monroe” dollar slot machine.

The machine, which is known as a “Wide-Area Progressive,” is electronically connected to other similar machines throughout the country, and these types of machines can pay off very large jackpots through a group play network rather than through standard individual play.

Twin Pine has several wide-area progressive machines on its new gaming floor to accommodate customers who are hoping to hit the supersized jackpots.

Twin Pine Casino is owned by the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California.

Referring to the major jackpot, Carl Rivera, the Rancheria’s tribal council chairman, said, “The tribe has been pointing to this moment for a long time. We knew it would happen, but you just never know when. With the recent grand opening of Twin Pine as California’s newest casino, it couldn’t come at a more exciting time for all of us.”

The $1.5 million jackpot is the largest single payout in Twin Pine’s 15-year history. It also represents the largest payout of its type in Lake County history, and exceeds the jackpots of all other casinos in the Bay Area.

“It’s a real thrill to see one of our many loyal guests combine with one of our most popular gaming machines to produce such a life-changing event,” said Richard Howard, General Manager of Twin Pine Casino.

Twin Pine Casino has operated a Las Vegas-style gaming facility of the latest slot machines and table games since 1994.

This year the Middletown Rancheria recently opened its 107,000-square-foot new casino/ hotel/ restaurant complex at its current Middletown location.

Visit .

HIGHLAND SPRINGS – The Lake County Sheriff's Office has identified a man who disappeared while swimming this past Saturday at Highland Springs, and who authorities say died of heart disease not drowning.

Oakland resident Chinh Pham, 63, was the victim in the Saturday evening incident, according to sheriff's Capt. Rob Howe.

Howe said sheriff's deputies responded to Highland Springs Park in Kelseyville on a report of a drowning at approximately 6 p.m. Saturday, July 25.

When they arrived they were told that Pham had been swimming and then went under water and didn't resurface.

Lakeport Fire and the Northshore Dive Team also responded to the scene where, at approximately 6:13 p.m., dive team leader Capt. John Rodriguez found Pham.

Howe said Pham was found 45 feet off shore and approximately 15 feet under the water, tangled in weeds. Pham was pronounced dead at the scene.

Pham's wife told deputies they were in Lake County on vacation, and were with a group of friends and went to the park for recreation, said Howe.

He said Pham was swimming just offshore when he went under water and never resurfaced. Several people at the park dove into the water in an attempt to help the decedent but could not locate him.

The results of an autopsy showed that Pham's death actually was due to ischemic heart disease and not drowning.

The American Heart Association reported that ischemic heart disease – also called coronary artery disease – is a condition in which the arteries to the heart are narrowed, resulting in less blood and oxygen reaching the heart muscle. The result can be a heart attack.

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

THE GEYSERS – A decision to delay a new geothermal project in The Geysers until further study is completed appears to have come directly from the top of the federal Department of Energy.

The decision regarding AltaRock Energy's engineered geothermal systems (EGS) project – scheduled to take place on a federal land leaded by the Bureau of Land Management to the Northern California Power Agency (NCPA) – came down earlier this month, as Lake County News has reported.

AltaRock, based in Sausalito and Seattle, plans to drill thousands of feet into the earth and fracture bedrock and inject water, which create steam for geothermal production.

It had already begun drilling into an old well in preparation to start the fracturing – also called “stimulation” – in August.

But a New York Times article late last month and ensuing media coverage in the interim pointed to the similarity between AltaRock's technology and that which was used on a project in Basel, Switzerland, in 2006. In that case, a company – not AltaRock – drilled into a fault and triggered a 3.4-magnitude earthquake and more than 3,500 more over the following year.

Dr. Ernie Majer, a scientist and geophysics department deputy division director for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said the decision to halt the project while more study was done came directly from his old boss, Dr. Steven Chu, now head of the Department of Energy.

“It came from the top, it came from Dr. Chu,” Majer told Lake County News.

Chu, Majer said, didn't want to let the project go forward until it was reviewed, and wanted the community fully informed all throughout the process.

Last fall, AltaRock received more than $6 million in funding from the Department of Energy funding for The Geysers project. It also has amassed another $30 million in venture capital.

The project moved very quickly through the approval process with only a month-long public comment process and one community meeting earlier this spring.

On June 8, Rich Burns, a Lake County resident and the field manager for the Ukiah BLM's field office, signed a finding of no significant impact on the project, noting, “the process will induce seismicity that is fully expected to be within the range of present levels (both frequency and magnitude) experienced at Anderson Springs, the closest community to the Project.”

That document also stated, “While it is acknowledged that the proposed project involves some uncertainty regarding seismic impacts, the mitigation and monitoring that will be required by BLM will mitigate these uncertainties to a level of insignificance. Drilling methods and associated activities for this project are typical of existing processes in the Geysers Geothermal Field/Geysers Management Area.”

Officials with the BLM, which needed to approve a federal permit for the company to move forward, stated that AltaRock's didn't disclose to them what happened with the technology in Basel.

In turn, AltaRock's executives have said they withheld no information, and that the Basel project is well known in the industry. They also told Lake County News that the Department of Energy had asked for more information, which the company provided, and they expected to changes to their project schedule, which called for fracturing to begin in August.

Earlier this month, BLM told Lake County News that they and the Department of Energy decided to do more study on the project.

This past week Tiffany Edwards, deputy press secretary for the Department of Energy, provided an agency statement to Lake County News about the decision.

“The Department is conducting additional analysis of the question of induced seismicity, and specifically comparing induced seismicity at the Geysers to induced seismicity at Basel, Switzerland to determine whether there should be additional safeguards beyond what is already planned for the Geysers site,” the statement said. “No stimulation activity will be funded by the Department until we've completed this additional comparative analysis and provided a final NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] determination.”

Edwards did not respond to Lake County News' request for an estimate on how long the NEPA determination might take.

The written statement Edwards provided further noted that the geothermal technology in question has “enormous potential to provide renewable baseload energy to heat and power homes and businesses. That's why industry and scientific leaders, with the support of the Department of Energy, are working to develop better technologies that will help reduce the cost of these systems, including the cost of drilling and pipes that can withstand hot, corrosive fluids deep within the earth.”

The statement concluded, “Ultimately, we believe that scientific innovation could resolve those issues, and we can develop better ways to manage the deep reservoir to maximize heat production. The Department's support of enhanced geothermal systems is focused on addressing these obstacles.”

Geothermal isn't the only type of energy production raising concerns about earthquakes. Recent reports from Cleburne, Texas, have linked to a series of small quakes – the first in well over a century – to natural gas drilling.

A USA Today report explains that a process called “fracking” is being used in Texas. Like local geothermal production, it involves injecting water deep into the earth. Fracking is meant to fracture shale layers in an effort to release the natural gas.

Officials want more openness in process

Majer said he and other scientists – US Geological Survey seismologist David Oppenheimer and Mark Zoback, a Stanford University geophysics professor – traveled to Washington, DC earlier this month to meet with Department of Energy officials to discuss the project.

He said they met with Dr. Steven E. Koonin, Chu's under secretary for science, to go over the project. Majer said Koonin indicated he wants real-time seismic monitoring in place for the community.

He also attended the community meeting held by the BLM in Middletown in April to discuss the project. Majer said the community had clear concerns about the project.

Then the articles in the New York Times and elsewhere began coming out, said Majer.

“One of the big concerns was how is this different or is it different from what happened in Basel, Switzerland?” Majer said.

He said the Department of Energy has asked AltaRock to write a document and explain how their project would differ from Basel, and explore if the technology could cause similar seismic issues here. “If so, how are you going to deal with it?”

He said AltaRock – which has approached him at one time to be an advisor, a request he declined due to the inherent conflict of interest – is now in the process of providing that report.

Majer said the Department of Energy will have that report considered by three independent reviewers. If they agree with AltaRock that the risk is minimal, the Department of Energy will let them go forward. If the findings are different, the agency likely will request more study.

Once that review is done, the information will be released to the public, said Majer. “Dr. Chu wants everything open and above board.”

Majer, who did he thesis at The Geysers, is very familiar with the earthquake activity there.

The frequent earthquakes in the area are the result of geothermal production, he said.

For many years industry working in the area denied they were causing the earthquakes, but when study after study showed a direct correlation between geothermal production there, primarily the injection of water into fissures, “They just couldn't deny it any more,” Majer said.

Majer said Basel is geographically different, stress-wise, from The Geysers, so there isn't a reason for comparing the two areas. Europeans have used the EGS technology with some success, he noted.

He said the focus has been on the initial injections planned in AltaRock's project, but Majer suggested the more important question is what will happen in the years ahead as injection continues. That should lead to a closer examination of whether or not there will be an increase in the seismic risk, which exists everywhere.

The assertion that's been made about the project that the biggest quakes it will cause only will be 2.3 in magnitude is “ridiculous,” said Majer.

However, he said creating large fractures, causing major seismicity, actually will defeat AltaRock's purpose, because larger fractures won't heat water for geothermal production as well.

He said AltaRock needs to address the concerns and not just do damage control. The company has claimed some information about its operations is proprietary, he added.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory does seismic monitoring at The Geysers, said Majer, where they currently have a monitoring array for Calpine and NCPA.

That array currently has 23 real-time monitoring stations, and six more stations will be added to cover AltaRock's project, Majer said.

The array is far more sensitive than the US Geological Survey's. In July, it recorded 11 earthquakes measuring 3.0 in magnitude and above, compared to five found in the US Geological Survey's records.

The Department of Energy funds various projects to increase energy production, and Majer said he believes AltaRock is out in front of such projects in terms of time schedule. “This is the first project that the Department of Energy wanted to succeed.”

Majer said there is a lot of potential for geothermal production.

“There's so much more heat down there that's to be gotten out,” he said.

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

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