Monday, 22 July 2024


Lakeport firefighters at the scene of a trailer fire at Big Valley Rancheria Sunday. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – A Sunday evening fire destroyed a trailer at Big Valley Rancheria.

The fire call came across the radio at 8:05 p.m., at which time the 30-foot aluminum travel trailer as fully engulfed. A column of black smoke could be seen from three miles away.

Lakeport Fire Protection District firefighters from Station 50 responded with one engine and one medic. Firefighters worked side by side with rancheria residents to extinguish the fires.

However, despite their efforts, the trailer and its contents were destroyed.

Firefighters were concerned that nearby propane tanks could be in danger of exploding.

Pacific Gas & Electric sent a service truck to the scene to deal with possible electric issues.

No injuries were reported.




A rancheria resident works to put out the fire. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

LUCERNE – A Lower Lake man was arrested for driving under the influence and causing bodily injury after he allegedly caused a three-car collision along Highway 20 Wednesday night.

As Lake County News reported Thursday, the collision took place east of Lucerne near Paradise Cove.

Joseph John Dingess, 35, was arrested Thursday after his release from Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where he was airlifted after the crash.

A report from the California Highway Patrol said that Dingess was driving a Ford Ranger pickup westbound along Highway 20 near Cora Drive when he lost control of his vehicle.

He crossed over the double yellow lines and into the eastbound lane, where the left front of his vehicle collided with the left side of a Pontiac Firebird, whose occupants, from Clearlake, were not identified.

Dingess continued out of control, with the rear of his pickup hitting the front of a Toyota 4Runner whose three occupants are from Williams.

Five of the six individuals in the three cars were transported to local hospitals, the CHP reported, with Dingess going to Santa Rosa by REACH helicopter. Dingess suffered minor injuries, with the other five suffering moderate injuries.

Suzanne Dunn of Williams, who was riding in the 4Runner, told Lake County News that a man in the vehicle with her suffered a fractured back. Their dog was separated from them during the crash but a man who came upon the accident found the dog and reunited them.

Information about the rest of the crash victims' injuries was not available.

Dingess remained in the Lake County Jail on Thursday night. He's being held on $20,000 bail.

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


CHP said the teen who crashed her car into a Kelseyville laundromat early Tuesday is believed to have been driving under the influence. Courtesy photo.

KELSEYVILLE – The California Highway Patrol is investigating an early morning crash on Tuesday in which a car slammed into a laundromat.

A report from Officer Adam Garcia of the Clear Lake area CHP office said that at 4:35 a.m. Tuesday a 17-year-old female was driving a 2005 Ford car westbound on Gunn Street in Kelseyville at a high rate of speed.

Gunn said the girl lost control of the car and collided with a wooden fence on Gunn near Saderlund Street.

Garcia said the car then turned back across Gunn Street, traveled off the south road edge and collided with the Launderland Laundromat before coming to rest inside the building.

The collision caused major damage to the structure of the laundromat and total damage to her vehicle, according to Garcia.

The teen is believed to have been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the collision, said Garcia. She was subsequently arrested for suspicion of DUI.

The investigation into the collision is continuing, Garcia reported, led by CHP Officer Steven Curtis.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. The release Tuesday of the latest National Intelligence Estimate drew a strong reaction from North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson.

NIEs are the Intelligence Community's most authoritative written judgments concerning national security issues. Though the NIE issued July 17 was classified, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) declassified the report's key judgments and released them publicly.

"The new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on 'The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland' makes clear that the United States has lost ground in the battle against al-Qa'ida and global Islamic extremists," said Thompson, chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Human Intelligence, Analysis, and Counterintelligence of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

"The NIE states that al-Qa'ida has preserved or reconstituted its most dangerous capabilities, and that the group will continue to enhance its ability to attack us at home," said Thompson. "It contradicts the president's assertion that we have to fight the terrorists 'over there' so they don't attack us here."

"Instead of invading Iraq, the Administration should have devoted its attention and resources to rebuilding Afghanistan and rooting al-Qa'ida out of its safehaven in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan," added Thompson. "If we had kept our focus on al-Qa'ida, we might not face 'a persistent and evolving terrorist threat,' as the NIE states, six years after the Sept. 11 attacks."

Thompson has already launched efforts to enhance congressional oversight of intelligence agencies' abilities to address threats identified in the NIE.

He has chaired two subcommittee hearings to date on the threat of a terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which the NIE states al-Qa'ida is trying to acquire.

A third hearing is scheduled for later this month.


LAKE COUNTY – A young Iraq war vet is heading off to a Sacramento treatment center where officials say he'll be able to receive treatment for the post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that has troubled him since his return from the war.

The case of Derick Hughes, 21, of Upper Lake was chronicled in Lake County News this spring.

Hughes, a Marine, saw fierce fighting while in Iraq. On Dec. 1, 2005, 10 of his platoon members were killed by a roadside bomb during a promotion ceremony. During his tour he also suffered a dislocated shoulder.

A drug problem that followed Hughes through his service resulted in his eventual discharge once he returned to the states. He received no treatment for his shoulder and no help for the PTSD which resulted from the December 2005 incident. Once stateside, he was diagnosed with PTSD.

Last December, during a traffic stop, a Lake County Sheriff's deputy found Hughes in possession of a bat and Marine body armor panels that were later determined to be Marine property and stolen.

His attorneys, Steven and Angela Carter, took the bold step of sharing his case with the public, because they believe that Hughes is the perfect example of someone convicted of nonviolent crimes who, with the proper counseling and help, can become a contributing member of society.

Local veterans groups like the North Bay Veterans Resource Centers, a division of Vietnam Veterans of America, and Vietnam Veterans of America became advocates of Hughes as well. Many local Vietnam vets said they saw in Hughes symptoms and struggles that they had faced after returning home as young men from Vietnam.

On April 30, Judge Richard Martin found Hughes guilty of felony possession of stolen property and sentenced him to 280 days in jail, with 90 days time served.

Martin offered Hughes the chance to attend a North Bay Veterans Resource Center treatment program, in Sacramento, where he'll receive help for his PTSD and drug issues while receiving day-for-day credit against his jail time.

Treatment rather than jail

One of the people actively advocating behind the scenes to get Hughes into a treatment center is Marcy Orosco.

Orosco is the Director of Workforce and Housing Services, for North Bay Veterans Resource Centers, a division of VVC. Their local service area includes Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma counties.

She took an active interest in Hughes' case, because she, too, believes his case is an example of where treatment is a better choice than jail. Also, Orosco was well prepared and informed of the legislation for vets passed in March of 2006, AB 2586, which allows the court to consider treatment programs as part of probation in cases involving military veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse or psychological problems stemming from their military service.

Orosco works with about 50 local vets of all eras and demographics through the Veteran's Employment Assistance Program and Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program.

Those programs, Orosco explains, advocate for vets to receive and follow through with PTSD assistance and drug treatment, leading to employment and workforce development

Local vets suffering from PTSD seek assistance through county programs in Lake and Ukiah, which then sends them for individual treatment with a psychiatrist or groups said Orosco. VVC is located in 8 counties with housing, substance abuse treatment, case management, and advocacy with live-in treatment centers in Sacramento, Eureka and Petaluma.

NBVRC, a division of VVC also hopes to introduce permanent housing and treatment programs in both Lake and Mendocino counties.

Not long after Hughes originally was sentenced, Orosco helped secure him a bed at the Sacramento Veterans Resource Center, which is a long-term treatment facility which can work with special parameters set up by the local court.

But while Orosco and the Carters believed Hughes was headed for the center in June, a no-bail hold was placed on him by Deputy District Attorney Art Grothe, who had handled Hughes' original prosecution.

Back in court

Grothe, who also is reported to have served in Iraq in the National Guard, charged Hughes with a parole violation for having in his jail locker 48 small balloons, an extra spork (a plastic eating utensil that's a combined spoon and a fork) and a packet of mayonnaise. Grothe alleged that Hughes was planned to use the balloons to transport drugs. The materials were reportedly discovered May 5.

In the meantime, Hughes lost his place at the treatment center, was moved from his place in the jail's workers pod and returned to Martin's courtroom for a hearing July 6.

Another inmate, Raleigh Martin, claimed the balloons were used for water balloon fights to celebrate when inmates were released.

Grothe intimated that Martin, by admitting that he had taken part in such fights, was incriminating himself and could lose good behavior credits.

He also accused Hughes and another inmate of trying to run Pod I and said they had slapped around other inmates.

Steven Carter objected. "That's completely false," he said.

Carter pointed out no drug residue was found on the balloons, and argued that Grothe hadn't proved his case.

More importantly, Carter said he had never seen a jail inmate be brought up on a violation of parole charge for having contraband in his 14 years as a defense attorney in Lake County.

Grothe argued that Hughes' "long and demonstrated history of substance abuse" had given rise to his belief that the materials were to be used for smuggling drugs.

In the end, Judge Martin wasn't wholly convinced by either side.

Martin said that it's clear that such balloons are used for smuggling drugs. However, he pointed to one very large hole in the prosecution's case, which was whether the materials actually belonged to Hughes.

Martin pointed out that many other inmates – between 100 and 200 – had access to the locker, and that it's common for jail inmates to hide contraband in other peoples' lockers.

The judge found Hughes not guilty of the parole violation, but told him he had been looking at three years and eight months in prison if he had been convicted.

Next stop: Sacramento treatment center

Martin told Hughes he was concerned that he wasn't carefully following the jail rules, and was going to end up ruining his chances to start over and get treatment in a care facility.

"You need to sit down and take stock of where you're at," said Martin. "You need to take care of business."

Orosco, who was in the audience for the hearing, was called to the witness stand, where she explained the Sacramento Veterans Resource Center treatment program, and told the court Hughes had another bed lined up for him, but he needed to be able to report there by the end of July at the latest.

Grothe said he wanted Hughes' parole conditions modified to require adherence to all the facility's rules. Hughes' failure to follow the rules could end up in a parole violation.

Martin warned Hughes that if he's caught with drugs, the implications will be serious.

In the end, the judge wished the young vet good luck, and cautioned him to deal with his drug problem. "If you don't deal with it, it's going to come back to bite you."

The Carters and Orosco report that Hughes is due to be transported to the Sacramento facility any day.

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


LAKE COUNTY Increasing southwest winds combined with an unseasonably strong low pressure system off the coast will sweep a chance of rain into Lake County overnight bringing cooler temperatures for today and tomorrow, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento (NWS).

But until that happens, a red flag warning for fire danger has been issued due to the current low humidity and increasing winds by the NWS.

Breezy Southwest winds will blow in from the coast across interior California later today and into this evening bringing cooler temperatures and increasing clouds, NWS reported.

Scattered showers and a few thunderstorms may occur in the evening and overnight in Lake County. Tomorrow will be overcast with a 40 percent chance of light rain, predicts the NWS.

The NWS predicts a return to warmer and drier conditions which are more typical by the end of the week.

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


Tule boats take to the lake Friday. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

LAKEPORT – Dancing, boat building and a lot of fun took place Thursday and Friday as part of the sixth annual tule boat races held by local tribes.

Sarah Ryan, environmental director of Big Valley Rancheria said that Big Valley/Mission, Robinson, Elem, Scotts Valley, Upper Lake's Habematolel, Grindstone, Pinoleville, Jenner and a combined team from Big Valley and the California Tribal TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) Partnerships took part in the three-day event.


On Thursday competitors built their boats from tules, a traditional boat-building material amongst country tribes. The day also included tribal dances and ceremonies.

On Friday it was time to launch the boats. Adults and children alike took turns taking the boats on the water, but the day was clearly most enjoyed by the kids in the boats and in the water.

Ryan reported that the winning teams were:

– Girls' race (ages 6-8): First, Robinson; Second, Mission; Third, Pinoleville.

– Boys' race (ages 6-8): First, TANF/Mission; Second, Pinoleville; Third, Robinson.

– Girls race (ages 9-12): First, Mission; Second, TANF/Mission; Third, Robinson.

– Boys' race (ages 9-12): First, TANF/Mission; Second, Elem; Third, Grindstone.

– Girls' race (ages 13-17): First, Mission; Second, Grindstone; Third, TANF/Mission.

– Boys' race (ages 13-17): First, Elem; Second, Mission; Third, Habematolel/Upper Lake.

– Women's race: First, Scotts Valley; Second, Pinoleville; Third, Mission/Big Valley.

– Men's race: First, TANF/Mission; Second, Big Valley/Mission; Third, Grindstone.

– Team Relay race: First, Elem; Second, Robinson; Third, TANF/Mission.

For a full gallery of pictures from the two-day event, go to,com_wrapper/Itemid,37/.



Competitors built their boats on Thursday. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



The children took to the boats and the water and, with some practice, were ready to race. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

LUCERNE – A three-car collision Wednesday evening resulted in injuries to several people – some of whom were seriously hurt – and a highway closure.

The accident was reported at 7:12 p.m. on Highway 20 east of the Paradise Cove subdivision near Lucerne, according to the California Highway Patrol's incident logs.

CHP reported the three vehicles involved were a red Ford Ranger pickup, a white pickup and a yellow vehicle, which the logs reported as a Firebird but which Lucerne resident George Dorner, who was traveling through the area, said appeared to be a Camaro.

Dorner said it appeared that the Ranger had hit the yellow car head-on. The Ranger was lying on its left side and one seriously injured person appeared to by partially underneath it, he said.

Six people were injured, he said, with the road shut down and traffic backed up some distance in both directions.

Northshore Fire Protection District units from Lucerne and Clearlake Oaks, Cal Fire, CHP and the Lake County Sheriff's Office were on the scene, reported Dorner.

Three ambulances were called over the radio, with one air ambulance requested. A second air ambulance was canceled.

One person was airlifted to Santa Rose Memorial Hospital, where authorities planned to conduct a blood draw, according to the CHP logs.

Animal Care and Control had to be contacted to deal with a vicious dog at the scene, and Caltrans was called to bring sand for oil spilled in the road.

CHP reported that major injuries were involved, but no further information about the victims, their identities or the extent of their injuries was available Wednesday night.

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


The Ely Stage Stop will soon begin its historic move to its new home along Soda Bay Road, where it will be the centerpiece of a new museum. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


KELSEYVILLE – A long-held dream of many local history lovers is beginning to take shape.

Within the next two weeks, the Ely Stage Stop – believed to be one of the county's oldest stick-built buildings – will begin its move from its current location along Highway 29 to its new home as a museum on Soda Bay Road.

The stage stop was built around 1859 to 1860, said Eric Seely, the county's deputy redevelopment director.

Seely probably knows more about the stage stop than anyone. Since joining the county a year and a half ago, he's worked with the Lake County Historical Society to make the project a reality.

Before than, he worked for two years on the project while employed by Beckstoffer Vineyards – who owns the land where the building is currently located, and donated the building to the county.

Beckstoffer also donated a five-acre parcel and a one-acre easement along Soda Bay Road where the Ely Stage Stop and a new museum will be located.

The county will own the building, said Seely, but the historical society will operate it.

Seely and members of the historical society met at the museum site Friday evening to go over the project's status and walk the property.

It was the last of three public meetings in the process of developing the museum's master plan, Seely explained, which is necessary in order to finalize the site and get grading and building permits.

The stage stop building will set atop a hill along Soda Bay Road. Historical Society President Randy Ridgel pointed out that the view is to die for, and he's right: the museum will look out across a meadow framed with oak trees toward the slopes of Mt. Konocti.

“For a change, the actual site is more dramatic than the artist's rendition,” said Ridgel who, along with wife Jackie, have worked to make the dream a reality.

Below the museum, situated so as not to obstruct that incredible panorama, will sit four historic barns that will house historic farm equipment and other implements and displays, Seely said.

Greg Dills, who chairs the historical society's Ely Stage Stop committee, said they have one barn that needs to be moved by the end of August. He's also wrapping up negotiations on the other barns, he said.

The project won't be done all at once, Seely explained. “We're doing this project as funding permits. We're doing it in stages.”

The first phase will include the house move and installing a new roof, Seely said. Future phases will include a wraparound porch; the house's complete restoration with modifications to make it adhere to existing building code; and developing water, power and phone utilities.

“We're still looking at a couple of years,” he said.

The house originally didn't have a kitchen, said Seely; that was in a separate building. While they know a lot about the house, they haven't been able to find photos of it dating before the 1940s.

As much as possible, original materials are being saved for reuse. The house's chimney will eventually be reconstructed with the original bricks.

Two of the original windows are still extant, and will be used as template for new windows to replace missing windows, Seely said. Shortly after Beckstoffer donated the building, one of its largest windows, made with a type of wavy glass common in old homes, was broken by a vandal who tossed a brick through it.

The historical society, said Seely, has received “very substantial” financial contributions to support the stage stop museum. They've also received a lot of help in the form of volunteer time.

The house will begin its move this next week, Seely said. A Bay Area contractor who received the $60,000 contract to move the house will take it west to a staging point where it will be moved across the highway in preparation to travel cross country.

Officials including Caltrans, AT&T, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the county, the contractor who is moving the house and the subcontractor will meet at 10 a.m. July 18 at the site where the house will be moved across the highway to finalize their plans.

At about 6 a.m. Sunday, July 29, Highway 29 will be closed for a few hours as the house is moved across the highway, said Seely.

The next day, Monday, July 30, the house will begin its trek overland, Seely said, moving around springs, crossing one creek on a specially constructed bridge, and continuing to its hilltop location.

“The big day is going to be the final push up the hill,” said Seely.

The house move is likely to last about a week in total, Seely estimated.

To learn more about how you can help the project, contact the historical society at its Web site,, or contact Seely at 263-2580.

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




The view from the site where the stage stop building will sit. The land for the museum and the stage stop building were donated by Beckstoffer Vineyards. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


LAKE COUNTY – Northern California was shaken up by a few good-sized earthquakes Friday, both here in Lake County and in the Bay area.

A 3.8 earthquake hit The Geysers at 10:50 a.m. at a depth of half a mile, according to the US Geological Survey. It was centered one mile north of The Geysers and five miles west southwest of Cobb.

A few hours earlier, the Bay Area was shaken by a 4.2 magnitude quake centered two miles east northeast of Oakland at a depth of 3.6 miles, which the US Geological Survey recorded at 4:42 a.m.

There were no reports of injuries but some buildings were damaged when their windows broke during the shaker.

The US Geological Survey reported that the quake was felt in such wide-ranging areas as Eureka, Santa Rosa, San Luis Obispo and Carson City, Nev.

The Oakland quake was centered along the Bay Area's Hayward fault, and was not related to The Geysers quake. U.S. Geological Survey seismologist David Oppenheimer previously told Lake County News that the quakes at The Geysers are attributable to the geothermal industry in the area.

The Friday morning quake at The Geysers is the third earthquake of magnitude 3.0 or above that has occurred in Lake County this month, with two taking place this week according to U.S. Geological Survey records.

A 3.2 earthquake hit The Geysers area Wednesday afternoon, centered three miles north of The Geysers.

On July 11, a 3.0 earthquake centered one mile west northwest of The Geysers occurred in the early morning.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. On Tuesday, Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA), John Murtha (D-PA), George Miller (D-CA) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) introduced legislation to immediately begin redeploying troops out of Iraq while simultaneously working with the United Nations to implement a regionwide strategy for containing Iraq's civil war.

Thompson and his colleagues introduced this bill because they said there is no solid strategy for controlling the violence and political unrest in Iraq after U.S. troops redeploy.

The members of Congress said that it's clear to them that while U.S. troops are performing excellently, their ongoing presence in Iraq will not lead the Iraqi government to take control of its country. This bill will create a realistic exit strategy that brings our troops home and helps the Iraqi government take steps toward security.

This legislation – the Iraq Redeployment and Regional Security Act – specifically calls for redeployment of U.S. troops to commence no later than 30 days after enactment, with all troops out within one year.

It also requires that the president institutes a regional diplomatic plan, in conjunction with the United Nation's Security Council, to curtail and contain Iraq's civil war, prevent the establishment of al Qaeda safe havens and prevent genocide. The president must report to Congress every month on the status of the plan and the progress being made.

"Our troops have done an amazing job, but keeping them in the middle of a civil war will not get the Iraqi government any closer to securing and rebuilding their country,” said Thompson. “Moreover, without a plan to keep Iraq's civil war from spilling over to neighboring countries, the chaos in Iraq will multiply exponentially throughout the Middle East, putting the world in even greater danger. We must have a sound diplomatic strategy to contain Iraq's civil war or we will face consequences we can't even imagine."

"The time has come for Congress to hold the President accountable for his failed policy in Iraq,” added Matsui. “We can no longer talk about the need for change; the American people are calling for a new plan for Iraq, and this critical legislation takes action to answer that call. This Congress is committed to delivering on its promise of a new direction and a return to the priorities of our country."

All four original co-authors of this bill voted in favor of the Iraq bill introduced by Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO) and last week, which would force the president to begin redeployment of U.S. troops within 120 days of enactment, with American forces out no later than March 31, 2008. They continue to support that bill, as well.

The difference between the Skelton bill and the new bill, however, is two-fold: 1) This bill forces the president to begin withdrawal of American forces sooner than the other bill, and 2) this bill makes clear that the U.S. must engage the international community in the creation of a regional containment plan.


LOWER LAKE – A fire that burned 100 acres of grassland beginning Sunday afternoon has been contained.

Cal Fire officials reported that firefighting crews finished the process of mopping up after the blaze on Monday, when the fire was finally out.

The fire was located near the Noble Ranch subdivision off of Spruce Grove Road.

No structures were damaged and no injuries reported, according to Cal Fire's incident command center.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Cal Fire reported.

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


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