Sunday, 21 July 2024


Gary Basor and wife Christina, along with their Chihuahua, Harley, are glad to be back home together after he spent two weeks on a recovery mission in Haiti. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

LAKEPORT – Gary Basor is glad to be home.

Basor returned to his Lakeport home late Friday after spending two weeks in Haiti, assisting with the recovery of victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake, a 7.0-magnitude shaker that devastated the country.

The veteran member of the Lake County Sheriff's Office took two weeks of vacation time to make the trip to Haiti, where humidity, mosquitoes, an early rainy season and general resource challenges made the job of recovery even more difficult.

The trip, he said, gave him an even greater appreciation of home.

“When you see people who are surviving with nothing, it definitely humbles you with what we have here,” he said, sitting with wife, Christina, and their faithful Chihuahua, Harley, at their Lakeport home on Saturday.

Basor was with a team from Kenyon International conducting recovery excavations at the Hotel Montana, a major hotel in the city where people from around the world were believed to have been staying when the earthquake hit.

Kenyon International arrived in Haiti shortly after the earthquake, and reported that it has so far recovered 46 bodies, 13 of which have been transferred to US custody, with others transferred to the French, Canadian and Dutch governments. Twenty bodies so far are unidentified.

Mario Gomez, Kenyon's spokesman, said they were surprised by the magnitude of the destruction in Haiti. “It's a very challenging environment.”

A nongovernmental organization hired Kenyon to work at the Hotel Montana, Gomez said. Because of privacy issues, he could not identify the client, who had several people believed to be at that location.

The search for Americans and for people of nations from around the world is continuing.

Last Friday, Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley said during a press briefing that 15,000 Americans have been evacuated from Haiti, and the State Department has opened cases on about 2,200 Americans who haven't yet been located.

Crowley said 97 Americans are confirmed dead due to the Jan. 12 earthquake, including four US officials – among them a member of the military and a Foreign Service officer – and 93 civilians.

Basor, 55, has been master diver since 1973 and began with Lake County Search and Rescue in 1982, long before he joined the Lake County Sheriff's Office in corrections in 1995. He later became a deputy and in 2006 was promoted to sergeant.

Today, he's a patrol sergeant whose duties cross over into work with the sheriff's Office of Emergency Services. He has been on the scene at critical incidents all over the county, including 2008's Walker Fire near Clearlake Oaks.

Last year, Basor went to a search and rescue conference where he happened to hear Robert Jensen, president of Houston-based Kenyon International, speak about the company.

Kenyon International is a century-old company originally founded in the United Kingdom, according to Gomez.

A company history said Kenyon began in 1906, when the London and South Western Railway boat train jumped its tracks and crashed in Salisbury, England. Nearly all of the casualties in that disaster were American, and they were returned to their families through the efforts of brothers Herbert and Harold Kenyon of JH Kenyon Limited, who deployed from London to work with the coroner and chief constable to prepare and repatriate the deceased.

Later the company began to expand into dealing with other incidents, such as airplane crashes and natural disasters, Gomez said. More recently, the company has been involved in recovery and identification efforts for Sept. 11, 2001, as well as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Asian tsunami in 2004.

Basor was so impressed he decided to join the company, which hired him as an independent contractor. Gomez estimated there are about 1,200 Kenyon team members like Basor around the world, with a variety of skills – from search and rescue to scientific skills involving DNA analysis.

In a disaster, team members from the closest countries are called up, and in Haiti's case many of those responders are coming from the United States, Gomez said.

Getting the call

Shortly after 5 p.m. Jan. 29, just as he was getting off shift at the sheriff's offie, Basor got the call that he was needed in Haiti, and he was packed, ready and on his way to the Sacramento Airport with just a few hours of sleep the next morning. He said Sheriff Rod Mitchell gave him the go ahead to take the leave time for the humanitarian mission.

Christina, 57, a raw foods chef, made sure he had plenty of healthy foods, including lots of dried fruits and nuts, to take with him. Basor, who always travels with all kinds of gear needed in emergency situations, said he took a lot of his own equipment with him.

The trip to Haiti was a long one, about 24 hours of traveling, he estimated. After several layovers including stops in Houston and Miami, Basor arrived in Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republican, Haiti's neighboring country. The Dominican Republic didn't suffer the same impacts as Haiti, he noted.

From Santo Domingo, it was a six hour drive to Port-au-Prince over a rough road with drivers following few if any traffic rules. Basor described it as “Mr. Toad's Wild Ride”; he said he watched people ignore stoplights, fuel trucks pass passenger cars over double-yellow lines with cars simply having to go off the road to avoid collisions. The main road along the way also frequently floods and has to be rebuilt.

Watching the driving from a peace officer perspective, Basor noted, “I could have emptied a ticket book in 30 seconds.”

Once in Port-Au-Prince, Basor met up with other Kenyon staffers, who were housed in a fully-contained camp near the airport, with tents, outdoor showers and restrooms, packaged meals ready to eat and plenty of water, a critical need in Haiti, where the water isn't safe to drink in the earthquake's aftermath.

“It was pretty sparse and we knew that,” he said. “I had taken enough equipment to be pretty self-sufficient.”

He arrived at about 2 p.m. Jan. 31 and spent the rest of the day getting an orientation before being deployed to the recovery scene the next day.

By the time he arrived, live rescues were past. He didn't see bodies stacked in the streets, although one day on the way to the excavation site, they saw a body alongside of the road that had been pulled from rubble and set aflame.

Moving out through the city that first day, Basor recalled, “That was an incredible, eye-opening experience, to see the conditions the people were living in, to see housing and buildings just in total collapse. That first day I didn't see anybody trying to clean up or do anything.”

People were walking shoulder to shoulder through what streets had been cleared, and many of them were begging for food and water. “You could see despair on their faces,” he said.

Many areas still appeared to have not been cleared, and people with using whatever water sources they could find for laundry, drinking and sanitation, he said.

Electricity was online in some areas but appeared to be scattered. Basor said red tape needed to be cleared because the “boots on the ground” people trying to do things like build water purification systems were running into difficulties offering assistance

Basor said he also saw looters – both armed and unarmed – roaming the streets. Those who were armed carried rifles and shotguns.

He also saw signs that world relief organizations were handing out supplies and makeshift tents were being replaced with hundreds of white dome tents. United Nations vehicles also were spotted around the country.

He said he and his team members had little interaction with the people. They were advised not to, and he said they really didn't have the time because of the long days.

After a few hours of sleep at night, Basor and his teammates usually were awakened at around 5 a.m. with C-17 and C-130 planes flying overhead, along with some private aircraft.

On the average day, they were leaving base camp by 6 a.m., and Basor said they often didn't return until as late as 8 p.m. They worked seven days a week.

One day as they headed to the excavation site, they saw people dressed up and headed to church. Basor said it was good to see a sign of some sense of civilization in the midst of so much destruction.

It took about 45 minutes to work through the crowded city, where even police and public safety officers with sirens on found themselves stuck in traffic, Basor said.

Multinational team worked at the scene

Kenyon's team in Haiti included forensic anthropologists, fingerprint specialists, mortuary funeral directors and mortuary services technicians, Basor said.

“The recovery process was difficult at times, especially because of the heat, the humidity and the location of remains,” said Basor.

Excavators from the Dominican Republic were working on scene with recovery teams, which included spotters and structural specialists. Basor said no dogs were part of their operation.

The excavators, Basor said, were trained to remove rubble as carefully as possible.

He said the structure had ceiling to floor collapse, and they were searching for void areas where bodies might exist.

When remains were spotted, the machines would stop and the entire site of about 170 people shut down while the body was removed, he said. The bodies, he said, were treated “with the utmost respect.”

The remains were then sent to a temporary morgue where they were identified in order to return them to their families. Basor said they also attempted to find personal affects to help with identifications.

Basor was working with people from around the world, including a forensic anthropologist who came from Scotland.

Their work was grueling; days were hot – about 90 degrees – with humidity at about 90 percent. He and his team of four went through two cases of water a day, and they were urged to take frequent rest breaks.

The more humid it got, the more the mosquitoes came out, and Basor said even after he returned home he was continuing a round of oral malaria prevention medications.

All of Kenyon's supplies had to either be flown in or come through the “itty, bitty road” from the Dominican Republic. Basor said there was little or no refrigeration, and even though Kenyon was bringing in supplies of fresh fruit, one afternoon an entire shipment spoiled because of the climate.

Christina Basor, who is used to her husband having to drop everything and leave on a rescue mission, said she received some special comfort thanks to the fact that a computer with e-mail capability was at the Kenyon base camp. That meant she got e-mail updates from her husband, which let her know he was OK.

Then the computer went down for a few days. Although she's trained herself not to worry, she got worried anyway. And then someone handed her husband a phone with free minutes from AT&T, and on Feb. 5 she got an unexpected call from him.

Her husband isn't one to complain about hardships, she said, and when she called she could hear in his voice “that he was really satisfied with what he was doing because he felt like he was helping people and making a difference.”

She added, “I just stopped worrying about him after that. This is Gary's calling.”

More work ahead

People were camped near the excavation scene in Haiti, including family members of missing people, Gary Basor said. Some of those people also offered to help.

A few days before the end of his deployment, a woman came to the scene and provided information about her daughter, who she believed had been at the site.

“Through our process and our efforts, the day before I left we were able to return her daughter's remains to her,” Basor said. “It really, for me, gave me that satisfaction through all of the hardship that we were going through, the hard work of our team, made it all worthwhile.”

More problems could be ahead for Haiti. Basor said the rainy season appears to be starting about a month early, and the day after he left there was a huge rainstorm that damaged some of Kenyon's temporary setups.

Basor is used to finding bodies through his work with Search and Rescue and as a deputy coroner. Still, he's never encountered such a large disaster situation, and he and other team members were put through an exit interview to make sure they were OK before they left.

He said he's dealing with his experience in a positive way. “For me it's always been bringing closure to the family.”

On rescue scenes he's encountered family members who tell him, “Don't leave my loved one there.”

Basor added, “For me, that's what drives me to do this.”

That kind of closure allows families to start the healing process, he said.

He also felt there is a greater duty for people like him.

“Those of us in the world that have the ability to respond and help them, I think we have an obligation,” he said.

Recalling what he saw in Haiti, he noted, “No people should have to live that way,” and there's no reason why other nations can't share what they have to make sure Haitians don't stay in those circumstances.

Gomez said Kenyon can't estimate how long they'll be on scene, but based on his experience, Basor estimated that the recovery and identification process could go on for years.

Gomez noted, “It's not a quick process.”

In any kind of mass disaster situation, Gomez said the recovery and response can take months and even years to do, with part of the complexity coming from the paperwork and steps needed to meet the requirements of different countries.

Basor was looking forward to resting up, eating some good food and getting back to work at the sheriff's office on Wednesday.

He's already been asked if he would be willing to return to Haiti in three weeks. He and his wife said they were grateful to Mitchell for letting him go on the deployment, which he realized takes a toll on the small department.

Meanwhile, Basor – reaching out to take his wife's hand – said he came back to Lake County with an added appreciation for family and home.

Christina Basor, whose family has a law enforcement background, is extremely proud of her husband, and she and Harley were glad to have him home safe and sound.

“His life has been dedicated to helping other people,” she said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at [email protected] . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

LAKE COUNTY, CA – In an effort to ease the burden of high utility costs and to help the environment, North Coast Energy Services (NCES) will be offering free solar electric systems – including installation and home weatherization – to qualifying homeowners in Lake and Mendocino counties.

This pilot program, funded by the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), is offered at no cost to qualifying homeowners.

Qualification is based on the number of people in the home and current (within the previous six weeks at time of application) income.

Number of people    Monthly

in the home              income

1                              $2,482

2                              $3,246

3                              $4,010

4                              $4,774

In addition to income, the roof of the home must be in good shape and not be flat. Mobile homes are not eligible in this pilot program.

Between Lake and Mendocino counties, 50 homes can be retrofitted with solar electric systems on a first-come, first-served basis.

NCES is a nonprofit organization that provides utility bill assistance and weatherization programs in seven Northern California counties, including Lake and Mendocino.

NCES will utilize two licensed contractors based in Mendocino County for this program, Real Goods and Gaia Energy Systems, to install the solar electric systems and provide home weatherization.

For more information on this program and to request an application, contact Linda McQueen or Glenna Gaches at 707-463-0303, or 966 Mazzoni St., Ukiah.

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KELSEYVILLE – A crash Friday evening in the Kelseyville area resulted in major injuries and trips to area hospitals for some of those involved.

The crash occurred at around 5:30 p.m. on Highway 29 near the S-Bar-S Ranch, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Full details about the number of vehicles involved and the number of injured parties were not immediately available, however a Chevrolet Suburban and a Ford Crown Victoria were reportedly involved, based on the CHP reports from the scene.

The CHP reported that some subjects – including a small child – were trapped inside one of the vehicles involved.

Highway 29's northbound lane was diverted at Red Hills Road from Kit's Corner, the CHP report said.

A helicopter was requested to come to the scene, and the CHP said there were children involved in the crash transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital and a driver was transported to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

Tow trucks were called to help remove the vehicles from the scene, the CHP reported.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

A California Highway Patrol officer investigates a fatal crash that occurred on Highway 20 between Saratoga Springs and Witter Springs roads west of Upper Lake, Calif., on Tuesday, February 16, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

UPPER LAKE – A driver who attempted to pass on a curve on Highway 20 Tuesday night set off a three-vehicle collision that resulted in a fatality.

The collision occurred at around 8 p.m. on a curve on Highway 20 between Saratoga Springs and Witter Springs roads.

California Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Domby said a passenger vehicle traveling westbound behind a big rig attempted to pass the truck and collided head-on with a car traveling eastbound.

The driver in the eastbound vehicle died at the scene, while the driver believed to be the cause of the crash had to be extricated, Domby said. The big rig driver was badly shaken but otherwise unhurt.

The highway was shut down and traffic diverted onto Scotts Valley Road or turned back as numerous CHP, Lake County Sheriff's deputies and fire officials worked on scene.

An air ambulance landed at the Half Diamond Ranch a mile and a half to the east of the crash site, and Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Pat Brown transported medical personnel from the helicopter to the scene.

A Northshore Fire ambulance later transported the surviving vehicle driver back to the ranch and the helicopter landing zone.

Domby said the particulars of the incident were still being investigated. Names of those involved were not immediately released.

The inquiry continued late into the night, as CHP officers diagrammed and photographed the scene.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

NICE – A town hall meeting for the Nice community will take place Wednesday, Feb. 24.

District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing invites the public to attend the meeting, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Sons of Italy Hall, 2817 Highway 20.

County staff will provide updates on the redevelopment process, local projects and other issues.

The agenda includes an open forum to discuss issues of interest to the community. Sheriff’s office representatives will be in attendance.

For more information contact Rushing at telephone 707-263-2368 or via e-mail, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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THE GEYSERS – A 3.0-magnitude earthquake was reported near The Geysers geothermal steamfield Friday morning.

The quake occurred at 9:50 a.m., according to the US Geological Survey. Its epicenter was located one mile east northeast of The Geysers, four miles west southwest of Cobb and six miles west northwest of Anderson Springs at a depth of 1.2 miles.

US Geological Survey records showed that the quake was followed by five smaller aftershocks – ranging in size from 0.6 to 2.1 in magnitude – within about seven minutes, and all located within a mile of The Geysers.

The last earthquake measuring 3.0 in magnitude or above in Lake County was reported Jan. 30 two miles north of The Geysers, and measured 3.6 in magnitude, as Lake County News has reported.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

Catherine Koehler pictured at the Land Trust's Rodman Slough Preserve near Upper Lake. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY – The Lake County Land Trust is pleased to welcome its new executive director, Catherine Koehler.

After Executive Director Susanne Scholz announced her retirement plans for this March, the trust set about searching for someone to fill her shoes. “Not an easy task!” noted one board member.

But, as it turned out, Koehler with a strong background in science, and most importantly, a love for Lake County, was among the many qualified applicants who applied for the position.

Koehler will take over full responsibilities on March 1.

“We are extremely pleased to welcome Cathy as our new executive director and look forward to her working with us on our many projects,” noted the trust’s president, Pete McGee.

She has a bachelor of science degree in zoology and an master's degree in behavioral ecology.

Koehler currently works as the resident co-director, along with her husband Paul Aigner, for the Donald and Sylvia McLaughlin Reserve in Eastern Lake County. She will continue in this position as both it and the land trust executive director jobs are half-time.

She has an impressive background in the biological sciences and a deep appreciation of the combinations of geology and ecology that comprise the often rare and unique ecosystems of Lake County.

She is proud of her ability to work with diverse groups of people, fostering positive outcomes for common goals.

Koehler currently is chair of the Blue Ridge Berryessa Natural Area Conservation Partnership and has a background in developing and conducting science and natural history based public outreach and education.

She has worked on projects ranging from restoration projects for Inland Coastal Sage Scrub, to bird inventories on U.S. Navy Lands in Southern California and Arizona. She also was involved with an endangered species recovery project for the San Clemente Island Loggerhead Shrike, and developed community outreach programs for Rancho Santa Ana botanic Garden.

Locally, in addition to managing research and land stewardship at the McLaughlin Reserve, Koehler has conducted many outreach programs at the reserve, worked with educators to develop and implement science workshops for grades fourth through sixth, and mentored teachers. She has also been successful in acquiring grants for public outreach and facilities at the reserve.

“Lake County is a wonderful place, with a great mix of cities and small communities, agriculture, natural lands, and intact historical and prehistoric sites. I look forward to playing a part in helping ensure that our county continues to be a great place to live for generations to come,” Koehler said.

The Lake County Land Trust is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of Lake County’s unique natural habitats and open spaces. The group owns and operates the Rodman Slough Preserve at 6350 Westlake Road, Upper Lake, as well as the Rabbit Hill park in Middletown.

For more information about the Lake County Land Trust, go to .

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CLEARLAKE – Lake County health officials on Friday offered an update on efforts to monitor a natural release of geothermal gases discovered this week in Clearlake.

Reports of a noxious odor in a Clearlake neighborhood on Wednesday afternoon led to the discovery of a naturally occurring release of gases including hydrogen sulfide, as Lake County News has reported.

The Lake County Air Quality Management District (LCAQMD) conducted initial testing of air samples at a site located in a vacant lot where the gas was observed to be venting from a hole in the soil.

Calpine Corp. environmental staff provided additional laboratory testing of the vent gases, according to the report from Lake County's Environmental Health and Public Health departments.

Testing revealed the presence of hydrogen sulfide at levels capable of causing adverse health effects, officials said.

In addition to LCAQMD, Lake County Fire Protection District, city of Clearlake Police Department and Public Works Department, and Lake County Health Services all responded to the site.

Many residents of the neighborhood in Clearlake are familiar with the periodic venting of geothermal gases, the report stated.

The noticeable increase is the consequence of saturation of the soil by recent heavy rains, causing gases that are normally present in low concentrations in the soil to collect in pockets and release to the surface through any available channel. This concentration of the gases can be seen as a bubbling in the soil and can be detected as a rotten-egg or skunky odor.

The gases are comprised of a mixture that includes hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide and methane.

Hydrogen sulfide is known to produce a range of harmful health effects depending on its concentration and the duration of exposure. In addition, venting of the gases to an enclosed space can be dangerous by displacing oxygen necessary for breathing.

Responders to the Clearlake incident near Robinson Avenue and Division Street conducted air sampling at the site of the initially discovered vent. Hydrogen sulfide levels were found to be significantly elevated at the source, with levels that would be expected to cause eye and respiratory tract irritation and potentially more serious effects with prolonged exposure over hours.

Temporary measures were taken to reduce the release by covering the site with plastic sheeting, which reduced the hydrogen sulfide levels in the immediate area to less than half of the initial measurements. Levels taken at the closest home, approximately 60 feet from the site were only 1 percent to 2 percent of the original level at the source.

Residents in the immediate vicinity of the gas release were notified and advised to consider precautionary evacuation on a voluntary basis.

With assistance from the American Red Cross, one family was housed in a local hotel, officials reported.

Additional air sampling over a wider area, including Burns Elementary School, was conducted early Thursday morning. There were no detectable levels of hydrogen sulfide at the school.

A Public Health advisory also was distributed to residents in the areas impacted by the geothermal gas release.

Since hydrogen sulfide gas can produce symptoms, the health advisory encouraged residents of the affected neighborhood with recent, unexplained onset of irritation of the eyes, nose or throat, difficulty breathing or worsened asthma, headaches, poor attention span or poor memory to see their doctor for evaluation.

Young children and people with existing medical conditions are generally considered more susceptible to the adverse effects of this type of exposure. Staying away from the source of exposure is the recommended prevention and treatment.

As of mid-day Thursday, air samples from approximately 50 feet away from the geothermal vent showed essentially little to no detectable levels of hydrogen sulfide. Although levels may fluctuate slightly, these findings provide reassurance that significant exposure can be avoided by simply staying at least 50 feet away from the vent site, reducing the level of concern for households in the area.

Later in the day, with the assistance of Calpine engineers, a filtering device was installed to filter the escaping gas.

Following installation of the device, the filtered air showed no detectable hydrogen sulfide. This device will remain in place as long as necessary and will continue to be monitored by appropriate agencies.

With the filtering device in place, concerns about exposure of neighborhood residents largely subsided, but responders remain at the scene and are currently reassessing some leakage of gas that has been detected adjacent to the filtering device, officials reported.

Multiple agencies continue to monitor the area and, though the initial vent area has been capped, additional vents may be present.

Additional measures may be necessary if significant vents or large areas of gas release occur.

This seasonal release of naturally occurring gases is a temporary situation that is expected to resolve once the soil is no longer saturated with water, according to the report.

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LAKE COUNTY – What is your vision of Lake County’s future? Did you know that our population is projected to grow by over 50 percent by 2030?

You have the opportunity now to help plan for this growth so that we preserve the character of our communities, provide for needed services, and protect our natural resources.

Lake County 2030, the Region Blueprint Planning Program, asks the question “Where will we live, work, shop and play in 2030?”

The blueprint process uses an extensive community involvement process to develop a set of shared core values and a vision for Lake County’s future growth. The process involves “scenario planning,” where a computerized land-use model is used to show participants the impacts of growth under alternative scenarios. The impacts may involve measures such as how much land is consumed by urban growth, water usage, energy usage, air quality, and impacts to transportation.

Through input received during seven highly interactive community workshops held in early 2009 as apart of Phase 2, the Draft Lake County 2030 Blueprint Vision and Principles were developed that reflect the values of Lake County residents.

In Phase 3 of this process, the vision and principles are used to develop alternative Blueprint Scenario maps. These maps will be commented upon by the public in a series of workshops starting later this month.

The meeting schedule is as follows:

  • Lakeport: Wednesday, Feb. 24, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Lakeport Senior Center, 527 Konocti Ave.

  • Lucerne: Thursday, Feb. 25, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Lucerne Alpine Senior Center, 3985 Country Club Drive.

  • Middletown: Saturday, Feb. 27, 10 a.m. to noon, Calpine Visitors Center, 15500 Central Park Road.

  • Kelseyville: Thursday, March 4, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Kelseyville Senior Center, 5245 Third St.

  • Clearlake: Saturday, March 6, 10 a.m. to noon, Best Western El Grande Hotel, 15135 Lakeshore Drive.

The Lake County 2030 Blueprint is coordinated by the Lake County/City Area Planning Council (APC) and participation by a broad range of individuals, agencies and organizations is critical to its success.

The program provides a means for the citizens of Lake County to understand how housing, jobs, transportation and land use combine to impact the quality of life in the region, and how to improve the quality of life through an integrated planning approach.

The values, priorities and needs of the county’s citizens will provide the foundation for the Lake County 2030 Blueprint.

For more information regarding the timeline for the Lake County 2030 Blueprint please view the Blueprint Phase 3 Work Plan and schedule at (and click on “Lake 2030” on the page's righthand side) or call Terri Persons at the Lake APC at 707-263-7799.

For Spanish speakers, please call Jesse Froelich of MIG Inc. at 626-744-9872, for more information and opportunities for input.

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That quintessential romantic holiday is here and you know your significant other wants a romantic meal with you. But you’ve put off making reservations, can’t cook and are thinking “I don’t know how to do any of that stuff!” Well, guess what? It’s not that difficult. I have a plan for you.

I am by far not the most romantic man around (and my wife agrees since she let that through the editing process) but I have a book on hold right now all about making romantic meals.

How does a guy like me who isn’t the most romantic man in the world write a book about making

romantic meals? Because I know the secret.

It’s not a matter of knowing how to make rose petal crepes with crème fraise (pronounced krem fresh) that you think your significant other is hoping you make, but a matter of you showing that you were thinking about them.

In some relationships that may be as simple as making a bowl of corn flakes and serving it in bed. That’s it, sometimes. It isn’t that your significant other wants you to make something extravagant, but rather that you make it yourself with them in mind; truly, THAT is the most romantic meal.

Every relationship is different. My wife actually has become accustomed to my odd way of looking at the world and now feels all warm and fuzzy when she is called “scary,” or told that she has “minnow eyes,” “kelp hair,” or “dolphin lips.” Really! Those are compliments! Oh, and I call her “Moose.” OK, actually I call her “Mousse” because she's sweet and fluffy and light ... Get it?

My world is a far more interesting place (“Babylon 5” reference for the nerds) than most people may be used to, but my wife has adapted to it. That’s one of the reasons people may not completely understand the nature of some of my columns, because I see things differently than most people and need some getting used to.

Today I’m not going to give you the history of St. Valentine’s Day since you aren’t going to be making any points by gazing across the table at each other and saying, “It is believed that Valentine’s Day

was created by early Christians as a way to supersede the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, just like they did with Christmas and Saturnalia ...”

The idea that you should keep in your mind is that today is the day that your significant other wants you to be thinking about them first, not the trivia of an early Christian saint. That is, unless you’re my niece Elizabeth, but she’s freakishly smart.

If you remember the classic American movie “Dr. Detroit,” starring Dan Aykroyd, there’s a scene that illustrates my tip for the day.

In a pinch for a dinner party, they took fast food fried chicken, coated it in an Indian curry sauce and pretended that the meal was catered. This type of deception – no, we’ll call it resourceful meal creation – isn’t something you can really pull off with well known fast food unless you are really good at it.

That’s not to say you can’t work around the basic idea. Try this: get a roasted whole chicken from the deli center at the grocery store (plain, lemon garlic, rosemary, it doesn’t matter), some pistachios, raspberry jam, a basting brush, steam-in-the-bag frozen vegetables, and a freshly baked loaf of French


When you get home, shell about twenty pistachios and chop or smash the nuts into small pieces, mix them with about half a cup of the raspberry jam, then mix in a little water or even soda so it has a

paint-like consistency.

Throw the vegetables in the microwave according to the instructions.

Now using the basting brush, lightly paint the jelly/nut mixture all over the chicken (raspberries and pistachios are both rumored to be aphrodisiacs). Serve the vegetables in a bowl, carve the chicken and

cut the bread at the table. Voila! A beautiful unique meal, just for your sweetie. Candles lit on the table will put you over the top.

Whether you are a guy or a girl preparing for a guy or a girl, this simple little throw-together is just impressive enough and has a unique enough of a flavor to impress. Tah dah!

If you aren’t able to have dinner with them, you can surprise them sometime with bringing a picnic lunch to their workplace. Tell your significant other the day before that you want to have lunch with them and make an appointment for when you will show up.

The day of your lunch simply go to the deli and pack up on sandwiches, potato salad, salads, bottled soda or water, and be sure to ask the deli person for some plastic utensils and plates (they usually have some, get extras for serving). Throw in a blanket to set up on, and you’re set to go.

You don’t even need to have a special picnic basket. Don’t bring any alcohol; you don’t want to cause any trouble with the boss.

Show up about 15 minutes early and set it up where coworkers can see but you won’t be in the way. Keep anything like napkins or paper plates weighted down or kept in the bag so they don’t accidentally

blow away with the next breeze. I did this for my wife once and her coworkers talked about it enviously for weeks.

It’s that easy. So go out an impress your significant other and have a Happy Valentine’s Day.

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. Follow him on Twitter, .

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Work continued late Thursday, February 11, 2010, to install a scrubber system off of Division Avenue in Clearlake, Calif., where a natural hydrogen sulfide leak was discovered the previous day. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

CLEARLAKE – For the last day and a half local health and public safety officials have been working to put safety measures in place in response to a natural hydrogen sulfide leak discovered in a Clearlake neighborhood.

The leak was found in an empty lot off of Division Avenue between Pearl and Uhl avenues late Wednesday, according to Doug Gearhart, Lake County's air pollution control officer.

Work continued throughout the day on Thursday to put equipment in place that would help diminish the problem, Gearhart said.

On Thursday evening, Gearhart and crews were finishing up operations to mitigate the leak, which was giving off a very strong sulfur smell reminiscent of a truckload of rotten eggs.

In addition to Gearhart from Lake County Air Quality Management, officials working to install the equipment and manage the scene included Lake County Fire Protection Battalion Chief Willie Sapeta, Clearlake Police Chief Allan McClain and some of his officers, Environmental Health Director Ray Ruminski, Clearlake Public Works Director Doug Herren, as well as Office of Emergency Services and Lake County Public Health staff.

Ruminski estimated there were eight homes within 200 feet of the leak.

“Nobody's in acute danger at this point,” he said.

Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless but highly flammable gas that is emitted by volcanoes and hots springs. An Occupational Health and Safety Administration fact sheet on the gas explains that it is heavier than air and collects in low-lying, poorly ventilated areas, and is both an irritant and an asphyxiant.

Such leaks aren't uncommon in Lake County, which owes its geothermal resources to the volcanic forces underneath the ground that emit such gases. Ruminski said it's part of the landscape, and it's one of the reasons why Lake County and surrounding areas have mineral springs.

Ruminski said that in an industrial setting like the geothermal operations at The Geysers, there are occupational health and safety staff who manage gases like hydrogen sulfide on a routine basis.

In certain concentrations, hydrogen sulfide can be poisonous, and when strong enough “it's very, very dangerous,” said Ruminski.

Ruminski said there was a similar incident of a natural hydrogen sulfide leak in the Clearlake area several years ago.

In that instance, a family with small children found the gas entering their home, he said.

He added, “They never did go back in that particular case.”

Gearhart said there are many such vents around Clear Lake giving off hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide and methane.

“This is the first one strong enough to be considered a health hazard,” Gearhart said.

Ground saturation had sealed the natural fissures through which the gas normally escapes, Gearhart said. So the gas ended up moving laterally until it could find a spot to get out, doing so in a concentrated fashion.

He said they made a gravel cone – which they later covered with soil – to help direct the gas through the vent, which was a large white pipe with a charcoal filter on the top. Ruminski called it a “scrubber system.”

A small, battery-operated fan that can run for weeks at a time exerts a slight negative pressure that is helping draw out the gas, Gearhart explained. A venting hose was placed so that it ran up a nearby power pole.

“We're creating an easy spot for the gas to come out,” he said.

By late Thursday the rotten egg smell was still extremely strong, but Gearhart said, “This is really good for what it was.”

The equipment setup at the Division Avenue site is considered a short-term measure, Gearhart said.

“The is a temporary thing but we don't know how long it will be needed,” he added.

By summer he said the ground will be dry and the gas will start moving out of natural fissures again.

The readings were zero after the equipment was in place, Gearhart said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .




The white pipe, part of the scrubber system, includes a charcoal filter which helps disperse the hydrogen sulfide found leaking out of the ground off of Division Avenue in Clearlake, Calif., on Wednesday, February 10, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

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