Saturday, 20 July 2024


THE GEYSERS – A 3.0-magnitude earthquake that occurred early Wednesday left at least one home in Anderson Springs with property damage.

The US Geological Survey reported that the earthquake occurred at 5:42 a.m. at a depth of 2.4 miles.

The quake's epicenter was located one mile northeast of The Geysers, four miles west southwest of Cobb and six miles west northwest of Anderson Springs, the US Geological Survey reported.

Shake reports were made to the US Geological Survey from as close as Middletown and Calistoga and as far away as Pleasanton.

The quake's ground motion places it at level IV on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale, which means it was felt by many and caused damage.

“I do have some damage,” said longtime Anderson Springs resident Meriel Medrano. “I have a huge crack in my living room.”

Medrano said she also had a new crack in her bathroom.

The quake was the second in two days measuring 3.0 or above in magnitude. A Tuesday morning earthquake measuring 3.8 on the Richter scale and V on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale.

Medrano said she thinks her damage could have resulted from the effects of both quakes.

The Wednesday quake was “a pretty good doozy,” said Medrano, noting that it woke her up.

Medrano and other Anderson Springs and Cobb residents are concerned that AltaRock Energy's new geothermal drilling project – located up the mountain from her home – will increase seismicity in the already earthquake-prone area, as Lake County News reported earlier this week.

The company already has started drilling and is expected to start fracturing deep bedrock in August.

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

THE GEYSERS – A 3.8 earthquake was reported near The Geysers steamfield on Tuesday morning.

The quake, originally stated as being a magnitude 4, occurred at 10:27 a.m. at a depth of 2.5 miles, according to the US Geological Survey.

It was centered one mile northeast of The Geysers, four miles west southwest of Cobb and six miles west northwest of Anderson Springs, the US Geological Survey reported.

The Anderson Springs strong ground motion station reported that the quake registered 6.9 percent of a g – an acceleration measurement – while it rated 6.4 percent of a g at the Cobb station, according to Jeff Gospe, president of the Anderson Springs Community Alliance. Those measurements are about three times the acceleration experienced on a roller coast, the US Geological Survey reported.

The quake was a V on the Modified Mercalli Intensity scale, said Gospe.

That rating is explained as “Felt by nearly everyone; many awakened. Some dishes, windows broken. unstable objects overturned. Pendulum clocks may stop,” according to the US Geological Survey description.

Residents of Lake, Sonoma and Napa counties reported to the US Geological Survey that they felt the quake, which was even felt as far away as San Francisco and San Jose.

Cobb resident Roger Kinney said the quake started as a large boom, with the shaking moving toward his home.

The Geysers area had a 3.0-magnitude quake on June 22, 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. .

YOLO COUNTY – Hundreds of firefighters are working to contain a large wildland fire burning in a rugged area along Highway 16 between Highway 20 and Rumsey Canyon.

The fire was reported at about 2 p.m. near a Bureau of Land Management campground along the highway, said Cal Fire spokesman Kevin Colburn.

The clouds of smoke rising from the fire could be seen from around the south county.

By 7:30 p.m., the blaze had grown to 350 acres in very steep, rugged terrain, with the fire burning through grass, brush, oak and some pine, Colburn said.

At that time Colburn said the blaze was 40-percent contained, with between 250 and 350 firefighters on scene trying to bring it under control.

Two outbuildings and a residence were destroyed, said Colburn, and one firefighter suffered a heat-related injury.

Colburn, who is a part of the team that's still investigating the case, said the fire was caused by a vehicle, but he didn't reveal specifically how the fire started.

Among the personnel on scene were Cal Fire firefighters and equipment from stations in Lake County, said Colburn.

The Rumsey Rancheria Fire Department also sent firefighters and equipment to assist, he said.

“Crews are going to be out all night working on getting the other 60 percent contained,” said Colburn.

The California Highway Patrol reported that Highway 16 at Highway 20 will be closed until sometime on Tuesday because of the fire.

John Jensen contributed to this report.

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

YOLO COUNTY – After three days of firefighting officials reported a wildland fire along Highway 16 was 100-percent contained on Wednesday.

Cal Fire said the Rumsey Fire, located on Highway 16 north of Guinda, reached 716 acres.

The fire, sparked by a vehicle, began on Monday, as Lake County News has reported.

At one point it had as many as 350 firefighters on scene working to contain the fire, which was moving through rugged terrain dotted by oak and pine trees.

The fire destroyed two outbuildings and a residence, and at least one firefighter suffered a heat injury.

Cal Fire had no further details on the fire suppression efforts, including cost, as of Tuesday evening.


YOLO COUNTY – Firefighters continued working throughout the day on Tuesday to contain a wildfire along Highway 16.

The Rumsey Fire – as it had been dubbed – broke out on Highway 16 north of Guinda on Monday, as Lake County News has reported.

Cal Fire said three structures have so far been destroyed.

On Tuesday, the California Highway Patrols reported that Highway 16 at Highway 20 was expected to remain closed into Wednesday as the firefighting efforts continued.

Flareups and windy conditions had reportedly challenged firefighters in the second day of the fire.

Kevin Colburn, a fire specialist with Cal Fire, said a vehicle caused the fire, which was burning through rugged, steep terrain.

Cal Fire reported Tuesday that the fire had grown from about 350 acres the previous evening to 615 acres overnight, and was 40 percent contained.

Later in the day, it was reported that the fire had grown to about 650 acres, although Colburn said that the estimate issued earlier in the day was the most current Cal Fire had issued.

By Wednesday morning, the fire had grown to 716 acres and was 75 percent contained.

As many as 350 firefighters were on scene as of Monday, Colburn said.

Full containment is expected on Wednesday, Cal Fire reported.

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


LAKE COUNTY – Health officials are reporting that they've confirmed the first case of the H1N1 influenza – known more commonly as swine flu – in Lake County.

Lake County Health Officer Dr. Karen Tait reported Monday that the case involved a 39-year-old woman who developed symptoms on June 20.

The woman, whose identity and area of residence in the county were not released, is recovering and did not require hospitalization, said Tait.

Tait said the woman's symptoms included fever, a cough and vomiting. The diagnosis was confirmed through a test Lake County Public Health helped facilitate at the Sonoma County Public Health Laboratory.

About a week before her symptoms appeared, the woman had visited family in another county, said Tait.

“It's kind of widespread in California right now, so it's not too surprising,” Tait said.

The H1N1 virus began to raise concerns earlier this spring when hundreds of cases were reported in Mexico, eventually spreading to the United States.

As of Monday, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 70 countries are reporting human cases of the virus.

On June 11, the World Health Organization raised its worldwide pandemic alert to Phase 6, indicating that a global pandemic is under way.

California had 1,519 cases of confirmed and probable H1N1 influenza as of June 25, with 142 requiring hospitalization and 17 resulting in death, Tait reported.

Nationwide, 27,717 cases and 127 deaths have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Tait said health care providers were expecting the H1N1 virus to calm down over the summer months, much like the seasonal flu.

“But then surveillance around the state showed it starting to pick up in the last three weeks,” she said, noting that Sonoma County has recently reported several confirmed cases.

That H1N1 has a propensity for spreading in the summer is proving to be one of the virus' unpredictable aspects, said Tait, which arises largely because the virus is very new.

With a new virus, Tait said, people can be easily infected once exposed because they don't have antibodies from similar flu infections to protect them. When the immune system encounters the virus for the first time, it has to develop a reaction from scratch, rather than waking up old antibodies that have experience with it.

The severity of the illness, she noted, resembles the ordinary seasonal flu, and has so far been mild enough that people can be treated at home.

However, it also can be severe – just like seasonal influenza – and there are occasional deaths as a result.


Tait said she believes there probably have been other H1N1 cases in Lake County, but the identification process involves specialized laboratory testing done only on a limited basis to help officials track the virus' outbreak.

Because of that limited testing, Tait said statistics underestimate the actual number of cases.

When Public Health gets a call from a medical provider about a suspect case, the agency facilitates getting a testing sample to a laboratory, as in the case of the local flu sufferer, said Tait.

“I was eager to do some testing because I felt that we probably did have cases out there that we hadn't yet confirmed,” she said. “We thought it was there, now we know that it's here.”

Once H1N1 is found in a community, Tait said cases will be diagnosed based on symptoms, not lab testing. Lab testing currently is being done on hospitalized patients, which Tait said emphasizes the number of more severely ill patients.

Tait said Lake County Public Health is working with health providers and others to monitor local influenza activity, which has not so far shown the increases observed in nearby counties, which she suggested may be because of Lake County's relatively sparse population and outdoor lifestyle.

An H1N1 influenza A vaccine currently is under development. Tait said it likely will be available this fall.

In the mean time, health officials urge people to take basic precautions this summer and into the regular health season in order to stay healthy – including regular hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when ill.

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

LAKE COUNTY – Every summer, boaters from across Northern California and beyond enjoy fishing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, and swimming at Lake County’s prized lakes and stay in rustic cabins, comfortable beds and breakfasts, full-service lakefront resorts, or at lakeside campsites.

This year, drought conditions have contributed to significantly lower water levels at many reservoirs throughout California, but the water levels at Clear Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in the state, Blue Lakes, and Lake Pillsbury, are only slightly below average.

The upcoming Independence Day weekend offers boaters an opportunity to enjoy fireworks over the lake. Some displays will be held on Friday, some will be held on Saturday. A complete list of fireworks displays is available on the events calendar at .

Boaters visiting Lake County should be aware that boat inspection stickers are required prior to launching any vessel on any Lake County water body.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office and its Marine Patrol unit will be strictly enforcing the ordinance. Violators will be cited for an infraction or misdemeanor, which could result in fines from $100 to $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail.

Boaters are encouraged to plan ahead to get their stickers. For convenience, boaters arriving for the Independence Day weekend can choose from many inspection locations around the lake. Locations and hours of operation over the holiday weekend are listed below.


The Lake County Invasive Species Inspection Program, established by ordinance in March 2008, requires boat screenings and inspections as a means to protect Lake County’s water bodies from the threat of infestation by quagga and zebra mussels.

As part of this inspection process, an inspection application form and affidavit must be completed, signed, and submitted, along with payment for initial screening fee. Application forms with instructions may be downloaded in advance from the Lake County Mussel Web Site at .

The fee for initial screening performed by the County is $10. If a water vessel passes initial screening, an inspection sticker will be issued; if a water vessel does not pass initial screening, further inspection by a certified inspector will be required.

Clean, drained, and dry boats are ideal; wet boats are at risk of not passing inspection.

Since the program’s inception last year, only a minimal number of boats have required any inspection beyond the initial screening.

For those vessels that do require further inspection, the fee for a certified inspection by county personnel is based on the vessel length and type. For vessels up to 12 feet in length, the fee is $15. For vessels from 12 to 18 feet, the fee is $25. For vessels 18 feet and longer, the fee is $40. Any vessel with ballast tanks and/or bladders will be charged an additional $20 per inspection.

If a vessel passes certified inspection, an inspection sticker will be issued; if it does not pass certified inspection, the vessel may a) require decontamination and re-inspection, or b) require quarantine and will not be allowed to launch.

For non-local water vessels, the stickers will be valid through the end of the calendar year in which they are issued. For local water vessels, stickers are not subject to an expiration date. Local vessels include any vessel registered in Lake County and any non-registered vessel owned by a resident of Lake County (proof must be provided: a valid driver’s license with Lake County address; vessel registration certificate with a Lake County address; utility bill showing a Lake County residence; and/or a boat-slip lease agreement with a local marina).

In addition to establishing the inspection program, the ordinance also bans the disposal of live bait and any liquid that contains or has contained live bait into Lake County water bodies.

For information about this program or to locate the most convenient inspection location, go online to the Lake County Mussel Web Site at , or call the Lake County Mussel Hotline at 707-263-2556.



Clearlake Bait and Tackle, 14699 Lakeshore Dr., 707-994-4399

Friday, July 3: 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, July 4: 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Sunday, July 5, 6 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Lakeshore Bait and Tackle, 14913 D Lakeshore Dr., 707-994-3474

Friday, July 3: 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, July 4: 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, July 5: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Clearlake Oaks

Limit Out, 12607 East Highway 20, 707-998-1006

Friday, July 3: 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Saturday, July 4: morning only; Sunday, July 5: 6 a.m. to 11 a.m.


Braito’s Marina, 1555 East Lake Dr., 707-279-4868

Friday, July 3: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, July 4: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Sunday, July 5: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Clearlake State Park, 5300 Soda Bay Road, 707-279-4293

Friday, July 3: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, July 4: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.: Sunday, July 5: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Edgewater Resort, 6420 Soda Bay Road, 707-279-0208

Friday, July 3: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, July 4: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Sunday, July 5: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Ferndale Resort & Marina, 6190 Soda Bay Road, 707-279-4866

Friday, July 3: 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, July 4: 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 5: 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, 8727 Soda Bay Road, 707-279-6628

Friday, July 3: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, July 4: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, July 5: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lake Pillsbury

Soda Creek Store, 26873 Elk Mountain Road, 707-743-2148

Friday, July 3: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, July 4: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, July 5: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Clearlake Outdoors, 96 Soda Bay Road, 707-262-5852

Friday, July 3: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, July 4: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Hillside Honda, 460 S Main St., 707-263-9000

Friday, July 3: 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, July 4: 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Konocti Vista Casino, 2755 Mission Rancheria Road, 707-262-1900 x7001

Guests Only

Lake Vacation Rentals, 601 N Main St., 707-263-7188

Friday, July 3: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tackle It, 1050 N Main St., 707-262-1233

Friday, July 3: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, July 4: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lakeport Regional Chamber, 875 Lakeport Blvd., 707-263-5092

Friday, July 3: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, July 4: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.


Lake County Visitor Center, 6110 East Hwy 20, 707-274-5652

Friday, July 3: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, July 4: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, July 5: 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

From left, defense attorney Victor Haltom, Bismarck Dinius and witness Dennis Olson during the motion hearing on Tuesday, June 30, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.






LAKEPORT – A judge ruled on Tuesday that he would not recuse the Lake County District Attorney's Office from prosecuting a Carmichael man for vehicular manslaughter and boating under the influence in connection with a fatal 2006 sailboat crash on Clear Lake.

Visiting Judge J. Michael Byrne ruled against a motion filed by Victor Haltom – the Sacramento attorney who is representing 41-year-old Bismarck Dinius – which sought to have District Attorney Jon Hopkins and his office removed from the case and replaced by the California Attorney General's Office.

Dinius' new trial date also was set for next week, Tuesday, July 7.

Byrne ruled that Haltom's motion didn't provide the new evidence necessary to prove that circumstances in the case had changed significantly since an initial recusal motion – denied by Judge Robert Crone in August 2007 – was heard.

“There is sufficient evidence that means that the matter has to be tried at this time,” said Byrne at the end of the hearing, which ran nearly an hour and a half.

Dinius was steering a sailboat owned by Willows resident Mark Weber on the night of April 29, 2006, when the boat was hit by a powerboat driven by Russell Perdock, an off-duty chief deputy with the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

The speed of Perdock's boat has been disputed. However, it hit the sailboat with such force that it traveled over it, landing on the other side. Perdock was not charged in the case.

Lynn Thornton, 51, who was on the sailboat at the time was mortally injured and died a few days later.

Weber and members of Thornton's family were on hand Tuesday for the hearing.

Outside of the courthouse, protesters once again picketed in response to the case, with some people supporting Dinius and a new group showing their support for Perdock.

It's alleged that Dinius and the sailboat were under way without lights, thus the manslaughter charges.

However, Haltom emphasized during Tuesday's hearing that he had about 10 witnesses who saw the sailboat's lights on that night, plus additional witnesses who placed Perdock at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa in the hours before the crash. Perdock has vehemently denied he was at the resort that night.

District Attorney Jon Hopkins, who earlier this month took over prosecuting the case from Deputy District Attorney John Langan, argued against an evidentiary hearing on the recusal motion that Haltom had wanted to hold.

In that hearing – which Haltom said could have taken more than a day – Haltom intended to call a number of witnesses, including Perdock and James Beland, a former sheriff's sergeant who has alleged he was ordered by sheriff's officials on the night of the crash not to give Perdock a breathalyzer test. Both men were in court under subpoena on Tuesday.

Also on the list of witnesses Haltom intended to call was Langan and Hopkins himself.




Visiting Judge J. Michael Byrne found that the case should go forward and be heard by a jury. The trial is set for July 7, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



Hopkins argues against justifications for recusal

As the hearing began a little after 9 a.m., Judge Byrne – who hadn't been able to read Haltom's latest brief in response to Hopkins' opposition to the recusal because it had arrived in the mail late Monday – took a few minutes to read through the document.

When he was done, Byrne asked Hopkins and Haltom when the first recusal motion – heard in August of 2007 – was heard in relation to the preliminary hearing, which stretched over several days in May and June of 2008.

Hopkins said that motion was filed after, but Haltom pointed out correctly that it had taken place several months before. “Sorry, I wasn't in the case at that time,” said Hopkins.

Byrne said he considered important the issues involving Langan and Beland at the preliminary hearing. “That course of events is probably the biggest concern that I have.”

Before the preliminary hearing, Beland had told Langan he was ordered not to give the breathalyzer – or preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) – test. They discussed it and, ultimately, Beland's testimony on the stand did not include that assertion. However, Langan disclosed the comments in chambers with Judge Richard Martin – who presided at the preliminary hearing – and Haltom.

In his arguments, Hopkins focused on three issues – whether the evidentiary hearing was warranted, if there is support for the recusal motion and if there is a basis for declaring a conflict of interest in having his office prosecute the case.

“Those three issues are pretty much intertwined,” he said.

He disagreed with what he said was Haltom's characterization that it was already decided to have a full evidentiary hearing.

“Let me go right to what I'm thinking about,” said Byrne. “Obviously, the cause of the accident is going to be a core issue. That has to be something that we're going to deal with.”

“You mean in the trial,” said Hopkins.

“Yes,” Byrne replied.

The issue about Perdock and the blood test is an issue that can't be avoided, with Beland changing his testimony based on things said to him by the deputy district attorney working under Hopkins, said Byrne.

“Actually, I don't agree with that,” said Hopkins.

Byrne responded that it wasn't an issue of credibility, and it doesn't mean Langan did anything that was either right or wrong.

Langan, however, will end up being a witness in the case, Byrne told Hopkins, adding, “It looks like you're assigning yourself to try the case.”

“That's resolved the conflict,” said Hopkins.

“It creates a serious appearance of one when you have to cross-examine your own deputy,” Byrne said.

But the case law, said Hopkins, is clear that one district attorney can cross-examine another. Byrne said he understood that, and had encountered it himself as an attorney.

Hopkins said in taking over the case, “I have no interest in supporting or going after Mr. Langan.”

He asserted that there wasn't an order to Beland not to test Perdock. Rather, he was to take him to the hospital for a blood test – “just like they did for everyone else,” referring to Dinius and Weber, who were tested at Sutter Lakeside while Perdock was tested at St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake.

Langan also disclosed his discussions with Beland to the court and during a sheriff's internal affairs investigation of Beland, said Hopkins.

“The real issue here is it's such a minor matter,” he said. “The PAS device is not admissable in court unless certain standards are met.”

The sheriff's policy on matters involving injury is to take blood, said Hopkins. That's what happened to Perdock and others at the scene. No one, he said, was administered the PAS, which he called an “inaccurate, inadmissable-in-court device.”

Hopkins said his office also had tried to get information on Beland by filing a Pitchess motion – a special motion used to seek information from peace officer records – which he said Haltom wouldn't do. “It's clear that Mr. Langan and the DA's Office is trying to get to the truth.”

He accused Haltom of wanting the evidentiary hearing to launch a “fishing expedition” to try to learn more from the case by putting on various witnesses. “That's not the purpose of an evidentiary hearing in a recusal motion.”

In addition, he denied Haltom's assertion that his office had failed to disclose discovery information to Haltom.

Hopkins also argued against new evidence Haltom said he had in the case, some of which Hopkins said lacked formal declarations to back it up.

Haltom accuses district attorney of suppressing evidence, lacking objectivity

Haltom, in his arguments, noted that the PAS is admissable.

If the Attorney General's Office came in on the case, “we would have an objective decision maker” who wouldn't press forward with the manslaughter charge against Dinius, said Haltom.

The Attorney General's Office, which had filed a motion against the 2007 recusal motion, did not appear in court on Tuesday and didn't file any documents on the motion. Attorney Jerry Brown had said on his Facebook page last week that he was looking into the case.

He said the district attorney's office failed to give him important discovery information that was nearly three years old until May 19, the original trial date. That included a report Perdock submitted to investigators which included the name of a new witness who saw Weber's sailboat under way with its lights on.

“That's suppression of evidence,” said Haltom.

In addition, Langan – who was questioned as part of Beland's internal affairs investigation in June of 2008 – didn't reveal that Beland was under scrutiny, said Haltom.

Haltom also raised the issue of Perdock belonging to the same Masonic lodge as John Flynn, the leading district attorney's investigator on the case. “It's a pretty significant relationship.”

Witness Dennis Olson, a jail inmate who was brought to court on Tuesday, worked as a security guard at Konocti Harbor and saw Perdock on the grounds the night of the crash, said Haltom. Olson said he had been questioned by deputies as to whether he had seen Perdock, but no such information was ever reflected in the investigation.

Haltom accused Hopkins of prejudging the case, using Hopkins' own words in media interviews against him. Hopkins had reportedly told a Bay Area reporter that if charges were dismissed against Dinius, it would be for the purposes of refiling.

“They're on a train, they're going to go after Mr. Dinius,” said Haltom. “Nothing is going to change it.”

He also challenged the idea that district attorney officials were “knights in shining armor” on a quest for the truth because they filed the Pitchess motion. “That's almost laughable,” he said, arguing that the district attorney had to go after the Pitchess materials in order to respond to his Brady motion, which is a defense request for evidence that it's entitled to receive and which is favorable to its case.

“It was my efforts that got to this,” Haltom said.

The fact that he has been able to find so many people who saw the sailboat's lights on “plainly reflects either unawareness of the relative facts of the case before he made his charging decision in the case, which is unacceptable,” or bias in the case, said Haltom.

If Langan “convinced” Beland how to testify at the preliminary hearing, “this man's constitutional rights were denied,” he said, pointing at Dinius, sitting beside him at the defense table.

Judge orders trial to move forward

Ultimately, Byrne found no justification for recusal.

“The only thing that exists is that the two of you view the causes of this accident and the circumstances that led up to this accident from different perspectives,” he told Hopkins and Haltom. “This is a classic case that a jury has to decide.”

Haltom agreed that it was for a jury to decide, but he said the question was, “who should be before the jury?” Not Hopkins or his office, argued Haltom, who said there is evidence for suppression, prejudgment and fraternal relationships between the agency and Perdock, all of which are “dramatically changed circumstances.”

Byrne said Haltom's arguments hadn't met the acceptable threshold of required evidence.

In a small community like Lake, being members of the same club shouldn't be an issue, said Byrne. As for the witnesses about the lights and Perdock's whereabouts, “I think those are questions of fact,” he said.

Byrne said he didn't find Langan trying to hide anything or suppress evidence, and he saw him performing properly.

He denied the motion and then held a 20-minute meeting behind closed doors with Hopkins, Haltom and the jury commissioner.

Byrne and the attorneys emerged to say the trial will start July 7. However, the judge warned that he's been told if the state's budget crisis deepens judges could find their cases on hold on July 15.

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





Protesters picketed outside of the Lake County Courthouse in Lakeport on Tuesday, June 30, 2009, in opposition to the prosecution of Bismarck Dinius of Carmichael. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Supporters came to the Lake County Courthouse in Lakeport on Tuesday, June 30, 2009, to support Russell Perdock, a captain in the Lake County Sheriff's Office,whose powerboat hit a sailboat steered on Bismarck Dinius of Carmichael on April 29, 2006. The crash mortally injured Lynn Thornton, who was a passenger on the sailboat. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

AltaRock Energy's drill rig on its pad, located above Middletown on land leased from the Bureau of Land Management by the Northern California Power Agency. The rig already has begun drilling in a 20-year-old well, and will begin fracturing bedrock in August 2009 in an effort to harness heat from deep within the earth. Photo courtesy of AltaRock.



This is the first of a two-part article on a new geothermal drilling project at The Geysers.

THE GEYSERS – In the coming months, a two-year project to test the viability of a developing geothermal technology will begin in The Geysers.

But while the technology is heralded by some in the geothermal industry as a promising new clean energy source, it's also known to cause sizable earthquakes at some of its test sites around the world.

That's raising concerns for the earthquake-prone Geysers area's residents, who already contend with small earthquakes on an almost daily basis.

AltaRock Energy, based in Sausalito and Seattle, is a venture capital company with $36 million in private investment and government funding which plans to try out its engineered geothermal system (EGS) at The Geysers.

The company will drill down thousands of feet and create fractures in bedrock, and then will inject water into those fractures in an effort to harness the heat deep in the earth to create steam for geothermal energy production.

Jeff Gospe, an Anderson Springs property owner and president of the Anderson Springs Community Alliance, has closely monitored seismic issues in the area over the years.

He said the community isn't against geothermal, but they feel AltaRock's project was rushed through a less-than-transparent process, that the company wasn't upfront about the problems inherent in EGS technology and that they ignored critical seismic data in their environmental assessment.

“It doesn't feel like a real honest process,” he said, adding that he wished there had been more study of the project.

Gospe said the geothermal industry is glossing over the fact that earthquake numbers near The Geysers are growing. There have been 360 earthquakes in the area this year alone, averaging about one a day that can be felt by residents. In addition, the numbers of earthquakes measuring 4.0 and above also are on the rise.

AltaRock Chief Executive Officer Don O'Shei and Senior Vice President Jim Turner said they wanted to work in The Geysers because it's the largest geothermal operation in the United States today, and has had a history of geothermal production going back to 1921.

Turner said The Geysers is operating at only half capacity, with some areas of its steamfield already depleted. It's also one of the best studied areas in the US, which helps their work since they'll know where the existing faults are located.

Murray Grande, geothermal facilities manager for the Northern California Power Agency (NCPA) – which owns and operates two geothermal power plants and a steamfield at The Geysers – said AltaRock has a two-year agreement with NCPA to conduct a demonstration project on its EGS technology.

NCPA's members include 15 municipalities and utilities around California, including Ukiah, Healdsburg and the Alameda Municipal Power. Lake County currently is not a member, although officials have mentioned joining the group, which benefits from local facilities.

AltaRock approached NCPA, said Grande, which agreed to let them use an unproductive well first drilled 20 years ago which since has been used for water injection. That well is located on property that NCPA leases from the Bureau of Land Management. The steam would be run to NCPA's power plant in order to generate electricity, Grande said.

The infrastructure is in place for work to begin immediately, said Turner. Using a drill rig that sits at an elevation of 3,150 feet and is visible on a hill above Middletown, AltaRock has begun drilling down 3,200 feet through the well's casing. O'Shei said drilling has taken place in the area in the past with no incident.

The EGS technology has raised concerns because of a 2006 incident in Basel, Switzerland, where it triggered a 3.4-magnitude earthquake and another 3,500 quakes over the following year, with millions of dollars in insurance claims paid out in Switzerland, France and Germany. AltaRock wasn't involved in that project, Turner and O'Shei emphasized.

They explained that Basel – which suffered severe damage in a 14th century earthquake – has a large fault running underneath it. The Basel project – which located the drill in the middle of the medieval town – drilled down directly into the existing fault and injected water into it. There were no fatalities or injuries, but the populace was badly shaken up by the incident.

Faults build up stress and then release, said O'Shei. Injecting water into the fault at Basel lubricated the fault and caused a slippage which, he noted, likely would have happened at some point anyway.

The Basel project made a number of mistakes that “we're not looking to repeat,” said O'Shei.

Another EGS project is taking place in Soultz-sous-Forêts, France, where large amounts of water are being injected into fractures five kilometers deep, according to the Geophysical Journal International.

The project – which isn't AltaRock's – involves three wells. Between 2000 and 2005, 700 seismic events of magnitude 1.0 to 2.9, the journal reported. One of the wells had a greater seismic response due to being closer to large faults.

The journal noted, “The future EGS programme will have to drill wells in zones free of large faults to avoid poor hydraulic performance and inconvenience to the population.”

AltaRock's environmental assessment notes that EGS sites in Australia and the United Kingdom also experienced earthquakes of 3.7 and 3.1, respectively.

Because NCPA is a public agency, the project went through a California Environmental Quality Review, said Grande.

Grande said a seismologist will be on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to monitor seismicity.

Mark Dellinger, administrator for Lake County Special Districts, is one of the county's most knowledgeable officials when it comes to geothermal, having worked for years on The Geysers pipeline.

He said AltaRock submitted permits that went through the Community Development Department for seismic monitoring. Because the project is located on a federal lease, Dellinger said he's not sure those county permits technically were needed.

“I think there needs to be mitigations, and I think there are adequate mitigations for this project,” said Dellinger.

He added, “Nobody knows what's going to happen,” but he thinks monitoring is going to help. “That's a very important thing.”

The benefits to NCPA are twofold, said Grande. First, if it works, they'll have access to a new heat source. Second, they could then purchase the steam from AltaRock, which will allow NCPA to generate more renewable geothermal energy.

Grande said EGS technology has the potential to expand geothermal productive to areas across the western United States that haven't been traditional geothermal production areas.

“There's a a huge potential to create many many megawatts of energy that would otherwise not be available,” he said.

Calpine, which is reportedly looking at expanding its Geysers operations, said it won't use the EGS technology.

“They're not planning any of these new techniques,” said company spokesman Jason Barnett.


However, Dennis Gilles, Calpine's senior vice president of renewables growth, explained that the corporation is doing “enhanced geothermal system” work – also known as “EGS.”

Enhanced geothermal involves going into an existing geothermal reservoir, like The Geysers, and injecting water into the existing cracks in the in the bedrock, which heats the water to steam and facilitates geothermal production.

Calpine has received Department of Energy grants for its geothermal projects in the past, Gilles said.

The public process is faulted, say neighbors

Turner said AltaRock officials began attending community meetings in Anderson Springs last October, which they plan to continue doing. They're also attending twice-yearly seismic monitoring council meetings. He said the company wants to be active in the community and responsive to its concerns.

Rich Eastabrook, a petroleum engineer with the Ukiah BLM office, said the lease for the land where AltaRock's project will take place has been in effect since the 1970s.

He said an environmental assessment process took place, in partnership with NCPA, which was the lead agency under CEQA.

AltaRock solicited geophysicists to complete the 218-page project review, available on its Web site (, about the possible impacts. That document used as a source data from the environmental impact report completed on The Geysers pipeline, Grande said.

“It was pretty well concluded that, yes, there are going to be some microearthquakes that are generated by this project, but the impact of those are going to be fairly insignificant compared to what already occurs at The Geysers,” Grande said. They're also confident they won't additionally impact the neighboring Anderson Springs community.

The assessment said the largest earthquake that's been attributed to EGS is 4.6 in magnitude, with quakes measuring less than 3 in magnitude expected to result from AltaRock's project.

But Gospe and fellow Anderson Springs residents believe the project's environmental assessment document has problems. They said it relies on outdated information and omits or ignores a lot of readily available seismic data provided by the US Geological Service and even the community itself at its Web site, .

Meriel Medrano, who said AltaRock's drill rig is located up the hill about a mile and a half from her home, called the environmental assessment “absolutely ridiculous.” It didn't include any of the 12 years of information collected by the county's seismic monitoring committee – which has been meeting since 1997, said Gospe – but instead used outdated materials.

Getting information about the project out to the public in the first place drew criticism from residents.

BLM put a small public hearing notice in the legals section of the local newspaper on March 25, said Medrano. That notice announced a public meeting on the evening of April 9 at the Calpine Visitor Center in Middletown, which the night of the meeting was moved to a nearby church.

The public comment period on the project lasted from March 19 through April 17, said Medrano.

She said “very few” local residents attended, estimating at most there were 10 of them there.

Anderson Springs resident Joan Clay said the community meeting was the first time the community really had heard about the project. She said no notices were mailed to the community. Gospe said the only notice they saw was mailed to the Anderson Springs Community Services District.

Eastabrook said copies of the draft environmental assessment were sent to residents in the impacted areas, but he added, “We kind of dropped the ball a little bit there.”

“They dropped it but good,” said Medrano.

He said BLM relied on a mailing list provided by a project consultant and NCPA. “It turns out the mailing list was not as inclusive as it should have been,” with some residents in the target area of Anderson Springs and Cobb not getting the information that they should have gotten.

“We take full responsibility for that,” he said.

Although the noticing technically met the legal requirements, Eastabrook said BLM wants to go beyond that. So when they found out some residents hadn't received the documents, they had the assessments shipped out immediately.

At the hour-and-a-half-long April 9 meeting, Gospe presented updated seismic information along with the community's concerns, and AltaRock made some responses. He said the company never disputed his facts, instead claiming that they had no bearing on the project.

A permit already has been issued to deepen the existing geothermal well where AltaRock plans to drill, said Eastabrook. BLM also will issue a federal “sundry” notice.

Said Medrano, “It was a fast shuffle. It really was. It was very unfair to the community.”

Eastabrook said the project will have “fairly strict” monitoring requirements. There will be seismic trigger points; if those are reached, the drilling would have to be curtailed or suspended.

Just what the trigger points are hasn't been stated specifically in terms of magnitude. However, it has been described in terms of the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale.

Quakes at a level IV – which awaken people at night, are felt indoors by man during the day and have a sensation like a heavy truck striking a building would result in modifications, according to project documents. A level V – felt by nearly everyone, breaking some dishes and windows, and awaking most people at night – could shut the project down.

“Our role is going to be one of monitoring, inspection and enforcement,” said Eastabrook.

He explained that BLM is supposed to get daily reports on the drilling. If anything goes wrong, he said, “We will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action.”

AltaRock was straightforward in sharing seismic data with BLM, said Eastabrook.

However, “They never told us that the Basel project had been shut down because of the seismicity,” Eastabrook said.

In fact, a word search for “Basel” in the environmental assessment document finds only two passing references to Basel, with no discussion of that project's impacts.

As well, Gospe accused AltaRock of a coverup because, at the April 9 meeting, he said they sold it as a demonstration project that they had done before. The big quake and the thousands of smaller quakes in Basel were omitted, he said.

“I don't think that's a deal killer,” Eastabrook said of Basel, adding, “I would have liked to have known that.”

But O'Shei said Basel is well known in the geothermal industry, and they didn't hide that fact. “There's nothing secret about what happened in Basel.”

An updated version of AltaRock's report does incorporate information provided by Gospe and Anderson Springs community members.

In the next installment, a seismologist describes the layout and operations of the Geysers steamfields, AltaRock gets involved in the community and company officials describe interest in renewable energy.

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



Read the second part of this report here:

Company says proposed geothermal project holds promise for renewables






The AltaRock Energy derrick sits up high on a ridge at 3,150 feet. Photo courtesy of AltaRock.

LAKEPORT – A Lakeport man was injured early Tuesday morning when his pickup rolled over and ejected him.

Steven J. Kissick, 39, was injured in the single-vehicle crash, which occurred just after 7 a.m., according to California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Tanguay.

Kissick was driving his 2003 Toyota Tacoma truck northbound on Hill Road south of Helbush Drive at an unknown speed when his pickup drifted off of the roadway to the right as he was traveling through a lefthand curve, Tanguay said.

Tanguay said Kissick turned the steering wheel back to the left and lost control of the truck, which then crossed the roadway to the left and began to roll over.

While the pickup truck was rolling over, Kissick was ejected from the truck, Tanguay said. The pickup came to rest on its wheels west of the roadway.

The Lakeport Fire Protection District responded and Kissick was flown by REACH helicopter to UC Davis for major injuries, said Tanguay.

Tanguay said alcohol and drugs are not suspected to be a factor in this collision.

CHP Officer Joseph Wind is investigating the crash, Tanguay said.

LOWER LAKE – With Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issuing ominous warnings hours before that he intended to veto any budget that increases taxes or takes a “piecemeal” approach to solving the state's budget crisis, Konocti Unified School District trustees spent Monday evening hammering out a final budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

After three hours and 15 minutes of discussion, which included going through a list of contingency items and making choices to reach an additional $1.9 million in savings, the board voted unanimously to accept the proposed budget.

For board members and district administrators, the challenges were many – chiefly, that funds for education are dwindling.

The district's 2009-10 budget is $27.2 million, down 3.4 percent from the $28.1 million budgeted for the previous budget year.

But they were also tasked with accepting the district's budget when the state budget – on which so much depends for local school districts – isn't itself in a final form, and doesn't appear to be nearing finality for some time.

Although the state Legislature is due to present a budget document Tuesday, Schwarzenegger was adamant that any budget that didn't have the state living within its means would die on his desk.

“We do not have time for any more floor drills or partial solutions,” he said in a Monday statement. “It's time for the legislature to send me a budget that solves our entire deficit without raising taxes.”

But districts must have their budgets done in time for the beginning of the new fiscal year, which arrives this Wednesday, July 1.

“We need to adopt a budget tonight even though we don't have very good role models at the state,” said Laurie Altic, Konocti Unified's business manager.

The half-inch-thick budget document that Altic presented to the district board was the results of months of work and weeks of fine tuning, with new information coming in daily – even hourly, she said.

What board members had before them Monday represented the information they had as of Saturday night, when Altic finished recalculations based on a packet of information from the state that was delivered last Thursday.

“It has been the most difficult budget year that I've ever faced,” she said.

Altic said she kept the district's goals – established at Jan. 24 workshop – on the wall in her office as she crafted the document. Those goals include intervention, safety, class size reduction and classroom personnel.

Board members emphasized Monday that they wanted to keep cuts as far away from classrooms as possible.

The budget they accepted is based on the governor's May revise. Board Clerk Anita Gordon asked if that was the worst case scenario.

“Absolutely,” replied Superintendent Dr. Bill MacDougall.

Under the governor's May revise, the district is looking at a 65-percent reduction – or $568,000 – in home to school transportation funds. If the Legislature's current proposal were to survive the threatened veto, close to $300,000 would be added back to those funds, Altic said.

Legislative proposals for schools also include a five-day reduction to the school year and suspending the California High School Exit Exam, which students must pass before graduating.


The district's projected deficit spending in the 2009-10 fiscal year “is the most pronounced suffered by the district,” with expenditures and transfers exceeding income by $1.4 million, Altic wrote in the introduction to the budget.

Konocti Unified is getting some help from Stabilization and and Special Education funding supplied through the federal stimulus, Altic explained.

Those funds are included in the $2.9 million positive ending balance for 2008-09, which will be carried forward to balance the coming year's budget, projected to have an ending balance of $1.5 million – most of which will be stimulus money, according to Altic's budget analysis.

Altic said the state also requires the district to keep a 3-percent “reserve for economic uncertainty” – which in this case totals approximately $832,495.

Under the Legislature's proposed budget, school districts would be able to operate with only a 1-percent reserve for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 budget years.

However, Altic emphasized to the board that once that money is spent, it's gone, and the state will require them to provide a strategy for recovering that 3-percent reserve. If no new revenues are coming into the district, Altic said it would require further cuts ahead to rebuild the fund.

That money, she added, also serves as an important cushion for the district.

The silver lining for the district is that they've been able to hire back all but two of the 53 teachers who received layoff notices in March, said MacDougall. They also have given notices of release to eight administrators, and hired back seven.

In addition, MacDougall said they realized a savings of $522,000 with the closure of Oak Hill Middle School, approved by the board in March.

On Monday at 4 p.m., the portable buildings that housed Highlands High School at the district offices left to be transported to the district's elementary schools, where MacDougall said they'll be used to work with children with greater educational needs.

Meantime, Highlands High School will be moved to Oak Hill, where a number of other alternative education and social programs will be housed, MacDougall said.

Board members requested that MacDougall place a discussion on an upcoming meeting agenda to look at consolidation. Trustees Gordon, Hank Montgomery and Carolynn Jarrett all said that they've been talking about service consolidations for a long time, and the time has come to do something.

Jarrett also questioned why consolidation didn't play a bigger part in the budget itself.

They're planning to have a discussion and direct MacDougall to bring back recommendations at a later date.

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

Craig Smith of Citrus Heights brought his 1966 Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia. The cars were relatively low-cost, sporty cars that were meticulously assembled by the West German coachbuilder Karmann and designed by the Italian styling house, Ghia, according to a vehicle history. The sheet metal was largely shaped using large wooden bucks and specialized hand tools as opposed to massive form stamping machines. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – Volkswagen fans and car lovers in general braved Saturday's hot temperatures to visit downtown Lakeport for the VW Show and Shine.

The annual vintage Volkwagen car show, held at Library Park, is sponsored by the Silver Circle Chapter of the Vintage Volkswagen Club of America .

About 50 cars participated in this year's show, with everything from sporty Karmann Ghias to Beetles to VW vans on display along Park Street.

Car owners and visitors alike grabbed whatever shade they could in between looking at the vehicles.

Another show and shine event is scheduled in Clearlake's Austin Park in August.

Harold LaBonte contributed to this report.



A 1967 Volkswagen bus, ready for its next road trip. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




At left, the 1979 VW Beetle convertible owned by Dawn Blaine of Round Mountain. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Beetles lined Park Street on Saturday, June 27, 2009, as part of the VW Show and Shine. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




About 50 cars were entered in this year's event. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


Upcoming Calendar

07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.17.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

Mini Calendar



Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 



Enter your email here to make sure you get the daily headlines.

You'll receive one daily headline email and breaking news alerts.
No spam.