Monday, 15 July 2024


Lower Lake High Academic Decathlon team members Lanie Nolasco, Emily Riggs and Kate Lyons. Photo by John Lindblom.
LOWER LAKE "China and its influence on the World" was the subject of this year's Super Quiz in the Lake County Academic Decathlon. And, like that country's heralded Great Wall, Upper Lake High School's dominance was relegated to history on Saturday its eight-year reign in the county scholastic competition ended by an exuberant and well-prepared Lower Lake team.


Lower Lake captured trophies for both the Decathlon and Saturday's Super Quiz, team captain Kate Lyons said, by force of sheer determination.

"It was a lot of hard work and a lot of studying, cooperation from the teachers and help from the (team's three) alternates," Lyons said at the conclusion of the event at LLHS.

What single factor helped LLHS achieve its long-sought decathlon win? "I think it was determination – a lot of willpower and preparation," Lyons said.

"We had a really strong team and a lot of people who were really involved."

Looking back on her seven years as the LLHS coach, Nancy Harby recalled the "six straight years I've watched them (Upper Lake) walk away with the trophy," and could only describe the euphoria of finally winning, as, well, "indescribable."

"I'm really excited and proud of my children," said Harby, who appeared to sense an upset in the making in an interview with earlier last week.

The loss to Lower Lake was the only blot on an otherwise perfect record for ULHS coach Tina Moore, who is being succeeded by assistant Tiffany Larson after coaching the north county team for all eight years.

The task of perpetuating ULHS' dominance had put significant pressure on Moore's teams.

"It's nerve-wracking, actually. It's like we always gotta win here," Upper Lake junior Quinn Womacka confided as tension built in Saturday's Super Quiz.

The rivalry between the two schools has become so intense that both maintain two nine-member teams. To date, Clear Lake and Middletown, the other two high schools in the competition, have not been able to mount that level of enthusiasm for the test of brains. Kelseyville, the county's fifth high school, has not competed.

That could change.

"I'm not used to not doing well," said Middletown H.S. Principal Chris Heller in a faintly ominous tone.

In addition to Lyons, the No. 1 Lower Lake team was comprised of Emily Riggs, Emmalena Illiea, Manuel Pantoja, Anthea Tuley, Joe Riggs, Jared Focose, Jamie Walker and Kayla Huff, and alternates Lanie Nolasco, Charlie Barron and Loretta Garcia.

Lower Lake's No. 2 team members were Josh Salazar, Sean Perkins, Victoria Kursa, Shirley Barajas, Sherrie O'Neill-Jones, Suzie Carlsen, Chris Ingersoll, Ryan Johnston and Steven Negrette, and alternates Evan Kaniss and Cassie Martin.

LLHS' victory on Saturday qualified the school to compete in the state Academic Decathlon finals March 15-18 in Sacramento.

That will be a paradigm of a different pattern. In all the years Upper Lake has gone to the state competition it has won its division once against 16 similarly rural counties.

But to win the California championship the small schools must contend with the giants, such as Los Angeles schools with four-figure enrollment pools and strict, Decathlon-only study curriculums.

But that's for later. Saturday the mood was upbeat.

"They were a formidable opponent," Lyons said, echoing her coach's praise for Upper Lake. "It's hard to compete against them because they are a very skilled team. We had to work very hard this year to beat them."

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


To see a photo gallery of the Academic Decathlon, visit the gallery.


Editor's note: The full results of the Academic Decathlon, including student winners in the individual competitions, are being provided by the Lake County Office of Education, and will be published as soon as possible. We also welcome any additional pictures or video of the competition; e-mail them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we'll add them to our photo gallery.




LAKEPORT Lakeport has a few new residents two Egyptian mummies, to be exact. They reside at Café Victoria, the new eclectic café on Main Street in downtown.

"I can tell you that nothing you sent was not used, in fact it is amazing how quickly things disappear around here," a sergeant wrote in an email from Iraq to Ginny Craven, who has been sending care packages to troops in that country.

LAKEPORT - A squirrel was responsible for a power outage in Lakeport that put 2,875 customers in the dark Friday night PG&E said Saturday.

The power was out from 5:14 p.m. Friday until nearly midnight according to PG&E spokesperson Susan Simon. Power was restored to groups of customers a bit at a time throughout the evening - "they were bringing it back in chunks," Simon said.

Precisely how a squirrel managed to shut off the power to nearly 3,000 people was not immediately known, Simon said. Though she admitted the pesky critter "created grief in the substation."

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UPPER LAKE – Upper Lake's Middle Creek levee is among 121 other levees around the nation that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says have not been maintained at acceptable levels. 

The list of levees, released Thursday, includes 37 levees in California alone that the Corps says have unacceptable maintenance inspection levees, which can arise from a number of conditions: animal burrows, erosion, tree growth, movement of floodwalls or faulty culvert conditions.


Jeff Hawk, acting chief of public affairs for the Corps' Sacramento District, reported that California has 516.5 miles of levees rated poor, fair and unacceptable; most of those levee miles, 368.5, were rated poor.


The Corps notified levee owners before making the list public.


Jim Sandner, chief of operations for the Corps' Sacramento District, told reporters Thursday that last summer Congress directed the Corps to do a levee inventory. The levees included in the list of 122 had recent inspections – from 2005 of 2006 – that didn't meet acceptable standards, he said.


Thirty percent of those levee projects, said Sandner, are in the Corps' Sacramento District.


That includes Middle Creek, which is part of the Middle Creek Flood Control Project. That project, according to government documents, includes 14.4 miles of levees. The system's upper portion protects Upper Lake from flooding by Middle Creek and Clover Creek, while the lower portion of the system protects farmland and some residences being inundated by Clear Lake.


Corps officials did not specify which levee in the Middle Creek project was not suitably maintained, or if the entire area was part of the listing.


Deputy Director of Public Works Bob Lossius and Pam Francis, Lake County Water Resources Program manager, could not be reached for clarification on the subject on Thursday.


Middle Creek is the site of a proposed restoration area that would flood 1,280 acres of agricultural land, remove three miles of the substandard levees and increase safety for county residents, according to the Lake County Water Resources Web site.


The site also explains that the levees along Middle Creek are prone to failure, having settled up to three feet below the original design grade, and were not constructed properly in the first place. Further, the Corps has reported that Middle Creek's levees provide only a four-year level of protection against floods although they were designed for 100-year protection. Evacuations in the area were necessary in 1983, 1986 and 1998, and nearly became necessary in 1995.


Meegan Nagy, readiness chief for the Corps' Sacramento District, said most of the 122 levees are in rural or agricultural areas. Sandner added that levees protecting heavily populated areas are inspected annually, but that's not always the case with agricultural levees.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also is in the process of recertifying levees. Sandner said this report could impact that process because engineers wouldn't sign off on recertifying levees in unacceptable condition.


“This is a significant problem for the state of California,” said Sandner.


He added that there are issues over and above the operation and maintenance of these projects that cause concern the state and the federal government concern for the structures' stability.


Dave Killam, a Corps' spokesman, explained that many of the state's levees were built more than a century ago and didn't have the same design standards as today.


The study that led to the list of levees with maintenance issues arose in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, said Killam, during which New Orleans' levees failed.


“We want people who live near these levees and these reclamation districts to be aware that these problems exist and that rehabilitation needs to be made,” Killam said.


The Corps already has begun repairs on other critical levee sites around the state not included on the list, said Killam. Already 33 of those structures – many of them located in urban areas – have been repaired, he added.


The Corps will work on levee owners during a yearlong “correction period,” said Killam.


If maintenance issues are addressed during that period, said Killam, and levee owners can prove that they've brought the structures up to acceptable standards, they may be eligible for rehabilitation funds.


A DWR document reports that Lake County, unable to maintain Middle Creek's substandard levee – which documents show the Corps had refused to repair – relinquished its operation and maintenance to the Reclamation Board, which requires an annual maintenance assessment of $150,000. 


The list of levee units is attached or may be viewed at


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



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