Wednesday, 17 July 2024


Lake County Skies on March 13, 2008 at 9 p.m.


LAKE COUNTY March is the month when the glorious stars of winter give way to the more sedate stars of spring.

On our star chart, you can see the constellation of Leo the Lion rising in the east. In Greek mythology, Leo was a huge beast that terrorized the Peloponnesian villages, devouring anyone he met. It took Hercules, the Greek strongman, to subdue Leo.

The brightest star in Leo is Regulus. It’s five times larger than our sun, and spins very fast – once every 15 hours. As a result, it looks like an egg!

Our Sun and Regulus, courtesy of Astronomy Now Online.

Sharing the spotlight in the spring night skies is the planet Saturn, the Ring Master. Saturn is visible in Leo this year, and is about as bright as Regulus. Our star chart shows its location.

Saturn courtesy of NASA.

Saturn is the second-largest planet in our solar system. Unlike the earth, which is solid, Saturn is a big ball of gas.

Saturn has approximately 44 moons. The beautiful ring system was created when one of the moons drifted too close and broke up into thousands of chunks of rock in Saturn’s upper atmosphere. Even through a small telescope, Saturn is a magnificent object.

Looking toward the north, we see Ursa Major, the big bear overhead. Some of the stars in this constellation make up The Big Dipper. The two stars that make up the end of the cup of the dipper point to Polaris, the North Star.

Image courtesy of Jerry Lodriguss.

For more information about astronomy and local astronomy-related events, visit the Taylor Observatory Web site at On March 8, starting at 8 p.m., the observatory will be open to the public. The topic for the evening is “Scopes for Folks,” a presentation about telescopes for the average person. You will also be able to view Saturn through the observatory’s telescopes.

John Zimmerman has been an amateur astronomer for 50 years. He is a member of the Taylor Observatory staff, where, among his many duties, he helps create planetarium shows.


NORTH COAST – An invasive pest that has caused major concern for state and federal agriculture officials since its discovery in California last year is moving closing to Lake County, with the confirmation this week that the moth has been found in neighboring Sonoma County.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) reported Friday that a single male light brown apple moth was found in a trap that was part of a 613-trap array deployed in the county as part of the state's detection program.

The tiny moth, native to Australia, has a mighty appetite, with hundreds of major crops – including winegrapes, pears and other North Coast commodities – among them.

The discovery trigged more trapping in the immediate area to determine if additional moths are present, CDFA reported. If they are, officials will carry out eradication efforts, and quarantines to limit movement of plants, produce and yard waste will be put in place.

That doesn't count the damage to interstate commerce, because many states have now issues restrictions on California produce because of the moth. Internationally, trade partners Mexico and Canada have imposed export regulations on California because of the moth infestation.

Those restrictions on trade with Mexico could have serious implications for local farmers if the moth were to be found here, because Mexico has banned pears that come from infested counties.

In an interview with Lake County News last May, Chuck Morse, the county's deputy agriculture commissioner, said a large quantify of local Bartlett pears are shipped to Mexican markets.

Currently, there are no detection traps in Lake County for the light brown apple moth, according to a CDFA report. In December, 126 had been reported in the county.

CDFA has categorized the moth as a “Class A” pest – it's most serious rating – because of the risks it poses to the state's multibillion-dollar agriculture industry.

Officials also warn the moth could damage the natural environment, causing damage to park lands and California's beloved redwoods, cypress and oak trees.

Since the discovery of a light brown apple moth was confirmed in the Bay Area in February 2007, more than 17,000 of the moths have been found in 14 counties.

Sonoma is the second of Northern California's major wine country counties to find the moth.

Last May, the moth was found in Napa County. Since then, a second moth has been found there, but CDFA said Friday that Napa's small, isolated infestation has been eradicated, thanks – in part – to a “twist tie” treatment that emits a pheromone to confuse the moth and prevent it from breeding. The twist ties also were used to rid Los Angeles of its own small infestation.

In response to the infestation, Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) introduced the Light Brown Apple Moth Act of 2007, which established the Light Brown Apple Moth Program in the CDFA and created an account from which the department can allocate funds to local agencies for eradication activities.

Last September, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into the bill into law.

CDFA and the US Department of Agriculture are working together to conduct the light brown apple moth eradication program.

As part of that program, they've implemented aerial spraying of moth pheromone over Central Coast communities. The spraying has resulted in public outcry and hundreds of health complaints which the agencies have maintained are not related to the pheromone.

Aerial spraying is supposed to take part over some Bay Area communities beginning this summer as part of this year's eradication program, which has resulted in resolutions against the spraying by the city councils of Albany and Berkeley. Additionally, Berkeley is threatening to sue the state.

Last week, several Bay Area legislators introduced a suite of bills that would, among other things, place controls on the state secretary of agriculture's power to direct an eradication effort and require more notifications and studies before spraying in urban areas.

Earlier this year, USDA dedicated nearly $74 million to the effort, which will include a nationwide survey to see if the moth has spread to other states besides California and Hawaii.

Officials said they plan to closely look at the nursery industry, as it's believed the moth – like so many invasive species – entered the United States in imported plant materials.

A USDA study estimates that if California becomes generally infested, the moth could cause as much as $640 million annually in crop damage.

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


LAKE COUNTY – A local, grassroots movement to get Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's attention and convince him not to close the county's two state parks is gaining steam, according to one of the campaign's organizers.

Clearlake Oaks resident Leona Butts, a Clear Lake State Park Interpretive Association board member, is devoted to fighting Schwarzenegger's proposal, which would close Clear Lake State Park, Anderson Marsh State Historic Park and 46 other parks around the state.

The petition drive began in January, within days of Schwarzenegger's announcement of the closure plan.

Butts said Thursday that her phone continues to ring with requests for more petition forms. In addition, she's receiving packs of petitions in the mail daily. People also come to Butts' home, bringing their completed petitions.

All of that started, she said, when she began circulating petitions with her return address at local meetings. She's also e-mailed hundreds of people about the effort.

Local businesses such as Umpqua Bank have petitions available for customers to sign, and Butts said they've forwarded her a stack of completed petitions as well.

Other places to find a petition include the Lake County Courthouse in Lakeport, the Lakeport Chamber of Commerce, Wild About Books in Clearlake and Watershed Books in Lakeport.

As of Wednesday, Butts had just under 1,500 signatures in hand, a number which doesn't count those gathered by some other groups around the county, such as the Sierra Club.

Butts said she hopes to gather several thousand signatures to help convince the governor to take his park closure proposal off the table.


For more information or an e-mailed petition, community members are invited to call Butts at 998-3027.

Petitions also can be downloaded at http://redwood.sierraclub/lake.

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


Future homeowners Aliesha Plata and Trenia Conatser eagerly begin the construction of their new homes which are now nearing completion at the groundbreaking in April 2007. Left to Right: Homeowner Deon Lax; children of Aliesha Plata, Nick, Deserea and Paul; future homeowner Aliesha Plata; future homeowner Trenia Conatser; Conatser's children Andrew and Nicole. Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity.




CLEARLAKE – Habitat for Humanity will mark a special event next weekend, when it holds a double dedication for two homes it is about to complete.

The dedication takes place at noon Saturday, March 8, at 15798 and 15802 37th Ave. in Clearlake. The public is welcome to come join in the celebration.

Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Lisa Willardson reported that the event will celebrate the ninth and 10th homes Habitat has worked on locally.

She added that the community will have an opportunity to experience first-hand the results of almost a year of hard work by volunteers and homeowners.

Habitat for Humanity is a world wide, nonprofit, Christian-based group that works hard to make a difference in Lake County, one family at a time in eliminating poverty housing.

While giving the opportunity of homeownership to those that might not be able to purchase a home through conventional methods, Habitat for Humanity also offers homeowner workshops to help prepare the prospective homeowners for their home.

During the building process, homeowners must also help build their home and other Habitat homes under the direct supervision of a construction manager.

After completion, homeowners pay a zero-interest mortgage, taxes and insurance monthly. The mortgage fees are then used along with donations from the community to build more homes in Lake County.

Willardson reported that volunteers find that building or helping with the family selection process for Habitat for Humanity is very rewarding and a good way to give back to the community.

Habitat is also always looking for land to build on, as well as those wishing to volunteer in a variety of ways – from help with construction to office work.

For those who are looking to own their own home or for those that wish to volunteer, call Habitat for Humanity at 994-1100.


LAKEPORT – One of downtown Lakeport's decorative lamp posts was destroyed earlier this week when it was hit by a garbage truck.

A Lakeport Disposal garbage truck driver called Lakeport Police Tuesday morning just after 7 a.m. to report that he had knocked over the lamp post, located at 199 N. Main St. in front of Transitions, reported Lt. Brad Rasmussen.

“The pole went down and actually caused some damage to the business,” said Rasmussen.

The collision, Rasmussen explained, broke the lamp post off at the base.

“Since it was knocked down by a vehicle the city will be seeking restitution,” he said.

The Lakeport Main Street Association worked to raise money for the lamp posts, which are now maintained by the city's Public Works Department, said Lakeport City Engineer Scott Harter.

Harter said the lamp posts cost between $4,000 and $5,000 each. He didn't have a timeframe for when the lamp post might be replaced.

Another 12 lamp posts along Third Street and at the City Hall parking lot are due to be installed in conjunction with the first phase of the downtown improvement plan, said Harter.

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



Painting materials from James Re's business were found dumped near Morrison Creek in February of 2007. Photo by Lenny Matthews.


LUCERNE – On Tuesday a Lucerne man received a $1,000 fine and a year's probation for his part in an illegal dumping case involving Morrison Creek.

James Re, 46, a professional painter, reached a plea agreement with the Lake County District Attorney's Office on Tuesday morning, before his trial was scheduled to begin, said Deputy District Attorney Daniel Moffatt.

In early February 2007, painting materials from Re's business were found dumped in the beleaguered Morrison Creek, said Moffatt. The creek has been a frequent target of illegal dumpers.

Lake County News was unable to contact Re's defense attorney, Ernest Krause, for comment.

According to a witness statement submitted as part of the case, Lucerne resident Lenny Matthews reported the dump site after first seeing it on Feb. 9, 2007.

Less than a week later, on Feb. 15, 2007, Matthews returned to the site and found newly dumped materials – including bags of trash containing paint cans as well as exposed, unbagged cans of paint, and oil seeping into the ground. The following day an acquaintance of Matthews' went to the site and found a piece of paper with a name and address on it, which belonged to Re.

A Fish and Game warden eventually cited Re, said Moffatt.

Re was charged with three counts related to dumping toxic materials in a state water body, with one of the charges relating to harmful effects on wildlife.

Moffatt said Re pleaded no contest to all three of those counts.

A fourth count stemmed from the commercial quantity of the paint that was dumped, said Moffatt.

Re claimed he had paid a friend to properly dispose of the materials for him, according to Moffatt.

That friend was 49-year-old Michael Collins Sr., who was found dead on Robinson Road on Jan. 28. Collins was found with a pickup load of trash and a shovel, and appeared to have been dumping materials when he died.

With Collins no longer a possibility as a witness, Moffatt said the fourth charge was dropped, because it couldn't be proved that all the materials belonged to Re.

Moffatt said the case was helped by the fact that they found billing statements amongst the dumped materials that came from Re's business.

Illegal dumping cases aren't common when it comes to prosecution, said Moffatt, because they're hard to prove unless – as in Re's case – evidence of who owns the dumped materials can be found.

“This is the first kind of dumping case that I can think of,” Moffatt said.

Re must pay a $1,080 fine and will serve one year's probation, said Moffatt.

Although Moffatt said Re cleaned up the dumped materials after they were found, the plea agreement included a stipulation reserving the District Attorney's Office's right to hold a future hearing for restitution costs if the county has to do any additional cleanup.

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The materials allegedly had been dumped there by a friend of Re's. Photo by Lenny Matthews.




From left, Coach Mike Humble, Tyler Hayes and Coach Nick Lavelle hold Hayes' third place bracket sheet from the North Coast Section Championships. Photo courtesy of Ginny Craven.

LAKEPORT – Looking at Tyler Hayes, the words “small but mighty” come to mind.

The 18-year-old Clear Lake High School wrestler's small, sculpted frame weighs in at 103 pounds. He's polite, soft-spoken and friendly, and has a firm handshake as an introduction.

But once he steps onto the wrestling mat, the fierce competitor comes out.

On Friday morning Hayes will begin competition at the State Wrestling Championships at Bakersfield's Rabobank Arena. He's the only Lake County wrestler to reach that competition this year.

He'll have to win two out of three matches on Friday in order to advance into the weekend competition, explained his coach, Mike Humble, who has guided the Clear Lake High wrestling team for eight years.

The entire Hayes family – including parents, grandparents and siblings – left Thursday to make the trip to Bakersfield.

He's had a strong career as a high school wrestler, medaling at the North Coast Section championships for three years. This year he was league champion for his weight group, the smallest of 14 weight classes, said Humble.

Wrestling takes dedication and stamina. After-school practices take place five days a week and last between three and a half and four hours, said Hayes. They include a 2.7-mile run, two hours of wrestling and, on some days, weight training. Then there are weekend tournaments.

Hayes competes in track and field and runs cross country, which has given him endurance, another good trait for a wrestler to have, Humble said.

While doing all of that, Hayes maintains straight As in his school work.

Assessing Hayes' talent, Humble pointed to his strengths. "For his weight class, he's very strong, so strength is a big factor in his abilities."

Hayes also walks onto the mat with confidence. When he loses, dad Gary points out, he tends to learn from it and come back, beating the same opponent he lost to in their next meeting.

“I have to go in with the attitude I'm going to win,” Hayes said.



Tyler Hayes pins opponent. Photo courtesy of Ginny Craven.


His trip this weekend caps off some strong years for his team, which has struggled to fill all of its weight classes consistently, said Humble, who wrestled at Petaluma High School and works as a California Highway Patrol officer.

Yet, the 16-member team has been getting stronger, said Humble. “The kids that we get through here are quality.”

That may be helped by the middle school wrestling program. Hayes and Humble spent Wednesday afternoon working with the younger children, two of which included Hayes' younger sisters.

Hayes himself began wrestling at a young age, in the fourth grade, coached by Rob Brown and Ronnie Campos. His older brothers, Michael and Benjamin, also wrestled.

“It's fun,” Hayes said of his family's enthusiasm for the sport. “We all like it.”

That's despite the fact that Hayes has had his fair share of injuries, ranging from putting out his back to a separated shoulder and an injured ankle.

During the last few years local wrestlers have gone far, says Humble. In 2006, Steve Franklin of Middletown High and David Laird of Clear Lake High both competed at the state meet. Franklin went all the way to the National High School Wrestling Championships, while Laird finished ninth at state – just one slot away from a trip to nationals.

In 2007, Clear Lake wrestlers Justin Mills and Michael Knoppman competed at the state meet.

Hayes definitely wants to keep wrestling, so he's looking at attending Santa Rosa Junior College. Coach Humble said the school has a good record of getting wrestlers placed a colleges and universities. Hayes said he's thinking about enlisting in the Coast Guard.

What is it that keeps him working hard at this tough sport?

“I like that it's one on one,” said Hayes. “When you're out there, you make a mistake, it's on you.”

He added, “When you get your hand raised after a match, it's a great feeling.”

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


LAKE COUNTY – A film shot around Lake County during the summer of 2006 will make its cinematic debut this weekend.

“Sherman's Way,” produced by Starry Night Entertainment, will premiere this weekend at San Jose's Cinequest Film Festival.

The movie – directed by Craig Saavedra and written by Tom Nance – is a comedy/drama involving two strangers on a road trip, a breakup, a classic car and a new romance.

“Sherman's Way” stars James Le Gros (“Enemy of the State,” “Point Break), Enrico Colantoni “Just Shoot Me,” “Veronica Mars”), Michael Shulman (“Little Man Tate,” “Wide Awake”), Brooke Nevin (“My Suicide,” “I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer”), Lacy Chabert (“Party of Five,” “Mean Girls”), Donna Murphy, M. Emmet Walsh and Thomas Ian Nichols.

The Lake County Marketing and Economic Development Program is promoting the county as a film location to the motion picture and television industry.

For two months before shooting commenced in June 2006, the department worked with the film's producers to scout for potential locations.

The movie included filming at businesses along Main Street in downtown Kelseyville, Library Park, several Lakeport businesses and at Langtry Estate and Vineyard.

The last major motion picture to be filmed in Lake County was “Magic” in 1978. In recent years the county also has been chosen as the location for several commercial shoots and private productions, the marketing program reported.

County officials said the movie has the potential to do for Kelseyville and Lake County what the movie “Sideways” did for Solvang and Santa Barbara County – increasing awareness of the area, boosting tourism, showcasing the area's natural beauty and the charm of its communities.

For more information about the film visit

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


LAKEPORT – Fans of Lake County's own Faded At Four will get the chance to see and hear the band perform on Saturday night – their last local performance before they journey south to take part in in the finals of a national talent competition.

Faded At Four will play at 9 p.m. Saturday, March 1, at Carlo's and Vinny's, 370 S. Main St. The cost to attend is $10 per person. The event is limited to those 21 and older.

The superstars-in-waiting – Jon Foutch, Brian Kenner, Martin “Martan” Scheel and Chris “Pencil” Sanders – are competing in the Bodog Battle of the Bands.

They will travel to Los Angeles in the next week and a half for the competition's regional finals. The band will perform at The Avalon in Hollywood on March 12.

A total of 4,500 bands from across the U.S., Canada and Europe began the competition last summer.

The winner of that competition will take part in the reality-based TV show “Bodog Battle of the Bands,” in which eight bands will take part in touring and music-based contests in hopes of winning a $1 million recording contract from Bodog Music.

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


LAKEPORT – A man accused of killing a local taxi driver last summer was booked into the Lake County Jail on Thursday afternoon.

Morgan Matthew Jack, 31, of Nice is being charged with the June 2007 murder of 39-year-old Paul Womachka.

On Feb. 15 the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported receiving an arrest warrant for Jack for Womachka's murder.

Womachka went missing after reportedly giving Jack a ride from Robinson Rancheria's casino to Big Valley Rancheria in the early morning hours of June 27, as Lake County News has reported. His body was found in his taxi minivan two days later, submerged in Big Valley Rancheria's marina.

On Thursday Jack was brought back to Lake County from San Quentin State Prison, where he had been housed after violating his parole for a 2001 conviction, which he received for possessing a blank check that did not belong to him.

Jack is being held on $530,000 bail for the first-degree murder charge. Booking documents showed that he is due to appear in court March 3.

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


LAKE COUNTY – For the people who have worked for years to bring the dream of a full-power, community radio station to Lake County, there were some nervous moments Saturday afternoon.

For months, volunteers with Lake County Community Radio/KPFZ have been getting everything in order – from funds to a new studio to a tower on Mt. Konocti – in order to go on the air this spring.

KPFZ's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license requires it to be on the air and in full operation by 3 a.m. April 25, said Andy Weiss, the station's general manager and one of its founders. The station will be located at 88.1 FM on the radio dial.

On Saturday, it was test time for KPFZ's broadcast abilities.

The station had already run into issues with equipment on the top of Mt. Konocti, which cost the station an unexpected $25,000 to fix, said Weiss.

So the station's loyal group of volunteers didn't know what to expect until Saturday afternoon rolled around.

“The big, dramatic moment came when we linked Mt. Konocti to our Lakeport studio, and up until that moment we didn't know that would be successful,” Weiss said.

But it worked, and the station stayed on the air between 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., said Weiss.

That Saturday afternoon test clears the way for the station to get started broadcasting officially, said Weiss. “We'll be on the air sometime mid-April, formally.”

With the equipment in working order and the FCC license in place, Weiss said the station could be on the air tomorrow. But they still have some details to work out, including some other testing and final preparations for the studio, which isn't ready for broadcasting just yet.

There's also the training of volunteer programmers to finish up, said Weiss.

The technical difficulties on the mountaintop set the station's funding back a bit, said Weiss, which is why station representatives approached the city of Lakeport for some funding assistance.

The station gave a presentation to the council last week and asked for a grant. “We were looking to Lakeport to help make up that shortfall,” said Weiss.

Because the station will be located in downtown Lakeport, offer broadcast training and produce programming aimed at businesses, station board member Taira St. John told Lake County News that the station was seeking a grant of redevelopment funds.

The station's representatives met with City Manager Jerry Gillham and Community Development Director Richard Knoll who also acts as executive director of the city's redevelopment agency to discuss the idea before it was taken to the council.

At the Feb. 19 meeting, both Gillham and Knoll told the council that using redevelopment funds would be justified because of the services the station plans to offer the community.

The council directed staff to continue discussing funding options with the station.

“I would say the council was pretty supportive of what we offered,” said Weiss.

St. John said another meeting between city staff and station members is expected to take place later this week.

A final package could consist solely of a grant or a mix of a grant with a loan, Weiss added.

Once on the air, Weiss said the station's financial prospects are very promising, especially with underwriters, who are “just coming in in streams.”

Underwriters will get a good deal in return, said Weiss, because they'll have access to people who care about their community.

For more about the station visit

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


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