Friday, 19 July 2024


SANTA ROSA – A Sonoma County man whose history of drunk driving culminated in his hitting and killing a former Clearlake resident was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison last Thursday.

Joseph Elton Lynchard, 74, was driving drunk in an incident two years ago when he hit and killed bicyclist Kathryn Lynn Black, 43, according to Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua.

Lynchard pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Antolini's courtroom in January. On Thursday Antolini handed down the 15 years to life sentence last week.

Passalacqua, who called Black's death a “senseless tragedy,” said Lynchard had numerous previous DUI convictions by the time of the incident, which gave rise to the second-degree murder charge.

“The law permits such a charge when people like Mr. Lynchard are subjectively aware of the risk, and choose to ignore that very risk when they drive under the influence and take another’s life,” Passalacqua said in a January statement.

Black was riding her bicycle eastbound on Mark West Springs Road on the afternoon of March 28, 2005, when she pulled her bike onto the dirt shoulder of the road and appeared to be standing over her bike resting, according to a statement from Passalacqua's office.

Lynchard was driving his Ford F150 pickup home after drinking at his brother’s bar, Eddie’s, according to Passalacqua's statement. He drove onto the dirt shoulder, up and over a raised asphalt curb and struck Black from behind.

Black died at the scene, according to the original California Highway Patrol report. CHP officers reported at the time that Black's family came upon the accident shortly afterward, to find that she had been killed.

Lynchard’s blood alcohol level was determined to be 0.24 percent, three times the level permitted by California law, according to Passalacqua's office.

The criminal investigation, according to Passalacqua, determined that Lynchard had seven prior arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol, and had attended the state-mandated drunk driving course four times previously.

The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office statement said it charged Lynchard with second-degree murder because this prior history demonstrated that Lynchard was aware of the risk, and chose to ignore it when he drove after consuming alcohol.

Deputy District Attorney William Brockley was the prosecutor assigned to the case and was assisted by District Attorney Investigators Kris Allen and Roslyn Eliaser, and Victim Advocate Miriam Gaon. California Highway Patrol Officers Steve Wyatt and Robert Mota were the lead detectives on this successful investigation.

“I hope this sentence gives the Black family some closure to aid them in the healing process,” Passalacqua said.

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


ANDERSON SPRINGS – The Anderson Springs area has had another sizable earthquake in a week's time, with a 3.4 magnitude earthquake hitting the area Sunday.

The quake was recorded at 6:06 a.m. at a depth of 1.3 miles, according to the US Geological Survey. It was centered two miles northwest of Anderson Springs, three miles south of Cobb and four miles east of The Geysers.

The quake was immediately preceded by a 2.0 magnitude quake centered three miles west northwest of Anderson Springs.

A 4.4 magnitude quake hit near The Geysers last Tuesday.

In recent weeks, seismic activity has increased around the county, with larger quakes seen in the areas around The Geysers, as well as across the county near Lake Pillsbury.

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


LAKE PILLSBURY – Another 3.0 earthquake was reported in the Lake Pillsbury area early Saturday morning.

The quake, centered 8 miles west northwest of Lake Pillsbury, occurred at 6:28 a.m. at a depth of less than a mile, according to the US Geological Survey.

That's the third earthquake of 3.0 magnitude or greater to occur in the area this week, and the sixth this month, according to US Geological Survey records.

April has been an active month seismically for the Pillsbury area. In all, about 90 quakes of various sizes have occurred near Lake Pillsbury over the last few weeks, US Geological Survey records show.

The largest quake to take place in the Pillsbury area this month – a 4.8 magnitude – occurred April 18. US Geological Survey seismologist David Oppenheimer said that quake was the largest to hit Pillsbury in about 30 years.

Oppenheimer said this latest series of Pillsbury earthquakes – which have all been centered close to the same area – are occurring along an unnamed fault.

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THE GEYSERS – The Geysers area was hit by a 3.1 magnitude quake early Monday.

It's the third quake surpassing 3.0 in magnitude to hit the area since last Tuesday.

The US Geological Survey reported the quake occurred at 8:51 a.m. Monday, centered two miles north northwest of The Geysers and six miles west of Cobb. The quake's depth was 2.1 miles.

Three smaller earthquakes, the largest a 1.6 magnitude microearthquake, occurred in the hour following the 3.1 quake, according to the US Geological Survey.

Last Tuesday, there was a 4.4 quake one mile east southeast of The Geysers. On Sunday, a 3.4 quake occurred that was centered two miles northwest of Anderson Springs and four mile east of The Geysers.

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


NORTHSHORE – Nearly 5,000 Pacific Gas & Electric customers were out of power Saturday evening due to conditions connected with a controlled burn.

Susan Simon, a spokesperson for PG&E, said heavy smoke from a controlled burn on the northwest side of Bachelor Valley affected electrical transmission lines, causing the outage at approximately 5:11 p.m.

Simon said 4,891 PG&E customers in Nice, Lucerne and the west side of Upper Lake were affected.

Power was restored to all affected customers by 8:56 p.m., said Simon.

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


LAKE COUNTY – In an effort to put more “clear” into Clear Lake, the next step was taken recently to implement a monitoring plan that will improve water quality for the lake's beneficial uses.

On April 3, the State Water Board approved a resolution from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (CVRWQCB) to amend the Water Quality Control Plan for the Sacramento River and San Joaquin River Basins – which receives water from Clear Lake by way of Cache Creek.

The Federal Clean Water Act requires the CVRWQCB to assign beneficial uses for Clear Lake, which include drinking water, agricultural irrigation, recreation, freshwater habitat, spawning, wilderness habitat and fishing (both commercial and sport).

Clear Lake has been listed as "impaired," meaning the water quality does not meet the standards for the beneficial uses due to nutrients flowing into the lake from tributaries. Those nutrients, in turn, cause algae to bloom at high levels.

With a goal of reducing nutrient flows into the lake by 40 percent, the CVRWQCB initiated a process to determine the total maximum daily load (TMDL) of pollutants and nutrients that Clear Lake can receive and still meet its beneficial uses.

Clear Lake is already undergoing a TMDL for mercury.

After being listed as impaired for nutrients and holding a meeting for stakeholders and the public in Lakeport in January 2006, the next step was to have the State Water Board adopt their proposed amendments to the plan, which they have now done.

The amendment still needs to be approved by the Office of Administrative Law and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Once the amendment and TMDL are fully approved, responsible parties must submit a monitoring and control strategy within one year and comply with load and waste load allocations for phosphorus in Clear Lake within 10 years of approval.

The amendment states that the CVRWQCB will implement phosphorus control practices to achieve load and waste load allocations. They'll do that through waste discharge requirements or waivers of waste discharge requirements.

“Studies indicate that excess phosphorus contributes to the occurrence of nuisance blooms of blue-green algae in Clear Lake during summer and fall periods,” said Lori Webber, a CVRWQCB environmental scientist.

Certain species of algae emit toxins, Webber said in January 2006. “Those species are in the lake, but we don’t know if these species are emitting toxins.”

Many sources of phosphorus

According to the CVRWQCB, most of the excess phosphorus which enters the lake is bound to soil and sediment that comes from roads, agricultural activities (irrigation and fertilizer use), in-stream channel erosion, construction, gravel mining, wildfires and control burns, timber harvesting activities, livestock grazing, off-highway vehicles, dredging and filling, urban and storm water runoff, and sewage and septic overflows.

Most of the stakeholders agree that much has been done in the past several years to mitigate pollution and sediment flows to the lake. In fact, they may have already met the 40 percent reduction but they won’t know until monitoring occurs. And monitoring is expensive.

“We have one year to develop a plan to monitor,” explained Bob Lossius, assistant director for Lake County Public Works.

“They’re forcing us to do the monitoring,” he said, but are not providing the funds to do so.

“For us,” Lossius said, “it’s a lot of time and a lot of money.”

Just to update the Clear Lake Basin Management Plan, Lossius said, will cost $500,000 and they’re currently doing expensive monitoring for mercury.

The amendment will require an assessment of the monitoring results five years and three months after full approval. That is meant to determine whether the phosphorus load and waste load allocations should continue to be required or if some other control strategy or approach is more appropriate. The TMDL's goals must be achieved within 10 years of implementation.

The CVRWQCB has listed “responsible parties” which will be required to do monitoring and then will be assigned a waste load allocation. They include Caltrans, Lake County Storm Water permittees (Lake County, City of Clearlake, City of Lakeport), the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and irrigated agriculture.

In January 2006, there was concern about where the $50,000 per year would come from for the stream monitoring gauges. Since then, the state is now paying for the operation of gauges on Middle, Scotts and Kelsey Creeks – but that’s only one part of the cost of implementing the TMDL.

The Irrigated Agricultural Lands Conditional Waiver for Irrigation and Stormwater Runoff program that is administered by the Lake County Farm Bureau has been monitoring for the past three years and reporting results to the CVRWQB.

The program requires growers to meet two conditions: They can join a watershed group approved by the CVRWQB or they can sign up with the CVRWQB as an individual.

Homes part of watershed

The Lake County Farm Bureau formed a watershed group for their voting members that includes all land where water would flow into the Sacramento Valley which was approved by the CVRWQB, according to Farm Bureau Executive Director Chuck March.

“We currently have approximately 168 growers with over 13,000 acres enrolled in our program in Lake County,” March said.

Much of this land is interspersed with residential properties that do not irrigate a commercial crop but may irrigate lawns, gardens or have pastured animals. They would not participate in the waiver program to help pay for the monitoring, but would contribute to the results of any monitoring the program does.

Additionally, March explained that the watershed group has no regulatory power to enforce any practices on growers. “Our program is based upon monitoring and outreach with education,” March said.

It certainly wouldn’t have any enforcement power over lands that contribute to the watershed but aren’t a part of the program.

“We have been monitoring major tributaries for three years now,” March explained. The monitoring requires two toxicity tests, one test in the fall after tributaries begin to flow, and one test during the winter, based upon dormant oil applications, information that comes from pest control advisors and the agricultural commissioner.

A third monitoring event, March explained, is during the late spring before the tributaries go dry and the irrigation season begins.

They test for over 68 pesticides, heavy metals, turbidity and E. coli – with a price tag of more than $6,000 for each test.

“After three years of monitoring, we have shown no exceedances of any of the water quality objectives except for E. coli,” March said. They are currently sampling the E. coli for DNA that can help identify the source – which could include animals, birds or even septic tanks.

“The cost of this program exceeds $30,000, and our watershed membership is assessed to participate in our program,” March said. “Our growers are the only private industry responsible for monitoring the watershed. Currently we feel we are penalized because we irrigate land on a commercial basis.”

The Lake County Farm Bureau has discussed this issue with the Lake County Department of Water Resources, who agrees that it would be impossible to estimate loading from irrigated agricultural land alone – and it should fall under the reporting structure of Lake County.

Everyone agrees that they want to protect Clear Lake for beneficial uses – but where will Lake County and other “responsible parties” get the funds to do the monitoring and mitigation?

“It’s an unfunded mandate,” Lossius said. “With the programs we have in place, we may have already met the goals.”

Perhaps the question of where the funds for the monitoring will come from will be answered by the CVRWQCB when they host a stakeholders meeting on May 16 at the courthouse in Lakeport.

But probably not. Webber said at the last stakeholders meeting that the CVRWQCB didn’t have the funds either.

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


CHP officers investigate the scene of a single-vehicle accident Saturday afternoon near Clearlake Oaks. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


CLEARLAKE OAKS – A Clearlake Oaks woman died as the result of a single-vehicle collision Saturday afternoon.

The California Highway Patrol reported Monday that the 49-year-old woman, whose name has not yet been released pending family notification, was the driver in the crash. Two passengers traveling with her also were injured.

A report from CHP Officer Adam Garcia stated the woman was driving her 2004 Pontiac westbound along Highway 20 just east of Beryl Way at approximately 12:39 p.m. Saturday when the accident occurred.

For reasons that aren't known, the driver was unable to negotiate a curve to the left, Garcia's report stated.

Garcia reported the car went off the highway's north edge and collided with a rock retaining wall, which caused major inward crush to the vehicle's passenger compartment.

Passenger Michelle Reidle, 45, of Clearlake Oaks sustained minor injuries, according to CHP Officer Josh Dye. A third person in the vehicle, a 16-year-old girl, received major injuries, Dye reported.

All three of the vehicle's occupants were wearing their safety belts, according to Garcia's report.

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


CHP officers investigate the scene of a single-vehicle accident Saturday afternoon near Clearlake Oaks. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


CLEARLAKE OAKS – A single-vehicle accident Saturday resulted in one person's death.

A small red sedan went off the road and into a retaining wall below a residence located along Highway 20 outside of Clearlake Oaks early Saturday afternoon.

Fire and California Highway Patrol officials at the scene of the accident reported that three people had been in the vehicle, with one of them seriously injured and another one pronounced dead at the scene.

Traffic was being directed around the accident scene as CHP investigated the scene and rescue crews finished with cleanup.

A final CHP report detailing the cause of the accident and the victims has not yet been released.

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


LAKEPORT – The case of a local veteran facing as many as three years in prison for charges he was in possession of a billy club and stolen body armor ran will continue Monday following a lengthy Friday session.

Derick Hughes, 21, of Upper Lake was in court Friday in the case, which stems from a December 2006 arrest in which a sheriff's deputy found him in possession of the bat and body armor panels during a traffic stop.

Hughes, who served in Iraq, suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), says his attorneys, Stephen and Angela Carter.

The court proceedings ran out of time on Friday, thanks in part to two fire alarms which emptied out the courthouse.

A full account of the case will follow the sentencing.

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


SPRING VALLEY – Fire protection, water, emergency preparedness and community identity proved to be the top issues at a Saturday town hall meeting held for the Spring Valley community.

About 50 people gathered for the afternoon meeting, hosted by District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing, at the Spring Valley Community Center on Wolf Creek Road.

It was the fourth town hall meeting that Rushing has organized so far this year for the communities she represents throughout District 3.

During Saturday's meeting, the valley's residents made it very clear to officials that they view themselves as a unique and separate community, and not part of Clearlake Oaks.

Rushing was once again joined at the town hall meeting by county officials including county Administrative Officer Kelly Cox and Deputy Redevelopment Director Eric Seely, who gave updates on county projects. Also on hand was Northshore Fire Protection District Chief Jim Robbins.

Much like some other Northshore communities, Spring Valley is concerned about water.

Mark Dellinger, who heads up the county's Special Districts – which includes Spring Valley's Community Service Area 2 water district – couldn't attend Saturday's meeting.

However, Karen Hanson, Special Districts' administrative manager, attended and was available to answer questions about water bills and the district's budget.

Hanson said she has already compiled Special Districts' preliminary budget for the coming year. Included it in, she said, will be a way to track the money spent on special projects, such as improving the water system.

Special Districts is currently exploring several funding sources – from state to federal loans and grants – in order to improve Spring Valley's treatment plant, she said. Along with that, she said, Dellinger is looking at different treatment plant options.

In addition, Hanson reported that Special Districts has so far installed 182 new water meters in Spring Valley, with 117 more to go. She said a test of the old water meters showed inaccuracy levels of as much as 27 percent, with the meters actually underreporting usage.

Hanson reported that since 1997 the district's unbilled water costs due to those inaccuracies amounted to $350,205.

Fire and emergency preparedness were major discussion topics, with Monte Winters, the District 3 volunteer coordinator for the local Office of Emergency Services, discussing how to be prepared for emergencies in the valley.

That theme was echoed by Rushing and Robbins. In particular, concerns for fire were noted several times, with Roberts saying that fire is the valley's No. 1 expected disaster.

Preparation in dealing with fire should always be a No. 1 issue in Lake County as a whole, said Robbins.

Area residents were concerned about use of the fire rings at the Spring Valley campground during the dry summer season. Robbins explained that while burn bans are managed by the county, campfire permits are managed by a state agency, and the two aren't connected.

During his five years leading the Northshore Fire District, Robbins said he hasn't seen actual problems with actual campfires at the campground, although there have been separate issues with teens and bonfires.

When Rushing asked whether the community wanted to have the campground shut down for the summer to prevent fire issues, there was little support. The room also was split on banning campfires altogether.

In other fire-related news, Robbins said that Northshore Fire recently completed a weed abatement ordinance requiring that weeds be kept down to no more than 4 inches in height on vacant parcels and land during the summer.

The district is starting a database to track owners of vacant lots, Robbins said. If the owners don't keep down the weeds, Robbins said the district will have the weeds mowed and the owners will be billed.

Robbins also addressed the issue of how to evacuate the valley's 300 families in case of an emergency.

Citing the example of a large fire in the valley a few years ago, Robbins said New Long Valley Road -- the main path into the valley – would likely only be shut down for a few hours in such an instance. However, he said, creating an evacuation plan is still critical to the valley's residents.

Old Long Valley Road may offer another route out of the valley, said Robbins, an issue that he said needs to be further explored.

"I feel a little unsafe with you really having only one way out of here," said Robbins.

Rushing said she had Public Works Director Gerald Shaul conduct an assessment regarding access routes out of Spring Valley, as well as likely emergencies.

The two most likely emergencies, said Rushing, are fire and landslides. She said Shaul also said the bridges in the valley need to be evaluated, because some of them may not be able to hold fire trucks responding to emergencies.

A fire-related emergency, said Rushing, "may well be the most important issue in this valley, and it can happen at any time."

During an open forum for questions, residents asked Rushing about a variety of issues, including use of Lake Transit and ways to deal with ATVs.

Rushing said Lake Transit hasn't yet found a cost-effective way to offer public transportation to valley residents. She said she would pass along a suggestion from the meeting that Lake Transit provide service to the valley a few days a week so that residents can make shopping trips to nearby towns.

At Rushing's request, Spring Valley resident Helen Mitchell gave an update on a community plan to set up a Neighborhood Watch-type group called Rapid Responders to address security issues at the campground.

Mitchell said she also is working with Sheriff Rod Mitchell to deal with ATV riders who are destructive at the campground, and would like to set up a special permit process for ATV riders who obey rules.

Another town hall meeting is planned for Blue Lakes, but Rushing said no date has yet been set.

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



BARTLETT SPRINGS – An accident Saturday on the main road to Bartlett Springs resulted in major injuries for occupants in both cars.

California Highway Patrol incident logs reported that that a two-vehicle head-on collision – a pickup versus an SUV – took place at 5 p.m. on Bartlett Springs Road.

Ryan Lapp of Lodi, driving a 2000 Kia Sportage, collided head-on with a 1994 Ford Explorer driven by Caleb Sehnert of Williams, according to CHP Officer Josh Dye.

Both victims suffered serious facial injuries, according to the CHP incident logs.

Dye said Lapp was transported to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Dye said, while Sehnert was taken to UC Davis Medical Center.

According to the incident logs, CHP requested a blood draw because a driver was suspected of driving under the influence.

Dye confirmed that alcohol was a factor for both drivers.

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


LUCERNE – California Water Service Co. is changing its plans for a new building and water plant.

In February, the company applied for a user permit to build a new, two-story office building and a single-story plant along the lakeshore in Lucerne.

But the company has withdrawn the request for that permit. Gay Guidotti, interim customer service representative for Lucerne, said California Water Service has trimmed its budget for plant construction, which was confirmed by county Assistant Planner Terri Persons.

“They're not going to make any changes at all to the building,” said Persons. “It's mainly a cost issue.”

A scheduled April 26 Lake County Planning Commission hearing on a use permit for a two-story office addition at the plant was canceled, Guidotti said.

She added that the company has decided to retrofit its existing one-story office structure. County sources said the decision will save about $1 million of estimated $4 million plant costs, which will be paid for by a loan from California's State Revolving Fund, and repaid by Lucerne's ratepayers.

Persons said the company is planning at this point to focus on improvement its water treatment facility, which shares the same building. That will include work on a pipe pier into the lake, which does require a lakebed encroachment permit, she added.

Cal Water is seeking funding through the state Department of Health Services, said Persons, so an environmental review must be conducted.

The work going on at the plant site is just maintenance right now, said Persons.

If the company did actually remodel the building, Persons confirmed that they would need permits.

Tony Carrasco, Calwater's Oroville district manager, has been helping run the local office during the last few months in the wake of district manager Bill Koehler's leaving.

Carrasco said the company is right now finishing up its permit applications for the pier work.

Cal Water came up against some design issues with the treatment plant, Carrasco said, with some of the problems including the amount of available parking.

He said Cal Water is trying to “diligently keep costs down” while meeting water quality standards, which led to the decision to scale back the plans.

“We felt that we could do the customer service center at a different time,” he said.

Carrasco added, “Water quality is our biggest concern.”

The current building includes a customer service center, with an operations center and a lab for the treatment plant.

The plant, at the back of the property, is where the company plans to do the majority of its work, said Carrasco. “That's where we're going to be upgrading all of our equipment for water treatment,” he said.

Those improvements, he said, will meet or exceed water quality requirements expected to be raised through 2012.

Carrasco confirmed that Cal Water has applied for a low- or no-interest loan through the Department of Health Services, who the company met with on Tuesday to discuss a use permit.

He said the company is making an effort to save its customers money by changing the plans and instead focusing more on water quality.

The initial timeline set for the original project included a June 2008 completion date, he said. The new plans should come in well ahead of that schedule, he said.

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


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