Tuesday, 16 July 2024


SAN FRANCISCO – On Tuesday California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. filed suit in federal court to block an “audacious attempt” by the Bush Administration to gut provisions in the Endangered Species Act mandating scientific review of federal agency decisions that may threaten endangered species and their habitat.

“The Bush Administration is seeking to gut the Endangered Species Act on its way out the door,” Attorney General Brown said. “This is an audacious attempt to circumvent a time-tested statute that for 35 years has required scientific review of proposed federal agency decisions that affect wildlife.”

The new regulations, initially proposed by the Departments of the Interior and Commerce in August 2008 and made final on Dec. 16, largely eliminate a requirement in the Endangered Species Act that mandates scientific review of federal agency decisions that might affect endangered and threatened species and their habitats.

The changes allow federal agencies to undertake or permit mining, logging, and other commercial activities on federal land and other areas without obtaining review or comment from federal wildlife biologists on the environmental effects of such activities.

The new regulations are the most significant changes to the Endangered Species Act and its implementing regulations in 20 years.

Now that these regulations have been adopted, many decisions on whether to permit commercial activities on protected land will be made at the discretion of federal agency project proponents, according to Brown's office. These agencies generally lack adequate biological expertise and have incentives to conclude that their projects will not have adverse affects on endangered and threatened species and their habitat.

The changes also eliminate the requirement to consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on species and ecosystems from proposed federal projects. Federal agencies now no longer need to consider the possible adverse impacts on species like the polar bear from commercial projects that require federal approval or funding such as highway construction and coal-fired power plants.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that the Bush Administration:

• Violated the Endangered Species Act by adopting regulations that are inconsistent with that statute;

• Violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider the environmental ramifications of the proposed new regulations; and

• Violated the Administrative Procedures Act by not adequately considering public comments submitted by the Attorney General and numerous other organizations and concerned citizens.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit follows three similar lawsuits challenging the regulations filed earlier by environmental groups.


NICE – Three people were arrested on drug charges during a parole search in Nice Monday, including a local woman who has a bail bonds business.

Marcia Ann Morris, 56, of Upper Lake, who owns Marcia Morris Bail Bonds, was arrested Monday morning along with parolees Jeffrey Scott Boulerice, 38, and Joel Martin Langan, 51, according to Lt. Dave Garzoli of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

At about 8:55 a.m. Lake County Sheriff's deputies conducted a parole search at the home Boulerice and Langan share, Garzoli reported. When the deputies entered the home they contacted the two men along with Morris.

Garzoli said Deputy Steve Herdt found a jacket containing a small baggy of methamphetamine in one of the pockets. In the same pocket was a Marcia Morris Bail Bonds business card folded into a “bindle” that contained a quantity of methamphetamine.

Morris then is alleged to have told Herdt that the meth was hers and that she had begun using the drug about two months ago, according to Garzoli.

During the search Herdt also found a spoon and a syringe that contained evidence of intravenous drug use and a small amount of meth which are alleged to have belonged to Boulerice, and items alleged to belong to Langan including a syringe and two glass pipes used for ingesting meth, Garzoli reported.

Morris was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and booked into the Lake County Jail with bail set at $10,000.

Boulerice was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and a hypodermic syringe, while Langan was arrested for possession of paraphernalia and a hypodermic syringe.

Langan and Boulerice both remained in the Lake County Jail on felony parole violations Monday evening.

Morris had posted bail and was released.


COVELO – Authorities are looking for a man alleged to have been responsible for a shooting on Christmas.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office is searching for 30-year-old Eugene Winter Hawk of Covelo, according to a report from Lt. Rusty Noe.

Noe reported that Winter Hawk is wanted for allegedly attempting to murder a 17-year-old male from Covelo.

Mendocino Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to a field behind 108 Yuki Boulevard in Covelo at 11:12 p.m. Thursday on the report of a shooting, Noe reported.

When they arrived the victim had been transported to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital via helicopter with a single gunshot wound to the upper chest, according to Noe.

Deputies located a crime scene that indicated there had been multiple subjects involved in a fight. Witness information revealed that during the fight Eugene Winter Hawk Lincoln pulled a gun of undetermined caliber and shot the victim one time.

Noe said the victim underwent surgery at Santa Rosa Memorial, was listed in stable condition and will survive.

Lincoln and the others suspected of fighting fled the scene and were not located.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Mendocino Sheriff's tip line at 467-9159.


LAKEPORT – The parent company of the Lake County Record-Bee gave employees some not-very-happy holiday news this week, telling them that the company is cutting its matching contributions to the 401(k) retirement plan.

The Denver-based MediaNews Group, which has owned the Record-Bee since 2001, made the announcement in a letter sent to employees' homes last week as well as a memorandum distributed on Monday.

The news comes as employees in Lakeport and around the company await a round of layoffs slated to happen any day, according to sources who have asked not to be identified due to fear of retribution.

Lake County News obtained a copy of the memo, sent Monday by Jim Janiga, senior vice president of human resources for MediaNews Group's California Newspaper Partnership, in which he informs employees that the company's matching contribution to the 401(k) plan will be suspended Jan. 1, 2009, “for an indefinite period of time.”

Janiga added that the suspension will run through all of 2009 but “could possibly be reinstated beginning in 2010.”

“The decision to suspend the matching contribution was not made lightly,” Janiga wrote. “This is an expense reduction needed to help offset still declining revenues, a trend we are all too familiar with and which continues to impact the newspaper industry and most all private and public sectors throughout our local, state and national economies.”

A summary annual report on MediaNews Group's retirement and savings plan, obtained by Lake County News, notes that 11,880 people were participants or plan beneficiaries as of Dec. 31, 2007.

The value of the plan's assets, after liabilities, was $238,414,653 on Dec. 31, 2007, up from $208,963,645 on Jan. 1, 2007, the report noted.

For the period of Jan. 1, 2007, through Dec. 31, 2007, the plan had total income of $51.5 million, which included MediaNews Group's $5.8 million in contributions, $21.1 million from employees, $4.6 million in other contributions and $19.9 million in investment earnings.

Earlier this month, William Dean Singleton, MediaNews' chief executive officer and its principal owner, asked unions at the Denver Post, another of his 53 daily newspapers, as well as the Denver Newspaper Agency to reopen labor contracts.

Singleton said he needed to cut $20 million in expenses immediately, according to a Rocky Mountain News report.

That request, made to the unions on Dec. 12, came a day after Moody's Investors Services downgraded nearly all of the company's $1 billion in debt further into junk status, reaching a non-investment grade rating of “Caa3,” which according to an Associated Press report is the third-lowest rating on Moody's scale.

Moody had previously downgraded MediaNews' debt in May. Three months later, the company sold its Connecticut newspaper holdings, including the Connecticut Post and seven non-daily newspapers, to Hearst Corp.

The rating downgrades are based on Moody's lowered opinion of the company's ability to meet its financial obligations after a 16-percent decline in revenue for the third quarter, and concerns over a revolving $175 million credit facility that comes due in December 2009, according to the Associated Press.

The Associated Press noted that the downgrade also has the impact of making it harder for MediaNews to find new financing because of default concerns.

In press reports Singleton has steadfastly maintained his company is financially sound and honoring its financial commitments.

The Record-Bee traditionally has been among MediaNews' strongest performers, outpacing advertising revenues of its larger, urban sister papers.

However, despite its stronger performance, the paper and its staff are facing cuts in staffing, which continues a trend in employee reductions at the newspaper.

Since 2001 the editorial staff of the Record-Bee and Clear Lake Observer-American combined has been reduced from 12 employees to eight, with at least another position on the line in the upcoming layoffs. Of those staff reductions, two have been reporter positions.

Those cuts in editorial are in addition to numerous other layoffs experienced throughout the paper's departments, including composing, press and accounting.

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


LOWER LAKE – A Sunday afternoon crash near Lower Lake resulted in minor injuries.

The collision occurred shortly before 4 p.m. on Highway 29 about a half-mile north of Lower Lake, according to the California Highway Patrol incident reports.

One vehicle was reported to be off the road and power lines were blocking the highway's northbound lanes, the CHP reported.

Pacific Gas and Electric was called to the scene. CHP reported that all lanes of the highway were open shortly after 4:15 p.m.

A mother and daughter, whose names were not available Sunday evening, were involved in the collision and were treated at St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake for minor injuries later in the afternoon, the CHP reported.

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


God created the oyster and then disguised it so that it could quietly perfect itself over millennia before man would discover it. How else could anything that looks so much like a rock be so wonderful inside? An ugly, rough, hard exterior containing a soft, smooth, delicious interior, good for so many uses ... it’s like a misanthropic Easter egg.

I love oysters and once worked on an oyster farm, so oysters are something of an avocation of mine. I will try to keep this brief although I could talk about oysters for hours and barely take time to breathe.

Oyster farms should be the model for all future aquaculture and could be the savior of our oceans’ resources.

On an oyster farm natural baby seed oysters are bred in pens and once they’ve grown a bit they are put out on farms in the sea using a variety of growing techniques that allow them to mature naturally.

Some growing methods are better than others, but they are all harmless to the ocean and even add to the wild stock naturally through escapees and breeding.

Like the egg, an oyster can be made into almost anything: appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, breads, pasta, sandwiches, stuffing, desserts and there are even oyster beers made with real oysters.

There are many different types of edible oysters, and I could go through and list the many types and flavors, but most of the oysters you will find in our area are Pacific “Miyagi” oysters.

I find that oysters are similar to wine in many ways, in that tastes are subjective: I may like this wine but you won’t, and I may like this type of oyster but you won’t.

Don’t take someone else’s opinion on a particular type of oyster; you have to try it for yourself to know if you will like it. Pacific oysters remind me of beef or red wine with their dark colors and full flavor, while Atlantic oysters are more like chicken or white wine with its lighter colored flesh and milder flavors. Don’t believe me? Then I guess you have to try them all yourself.

Oysters used to be terribly cheap and were considered poverty food for a long time. During the mid-1800’s “Mad William” Windham, “the prince of London’s pimps,” fed oysters to his “Butterflies of the Night.” Some Londoners observed this and thought that he did this because they were aphrodisiacs to help keep the girls going, not for the economic factor. Now oysters are eaten by everyone and are especially popular at holiday parties.

You have probably heard the axiom that states “Only eat oysters in months with an R.” This is not necessarily true, but it is not without foundation either. It was a common practice many years ago before the benefit of refrigeration, because not only did oysters go bad quickly in the heat of summer but oysters are naturally at their culinary worst during warm water months.

Oysters breed when the water is warm, and during this time all the oyster’s energy is focused on breeding and their body becomes unappetizingly creamy textured and astringently flavored. When the water cools off so do the oysters’ libidos and they firm up and become sweet tasting with subtle flavors.

I won’t eat oysters during the summer with the one exception being triploid oysters, which are oysters that have three chromosomes. Technology (not using genetic engineering) can now produce a triploid oyster by breeding tetraploid males (which have four chromosomes) with diploid females (two chromosomes) to produce 100 percent triploid oysters. It’s like breeding a horse and a donkey to produce a mule, and like a mule the triploid oyster is sterile. They have no way or will to breed so all of their energy goes to increased growth and they maintain year-round palatable taste and texture (the oysters, not the mules).

Triploid demand and production are both growing extremely fast in the U.S., and currently they are the most expensive due to this demand. Despite the expense, if you want oysters in the summertime the triploid is the way to go.

Working on an oyster farm changed my life in many ways. You can only imagine how wonderful it was for a water lover like me to be able to head to the ocean every morning, spend the day in the water caring for thousands of little babies, while wading through the bay and watching the wildlife all around.

I learned how to appreciate the subtleties of oysters and how like wine they even have specific “terroir” that can be distinguished from one area to another. The flavors of cucumber, minerals, brass, lemon, fresh biscuits, copper, musk, melon, clean, crisp, fruity, buttery, are just a few tastes and sensations that you can find in fresh oysters, and these flavors are reflected in the farms in which they grow.

Also like wines, oysters lose these flavors if they aren’t stored well or if they are opened too early and then just left to sit waiting for service. Shucking the oyster immediately prior to eating is mandatory.

Some restaurants (even world famous Northern California restaurants) will shuck their oysters in the morning then cover them in plastic wrap and store them in the fridge until ordered. It may be a time saver in prep, but it diminishes the unique subtleties of the oyster.

If you want to give the impression of being a real oyster connoisseur, ask for the top half of the oyster shell to be served with your plate of oysters. This will prove the oysters are freshly shucked, since if the top half of the shell of oysters shucked early in the day will have been discarded hours ago.

Once, a waitress asked why this was important to me. In return I asked the waitress if they uncorked all of the wine they would need for the day first thing in the morning and let it sit until ordered. She understood my point immediately.

Poets and songwriters have spoken of the pearl within the oyster since time immemorial. There seems to be something so artistic in imagining such a beautiful, smooth and luminous stone emerging from something so coarse and rough in appearance.

Unfortunately this is about as accurate as writing about the relationship of eggs to the Easter Bunny. They may both be symbols of fertility, but rabbits just don’t deliver eggs. The edible species of oysters don’t develop a pearl of any beauty. Pearls used in jewelry are actually produced by a bivalve more accurately related to a variety of mussel. It is however, still romantic to plant a pearl into an oyster just before service to impress someone you love.

In my opinion, people who swallow oysters whole without chewing don’t like to eat oysters, they just like to be seen eating oysters. And people who like oysters with heavy condiments like cocktail sauce and tartar sauce are more interested in the flavor of the sauce than the oyster.

To truly enjoy an oyster you need to avoid heavy thick sauces and stick with lighter accompaniments that accent and not overpower the oyster. Mignonette sauce (recipe to follow), fresh lemon juice or just a dash of hot sauce are the best accompaniments.

Oysters from extra-small to medium are best for eating raw, while large, extra large, jumbo and what some oyster farms call “cowboys” (oysters that have outwitted harvest somehow until they’ve reached a huge size, up to 12 inches long) are best for grilling.

The following recipe is an adaptation of a classic French recipe. It’s a simple red wine vinegar, shallot and pepper mixture that I have tweaked to make it my own.

Instead of the red wine vinegar I use raspberry vinegar, which was actually preferred at the oyster farm where I worked, and I switched the standard ground black pepper to a four-color peppercorn mix because the colors accent the look of the sauce on the oyster and give it a more complex flavor. No salt is recommended since the oysters themselves will provide that.

Mignonette sauce for oysters on the half shell

2/3 cup raspberry vinegar

2 to 3 tablespoons finely minced shallots (don’t substitute onions, the flavor isn’t the same)

1 tablespoon four-color peppercorn mix, freshly and finely ground

Mix the ingredients, refrigerate, and let chill for at least an hour. Serve one teaspoonful on top of each raw oyster.

An upcoming chance to pair oysters, wine

The Moore Family Winery will be having an Oysters and Sauvignon Blanc pairing on at their winery Feb. 21, 2009, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The fee is $20.

They will be serving several types of oysters, raw and barbecued, paired with the Moore family's own Sauvignon Blanc. Visit www.moorefamilywinery.com or call 707-738-0507 for further information.

Me? I’ll definitely be there since I have a passion for oysters that will never end.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


THE GEYSERS – A 3.0-magnitude earthquake was reported near The Geysers Tuesday evening.

The quake, recorded at a depth of 1.1 miles at 7:31 p.m., was centered three miles east of The Geysers, four miles south southwest of Cobb and four miles west northwest of Anderson Springs, according to the US Geological Survey.

Four people reported to the US Geological Survey that they felt the quake – two in Cobb, one in Middletown and one in Longview, 823 miles away.

The last quake of 3.0 magnitude or above recorded in the county occurred on Dec. 21, as Lake County News has reported.

Some Cobb-area residents have considered recent earthquake activity out of season.

However, giving another viewpoint, Anderson Springs resident Meriel Medrano believes winter – particularly January and February – are actually the worst times of the year for the area's seismic activity.

Medrano said that they continue to have many small quakes in the area but the larger quakes seem not to be occurring as often.

The shallower earthquakes have been linked to geothermal production at The Geysers, 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..


LAKE COUNTY – The California Highway Patrol's maximum enforcement period over the Christmas holiday yielded only a few arrests for driving under the influence.

The CHP ratcheted up its coverage on county roads from Dec. 24 at 6 p.m. through midnight on Sunday.

Officers made only two arrests for DUI in that time, according to jail arrest reports.

The first was on Christmas day, when Francis Boettcher Jr., 56, of Windsor was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and causing bodily injury.

The only other arrest of the maximum enforcement period came on Sunday, when the CHP arrested 51-year-old Marsha Schefcick of Lakeport for allegedly driving under the influence and willful cruelty to a child, according to jail records.

The CHP is expected to hold another maximum enforcement period for the New Year's holiday.

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


LAKE COUNTY – The storms that brought snow and freezing temperatures to the county during the Christmas holiday have cleared and forecasters are predicting rain and even a little sunshine in the week ahead.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento is predicting a 30- to 60-percent chances of showers in parts of Lake County on Saturday, with temperatures in the 40s and slight winds at about 6 miles per hour.

On Sunday, the agency is forecasting a 40- to 50-percent chance of rain in the county.

Moving into next week, a 40-percent chance of rain is expected on Monday, decreasing to 20-percent overnight, the National Weather Service reported.

Tuesday has a promise of sunshine and a daytime high of 48 degrees, a temperature that also is predicted for Wednesday, when a slight chance of rain once again is predicted.

The National Weather Service also is predicting slight chances of rain next Thursday and Friday.

Conditions on area roads appeared much clearer on Friday, as compared to previous days, according to California Highway Patrol incident reports.

However, colder nighttime temperatures still led to icy conditions in parts of the county, which the reports noted.

Weather-related issues such as downed trees continue to be a concern on area roadways.

A large tree was reported down and blocking both lanes on Lakeshore Drive in Clearlake Park Friday at about 6:47 p.m. .County road crews responded to clear the road, which took just under three hours to complete.

CHP officers will remain out in force through Sunday as part of a seasonal maximum enforcement period in response to the holidays.

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LAKE COUNTY – The California Highway Patrol will conduct a maximum enforcement effort over the New Year’s holiday weekend which begins Wednesday, Dec. 31, at 6 p.m. and continues through midnight, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009.

“Consider this a warning,” said Clear Lake Area CHP Commander, Lieutenant Loveless, “We will be out there taking a zero tolerance approach and will arrest you if you are drinking and driving.”

CHP officers arrested 1,397 motorists statewide for driving under the influence (DUI) during this year’s Christmas MEP compared to 1,661 in 2007, according to a CHP report.

During that same time period, 37 people died in the collisions that occurred in California compared to 43 in 2007. Among those killed this year, 15 were not wearing a seatbelt.

“Remember to designate a non-drinking driver before the celebrating begins, watch your speed and always wear your seatbelt,” Loveless added.

Along with the increased enforcement effort, the CHP is asking motorists to help keep the state’s roadways safe by calling 911 to report a suspected drunk driver. Callers should be prepared to provide dispatchers with a description of the vehicle, its location and direction of travel.

“The holiday season is a time for family, friends, and celebrations; unfortunately it is also a time when we see too many alcohol-related highway fatalities,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Even if we save just one life by getting the message out, that is one life that has been spared.”

In keeping with the state trend, during the Christmas MEP, the Clear Lake Area had less DUI arrests, but also showed a drop in traffic collisions, according to CHP Officer Adam Garcia.

Three drivers were arrested for DUI by the Clear Lake Area compared to 10 in 2007, Garcia reported.

He also noted that in 2008 there were seven traffic collisions with three injured and zero fatalities compared to 11 collisions with three injured and zero fatalities in 2007.


LAKEPORT – A woman who surrendered dozens of dogs to Lake County Animal Care and Control earlier this month also is being investigated for keeping a wild animal on her property.

The woman, whose name has not been released by local officials, surrendered 70 small breed dogs to county officials after a complaint was made about the animals on Dec. 16, as Lake County News has reported.

Also found on her property at the time was a raccoon, which Animal Care and Control said was turned over to state Fish and Game officials.

Game Warden Loren Freeman told Lake County News that he was investigating the case.

He said Animal Care and Control notified him that they had found the raccoon. "I advised them to seize it."

Under California law it's a crime to possess certain wild animals, including raccoons, Freeman explained.

One concern about raccoons is that they carry rabies but have subdued symptoms when suffering from the disease, he said.

Freeman said keeping wildlife like raccoons is a misdemeanor; convictions can result in up to $2,000 in fines and six months in jail, "but it's typically not nearly that high."

He said he sees one or two cases a year of local people keeping wild animals as pets. "We do have quite a problem" when it comes to keeping wildlife, he added.

"Raccoons, opossums, squirrels – people seem to take them when they're cute and cuddly," said Freeman.

People usually take the animals when they're babies and hand-raise them. "They don't really domesticate," said Freeman.

Freeman said there also is a big problem with people attempting to keep deer as pets.

Deer get food aggressive as they get older, and then people try to release them back into the wild. Freeman said there have been numerous cases where the animals have to be destroyed for public safety reasons.

When people are found with wildlife, Freeman said Fish and Game has several options on what to do with the animals.

First, they can return the animal to where the people got it, putting it back out into the wild.

Second, they can ship it out of state. This works in cases where people have brought animals like alligators from another area. It also works with such animals as ferrets, which are legal to keep as pets in other states but aren't legal in California.

The third choice, said Freeman, is to destroy the animal.

That, unfortunately, appears to be the option for the raccoon in this case.

"I looked at rehabilitating this one and it's not an option," he said, adding that the local wildlife rehabilitation program at Spirit Wild on Cobb is unwilling to take the animal.

The raccoon also has issues because it's been exposed to humans and to dozens of dogs, he said. Trying to release it into the wild likely would not be a success.

"The only choice is to destroy the animal to protect the rest of our population," he said.

Freeman said the investigation could lead to a formal complaint process and prosecution through the District Attorney's Office.

Freeman said it's unfortunate when animals are taken from the wild and then have to be destroyed due to safety reasons.

Taking the animals from their homes in the wild, he added, ultimately is "the wrong thing."

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


LAKE COUNTY – Local law enforcement are planning to conduct operations over the upcoming New Year's holiday to discourage driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Lakeport Police and the Lake County Sheriff's Office will take part on the DUI enforcement saturation patrols beginning on New Year's Eve, according to a statement from sheriff's Lt. Cecil Brown.

The operations are sponsored by a grant from California AVOID, an anti-DUI program founded in 1973. The grants are administered by the California Office of Traffic Safety for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

AVOID funds are used to fund duty time and equipment for DUI enforcement.

Officials warn that drivers who choose to drink and drive this holiday season should expect to spend the night behind bars.

AVOID activities that took place over Memorial Day weekend this year, from May 23 through May 26, netted nine DUI arrests, according to California AVOID statistics.


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