Mendocino County Today: August 30, 2013
by AVA News Service, August 29, 2013
WE KNEW Victoria Shanahan as Victoria Jenny when she worked as a Mendocino County senior prosecutor under the late DA, Norm Vroman. A native of Willits where her dad worked for RemCo, Ms. Jenny married a cop named Shanahan, moved to Cloverdale, and went to work for Sonoma County DA, Jill Ravitch, also an alum of the Mendocino County DA's office. Ms. Shanahan announced Wednesday night she will run against Ravitch for SoCo DA in the June election. Shanahan was among our Courthouse faves when she worked in Mendocino County while Ravitch seemed to consider us as part of the criminal class. We thought Ravitch lacked, uh, “people skills” but was certainly a capable prosecutor.
WHO WILL STOP CALTRANS?
by Will Parrish
August 28, 2013 — In the pre-dawn hours of August 18th, CalTrans contractor FlatIron Construction sent a fleet of dump trucks and excavators into one of inland Mendocino County's most historically pivotal sites, Mendocino Forest Products Co's shuttered Apache Mill site three miles north of Willits (formerly a Louisiana Pacific mill), to begin removing three hills to dump on the northern Little Lake wetlands, in the approximate area where I conducted a “wick drain stitcher sit” from June 20th to July 1st. The dumping is taking place at the site of the ecologically calamitous northern interchange area of Big Orange's Willits bypass, where the freeway would be built upon a massive berm up to 35 feet high.
Mendocino Forest Products Co. is a division of Mendocino Redwood Company, which owns 10 percent of Mendocino County's private land (I wrote several stories about MRC, particularly its penchant for using the herbicide Imazapyr across a large portion of its lands, last year). In other words, Mendocino County's largest landowner is intent on offloading three hills worth of soil to Little Lake Valley's largest landowner, CalTrans, to dump and compact upon the most hydrologically crucial area of the Little Lake Valley watershed, all with the rubber-stamp approval of Mendocino County's permitting agency, the Planning Department.
Wednesday, August 28 marks the ninth day the excavators have excavated and the dump trucks have dumped. But it may be the second to last — at least for the time being. On Wednesday, August 28th at 1:30 a.m., Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Cindy Mayfield will consider a Stop Worker Order request from the Willits Environmental Center, which has filed a lawsuit that aims to halt the fill dirt hauling on the grounds there was no Environmental Impact Review.
As of this writing, CalTrans has installed an estimated 30,000-35,000 wick drains in the area in question, with roughly 20,000-25,000 still to be installed.
Wick drain installation began in early-May. They plan to dump 885,000 cubic yards of fill onto the wick-drain wetlands areas. The weight of the soil activates the polypropylene wick drains, pulling groundwater from as deep as 85 feet to the surface, causing it to evaporate or run off into nearby waterways (including Outlet Creek, part of the longest Coho salmon run remaining in California). Meanwhile, the chief regulator of the Army Corps of Engineers' San Francisco office, Jane Hicks, sent a letter to CalTrans threatening fines, or even suspension or revocation of the permit to construct the Bypass, if Big Orange doesn't get its act together vis-a-vis its commitments to manage roughly 2,000 acres of “mitigation” properties in Little Lake Valley. Although the “mitigation” plan CalTrans and the Army Corps agreed to is terribly flawed to begin with, as I described in the April 30 AVA piece “The Bypass 'Mitigation' Charade, CalTrans has followed through on virtually none of the commitments it originally made when the Army Corps granted it a the Bypass construct permit in February 2012.
Notably, in the first of five violations the Army Corps letter mentions, it calls out CalTrans on not having studied the impacts of wick draining, let alone having submitted that analysis to regulatory agencies to review. The letter asks CalTrans to “schedule a meeting between Corps staff and Caltrans hydrologists to discuss potential secondary effects from wick drains on wetland hydrology, specifically shallow epiaquic saturation and groundwater through-flow affecting wetland hydrology criteria and duration in existing wetlands.”
Rumor has it the Army Corps was not even aware CalTrans planned to install the wick drains until this year, given that Big Orange failed to mention this rather obviously environmentally impactful aspect of the project in any but one of the environmental impact evaluations it submitted. CalTrans' lone advance notice about the wick drains was in Section 5.5.6 of its 2002 Draft Environmental Impact Report, which describes them as “minor and isolated intrusions.”
The wick draining has also been a flashpoint of resistance to the Bypass, involving several dramatic direct actions that slowed the installation of the drains by at least a few weeks over the summer. Willits City Councilmember Madge Strong sent a letter to the Army Corps' Hicks on August 26th, requesting that she suspend CalTrans' permit “ i.e., suspend project construction — to allow time for considering scaling back the project.
“At this point in the process, it is still feasible to dramatically reduce the impact of this 'Phase 1' project by scaling back the massive, unnecessary northern interchange. For USACE to fully consider the impacts, the “necessity,” and opportunities to resolve these issues in the public’s best interest, it is essential to immediately stop further wick-draining and filling while these options still exist.”
The permit to allow CalTrans/FlatIron to haul soil from the erstwhile Apache Mill site was granted on July 2nd by Mendocino County planner John Speka. He cited a provision of the 1975 Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA) that permits exemptions from normal environmental review protocol to property owners who are engaged in “land improvement.”
“Improvement” in this sense recalls the etymological origins of that word, which derives from the Anglo-French emprouwer, meaning “to turn into profit.” Removing three hillsides to compact their soil onto the northern interchange area of a freeway that would ultimately cost at least $500 million to construct, including interest on bonds, is certainly a way of turning this land into profit.
Yet, as anyone who lived in Mendocino County when there were active mills, the mills are often laden with toxic debris, resulting from chemicals used in removing bark and treating the wood. As the Occupational Health and Safety Administration notes, “The volume and physical properties of chemicals found in sawmills pose a wide range of health hazards.”
Moreover, as many observers have pointed out, a blatant double-standard is at work here. The Mendocino County Planning Department forces people to endure an onerous bureaucratic process, often lasting for years, simply to get out-buildings and sheds permitted. Yet, it rubber-stamps a permit application to utterly remove three hills from what was formerly the home of one of the most significant industrial installations in the county?
It will remain for Judge Mayfield to decide on August 28th, however, whether the dislocation of these potentially chemically contaminated hills onto the Little Lake wetlands continues.
Because CalTrans essentially is the California road construction industry, and because every politician — including liberal Democrats like Noreen Evans, one of the only elected officials to raise some objections to the Bypass — in the state has a co-dependent relationship with said industry, Caltrans almost always gets a wide berth when it comes to following regulations. Yet, Big Orange has already been cited multiple times for not following protocol regarding toxics on this very project.
On August 26, 2010, the State Water Resources Control Board nailed CalTrans with six violations for demolishing a building, which may have had asbestos, and excavating soil without first getting a permit. In March 2011, the Water Board hit CalTrans with another set of violations when it excavated a bark dump on what was the John Ford Ranch property, before Caltrans bought it to perform its wetlands “mitigation” work. The bark at this dump was from the very same mill site where CalTrans is now obtaining its construction soil. Bark is often treated with deadly chemicals at mill sites to aid in its removal from logs.
As Rosamond Crowder from the Willits Environmental Center notes, “It is important to stop work before toxics are transported into the wetlands, not issue a violation after the fact which is what happened in the other cases.” Brendan Thompson of the State Water Resources Control Board reports that his office is “actively following up” on citizen complaints about the soil excavation but is not yet “able to report back findings to the public.”
All told, the possibility of stopping the Willits Bypass as currently conceived remains very much alive, thanks to the persistence and tactical strength of the people opposing it. We'll report back on this story in next week's AVA. ¥¥
(Contact Will Parrish at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
MENDOCINO COUNTY has cancelled the Caltrans grading permit that would have allowed Big Orange to haul dirt from the old LP mill site north of Willits to the Bypass project site also north of town. The Willits Environment Center and Keep the Code had filed a request for a temporary court order restraining Caltrans from using dirt from the former LP site to fill gouged-out wetlands where the 5.9-mile Bypass rejoins 101 north of Willits.
THE RESTRAINING ORDER request would have been heard Friday in Mendo Superior Court if the County hadn't pulled the plug on a deal between Caltrans and Mendocino Forest Products, present owner of the LP mill site north of town, to sell dirt to Caltrans. The enviro's restraining order application asked that dirt from Mendocino Forest Products not be moved until Forest Products and Caltrans met a slew of enviro regs and the necessary mining permit required to move lots of dirt around.
THE COUNTY, via County Counsel's office, apparently agreed that the necessary permits were somehow waived to accommodate the Bypass project, and that a judge would have agreed with the Willits Environment Center and Keep The Code that the County was in violation of the law in issuing the permit.
THERE WILL BE CEMENT
I would like to make one simple request of my friends in the anti-Willits bypass community; would you guys please get a life? I mean, the deal is done; contracts have been let, ground has been broken, millions of dollars worth of equipment has been assembled to carry out the democratically expressed will of the people of California. Whatever shortcomings there may be in our democratic process, it is, in the end, the government under which we live; if you find it intolerable, try moving to Somalia or Iraq, where you can enjoy complete freedom from government (and of course everyone else there can enjoy the freedom to rob, rape etc. with impunity). After reading Will Parish's unctuous, messianic article in the AVA, regarding his tree-sit style occupation of a critical piece of heavy equipment, I, like a lot of other folks here in the county, am really starting to get annoyed with the endless, pointless, obstruction of this project; I mean, there were probably routes and designs that I would have preferred to see built, but that ship has sailed! The time for input, over the last several decades, has long since come to a close; all the related regulatory agencies that we have created in California, which must all sign off on any highway project before it can commence, have finally done so. We must face the fact that IT WILL BE BUILT; the only conceivable effect that further protest of the work that is underway can have is to drive up the total project cost to California taxpayers, along with taking scarce resources away from places where they are sorely needed. Perhaps worst of all, for our close knit Mendocino County community, is the divisiveness, the “us vs. them” dynamic that it perpetuates here in our beloved Mendo home. Please, let us allow the contractors to make a living, and hopefully, before too long, there will finally be an end to the perpetual traffic jam that has existed in Willits for at least the 40 years or so that I have lived in this county.
Sincerely, John Arteaga, Ukiah, Ca
ORIGINAL AP STORY ON THE 1963 MARCH ON WASHINGTON
By Raymond J. Crowley, Associated Press
August, 1963 — In a great, dramatic demonstration, more than 200,000 Negroes and white sympathizers massed before the Abraham Lincoln Memorial today and demanded across-the-board abolition of race discrimination.
Then, after the “march for jobs and freedom,” President Kennedy asserted that “the cause of 20 million Negroes has been advanced” by the gigantic, orderly assemblage.
Kennedy conferred with ten march leaders at the White House and issued a statement pledging a continued drive for civil rights legislation, for the removal of job barriers, for better education and full employment.
It was appropriate, he said, that the demonstration was conducted before the nation's shrine to the Great Emancipator. The contribution thus made to the Negro cause is great, he said, “but even more significant is the contribution to all mankind.” By special train, plane, buses by the thousand, private automobiles and even in some cases on foot, the marchers poured into the capital. As they headed homeward tonight, the small army of police and National Guardsmen mustered to cope with feared disorder could report that only three arrests had been made — and not one of these was a demonstrator.
Though the temperature was a balmy 84 and a cool wind stirred, many marchers fainted by the wayside. More than 1,700 were treated at first aid tents or hospitals for ills such as ribs fractured in the crush, headaches and insect bites.
Gathering around the Washington Monument, the great sea of humanity moved toward the Lincoln Memorial, which enshrines the marble statue of the man who freed the slaves 100 years ago.
Softly, as they went, they chanted the familiar civil rights hymn: “Deep in my heart I do believe ... some day we shall overcome.” And a forest of placards moved with them. Some of these struck a religious note: “God of wisdom, God of fewer, can America deny freedom in this hour?” Others were more down-to-earth and slangy: “No US dough to help Jim Crow!”
Of all the speeches at the memorial, the one that drew the strongest applause was made by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Departing from his advance text, he said: “I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream that one day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed: We hold those truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” “I have a dream that one day in Alabama, little black boys and little black girls will be able to go hand in hand together with little white boys and little white girls as brothers and sisters. “This is the faith that I will take down to the South — that out of this mountain of despair, I can find a soul of brotherhood. “Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill in Mississippi, from every city and state in the country.” When King finished, there were cries of “he's a powerhouse,” and even one shouted salute to “the next president of the United States.” John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, toned down a fiery speech he had prepared.
It was learned from a competent source that the Very Rev. Patrick A. O'Boyle, Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, had served notice he would refuse to give the invocation unless the speech were changed. He was said to consider it inflammatory and contrary to the constructive purpose of the gathering.
Lewis confirmed that he had been forced to “capitulate” into making changes. He told a reporter that the archbishop had “said he would not appear on the same platform with a speaker making this and some other statements in my speech.” So out came such passages as: “We cannot depend on any political party, for both the Democrats and Republicans have betrayed the basic principles of the Declaration of Independence.” In the advance text, Lewis said the Kennedy civil rights bill is “too little and too late” and “we cannot support it.” Upon delivery, Lewis said “we support the administration's civil rights bill, but with reservations.” At 7:55pm EDT, the last of the 23 special trains departed, and by 11pm Union Station and the city's two main bus terminals showed little sign of the earlier traffic load. The Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial areas, scene of a vast gathering just hours before, were virtually deserted.
Police Chief Robert V. Murray, meeting with newsmen tonight, pronounced it a “very orderly demonstration.” Asked to estimate how many of the demonstrators were Negroes and how many white, he said he believed about 90 percent were Negroes.
A holiday atmosphere pervaded the city. Many government workers took the day off and many business offices closed. Stores in the downtown area were largely deserted.
William H. Press, executive vice president of the Washington Board of Trade, said that while he had no actual figures “I imagine business is off 80 percent. ... There's nobody in the stores.” Congregating at the Lincoln Memorial, the vast audience stretched far back toward the east end of the magnificent reflecting pool — toward the spot where in a semi-circular, separate pool, water lilies bloomed.
At the memorial, they heard many speeches, many songs and spirituals. They heard speakers demand passage of President Kennedy's civil rights bill — and much more.
A. Philip Randolph, 74-year-old prime promoter of the march, struck at those who want to amend the program to exempt little establishments from the proposed anti-discrimination ban — places like “Mrs. Murphy's boarding house.” “We must destroy the notion,” said Randolph, the president of the AFL-CIO Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, “that Mrs. Murphy's property rights include the right to humiliate me because of the color of my skin.” A great cheer went up when Randolph announced that more than 150 members of Congress were in seats on the broad marble steps of the memorial.
Film star Burt Lancaster unrolled a scroll he had brought with him by plane from Americans in Paris. It expressed fervent hope that all America would be “liberated from the prison of their biases and fears.” Marlon Brando of films was there, too, carrying with him a cattle prod of a type he said has been used in some places to make civil rights demonstrators move on. “This instrument will burn you,” he said. “I've seen the scars on people. “But we must not believe that Southern people are entirely responsible. We are all responsible, East and West too.” What effect the march would have on Congress remained to be seen, though Ralph Bunche, world-known American Negro official of the United Nations, told the throng: “Anybody who cannot understand the significance of your participation here today is blind and deaf.” Coming here by train, plane, bus, auto — and even some on foot — the throng built up slowly but steadily to the estimate of 200,000, including Washingtonians.
Despite advanced predictions by critics of possible wholesale disorder, the marchers — who numbered black and white, Protestants, Catholics and Jews — were studiously polite to one and all as they assembled and then marched to the Lincoln Memorial on the bank of the Potomac.
As the meeting went on, police reported only two arrests had been made thus far — neither one of them demonstrators. One was identified as a deputy leader of “the American Nazi Party“ who persisted in trying to make a speech, despite police warnings, and the other, a 20-year-old, was alleged to have seized a placard from a marcher and broken it.
A third arrest was reported several blocks away as the meeting was breaking up. Police took a local motorist into custody when they found a sawed-off shotgun on the front seat of his car. He was charged with carrying a prohibited weapon.
There were hundreds of cases of heat exhaustion or fainting, most of them released after treatment at first aid stations.
There was one scare when an anonymous caller told police bombs had been planted in the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. This proved false, but for a while the Washington Monument was closed and nobody could ride the elevator to the top of the obelisk.
The carefully drilled force of 5,000 officers — policemen, police reservists, National Guardsmen — had little or no occasion to display any muscle. They were aided, in the great task of crowd control, by off-duty Negro policemen from New York and other “march marshals,” wearing golden-hued armbands.
George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party, showed up before dawn at the Washington Monument in hopes of holding a meeting despite an official ban.
Police quickly threw out a cordon of 200 men to separate him from the marchers. After some hours, in which few gathered around to listen to him, he marched off with his 70 troopers, saying disgustedly, “I'm ashamed of my race.” The big demonstration was a unique mixture of revival meeting, picnic and denunciations of what speakers called man's inhumanity to man.
As the speaking went on many demonstrators — mostly small fry — took off their shoes and socks, sat on the edge of the reflecting pool and cooled their feet in the water.
Earlier, many broke out picnic lunches on the monument grounds, queued up at the big military trucks marked “water” and at the many portable restrooms.
Police Chief Murray said the throng was perhaps the largest in the city's history — apart from presidential inaugurations.
In fact the crowd was so big that some demonstrators were still coming into town by bus at a time when others were waiting at Union Station to go home by train. These latter decided they could not get near enough to the Lincoln Memorial, and would get a head start homeward.
There were some snafus. For example, Hollywood stars got tied up in traffic and could not get to the Washington Monument on schedule to entertain — or take a bow before — the people waiting to start the march. “Our program is a bit ragged around the edges,” the loudspeakers boomed at this point. “The people who were to appear are evidently a long way from here.” Philosophically, the crowd began to entertain itself with a deep-throated song: “Freedom is a-coming. Oh, yes.” Later, singer Marian Anderson arrived at the Lincoln Memorial in tears because she was just seconds too late to sing “The Star Spangled Banner.” Camilla Williams sang it instead. Later the crowd got to hear Miss Anderson in the spiritual “He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.” At the big blue-and-white headquarters tent of the march, many people lined up to sign a pledge: “I affirm my complete personal commitment for the struggle for jobs and freedom for all Americans. To fulfill that commitment, I pledge that I will not relax until victory is won.” =============================
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY: “Here's a little context that I never see being brought up. Ignorance and greed, make that willful ignorance, is to blame here. And I'm not just talking about marijuana growers. In fact, marijuana growing is just the latest industry to contribute to the destruction of water habitat for fish. And it might not be the worst offender. The other, more historic problem industries are logging and cattle herding. As any hydrologist knows, when the redwoods were clear cut their ability to hold water in the ground was lost, and so seasonal rainfall failed to be held in the ground and instead washed off the hills, causing mud slides and silt deposits into the rivers. This also means that, lacking the root system of the redwoods to slow the release of water, summer river levels were reduced to historical low levels. Of course, pumping water in the summer instead of saving in the winter makes the levels even lower, but the major reduction of summer water flow can be attributed to the destruction of the redwoods. Cattle herding is notorious for damaging river beds, diverting a huge amount of water for cattle to drink, and then the humungous amount of piss and shit that cattle produce inevitably makes its way into our waterways.”
WHAT ABOUT FUKUSHIMA?
Most conversations I have these days about wild edible seaweed on the Pacific Coast include the question, “What about Fukushima?” I was heartened when Congressman Jared Huffman said he is working for an urgent international commitment to deal with the ongoing catastrophe of the crippled nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan. Speaking at a bucolic harvest festival at Navarro Vineyards, Congressman Huffman also said he would work to get radiation hazard testing and public information: reliable, unbiased, regular testing of West Coast foods from land and sea, and radiation hazard monitoring of water, air and soil. Please consider joining the growing public demand that our government lead an international effort to cope with these reactors which are poisoning the Pacific Ocean and emitting atmospheric radiation. We live in a world environment that is radioactive everywhere, ranging from harmless natural uranium to isotopes deadly for millennia. Let's work with our government to get regular radiation hazard testing, and reliable public information. Edible seaweed, especially the brown kelps so prolific on the Pacific Coast, contain algin, iodine, and other trace elements which many believe are helping people live through this era of radioactivity. All Pacific ocean food providers need radiation hazard testing, because of the constant news that radioactive water is pouring into the Pacific from Fukushima. Now we need an international commitment to keep the Fukushima disaster from poisoning the very foods we need to live with environmental radioactivity.
John Lewallen, Philo
DOJ DECLARES FEDS WON'T BLOCK LEGAL MARIJUANA IN STATES WITH ‘STRONG AND EFFECTIVE’ ENFORCEMENT
Cal NORML Backs Proposed Guidelines, Calls on State Legislature to Act
In a long-awaited announcement of federal marijuana enforcement policy, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice won't “make it a priority” to block marijuana legalization in Colorado or Washington. Cal NORML welcomed the AG's announcement, while cautioning that the DOJ failed to follow through on a similar, previous promise to respect state medical marijuana laws in its 2009 Ogden memo. “The new DOJ policy provides sensible guidelines for marijuana enforcement,” said Cal NORML director Dale Gieringer, “We hope that this time they are successfully implemented.” In a three page policy memo by Assistant AG James Cole, the DOJ stated that “strong and effective” state enforcement systems are needed to address major federal concerns, namely preventing diversion to other states, cultivation on public lands, diversion to children, drugged driving, involvement of criminal gangs, violence and use of firearms, or possession on federal property. The memo added that the large size of commercial operations would no longer by itself be grounds for federal intervention, provided that strong and effective enforcement systems are in place. “The DOJ's call for “strong and effective” state enforcement is a mandate for California to finally implement a statewide system to legally regulate the distribution, production, and sale of medical marijuana, as has been proposed in legislation by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano and Sen. Steinberg,” said Gieringer, “We hope the state legislature will move expeditiously to address this important need. Only by legally regulating marijuana like other consumer goods can we undercut and eliminate the illegal market that has been plaguing our state with hazardous cultivation on public lands, secret grow houses, criminal smugglers, and street dealers.” The full text of today’s memo from Deputy Attorney General Cole to US Attorneys can be found at the following link:
(Cal NORML Release, Aug 29th, 2013 / Dale Gieringer (email@example.com). www.canorml.org
WAZZUP WITH CRAIG?
Warmest spiritual greetings. After a month of fruitless networking to get a spot in Washington D.C. for we three former D.C. Occupy kitchen working group participants, we left the east coast and co-drove to Tulsa, OK, and then bussed it to Dallas, met by Matt's father who hosted us in Fort Worth. We are now guests at an artist's compound outside of Austin, continuing to “follow spirit,” and having no idea whatsoever where this will lead to. This was definitely NOT what I envisioned when I left the San Francisco bay area, to stay near Pittsburgh, PA, hoping to eventually get niched into Washington D.C. for continued frontline dissent. We three are available, now nationwide! If this spiritually resonates with you, then please respond to this email. What more can we do? Peace on earth, Craig Louis Stehr, firstname.lastname@example.org; Angelica Gatewood, email@example.com; Matthew Michel, firstname.lastname@example.org
THIRTEEN PEOPLE WERE ARRESTED THURSDAY on suspicion of being part of an abalone poaching network after fish and game wardens served search warrants on 14 locations. The poaching raid included more than 100 Department of Fish and Wildlife game wardens who served the warrants throughout Northern California, The San Jose Mercury News reported. Lt. Patrick Foy said 13 of 14 suspects were in custody after the raids in Oakland, San Leandro, Fairfield, Alameda and Sacramento. Collecting abalone is legal, but divers must be licensed and are limited to 24 of the mollusks a season, and three a day. Divers track their catches on a report card, and authorities said some of the alleged poachers had falsified their cards. The poachers are lured by the steep prices abalone can get on the black market: Some average size abalone can sell for $100 each. One suspect took 57 abalones in a season, mostly collected from the waters off Sonoma and Mendocino counties, Foy said. Wardens had been tracking the group, which sometimes took multiday trips to the North Coast. “They hit our radar screen,” Foy told KNTV in San Jose, and “we've been following them around, watching them do this in full scale.” =============================
WILLITS FIREFIGHTER VOLUNTEER CHARGED WITH ARSON IN RECENT FIRES
Brice Lee McKinnon, 22, of Willits, a volunteer firefighter for Willits’ Little Lake Fire Department, has been arrested on suspicion of setting nine wildfires in the Willits area in July and August. McKinnon, charged with nine felony counts of arson, was booked into Mendocino County jail late Tuesday, said Cal Fire’s Brett Pinson, a battalion chief with the fire agency’s law enforcement division. Bail was set at $500,000. Pinson confirmed McKinnon became “a person of interest” in the arson investigation after a contact from a tipster on July 13. July 13 was the day of the first fire at the Willits Cemetery on Highway 20; there was a second fire at the same location on August 13. A Tuesday afternoon tweet from Cal Fire announcing the arrest said, because the case was still under investigation, additional details about the case against McKinnon were not being released, and Pinson could not confirm the locations of the nine suspicious fires. Cal Fire’s investigation was assisted by the Willits Police Department and the Little Lake Fire Department, as well as the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office.
THIS SATURDAY, September 7th, the Beginnings Octagon in Briceland is the place to be, as Sanctuary Forest holds a benefit to support its ongoing work in the Mattole River watershed. Eat amazing Asian cuisine, dance to the beats of Vidagua and Asha Nan, bid on beautiful original artwork, enjoy refreshing beers and wines, and support the restoration and conservation of the Mattole watershed wilderness — work that reaches far beyond the watershed, that has great potential to help adapt our local rivers and streams to climate change and human use, and that provides crucial education to agencies, organizations and communities all over the west coast. Your support will help keep this valuable work moving forward! Sanctuary Forest hopes the whole community will come out and join the celebration. Doors @ 5:30pm. Dinner from 6-8 p.m. Music from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. Entrance is $25 at the door. Dinner is $20. For more information contact Marisa@sanctuaryforest.org or call 707-986-1087 ext. 1#