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Mendocino County Today: Tuesday, March 4, 2014

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JOE SCARAMELLA was 5th District supervisor from 1952 until 1970. We interviewed him in 1996:

Joe Scaramella
Joe Scaramella

AVA: The Caspar dump was Fort Bragg's idea originally wasn't it?

Joe Scaramella: No. Hell no! You're looking at the so-and-so who put that there.

AVA: Is that right? Because there weren't very many options?

Joe: Well, what was happening, what we had to deal with, was that you could no longer simply… Like everybody did including the city of Fort Bragg — they were dumping everything up there at Glass Beach. The whole damn thing. The sewer was running wide open at the ocean at that time, see. And Fort Bragg was not doing a damn thing about it. And I had the problem down on this end [The Fifth District from Mendocino south to the Sonoma County border]. Mendocino was dumping right over the bluff. Right over it! All the stuff was going down there.

AVA: Sewage too?

Joe Scaramella: In one case they were using the storm sewer as sewage drains; they were dumping down there, yeah. People are a problem. You get a million people in a square area and hell… I would tell people, “I can go behind a stump and relieve myself, but I can't do it on Fifth Avenue in New York. Why? Because the people are there. That's why you can't do it. So the idea was that these people were coming down here and we had to do something about it. Point Arena… I got the County to fix that up. We put up a garbage dump there so you couldn't back up into the ocean. But the lady that owned it, the Stornetta Family, said that we had to cut it out. So we had to find another place. And I was stuck with the responsibility — well, I willingly assumed it — to find some places where people could get rid of their trash. From down here on the South Coast and on up to Fort Bragg. Mendocino was a case in point. Hell, I tried. I looked over heaven and earth. I went all over. Naturally nobody wanted it. Who wants a garbage dump nearby?

AVA: So the options are always so limited?

Joe Scaramella: Yeah. So I got the Health Department, they were the ones involved obviously, I got the person there, I can't remember her name, with me and we went out there where the Caspar dump is now. We bought these acres. I bought them. I went down to the Caspar Lumber Company in San Francisco — made two trips down there — they were going to hold me up on the price. I said, “Ok, fellas, we'll pay it, but the assessor will be involved and it will end up costing you more in the long run.” So I got it and I got the 20 acres out there at a good price. It was thought to be a huge area where nobody would ever want to live. Naturally Fort Bragg got into it. They had their trash problem. I said, “Well, this ought to be a joint enterprise.” So they created a joint venture and therefore Fort Bragg got into it. But I started the gol-darn thing. Fort Bragg hadn't done a thing. So that “cultural center” in Fort Bragg was just dumping everything into the ocean.

AVA: And as far as you’re concerned they still would be today?

Joe Scaramella: You know something? They still have that attitude up there. It's just the same now.

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FORT BRAGG'S TRASH, back in the day, was tossed into a long wooden chute that shot the trash into the sea off what is now Glass Beach. Glass Beach, in fact, became Glass Beach when the sea returned the battered bits of trash to the beach just north of the mill. That method of disposal became undesirable fifty years ago and the east end of Road 409 at Caspar became the area dump. But a neighborhood built up around the Caspar Dump, and the Coast's population of dedicated consumers grew ever larger until now, when Caspar is out-moded and the neighbors are threatening to sue to get the dump, which is now a transfer station and not merely a place where locals can heave whatever over the side. Jerry Ward of Solid Waste of Willits owns the Caspar transfer concession as he owns most, if not all the outback trash transfer stations, including Boonville and Gualala. Ward maintains a larger transfer station in Willits. He rightly enjoys a reputation for keeping rates down while getting much of Mendocino County's trash Outtahere.

AS A FIVE MILLION DOLLAR transfer station heads inexorably out to bid for a 17-acre site three miles up Highway 20 from Fort Bragg (the site of the once proposed, now abandoned plan for a golf course, and not far from Fort Bragg's new water well), one has to wonder if there's a reasonably cost-efficient way to muddle through short of $5 mil. Ratepayers will certainly see garbage rates increase, meaning even more roadside litter than we suffer now, and we suffer lots. But the much larger consideration is this: Is a huge expenditure for a simple process justified in a struggling economy that runs on very expensive fuel? Why can't Coast trash continue to be hauled out of the existing Pudding Creek transfer station by the present-size trucks using present-size containers, hauled over 20 to Willits and transferred at Willits for trucks already headed for outtahere?

THE FIVE MIL facility is being sold by Mike Sweeney, Mendocino County's trash czar who is overseen by, well, let's say the oversight might as well not exist. Sweeney claims the new transfer station will be a giant eco-step forward, with bigger trucks hauling bigger bins directly to Outtahere, the now desolate wastelands of a place called the Potrero Hills Landfill in Suisun. Sweeney claims bigger trucks making fewer trips over the serpentine path of Highway 20 is an all-round eco-and-cost saver. We don't agree with his math. And we don't see any reason, given the present volume of Coast trash, that Caspar's present load couldn't be assumed by the existing plant at Pudding Creek using the present-size trucks with their present-size containers.

HOW ABOUT spending trash funds on a co-generation plant that burns trash, Mendoland? Why not try something genuinely forward-looking for a change, Mendo? Co-generation creates power and is pretty much independent of whatever disasters occur in the larger economy. It would pay for itself. A brand new transfer station, bigger trucks, bigger loads of trash for Outtahere is more of the same and, count on it, will screw rate payers for the next fifty years.

OUTTAHERE, BY THE WAY, is a huge landfill right up against the Suisun Marsh. Is it fair to the people down there who have been trying for years to place limits on the endless expansion of the Potrero Hills Landfill to burden them with our trash?

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A cup of water is eight ounces. There are 16 of those in a gallon. In the water world, the main unit of measurement is not the gallon, but the cubic foot of water. One cubic foot is 7.48 gallons, or 62.4 pounds of water. Imagine an office water cooler, but 1.5 times bigger.

If a little bit of water is moving, it's quantified in gallons per minute. A bathroom sink might deliver 1.5 gallons per minute. If a lot of water is moving, then the measurement of choice is cfs, cubic feet per second. A fire hose delivers about 4.5 cubic feet per second.

If water is sitting in a reservoir or being bought or sold, then people talk about acre-feet of water. One acre-foot of water equals 43,560 cubic feet, or 325,851 gallons. An unofficial rule of California water politics holds that if you want to make an amount of water sound large, use gallons. If you'd like to make it sound small, set your units to acre-feet or even million acre-feet. (Alexis Madrigal)

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Dear AVA,

I held off on this until finishing number ten on the list. Here they are in the order in which I read them:

  1. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle
  2. Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
  3. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
  4. Journey to the End of the Night, Louis-Ferdinand Celine
  5. The Presence of the Past, Rupert Sheldrake
  6. The Pentagon of Power, Lewis Mumford
  7. Introduction to Metaphysics, Henri Bergson
  8. Blood Rites, Barbara Ehrenreich
  9. Wholeness and the Implicate Order, David Bohm
  10. Women, Charles Bukowski

My own book is due out in May on the Iff Books label. Maybe someday it'll make someone's top ten list.

Ted Dace, Manhattan, Kansas

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Hood sits at the northern tip of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a network of manmade islands and channels constructed on the ruins of the largest estuary from Patagonia to Alaska. Since the 1950s, the Delta has served as the great hydraulic tie between northern and southern California: a network of rivers, tributaries, and canals deliver runoff from the Sierra Mountain Range's snowpack to massive pumps at the southern end of the Delta. From there, the water travels through aqueducts to the great farms of the San Joaquin Valley and to the massive coastal cities. The Delta, then, is not only a 700,000-acre place where people live and work, but some of the most important plumbing in the world. Without this crucial nexus point, the current level of agricultural production in the southern San Joaquin Valley could not be sustained, and many cities, including the three largest on the West Coast—Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose—would have to come up with radical new water-supply solutions. (Alexis Madrigal)

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  1. How To Write A Sentence by Stanley Fish
  2. Thinking Animals by Paul Shepherd
  3. The Nature of Alexander by Mary Renault
  4. Life of Johnson  James Boswell
  5. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  6. Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
  7. Grendel by John Gardner
  8. Our Kind by Marvin Harris
  9. The Taylor of Panama by John Le Carré
  10. The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton

And, to start another series, I have a Top Ten for columnists:

  1. Alexander Cockburn, Nation/Village Voice/AVA
  2. Dave Berry, Miami Herald
  3. Mike Royko, Chicago Sun Times/Chicago Daily News/Chicago Tribune
  4. Molly Ivins, Dallas Times Herald/Fort Worth Star-Telegram
  5. Stanley Fish, New York Times
  6. Art Buchwald, Washington Post
  7. Patricia J. Williams, Nation
  8. Louis H. Lapham, Harper’s
  9. Col. David Hackworth, King Features Syndicate
  10. Hunter S. Thompson, Rolling Stone

And Ten Top Short Stories

  1. “A Passion in The Desert” by Honoré de Balzac
  2. “Walking Out” by David Quammen
  3. “Wise Blood” by Flannery O’Connor
  4. “The Bear” by William Faulkner
  5. “Micromegas” by Voltaire
  6. “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane
  7. “To Build A Fire” by Jack London
  8. “My Old Man” by Ernest Hemingway
  9. “More Pricks Than Kicks” by Samuel Beckett
  10. “The Fourth Alarm” by John Cheever

— Bruce McEwen

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by Kym Kemp

Are marijuana growers going to destroy Humboldt’s waterways and hillsides?

A forum this coming Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Mateel Community Center in Redway will bring a variety of speakers to address both the damage to the environment occurring because of the marijuana industry and how to change growing practices for the better.

Kathleen Bryson, Humboldt County Defense Attorney and organizer of the Environmental Cannabis Forum, said that in the past she has been “on the fence regarding cannabis legalization.”  She was concerned that Humboldt’s economy would be badly affected by a move away from the black market. However, she says now, “protecting our environment comes before economy. Without drinkable water, clean air, and healthy wildlife, there is no economy worth having here in rural Humboldt…and you cannot regulate something that is illegal and underground.”

Speakers (see  information below) from a variety of professions will address the issues. The range is broad—from attorney, Paul Hagen, to Emerald Cup Founder, Tim Blake.

Scott Greacen from Friends of the Eel River and Gary Graham Hughes from EPIC will discuss what has happened to the local ecosystem and what are some of the solutions to the current situation.

Paul Hagen will talk legal issues.

Tony Silvaggio, a sociologist at HSU and member of the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research, will reveal some of the information that the Institute has gathered.

Tim Blake will address what has to be done to ensure that the environmental issues are an important part of the retail market.

I’ll will also be there talking about the media’s portrayal of growers and the environment.

There will be plenty of time for questions from the audience.

“This is an “Environmental Cannabis Forum” NOT “Environment and Cannabis” Forum,” Bryson stressed. “I know that is a small point, but I want us to use the right words that state the vision. The two are not separate but in harmony…. or should be.  We need to make that happen.”

More Information:

The Environmental Cannabis Forum

Saturday, March 8, 2014,

11am to 3pm at the Mateel Community Center, Redway, CA Generously sponsored by the Mateel


  • Scott Greacen, Director of Friends of the Eel River
  • Kym Kemp, Humboldt County Reporter, specializing in Cannabis Issues
  • Paul Hagen, Environmental Attorney & Former Environmental Prosecutor
  • Gary Graham Hughes, Executive Director, EPIC
  • Tony Silvaggio, Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research
  • Tim Blake, Owner/Founder of the Emerald Cup

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ON FEBRUARY 27, 2014 at about 10:45pm Deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office contacted Gerardo Medina, 42, of Redwood Valley walking on School Way at the intersection of East Road in Redwood Valley, California.  Deputies asked Medina if he had any weapons and he said he had two throwing knives in his pants pocket. Deputies conducted a consent search of Medina and located two fixed blade throwing dirk/dagger weapons in his pants pocket.  Deputies subsequently arrested Medina for possession of the concealed dirk/dagger weapons. Medina was transported to the Mendocino County Jail and incarcerated on the listed charge to be held in lieu of $15,000 bail. (Sheriff’s Press Release)

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I miss thunderstorms. Growing up in Alabama it would be a hot, sticky day where the air was lead and you felt that if you didn't move you'd use up all the oxygen around you. My grandmother called them “lazy fly” days because it was too awful for even the flies. Then a black line of clouds would come marching east, towering anvils of grey and black, with a solid sheet of rain under them. You'd see distant flashes and the peal of distant thunder. All of a sudden the wind would pick up and the temperature would drop like a rock, and you were shivering in what little clothes you had. Then, like the wrath of an angry god, the storm was on you and the world vanished in rain, lightning and thunder. The storms never lasted long, and soon enough the heat would be back, but those awesome displays are etched in my mind.

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AUTHORITIES are investigating an explosion and fire at a home where they found a concentrated cannabis manufacturing lab Saturday night, according to the Willits Police Department.  After the fire was out, firefighters found “items consistent with a concentrated cannabis manufacturing lab,” according to a Monday statement from the WPD. The department asked for help from the Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force, and, in a joint investigation with LLFD Chief Magann and MMCTF agents, “determined there was evidence of a clandestine lab” at the home. While at the scene, police received a call from Howard Memorial Hospital reporting a burn victim had arrived at the emergency room. Police responded to the hospital and spoke with David Madrigal, 38, who lived at the Holly Street home where the explosion and fire had taken place. Madrigal was flown by Life Flight to a burn center with severe injuries, according to the WPD. The investigation continues, and anyone with information about the incident is urged to call the WPD at 459-6122. According to Police Chief Jerry Gonzalez, the home was “gutted” and is unlivable. No further information about Madrigal's condition or the investigation was available by noon Monday.

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by James Kunstler

So, now we are threatening to start World War Three because Russia is trying to control the chaos in a failed state on its border — a state that our own government spooks provoked into failure? The last time I checked, there was a list of countries that the USA had sent troops, armed ships, and aircraft into recently, and for reasons similar to Russia’s in Crimea: the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, none of them even anywhere close to American soil. I don’t remember Russia threatening confrontations with the USA over these adventures.

The phones at the White House and the congressional offices ought to be ringing off the hook with angry US citizens objecting to the posturing of our elected officials. There ought to be crowds with bobbing placards in Farragut Square reminding the occupant of 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue how ridiculous this makes us look.

The saber-rattlers at The New York Times were sounding like the promoters of a World Wrestling Federation stunt Monday morning when they said in a Page One story:

“The Russian occupation of Crimea has challenged Mr. Obama as has no other international crisis, and at its heart, the advice seemed to pose the same question: Is Mr. Obama tough enough to take on the former K.G.B. colonel in the Kremlin?”

Are they out of their chicken-hawk minds over there? It sounds like a ploy out of the old Eric Berne playbook: Let’s You and Him Fight. What the USA and its European factotums ought to do is mind their own business and stop issuing idle threats. They set the scene for the Ukrainian melt-down by trying to tilt the government their way, financing a pro-Euroland revolt, only to see their sponsored proxy dissidents give way to a claque of armed neo-Nazis, whose first official act was to outlaw the use of the Russian language in a country with millions of long-established Russian-speakers. This is apart, of course, from the fact Ukraine had been until very recently a province of Russia’s former Soviet empire.

Secretary of State John Kerry — a haircut in search of a brain — is winging to Kiev tomorrow to pretend that the USA has a direct interest in what happens there. Since US behavior is so patently hypocritical, it raises the pretty basic question: what are our motives? I don’t think they amount to anything more than international grandstanding — based on the delusion that we have the power and the right to control everything on the planet, which is based, in turn, on our current mood of extreme insecurity as our own ongoing spate of bad choices sets the table for a banquet of consequences.

America can’t even manage its own affairs. We ignore our own gathering energy crisis, telling ourselves the fairy tale that shale oil will allow us to keep driving to WalMart forever. We paper over all of our financial degeneracy and wink at financial criminals. Our infrastructure is falling apart. We’re constructing an edifice of surveillance and social control that would make the late Dr. Joseph Goebbels turn green in his grave with envy while we squander our dwindling political capital on stupid gender confusion battles.

The Russians, on the other hand, have every right to protect their interests along their own border, to protect the persons and property of Russian-speaking Ukrainians who, not long ago, were citizens of a greater Russia, to discourage neo-Nazi activity in their back-yard, and most of all to try to stabilize a region that has little history and experience with independence. They also have to contend with the bankruptcy of Ukraine, which may be the principal cause of its current crack-up. Ukraine is deep in hock to Russia, but also to a network of Western banks, and it remains to be seen whether the failure of these linked obligations will lead to contagion throughout the global financial system. It only takes one additional falling snowflake to push a snow-field into criticality.

Welcome to the era of failed states. We’ve already seen plenty of action around the world and we’re going to see more as resource and capital scarcities drive down standards of living and lower the trust horizon. The world is not going in the direction that Tom Friedman and the globalists thought. Anything organized at the giant scale is now in trouble, nation-states in particular.  The USA is not immune to this trend, whatever we imagine about ourselves for now.

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People who think the common man is thick and a soft touch to boot might want to have a word with Bert Silva of Rio Dell. Silva worked for the Pacific Lumber Company for 31 years and spoke on behalf of the company on numerous occasions at various forums, meetings, and environmental protests surrounding the 1990 “Redwood Summer.”

The bankruptcy of PALCO and the sale of Headwaters cost Silva and many other timber workers their jobs. As part of the settlement and purchase agreement the state and federal governments awarded Humboldt County $18 million as compensation. In March of 2007 then-Rep. Virginia Strom-Martin and then-Gov. Gray Davis posed for a photo on the steps of the Humboldt County Courthouse, holding a giant check for $12 million. On the memo line it read: “For jobs and job retraining for displaced workers.”

That check offered ex-PALCO workers and their families a glimmer of hope, at least for a short time. Then it became a nightmare.

At the recommendation of Supervisors Bonnie Neely and John Woolley, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors adopted a Headwaters Fund Charter to outline its purpose and structure and to justify the emptiness of their impending actions. The money would be used to “support the growth of industry clusters; to increase the number of sustainable jobs that pay at or above the median income; and to enhance the quality of life for residents of Humboldt County through projects that promote healthy communities and protect and enhance the natural environment.”

In other words it was going into a private slush fund. This seemed to be a good all-purpose way for local representatives and moneyed nobility to tell PALCO workers and gyppo loggers, “We're taking your money. Deal with it or don't.”

Headwaters funds have since been spent on an upgrade at Buckhorn Summit on State Route 299, an expansion of air service from the Arcata-Eureka Airport to Los Angeles, and loans to various local businesses. $750,000 went to a Forestry Products Initiative aimed at convincing California residents to choose redwood over wood-plastic composite lumber when building decks. What about job retraining for displaced PALCO employees? Why, that money was being used to “offset job losses.”

Pretty slick, huh? Simply twist the facts. Break out the smoke and mirrors. Wall Street bigwigs and Washington spin-doctors have nothing on our Board of Supervisors.

“The Headwaters Fund was to retrain displaced timber workers and to offset the decrease in timber tax revenue,” said Silva. “Those who lost their jobs at PALCO never saw a dime of that money. The county pocketed the whole thing. When I called the courthouse and asked about it, I was told that the money was never earmarked for those purposes. I had a long talk with former Rep. Virginia Strom-Martin, who had authored the bill, and she too wondered why the workers never saw any of the money.”

Humboldt County Economic Development Coordinator Jacqueline Debets also told Silva that Headwaters money had never been reserved for jobs and job retraining. Evidently, there were more important places for it, like the Orick rodeo grounds restroom facility ($50,000), Internet access for the Hoopa Valley Tribe ($35,000), and septic improvement for Willow Creek ($35,000).

There is something a little sad, if not enormously disturbing about this picture. It's a story of responsibility shirked. And let's not stop there. Let's extrapolate a little further because if you look at this closely, it's a downright disgrace. The Headwaters Fund is not being used as intended. The money was set aside for displaced PALCO workers. Calling it a “grant fund” or a “community investment fund” is just so much manipulation and greasy double-speak on the part of the Board of Supervisors.

“County leadership knew there would be layoffs,” said Silva. “I lost my job and there was only $4,000 to retrain from the state. No money came from the Headwaters Fund.”

Silva knows that taking roundhouse swipes at local politicians is not the answer to the problem. But he would like to see the Headwaters Fund used for its intended purpose: To help laid off PALCO employees get back on their feet. “We aren't looking for a lump-sum payout or early retirement,” he explained. “We just want what was promised to us."

“In the end it was not only Hurwitz and the enviros who got what they wanted from the demise of PALCO,” Silva added. “It was our county government as well.”

--Tim Martin, Fortuna


  1. Harvey Reading March 4, 2014

    “An unofficial rule of California water politics holds that if you want to make an amount of water sound large, use gallons. If you’d like to make it sound small, set your units to acre-feet or even million acre-feet. (Alexis Madrigal)”

    And, if you’re the Department of Water Resources, tired of hearing people moan about having to subsidize the water delivered to agribusiness, then just change the numbers around, overnight, from 95 percent ag, 5 percent municipal and industrial, to roughly 50-50. What a con.

  2. Harvey Reading March 4, 2014

    “The phones at the White House and the congressional offices ought to be ringing off the hook with angry US citizens objecting to the posturing of our elected officials.”

    Totally correct, but USans these days are totally under control of the media, literally hypnotized by the double-talk, and eager to cheer for the killing machines that fly over “sporting events”, and their memories last for about three days … or until the next iphone comes out.

  3. Jim Armstrong March 4, 2014

    Possible AVA Goof of the Day; I welcome correction:

    Alexis Madrigal says “A fire hose delivers about 4.5 cubic feet per second.”

    At 7.48 gallons per cubic foot, this is 33.66 gallons per second or 2019 gallons per minute (gpm).

    Fire hoses vary from 1 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter and the rate of flow is dependent on the pressure supplied by a hydrant or pump and the length of the hose.

    Using several online calculators, I think a fair estimation of the flow through 100 feet of 2″ hose at 60 PSI is 300 gallons per minute.

    Even a bigger or shorter hose and more pressure would be unlikely to reach 2000 GPM

  4. mike curry March 6, 2014

    Dear Editor,

    Thank you for allowing us regular folk to read the free press mendo county today articles for awhile.

    I guess its a new format or perhaps a mistake for i see you need a subscription to do this. Well the nytimes, oak trib etc have lost my clicks. the sf chron tried it and it was a miserable fail. i wish you the best, for this former resident and current oaktown individual is gonna check back once and awhile.

    once again thank you for all your valuable reporting.

    kind regards,

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