- Courtesy Call
- Fall Poplars
- Fire Survivors
- Kressa Shepherd
- Ed Notes
- Destructive Fires
- Little Dog
- Utility Lines
- Philo Building
- Mailliard Appointment
- Public Opinion
- Don O'Lantern
- Boonville Building
- Make Amends
- Yesterday's Catch
- Terror Tales
- Everything Terrible
- CIA Campaigns
- Tunnels Confusion
- Library Events
SOME RESIDENTS IN THE FIRE ZONE are telling us that they’re unhappy with the notification language in the County’s “Right of Entry Agreement” form.
In the fine print it says, “Owner(s) will only be contacted to arrange for cleanup at the ‘Ash and Debris Cleanup’ phase (Step 4).” The three prior steps do not involve any notice which means that any government employee can “enter upon the Property, and all related appurtenances thereto, for the purpose of inspecting, testing materials, removing and clearing any or all wildfire-generated debris of whatever nature including but not limited to ash, vehicles, trailers, miscellaneous debris, construction debris, waste or other materials from the Property, subject to the terms and conditions set forth in this Permit, and to perform all incidents necessary thereto.”
SO NO NOTICE AT ALL for Steps 1 (hazardous material assessment) through 3? (The form does not even define steps 2 or 3.) Local citizens who have suffered the direct effects of the fires and have debris to be removed can’t even get a courtesy call that a government inspector is on the way or in the area prior to traipsing through their damaged or destroyed propery? Don’t these fire victims deserve a bit more courtesy than that?
MENDOCINO COUNTY'S MOST STUNNING MINI-VISTA — THE FALL POPLARS AT THE INDIAN CREEK BRIDGE, PHILO
MENDOCINO COUNTY’S DISASTER UNDER THE RADAR
by Peter Fimrite
Redwood Valley, Mendocino County — Like thousands of other North Bay fire victims, the traumatized residents of the bucolic Redwood Valley are sifting through rubble, negotiating with insurance agents and struggling to figure out how they are going to rebuild their fire-scarred lives.
The only difference is that the hellish inferno that rolled through their community two weeks ago went virtually unnoticed by a world mesmerized by the flaming disasters closer to San Francisco
The Redwood Valley Fire was not exactly ignored, but it was a side note during a historic week of calamity in Northern California — subordinate to the conflagrations that destroyed much of Santa Rosa and ripped through Wine Country towns in Napa and Sonoma counties.
But the aftermath is no less horrible for the 1,759 farmers, vineyard keepers and pot entrepreneurs who live in this rural community between Ukiah and Willits — a place isolated enough for stagecoach robber Black Bart to use as a hideout and, about a century later, for Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple cult to set up shop before moving on to bigger things.
The fire that swept through the community early in the morning on Oct. 9 killed eight people, blackened 36,523 acres and destroyed 545 buildings, about a quarter of the homes there, fire officials said. It was at least as damaging, per capita, as the cataclysmic blazes to the south.
“It’s probably the largest modern disaster here in Mendocino County,” said George Gonzalez, the battalion chief for the Mendocino unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “But nobody is paying attention.”
The inferno, which was first reported just after 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 8, started a little north of Highway 20 in the Potter Valley, an agricultural community east of Redwood Valley.
The flames, whipped into a fury by powerful winds gusting up to 80 mph, raced across pastures, through vineyards westward over a small mountain range and, within an hour, burned into the Redwood Valley.
Gonzalez said the flames were traveling 18 mph when they rolled over the mountain into town.
At about midnight, Chief Brendan Turner of the Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire Department gathered about 20 firefighters, most of them volunteers, and rushed to West and Tomki roads, where he described a hellacious scene. Flames were leaping across roads, from tree to tree and house to house in every direction, he said.
“I have never seen anything close to what happened that night,” Turner said this week. “It’s hard to wrap my head around what I saw, but basically we had fire on all sides of us. Every member of my department that responded feared for their safety.”
The fire blasted across the west side of town, trapping the residents on the 11000 block of West Road, and also shot northward through neighborhoods on Tomki Road.
By 1 a.m., the forested hills off West Road were a panorama of flame. It was about this time that Jon Shepherd, his wife, Sara, son, Kai, and 17-year-old daughter, Kressa, attempted to escape from their doomed home in a pickup truck and an SUV.
The only way out was down a steep, winding dirt lane through burning forest toward the paved section of West Road. Relatives said flames engulfed the vehicles about halfway down the mountain road, which was wide enough for a single vehicle, forcing the family to jump out and make a run for it.
Kai Shepherd, 14, a shy eighth-grader who loved the San Francisco Giants, was overcome by flames as he attempted to flee. He collapsed and died. Turner said firefighters found Kai’s father lying on the ground farther down the hill and transported him to a hospital.
Kai’s mother and sister were also overcome by the smoke and flames, but they were later saved by a neighbor who reportedly had locked himself in a metal trailer as the firestorm raged past.
Two neighbors down the road, Steve Stelter, 56, and Janet Costanzo, 71, were also killed when the fire blocked their escape. Stelter was found in a burned vehicle and Costanzo was found in the wreckage of their home.
The situation was no less horrific farther north on Tomki Road.
“This quickly changed from trying to fight the fire to rescue mode,” Turner said.
Firefighters began knocking on doors, yelling for people to get out, but they couldn’t reach everybody.
Art and Denise Barclay, who lived in the Mountain Meadow subdivision on Fisher Lake Drive, said a neighbor pounded on their door and woke them up. Denise got their 12-year-old grandson, their five dogs and three cats and drove away in the family SUV. Art, a 63-year-old deputy sheriff bailiff assigned to Mendocino County Superior Court, grabbed his uniform and two baskets of laundry and left in the family’s RV.
There were only two ways to escape — north on Tomki, which becomes a mountain road that crosses four creeks, or south into town. Most people, fearing entrapment in the hills, chose the southern route, which by this time was a death-defying ramble through the flames.
“It was like driving in a severe snowstorm, but instead of snow it was fire. You were just blinded,” said Denise Barclay. “I know this road — every pothole — so it was muscle memory. That’s how we got out.”
Their neighbors, Roy and Irma Bowman, who were 87 and 88, died in their home on Fisher Lake Drive.
All 44 homes in the subdivision were destroyed.
Dave Bills, 68, who lives about a quarter-mile away on Tomki Road, said he was awakened at about 1:25 a.m. by a neighbor. He had enough time to grab a wallet and run out the door with his wife, Doris, their 11-year-old daughter and pet poodle before their home exploded in flames.
“We got no warning,” Bills said. “By the time we got outside the trees were completely in flames. It was burning on both sides of the road, and we didn’t know where to go.”
Bills, whose blackened swimming pool is the only thing still recognizable about his home, said he feels horrible about not helping his 86-year-old neighbor, Margaret Stephenson, who died in her garage apparently while attempting to evacuate.
“I couldn’t get over there,” said Bills, a Vietnam War veteran who was hobbled and wearing a boot after surgery on his ankle. “I’m sitting there in flames. I had to make a decision. We were all in survival mode.”
If not for the heroic actions of several residents, many more lives would surely have been lost. David Kim, who lives in Redwood Valley and works for the Santa Rosa Fire Department, yelled and knocked on doors on Fisher Lake Road, waking several neighbors as the flames approached.
Kim, 45, said the fire was moving so fast that it turned from a distant glow in the hills one minute to flying embers on all sides the next.
“I told the neighbors, ‘There’s no packing, just get in the car and go,’” he said. “I started honking and yelling and other neighbors were alerting people. We got in a convoy, but by this time trees had already fallen across the road, so it was a slalom course through fire.”
Without much recognition from the outside, these stories of heroism and horror are being told in the local bars, restaurants and community halls, where residents have come together offering one another food, clothing, a spare bedroom and, most important, the comfort of a sympathetic ear.
The Barclays have already begun the process of rebuilding their lives after losing not just their home, but numerous cherished mementos — including her collectible glass dolls and his scrapbook detailing the jungle travails of his father during World War II.
“At this point you get beyond grieving, and you’ve got to move forward,” said Art Barclay, who plans to move his fire-scarred RV back to the property as soon as possible so he can monitor workers as they rebuild.
After a seven-hour search in the wreckage of his mother’s home, Ian Cuthbert found a gold ring that once belonged to his great-grandmother.
“It’s the only thing I found that she cares about,” he said the other day about his 72-year-old mother, Dee Cope, who escaped with only her driver’s license and a will. “I’m just trying to find anything that will make her happy.”
Since the fire, residents, social workers, firefighters and community leaders have been showing up daily at the Redwood Valley Grange hall for coffee, meals and informational meetings.
The fire “has brought our community together and reminded us what a fabulous community we are,” said Jini Reynolds, who is on the executive committee of the grange hall. “It’s like the sign I put outside says, ‘We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.’”
Yet there is an element of sorrow among the survivors. Jon Shepherd, 44, remains hospitalized with burns over 45 percent of his body. His wife, Sara, 40, and daughter, Kressa, whose legs had to be amputated below the knees, suffered burns over 60 percent of their bodies. They are all in stable condition, according to the family.
The Shepherds’ incinerated vehicles still sit in the roadway where they were abandoned. On an overlook near the spot where the Shepherds collapsed are two crosses and a bouquet of purple flowers in honor of Stelter and Costanzo.
Kim, the firefighter who helped so many of his neighbors, is homeless now, but he said he is haunted most by his failure to help the Bowmans, who lived next door.
“I thought everyone on the street was aware of the fire, but I should have gone back and made sure my friends next door had gotten out,” he said, his voice breaking as he nursed a cocktail at McCarty’s Bar, an informal evacuation center for the community. “That’s a huge regret.”
(courtesy San Francisco Chronicle)
MENDOCINO COUNTY GIRL, 17, DIES OF BURNS FROM REDWOOD VALLEY FIRE
Kressa Shepherd, a 17-year-old from Redwood Valley, died Sunday night at a Sacramento hospital three weeks after sustaining severe burns in the Redwood fire in Mendocino County...
RANDOM BLIPS from a failing mind. Walking the sepulchral morning streets of San Anselmo, which are sepulchral at all hours except for Mexicans at work during the day, two women walking fluffy little dogs in opposite directions, paused to exchange, I guess, dog notes. As I drew opposite, the dogs started to fight. I laughed. Both owners turned to glare at me, one saying loudly and pointedly, "You can see why she doesn't like men!"
* * *
MY GRANDDAUGHTER recently attended a birthday party where one of the little girls, a pre-school classmate, was dressed as a boy. The girl-boy's parents explained, with suspiciously needy alacrity to everyone and anyone, that their daughter's preference was male, hence her boy's outfit. A five-year-old has gender preferences?
* * *
JIM GIBBONS, who has written a heckuva interesting and fun book is, sometimes of Willits. Flashbacks: A Memoir delivers the goods, a series of real-life stories by, among his other gifts, a world class athlete, one of the fastest long distance runners among old guys that we have, or had until his knees finally gave out.
This is one back book cover blurb that really gives you a true hint what's to be found between the covers, and Mr. G. almost didn't get out from beneath the covers fast enough as a young man but went on to give us a fine memoir indeed: "To sum up my first week in California: I delivered drugs to an Oakland neighborhood in a black Cadillac; I walked over the Golden Gate Bridge without jumping off; I was seduced by astrology and put to sleep by a woman with, I found out later, a jealous, belligerent old man; I sailed out on the Bay for the first time; and stole a toilet from a famous musician. And that was just for starters!" I'm assuming this essential collection will be available at all our local bookstores, but if it isn't, and I hate to recommend Amazon, you can find it there.
* * *
WAY BACK, I talked the late Jim Clow, then manager of the County Fair in Boonville, into a Fair event I thought for sure I could win — a beer race. Run a 440, down a beer, run another 440, down another beer. Do it for two or three miles. So who shows up and smokes everyone? Gibbons, going away. Hell, some guy jumped out of the stands who was already drunk also beat me. And I don't know how many times Gibbons won the Boontling Classic. Other runners would groan at the mere sight of him. "Well, there goes my hope of winning my age group." Then his boys started showing up to local foot races with their old man and the Gibbons family would walk off with all the prizes.
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A FRIEND recommends "A Night at the Garden" as the scariest movie possible for Halloween, and adds that "Maudie" is also a good one.
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JUST SIGNED UP for Woodlands Wildlife, a newsletter I learned of from Ronnie James, the Mendo Coast's go-to wildlife person. Lots of interesting stuff in the first one I've received and, better yet, available for a modest donation of whatever you can afford. "100% of your donation will be used to purchase food and medical supplies for injured or orphaned wildlife or for educational purposes." Woodland Wildlife, Box 1336, Mendocino 95460.
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SPEAKING OF WILDLIFE, seems to me there's been an explosion of foxes lately. I see their scat everywhere, more than I remember seeing in past years. Caught a glimpse of one jumping off our office porch the other morning just after I'd fed Skrag, the cat that's adopted us. The fox had apparently chased Skrag off and helped itself. Had to re-feed the cat, who was insistently demanding more.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Having the right to bear arms tied to membership in a militia would solve a lot of problems. It would also be very constitutional. Militias would police their membership and take weapons away from the crazy and protect the right of their sane members to protect themselves.
In the coming troubles having gun ownership understood this way would also ease nicely into our new living arrangements when law and order break dawn and we return to times past such as in 1868 when the Reno gang met justice.
“Over the next two years, the Reno Gang pulled off three more train robberies, including one in Marshfield, Indiana said to have been worth $96,000, grabbing national headlines. The result was a groundswell of vigilante sentiment in the Indiana countryside, and in 1868 a train carrying three members of the Reno Gang was stopped by a mob of vigilantes as it passed, ironically but not unexpectedly through Seymour, Indiana. The men were hung on the spot, and buried in Seymour.”
Freedom has responsibilities.
WHY WERE CALIFORNIA’S WINE COUNTRY FIRES SO DESTRUCTIVE?
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Guy asked me if I was related to Spot from Dick and Jane readers. Nope, might have been great grandad, though. He was big in '48.”
Regarding “Burying power lines has high cost” (SF Chronicle, Oct. 22): It would take some very creative thinking and planning to solve the many problems associated with having above-ground power lines. Undergrounding seems inconceivable, according to the article, but it’s clear we need a better solution than doing nothing. If trees are the problem, why not remove any tree near a power line and compensate the affected property owner by offering free electricity for a set time period or solar panels for their home or business?
During the clearing process, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and the California Public Utilities Commission could work with cities and counties to install municipal optical fiber on the utility poles, virtually ensuring gigabit-speed Internet to every home, urban and rural, just like electricity and landline telephones.
This would also return to many homeowners some of the views blocked by taller trees that shouldn’t be there anyway. My neighbor just removed a dead tree leaning on a utility pole that had been blocking my view of Mount Tamalpais for 10 years.
TOMMY LEMONS AND SONS ARE TRANSFORMING THE PHILO BUILDING ONCE HOME TO THE MEMORABLE LIBBY'S RESTAURANT
YORKVILLE RANCHER LARRY MAILLIARD was expected to be appointed as a Community Services District Board member in lieu of an election by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Mailliard will take the seat now held by Kirk Wilder who says his hearing difficulties make it hard for him to continue.
KEEP IT IN THE LOCKER ROOM
I want to reply to Mr. Peter Lit’s letter. I think he was right on the money on several issues. Very well done. I disagree with him on a couple of counts. One, regarding President Trump, I don’t believe a word of it. I think President Trump is trying to drain the swamp, trying to get rid of a lot of things that are wrong. The liberals have had 24 years to get embedded in our society and political life and it will take a long time to get over it.
As far as the NFL people who are kneeling, I don’t think it’s right. I think those black people should understand that in the Civil War thousands of people died, including blacks and whites, to free them from slavery. My great-grandfather was shot through the belly in the Battle of Petersburg. These guys got millions of dollars; it doesn’t make sense not to stand up for the American flag. People who have different opinions than the traditional beliefs about our flag that we’ve worshiped for so long because it stands for our freedom can have their different opinions in the locker room. But when they come out in public they should stand up and honor the flag.
So I disagree with Peter’s opinion on that. Other than that he did a good job.
God bless Donald Trump.
FILM FESTIVAL IN BOONVILLE? (YUP. AT THE REVIVED LIVE OAK BUILDING)
I can't believe how fast this year has flown by. It seemed like just a couple of months ago I looked at the subscription date on my paper and it was almost a year off.
I was sorry to see the red stamp on my paper. I am grateful for your generosity. I look forward to it every week and all the guys from Mendo who I pass it off to enjoy it also.
I don't have any funny stories to tell and no shit to talk about anyone. I've made my peace and it takes too much energy and life is too short. At the end of the day as I lay in his tiny concrete cell I know I am responsible for my situation.
It took me a while to come to that conclusion. I had to run through the whole list and at the end of the list it was still just me. But if I could blame someone else I didn't have to look at me. I sure wish Sherri Scaggs would write me back. My name and number is the same. I have some amends to make.
Anyway, take care and if you extend your generosity for another few months I thank you in advance, not to mention the last four years.
Walter Miller AE5304
Box 3030, Susanville, CA 96127.
CATCH OF THE DAY, October 29, 2017
KEVIN BETT, Willits. Probation revocation.
SHAWN BIAS, Fort Bragg. Under influence, paraphernalia, resisting.
CHARLES LAMB, Ukiah. Parole violation.
JAMES MAKI, Ukiah. Criminal threats.
JOSHUA NELSON-DEAN, Ukiah. Parole violation, resisting.
MICHAEL PARKER, Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, probation revocation.
GABRIEL ROJAS, Ukiah. Concealed dirk-dagger, probation revocation.
MORE TALES OF TERROR OF OLDER BROTHERS FROM HELL
by H.P. Loverock
A Halloween Story
From time to time, nine-year old Lucky would babysit with his younger sister, six year Cherry. His parents would pay him the $10.00 they used to pay teenaged Connie or Arlene to watch the children when both children were small.
Usually Lucky babysat with Cherry on Friday nights when mother played Mahjong with her Mahjong group, and father played gin rummy with his men’s club. On this occasion, however, both parents were attending a Halloween Party on a Saturday afternoon.
Friday nights, to Cherry’s chagrin, Lucky watched horror movies on television hosted by the bizarre Zacherley. He watched the movies with the lights out while Cherry cowered on the sofa.
After the movie, Lucky would regale Cherry with stories about murderers that lurked in the neighborhood, preyed on little girls, and hid under their beds or in their closets or snuck down from the attic to get them.
Since there were no horror movies on television that Saturday afternoon, Lucky read stories to Cherry from his favorite book, The Graveyard Reader. He read a story about a woman whose husband had buried her alive; then, another about a grave robber who is thwarted by rats—and decides to pursue the rats by descending into the grave and crawling after them through their Labyrinthine tunnels.
When Cherry was on the brink of tears and threatened to tell mother and father that Lucky was terrorizing her, Lucky stopped the stories and proposed that he and Cherry go trick or treating. Cherry liked the idea.
Cherry dressed up in her Tinker-Bell costume and Lucky disguised himself as the murderer and cannibal Ed Gein and complemented his realistic costume with some gruesome props—plastic bloody body parts.
Cherry did not like Lucky’s costume.
Before the children left the house, Lucky called his friends Eddie, Ira, and Joey P. to inform them that Plan 9 was to be put in effect immediately.
After Lucky and Cherry had filled half their trick or treat bags by making the rounds in their own neighborhood, Lucky proposed crossing Rasputin Park to reach the wealthy neighborhood on the other side of the park. Cherry balked, but Lucky reassured her by promising to protect her.
As Lucky, Ira, Eddie, and Joey P. had planned, the children’s walk took them past Lake Lucrezia Borgia and the Lucrezia Borgia Boathouse. As they approached the boathouse, Lucky slowed down so that Cherry would approach the boathouse alone.
As Cherry approached the boathouse, three figures in black cloaks emerged from the darkness growling like the ghouls in The Night of The Living Dead. Cherry managed to emit a scream, turned, and scampered off in terror.
Lucky, watching the proceedings from behind a tree, collapsed in hysterical laughter.
Cherry was not in the house when Lucky got home. This did not worry Lucky. Perhaps she had gotten lost or fallen into the lake. Lucky called up Ira to congratulate him on the successful operation.
Ira was perplexed:
—Oh, we couldn’t get there. It seems there was a murder in the park last night so our parents wouldn’t let us go anywhere near the place.
Get Thee to A Nunnery
For several weeks, 9 year-old Lucky had been insinuating to his 6 year old sister that their parents were planning to send her to a convent.
The children were not Catholic, but Cherry didn’t know this.
Their family lived two blocks from The Tomás de Torquemada Parochial School, so the children often saw nuns on their way to and from their own school, The Terence Powderly Elementary School. Lucky cautioned Cherry not to let the nuns get too close lest they snatch her and take her away.
Cherry had begun to have nightmares about convents. Her dreams featured the gruesome details that Lucky had so vividly described in his lurid stories: daily whippings; moldy beds in dungeon-like rooms that were infested with rats and spiders the size of softballs; hard labor from dawn to dusk gathering firewood and chestnuts in a perpetually dark, cold forest supervised by burly nuns armed with thorny switches; one bowl of watery soup or gruel each day.
For years, Mother and Father had paid Lucky $10 to babysit with his younger sister. On Friday nights, Mother played Mahjong with her women’s group while Father smoked cigars, drank whisky, and played gin rummy with his men’s group. Lucky would watch horror movies with the lights out. Cherry would sit on the couch with her brother and try not to watch the movie nor hear her brother describe the grisly scenes of the movie.
One Friday, while the children were watching The Creature From The Black Lagoon, and while Lucky was explaining how baby creatures could creep up through the drain, grab little girls by their feet, and pull them from the bathtub and down the drain, the phone rang.
Cherry could only hear one part of the conversation, that of her brother Lucky:
—Who is this?
—Well you can’t have her, Sister Flanagan.
—No, our parents aren’t home. We’re alone.
—I won’t let you in.
Cherry whimpered. Lucky said firmly,
—Don’t worry. I will not let them take you.
Cherry’s anxiety augmented exponentially ten minutes later when the doorbell rang. Lucky told her to hide under her bed and not make a sound.
Cherry heard Lucky go down the front stairs to the interior front door. She heard him shouting and what sounded like someone trying to force open the door.
She heard Lucky yell, “Oh, no!” and the door being forced open.
Someone was clomping up the front steps.
Cherry stifled a whimper, curled up into a ball beneath the bed in her darkened room, and waited.
MATTHEW HOH, TOMORROW, OCTOBER 30, AT KMEC RADIO
From Matt Hoh's blog, 27 Oct. 2017 (Matt's phone: 703-999-8075)
Earlier this week the NY Times had this story on the expansion of CIA paramilitary teams in Afghanistan. This is my response, in interviews with KPFK and KPFA, and published in CounterPunch and AntiWar.com.
“These CIA teams in Afghanistan are not just reminiscent of the Operation Phoenix program in Vietnam, the death squads of Central America and the Shia torture and murder militias of Baghdad, they are the direct descendants of them. The CIA is continuing a long tradition of utilizing savage violence by indigenous government forces, in this case along sectarian/ethnic lines, in an attempt to demoralize and ultimately defeat local populations.
The results will assuredly be the same: war crimes, mass murder, torture and the terrorization of entire communities of men, women and children in their own homes. This will lead to more support for the Taliban and a deepening of the war in Afghanistan. The CIA should ask itself, where has this worked before?
This escalation by the CIA in Afghanistan fits into the broader war campaign of the United States in the Muslim world as the United States, despite its protestations of wanting negotiations and ultimately peace, turns areas not under the control of its proxy government into large swathes of free fire zones as it punishes and attempts to subjugate populations not under its control.
Iraq’s campaign in the Euphrates and Tigris River valleys, the Kurdish campaign in western Syria and the Saudi and UAE campaign against the Houtis in Yemen have been devastating and vicious assaults on populations, critical infrastructure and housing, that coupled with nighttime commando raids that terrorize entire villages and neighborhoods, look not to bring a political settlement, reconciliation or peace, but rather subjugate, along ethnic and sectarian lines, entire population groups to achieve American political desires in the Muslim world.
This CIA program of using Afghan militias to conduct commando raids, the vast majority of which will be used against civilians despite what the CIA states, falls in line with American plans to escalate the use of air and artillery strikes against the Afghan people in Taliban-held areas, almost all of whom are Pashtuns.
Again, the purpose of this campaign is not to achieve a political settlement or reconciliation, but to brutally subjugate and punish the people, mostly rural Pashtuns, who support the Taliban and will not give in to the corrupt American run government in Kabul.”
DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR ISSUES CONFLICTING STATEMENTS ON SUPPORT FOR DELTA TUNNELS
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday, October 25 was a very confusing day in California water history. After a Trump administration official first said the administration didn’t support Governor Jerry Brown’s controversial Delta Tunnels project, he later that day said the Department of Interior would continue supporting the project but wouldn’t provide funding for it.
Interior deputy communications director Russell Newell told Ellen Knickmeyer of the Associated Press that “the Trump administration did not fund the project and chose to not move forward” with the project to build two giant tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
When asked if this meant that the Trump administration opposed the California WaterFix project, Newell said, “Yes.”
The Trump administration has been cooperating with the Brown administration on the planning for the project to date, but this is the first time that the Trump administration has taken an official position on the California WaterFix. The federal fishery agencies recently approved the environmental documents for the project, but without federal support, this approval would have likely been moot.
In a tweet, Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) a vocal critic of the project, responded, “Bombshell blow to Delta Tunnels/Water Fix: Trump admin officially opposes. Time 4 long-needed reality check on this?”
Then on Wednesday afternoon, Newell issued a statement clarifying Interior’s position on the Delta Tunnels, backing off from the position taken earlier, and stating that the agency “does not expect to participate in the construction or funding of the CA WaterFix.”
“While the Department of the Interior shares the goals of the state of California to deliver water with more certainty, eliminating risks to the California water supply, and improving the environment, at this time, the Department under the current state proposal does not expect to participate in the construction or funding of the CA WaterFix. The Department and Reclamation will continue to work with the state and stakeholders as the project is further developed,” the department said.
The two contradictory statements by the Trump administration come in response to the previous day’s request by Huffman and five other House Democrats for a new federal investigation of the funding for Brown’s proposed tunnels project. That request fellows the Inspector General’s audit of funding for the project.
“The $84 million spent in taxpayers’ money without disclosure to Congress and kept hidden from the public were decisions driven and executed by the Obama Administration and that team,” Newell told AP.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke “believes that using tax dollars wisely and ethically is a big responsibility and is at the heart of good government,” according to AP.
Led by Representatives Huffman and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), the Natural Resources Committee’s Ranking Member, the six House Democrats called on the GAO to open a “new investigation into the misuse of taxpayer funds” by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation. California Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), and Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) also signed the letter sent to the Comptroller General of the United States, Gene L. Dodaro.
“In its September audit, the Interior Department’s Inspector General found that the Bureau of Reclamation improperly subsidized the planning process for the California WaterFix project, also known as the ‘Delta Tunnels,’” according to a statement from Huffman’s Office. “The audit identified at least $84 million in taypayer funds spent without disclosure to Congress as required by law, and kept hidden from other water users, stakeholders, and the public.”
You can read the full piece on the Representatives’ call for a probe here: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/10/24/1709544/-Breaking-House-Democrats-seek-GAO-probe-into-federal-scheme-to-fund-Delta-Tunnels
The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) responded to my request for a comment on the AP revelations with more questions about the Interior spokesman’s comment.
“Thanks for reaching out,” said Lisa Mien-Mager, CNRA spokesperson. “Have you seen an actual statement from Interior on this, or are you working off the AP’s characterization of a comment provided to them? Have you had a chance to clarify with Interior whether the comment provided to AP was intended to be an announcement of a new, sweeping policy position on this project?”
After hearing of Interior’s initial statement opposing the project, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta said “the Trump administration’s opposition to CA WaterFix is another nail in the coffin for the project.”
“Water exporters have only pulled together about $6 billion in funding, and even a single 6,000 cfs tunnel would start at $10-11 billion. Water exporters would need either federal funding or access to WIFIA loans to build the project. In addition, it is highly unlikely that federal agencies will now sign off on the Record of Decision required to begin construction for the project,” she explained.
“It is time for Governor Brown to get serious about solving California’s water problems with 21st century solutions. It is time for him to work with all people across the state to promote and create programs of regional self-sufficiency and to repair existing infrastructure,” Barrigan-Parrilla concluded.
After reading the statement from Interior conflicting with the earlier statement, Barrigan-Parrilla said in a tweet, “We aren't surprised that @Interior would give conflicting statements. Basically sums up @CAWaterFix.”
A broad coalition of fishing groups, conservation organizations, Indian Tribes, family farmers, environmental justice groups, Southern California ratepayers, scientists, and elected officials opposes the Delta Tunnels proposal. They say the California WaterFix would hasten the extinction of Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.
The conflicting statements coming from the Department of Interior only demonstrate how the Delta Tunnels proposal is a toxic project that virtually nobody — other than the water agencies and corporate agribusiness interests promoting it — want to be associated with.
Brown Administration Plans to Resurrect California WaterFix as Single Tunnel
As reported in recent news articles, the Brown Administration intends to resurrect CA WaterFix as a single tunnel as part of the State Water Project, with discussions having begun at Kern County Water District on October 26, according to a news release from Restore the Delta (RTD).
“Metropolitan Water District's General Manager Jeff Kightlinger stated at the September 26th Metropolitan Board Workshop on the tunnels that a single tunnel that could extract 6,000 cfs of Sacramento River flow could work and would cost $10-11 billion,” RTD said.
Environmental and water rights attorney with LAND (Local Agencies of the North Delta), Osha Meserve, finds that a single tunnel project, while only minimally reducing the construction footprint, could actually be worse for fisheries, water quality, and local water supplies because water extraction would be concentrated at fewer specific sites. Ms. Meserve states:
"Fewer diversions would intensify impacts, making any new diversions in the north Delta even more like the diversions in the south Delta in terms of production of reverse water flows and other localized impacts on water quality and water levels. Plus, a fewer number of intakes would further endanger fish attempting to migrate past the proposed new intakes, while siphoning off critical Sacramento River freshwater flows into the Delta.”
"Frankly, there is no ‘one tunnel’ alternative in the EIR/S or anywhere in the project’s permitting documents, undermining the viability of the single tunnel idea. In 2013, a phased 'emergency build' alternative was explored, where a 3,000 cfs tunnel was built first, and the 6,000 cfs conveyance capacity is added later. Documents associated with discussion of an emergency build alternative do not explain the details of the second tunnel, or whether there would ultimately be three tunnels under the plan.
"Presently, there are no approvals or engineering plans for a single tunnel project. None of the permits received or applied for to start construction describe a single tunnel option. In addition to the construction differences, the intensified effects of operation of fewer intakes serving a single tunnel would need to be reanalyzed at the State Water Resources Control Board and elsewhere."
Adoption Awareness Month Storytime
Thursday, November 9th 3:30pm-4:30pm
On Thursday, November 9th at 3:30p.m., Mendocino County Library, Ukiah Branch is hosting a special storytime in honor of Adoption Awareness Month! All families are invited to an hour of stories, crafting and a light snack celebrating adoption and honoring adoptive families. Information will also be available for anyone seeking support with adoption-related questions or services. This free, all-ages event is in collaboration with and sponsored by Lilliput Families, California Department of Social Services, and Ukiah Valley Friends of the Library.
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National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo):
Kick-Off Party: Friday, Oct. 27th 5-7pm
Come Write In: Saturdays 12-5 (except 11/11)
During the month of November, the Mendocino County Library, Ukiah Branch is hosting programs for teens and adults for National Novel Writing Month.
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a nonprofit event that encourages kids, teens & and adults to tackle the challenge of writing a novel in November. Launched in 1999, NaNoWriMo inspires its 300,000+ participants with pep talks, a huge and supportive online community, and a host of web-based writing tools.
Get a head start & join us at the Ukiah Branch Library to kick-off NaNoWriMo on Friday, Oct. 27th from 5-7 pm. Get motivated with plot buddies, brainstorming, creative prompts and word sprint challenges along with door prizes.
Every Saturday in November from 12-5 (except 11/11), come write in to our meeting space to write, reflect, engage with other writers in the community, and enjoy FREE COFFEE to stir your creative juices.
If you are interested in the program or want to find out more about NaNoWriMo, please contact Melissa at the Ukiah Library: 467-6434 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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First Friday Art Walk
On Friday, November 3rd, from 5-7:30 pm, Mendocino County Library, Ukiah Branch is hosting a First Friday Art Walk.
There will be photography by David Weitzman, live music by Stephen Winkle, delicious nibbles, felt leaf barrette crafting, and a book sale by the Ukiah Valley Friends of the Library.
This event is sponsored by the Ukiah Valley Friends of the Library, free of charge and open to all.