University tree scientists had their worst fears come true when a nine-month study disclosed that Sudden Oak Death Syndrome, which had laid waste to more than a hundred thousand oak trees in California also could affect the California coastal redwood and Douglas fir trees.
How serious the potentially fatal threat was to the state’s famed groves of redwood trees remained to be seen after researchers announced that the disease had been found on the redwood saplings in Sonoma and Santa Cruz counties as well as on Douglas firs in Sonoma County.
The researchers said they were unsure whether the disease would prove fatal to the two species of evergreens as it had to multiple thousands of oaks, tan oaks and at least 14 other vulnerable species of trees along the California coast between Monterey County and the Oregon border since its discovery in 1995.
The work on repairs and reconstruction at Benbow Lake Dam was essentially done and the final inspection of the project was scheduled, according to Steve Horvitz, superintendent of the Eel River Sector of the State Department of Parks and Recreation.
Part of the work included the fabrication of steel plates to fit over the face of the dam to minimize damage to the concrete each year as the removable dam segments were put in place.
Lack of the dam prevented the lake from being in place for a number of special events, such as Shakespeare at Benbow Lake and the Summer Arts Festival as well as the customary activities at the Benbow Lake State Recreation Area, such as boating and swimming.
While no illness or other effects involving humans had been reported, the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services had advised recreational users of the South Fork Eel River to avoid contact with the blue-green algae prevalent in some parts of the river following the deaths of three dogs - two in Mendocino County and one in the area of Tooby Park near Garberville - that swam in the algae-ridden river pools.
The fast-acting neurotoxins released by the algae seemed to affect the animals’ nervous systems, causing convulsions and death within a short time. The temperature of the slow-moving or stagnant pools in the river appeared to contribute to the danger created by the algae.
For this reason, until temperatures dropped and rains started up again to increase the flow rate in the river and wash away the algae, pet owners were warned to leash their dogs and not allow them into the river at all, especially not to get a drink.
While there had been no documentation of human cases of West Nile Virus anywhere in California, Southern Humboldt residents were asked, along with those in other areas of the state, to become a part of an extensive monitoring effort for the virus by the California department of Health Services.
The public was asked to participate by reporting any crows, ravens, magpies and jays that had been dead for less than 24 hours.
”We are asking the public’s help because we want to use every available method to identify and act on the presence of this virus as soon as possible to protect the people of California,” said the State Health director.