2012 Year in Review Continued


Benbow Lake and Standish-Hickey SRAs were able to remain open in spite of being on the state's closure list. Benbow Hotel and Resort and other local donors helped to keep Benbow open for day use all season. Standish-Hickey re-opened in July, first for hike and bike camping only, and later for both day use and auto campers, thanks to efforts of local volunteers and the Mendocino Area Parks Association.

Southern Humboldt Unified School District trustees hired Catherine Scott, formerly superintendent of the Leggett Valley School District, as the new superintendent for SHUSD.

About two-dozen community members attended the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District workshop in Garberville, brainstorming ways to strengthen the district's strategic plan.

Garberville Sanitary District approved annexation of the entire Southern Humboldt Community Park with several conditions, including a "service prohibition zone overlay" that would restrict water service to only the existing buildings.

The county board of supervisors began deliberations on the General Plan Update, but almost immediately bogged down because of public demand to lengthen the "short list" of controversial issues, which was based on the planning commission's recommendations.

The 28th annual Reggae on the River was held a little earlier than usual, on July 21-22. Reggae, roots, and world music fans enjoyed two days of entertainment and inspiration from an international array of performers. This was possibly the last ROTR at Benbow Lake. As the festival continues to grow, the Mateel Community Center board was looking into returning to their original site at French's Camp.


Sheriff's deputy Bryan Waxler was recommended for a life-saving award after he pulled an apparently deranged woman to safety when her foot slipped as she was walking on the railing of the Briceland Road bridge over the South Fork Eel River. Waxler tried to talk the woman down as he approached her, saw her foot slip, and was able to grab her wrist and pull her to safety in the nick of time.

A "brainstorm barbecue" at KMUD Radio's building in Redway raised public awareness and $9,000 in donations to meet an unexpected cash shortage stemming from debt service. Additionally, within days of the announcement, KMUD listeners responded to the crisis with over $20,000 in donations that helped to keep the station running until the crisis could be resolved.

Property owners from the Seely Creek area met with Humboldt County planning staff to discuss the legal status of their parcels. Earlier in the month these landowners had received letters informing them of the possibility that their parcels may not have been correctly created under the California Subdivision Map Act. Failure to fix the problem would make it impossible to obtain a building permit, although most of the parcels were developed by the owners decades ago.

Dr. Marcin Matuszkiewics officially joined the SHCHD medical staff and was welcomed with wine, food, and music at a Chamber of Commerce mixer in the hospital courtyard. Six people, including two incumbents, filed as candidates for three governing board seats in the November election.

At a workshop in Miranda, Caltrans announced it was scaling back its unpopular project to rebuild and widen four historic bridges on the Avenue of the Giants. Instead the agency planned to replace only unsafe railings and to slightly widen the approaches to the bridges.

A local California Department of Fish and Game environmental specialist addressed the board of supervisors about the impacts of large "quasi-legal" medical marijuana grows on streams and wildlife, including pollution, water diversion, and erosion and sedimentation. He recommended outreach to educate growers on better methods, as well as meaningful penalties to discourage harmful practices.


Residents of two out of four SoHum volunteer fire departments approved the formation of fire protection districts and the special parcel tax needed to support them. Briceland and Bridgeville voters overwhelmingly supported their measures, by 85 and 79 percent respectively. Palo Verde's measure was soundly defeated, with less than 15 percent support, while Fruitland Ridge fell short of the two-thirds majority needed by only a couple of votes.

Coincidentally, the state began implementing a new $150 fire fee on all residents within Cal Fire's State Responsibility Area, which includes almost all of SoHum, even towns and rural areas with their own FPDs and volunteer fire departments. The Humboldt Taxpayers League joined other state taxpayer organizations in charging that this is a tax, not a fee, and therefore requires approval by two-thirds of the voters.

GSD faced a long list of issues at its September board meeting, beginning with a report on the failure of a water intake pump that required water to be trucked in from Redway and Benbow to serve Garberville until the pump could be replaced. Additionally, a local resident filed a complaint with the State Water Resources board, alleging that GSD was violating its permit by selling water for use outside its legal "place of use." The complaint specifically targeted bulk water sales as well as system connections outside its current boundaries.

The GSD board approved a staff proposal for reorganization as a management team rather than seeking a replacement for longtime general manager Mark Bryant, who retired due to health problems. Two members of the board, chair Herb Schwartz and Peter Connolly, resigned for unrelated reasons, leaving two of the five seats open.

County supervisors voted 4-1 to support a state ballot measure calling for labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMO).

SHUSD superintendent of schools Catherine Scott announced that enrollment for the new school year was higher than anticipated. The district's bond consultant presented the board with statistics on bond sales approved by voters in June 2010. Bonds representing about half of the $25.2 million total had been sold.


Violent incidents early in October increased tension between town and transients. A local sheriff's deputy was injured while struggling to subdue the alleged instigator of a fight at the Jim DeMulling Veterans Park in Garberville. The suspect admitted to being under the influence of LSD.

A few days later a transient was shot on Redwood Drive just north of Redway. He died in the hospital a few weeks later. The suspect, another transient, was arrested, charged with attempted murder, and his bail was set at $500,000.

Soon afterward, sheriff's deputies with the help of California Highway Patrol officers conducted a sweep of homeless camps around Redway and Garberville after visiting the camps to warn the residents. A 10-yard dump truck was filled was material removed from the camps. Local advocates for the homeless observed and protested the proceedings.

The first harvest of nearly 4,000 board feet of Douglas fir from the Redwood Forest Foundation, Inc.'s Usal Redwood Forest was delivered to Schmidbauer Lumber of Eureka. RFFI purchased the 50,000-acre forest with an environmental loan from Bank of America. The organization is dedicated to managing it as a model sustainable timber operation.

All four bids received for GSD's drinking water treatment plant project were significantly higher than engineer's estimates. GSD had been promised a $5.4 million grant-loan package from the California Department of Public Health, which also had to cover the $850,000 already spent on design, engineering, and permitting costs. The bids ranged from $5.25 million to $6.8 million.

Over $4 million in buds were seized by the county sheriff's department on Sunset Ridge Road in Blocksburg. The 45-acre property was the site of a large growing and processing operation including greenhouses, trimming equipment, drying racks, and weapons.

Thanks to the generous support of its listeners as well as finding a buyer for the note on property left by the late Maryanne Mapes-Boucher, KMUD pulled out of its financial crisis. With upgrades to several signals throughout the listening area, KMUD raised the goal for its fall pledge drive to $135,000 to support ongoing operations and projects.


A family living along the South Fork Eel in northern Mendocino County discovered human remains buried in the riverbank near their home. The family had seen a shoe on the bank earlier but dismissed it as "river trash" and even made jokes about there being a body attached. Then a second shoe was discovered - containing human foot bones. Mendocino County sheriff's deputies, awaiting forensic test results, stated that the body may have been buried several decades ago.

The Eel River Recovery Project, a group of local volunteers organized by fisheries biologist Pat Higgins, counted many thousands of Chinook salmon migrating upriver, during a series of dives in late October and early November. While ERRP divers examined the main stem Eel near Fortuna, another volunteer team sponsored by the Humboldt Redwoods Company, counted fish farther up the river near Scotia and Holmes Flat. At the latter site, in a 37-foot deep pool, they swam into a "solid wall of fish," and counted 2500 adult Chinook and 500 jacks.

Incumbent Corinne Stromstad and candidate David Ordonez won election to the two open four-year seats on the SHCHD governing board, while Judi Gonzales unseated Clif Anderson, who was appointed to the board when Mary Krissie Branzei resigned. Gonzales will serve the remaining two years of Branzei's original term.

The remaining three members of the GSD board looked at alternative ways to save enough money on the proposed new drinking water treatment plant so that the plant could be built with the funding available. GSD also received a cease and desist order from the State Water Resources Board that will require them to stop selling water to bulk water suppliers except for documented drinking water and sanitation emergencies.

Piercy residents and business owners at Cooks Valley aired their concerns about Reggae on the River's proposed return to French's Camp at a meeting sponsored by the Mateel Community Center. Concerns included potential pollution from parking vehicles on the river bar and loss of income due to the inability of regular tourists to access Cooks Valley businesses during the festival.

An ad hoc group comprised of members of nearly a dozen organizations who were often at odds over the General Plan Update announced their intention to provide the board of supervisors with some guidance. The working group planned to develop a list of their points of agreement and disagreement, as well as recommendations for clarification and changes. After much discussion, the board agreed to hold off straw votes on any part of the plan until the group presented them with the results of its work on the Circulation Element, which sets policies for roads and transportation infrastructure in the unincorporated parts of the county.


California no longer leads the way toward legalizing marijuana since the states of Washington and Colorado voters passed initiatives to make recreational as well as medical marijuana legal in November. Both states plan to restrict pot use to adults, and the new legislation calls for regulation and taxation. Colorado voters also approved industrial hemp as a farm crop.

In the meantime, Mendocino County's progressive medical marijuana ordinance was threatened by the federal government, which subpoenaed county records of inspections and permits to grow medical pot. The U.S. attorney warned Mendocino it might file an injunction and seek legal actions against county officials. In response, the county had already stopped issuing permits for collectives to grow pot for their members, although individual patients were still allowed to grow plants for personal use if they purchased a $25 compliance zip-tie for each plant.

SHUSD responded to media coverage critical of school bond programs, specifically high interest long-term CABs (capital appreciation bonds). Although a portion of the local school district's bond issue is in CABs, the majority is in standard bonds at a much lower interest rate. Overall, SHUSD will pay an average of $1.29 for each $1 of money borrowed by issuing bonds.

SHUSD also lost a long-time trustee, Susan Thompson, who retired from the board in December.

SHCHD board chair Nancy Wilson retired after over 20 years on the healthcare district's governing board. She was honored for her dedication to rural health care by fellow board members, community members, and representatives of state legislators at a special meeting on Dec. 6. Newly-elected board members Judi Gonzales and David Ordonez and re-elected board member Corinne Stromstad were sworn in at that meeting.

GSD announced it would stop selling water to bulk water suppliers in response to a cease-and-desist order from the State Water Resources Board.

The Southern Humboldt Community Park revealed revisions to its re-zoning and development plan. The multi-family housing project was eliminated because of the unsuitability of the proposed site, while the sports complex site was moved to the west side of the park and somewhat scaled down. Plans to develop a site for large events in the southern "Community Commons" area remained.

The Mateel Community Center continued to look at mitigations for the traffic plan for Reggae on the River, slated to return to its original site at French's Camp in 2013. The California Highway Patrol nixed the idea of creating a crosswalk across the two lanes of Highway 101 and limited left-hand turns. Local business owners wanted these measures to give tourists more access to their businesses during the festival, but the CHP felt such measures would be unsafe.

photo captions:

1. Southern Humboldt Unified School District Superintendent Catherine Scott

2. Dr. Marcin Matuszkiewicz with his wife, Runfang, and daughter, Audrey.

3. Garberville Deputy Al Stockton with injuries sustained during a fight across the street from the Jim Demulling Veterans Park.

4. These Pro Wings shoes were attached to the remains found along the river in northern Mendocino County.

5. This drawing shows the revised plans for the Southern Humboldt Community Park with sports fields down near the Kimtu Road entrance.