Daily Archives: January 6, 2013

History of an Angry River

From the 1.2.13 issue


By Benjamin Fordham

Special To The Press


On a rainy day in December 1849, while preparing for a river crossing, Josiah Gregg’s crew decided they’d had enough. They were tired of waiting for him to take yet another scientific measurement on a trip that had seen them face starvation and bear attacks. They were leaving, with or without him, and he was forced to scoop up his instruments and wade out to the canoe.

He was mad. So mad that when they got to the other side of the river, he unleashed a tirade that included specific, detailed, and well thought-out personal attacks against the other members of his party.

They made a gesture to throw Gregg into the rain-swollen river, he apologized, and before they continued on they jokingly dubbed it the ‘mad river,’ in honor of his temper-tantrum. That, I kid you not, is how the Mad River got its name.

The eight-man travel party included David Buck (namesake of the former town of Bucksport), a member of the Van Duzen family, and a young LK Wood, who years later wrote a detailed account of their trek. The group had set out from Rich’s Bar on November 5th, against the advice of local Native Americans. For a month they traveled over steep, snow-covered mountains and through dense redwood forests, before finally reaching the Pacific near the Little River. Gregg’s goal of establishing a local sea-port large enough to service the lucrative timber and gold-mining sectors was realized soon after.

According to the US Forest Service, the first human influence on the Mad River watershed was between 5-10,000 years ago. Native tribes in the area prior to European settlement consisted of the Wiyot, the Whilkut, the Nongatl, and the Lassik. They were hunter-gatherers who took full advantage of the area’s rich resources. The Forest Service states that, “the population density within the North Coast Ranges during the ethnographic period equaled, or in some cases surpassed, the population density of agricultural societies in other parts of aboriginal North America.”

By the early 1800’s the bay had been discovered by ship, and by the 1850’s the Gold Rush had begun in earnest. By 1851 the settlements of Union Town (present-day Arcata), Eureka, and Trinidad had been established to service the needs of the prospectors. Lumber companies soon set about the process of logging the massive old-growth forests that blanketed the area.

In 1854 the Humboldt Bay and Mad River Canal Company built a canal connecting the river and the bay for the purpose of floating logs from upstream to mills on the bay. That same year the Union Warf and Plank Walk Company constructed a large raised railway that extended into the bay, allowing Union Town access to its deeper waters.

As is the history with the rest of the continent, the local tribes faced extermination and the loss of their culture at the hands of European settlers.

According to a 2010 report by Stillwater Sciences, “the US Army attempted to rid Humboldt County of its native populations through the mid-1800’s, and the Mad River became a staging ground for this effort.”

By the 1870’s the advent of the steam engine brought another influx of settlers. The railroad allowed for bigger and bigger logs to be harvested and processed. Local European residents were also well aware of the impact the unregulated development was having on the watershed. By 1910 fishing on the Mad River had been restricted to sport fishermen.

Another important feature of Union Town was the founding of a teacher’s college. In 1913 the Humboldt County Normal School was formally designated by then-Governor Hiram Johnson. The University has been central in shaping the local population and economy ever since. They have also played a major role in conservation efforts.

In many ways the history of the Mad River is the history of Humboldt County. It has seen sdome of its native populations eradicated and replaced with European ones. It has seen, in the wake of development, degradation to its natural systems. It has also seen efforts to lessen and repair that damage, although it has often proved difficult to reconcile progress and conservation.

Tired and hungry, the Gregg expedition abandoned their plans to settle the area and set out for greener pastures in San Francisco. Josiah Gregg never made it. Weak from the trip and again close to starvation, he fell off his horse and sustained mortal injuries. It was an end to a remarkable life that saw him become a successful lawyer and doctor before traveling the frontier and documenting his scientific discoveries. He is, in many ways, an example of the American tradition of success through stubbornness beyond logic and reason. He was 46 years old.



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County Saw Political Swing in 2012

From the 1.2.13 issue

By Daniel Mintz

Press Reporter


2012 was a year of political change. The county saw a swing to the conservative side of the political spectrum and many of the year’s most attention-getting events were driven by it.

There was more afoot than politics, however. The county’s economy and particularly its budget entered a state of recovery and its environment also seemed to, as strong salmon runs were seen in major river systems. But the environment demonstrably suffered as well and a culprit was fingered.

A Growing Problem

For the county’s marijuana industry, 2012 was a year of bad P.R.

Reports of excessive energy use, watershed tainting, reckless land clearing and grow-related crime were staples of local news. Aerial views of hillsides, displayed at Board of Supervisors meetings and news websites, revealed the scale of an increasingly conspicuous problem. Throughout the year, the impacts of marijuana cultivation overshadowed the industry’s economic and medical contributions. Sensing increased concern, government officials held hearings like the one chaired by Assemblymember Wes Chesbro last February, where scientists from environmental agencies described the capitalistic excesses of growers who carelessly clear forested areas on both private and public property.

“Brazen” was the word Chesbro used to describe what he was seeing in a series of photos.

He authored new legislation that gives police agencies more power to investigate grow-related activities on industrial timberlands and public forests. Responsible growers have supported the idea of cracking down on bad actors but indoor cultivation is common and it, too, has been fingered as a cause of trouble.

Grumbling about neighborhood impacts aside, indoor growing has been implicated as a contributor to global warming and an abuser of low-income discount energy programs. The year saw the emergence of a new law that puts a cap on electricity and gas usage under the California Alternate Rates for Energy program, which allows power price discounts for income-eligible customers.

But the more the consequences of irresponsible marijuana production are complained about, the more the argument for legalizing the substance gains credibility.

Humboldt County officials have repeatedly described federal law as an obstacle to establishing a regulated cultivation scenario.

The feds have gotten some bad P.R. themselves by forcing the closure of two well-respected medical marijuana dispensaries, prompting local officials to demand a re-focusing of their attention to the problematic hillside grows.

While California struggles with how to handle marijuana issues, attention is now focused on Colorado and Washington, where cannabis was deemed legal for recreational use in the November elections.

GPU: Endless 

There was little media coverage of the Planning Commission’s careful and lengthy review of the General Plan Update and coverage was equally minimal when the Board of Supervisors took it on – until September, when something drastic seemed to be afoot.

Internet news sites were abuzz with tales of a General Plan coup from the new board majority. It was the “End of the General Plan Update” according to various pundits but actually something much less eventful was happening.

There was a lot of talk from some supervisors about stripping down the update’s contents but little of it translated into actual change. Indecision is what’s marked the board’s handling of the update and since last spring, when it was first handed off, minimal progress has been made.

Change might be more likely in the upcoming year, when Estelle Fennell will replace Clif Clendenen on the board, giving the majority an additional voice. But so far the board’s handling of the update has been clumsy and non-productive. Proposals to change the way it’s done have triggered unresolved debates and the board majority that’s dissatisfied with the plan’s contents haven’t yet found a way to chart a new course.

In November, there was a new twist – the various groups that have been pushing their interests decided to form a stakeholders group that would review GPU sections. Supervisors seem content to hand the weighty work off to the group, but it has yet to finish its review of the update’s Circulation Element and is unsure if it will be able to do more, as retracing the Planning Commission’s review of the GPU is the bureaucratic equivalent of hard labor.

A newly devised completion schedule pushes the process out to next May. But GPU schedules don’t have much meaning anymore — an original schedule set the finish of the board’s process at last summer.

Planning Overhaul

Long a magnet for complaints and controversy, the county’s former Department of Community Development Services was targeted for restructuring last spring. Its director, Kirk Girard was heavily criticized by a variety of permit-seekers and developers, and two supervisors, Ryan Sundberg and Virginia Bass, supported his job termination.

A compromise of sorts was forged – supervisors agreed to split the department into a Planning and Building Division and an Economic Development and Natural Resources Division, with Girard in charge of the latter.

The move took Girard out of the planning realm, accomplishing what firing him would have without actually doing it. The split presented a financial dilemma, however, as the reformed department would have two directors.

The restructure was itself restructured the next month, when Girard submitted his resignation after finding a planning management job in Santa Clara County. A new plan emerged – Economic Development was merged with the County Administrative Office and Natural Resources was folded into the Department of Public Works.

The next task was to hire someone to head the stand-alone Planning and Building Department. Senior Planner Martha Spencer was appointed as an interim director and was a candidate for the permanent position. But with the subsequent resignation of Supervisor Jimmy Smith due to illness, there was a new board majority made up of Sundberg, Bass and Rex Bohn, who had won the June election in Smith’s district.

Spencer was considered to be less than responsive by the development-related supporters of the new majority’s campaigns and the transformation of the planning department was finally clinched with the majority’s hiring of Kevin Hamblin, who was the longtime head of planning for Eureka.

Although Hamblin’s approach is low-key, Eureka has a reputation for snubbing the directives of the state’s Coastal Commission and environmentalists view his hiring as a nod to development interests.

Whether that’s true or not, Hamblin and Girard are perceived as being a study in contrast and the former Department of Community Development Services’ fate is the outcome of a political turnaround at the county’s highest level of decision-making.

The New Order 

Three supervisor seats were open in the June election, with only two candidates each competing for them. The results established a new voting majority on the Board of Supervisors.

Estelle Fennel defeated incumbent Second District Supervisor Clif Clendenen and Rex Bohn easily gained victory in the First District election. Supervisor Mark Lovelace won his re-election handily but the Third District includes Arcata and is a mainstay slot for liberal interests.

With Fennell and Bohn joining the board, a majority is formed along with supervisors Ryan Sundberg and Virginia Bass. All got financial support from similar sources and Fennell, though strongly supported in left-leaning Southern Humboldt, was at odds with environmentalists as director of the Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights.

That leaves Lovelace as the lone defender of conservation measures like new restrictions on residential development of timberlands.

Bohn is a straight talker and has clearly stated that he prioritizes property rights and removal of bureaucratic barriers to development. It’s a bit harder to pin Fennell into one camp or another, if not for her helming of a group seen as being pro-development and gaining campaign money from those involved in local industry.

A sign of things to come may have been suggested with Fennell’s careful choice of public comment participation as she waited to be seated. When Sundberg, Bass and Bohn controversially pushed for changes to the General Plan Update process, Fennell praised them for their “courage and strength” and one could almost see liberals wincing.

Fennell is the supervisor to watch in 2013, as her knowledge of local politics, public safety issues and land use planning is considerable. Her background includes high-profile journalism, key participation in organizing the Reggae on the River and Reggae Rising music festivals and Southern Humboldt’s back to the land movement, so her thinking has been shaped by broad influences.

Smith’s Fight 

Supervisor Jimmy Smith’s hard work, centrist approach and kind personality firmly established him as the First District’s definitive leader. It’s hard to imagine a challenger that could have beat him in the June election but Smith didn’t run and he didn’t finish his third term.

In a letter to the board last June, Smith said he’s resigning “with great reluctance” due to the re-emergence of cancer. “I need to concentrate on my recovery,” he continued. “My doctors have provided clear direction and I’m sure I will prevail in this battle.”

His work and accomplishments were celebrated by his many friends and colleagues at his last Board of Supervisors meeting on July 24.

Congressman Mike Thompson appeared via a videolink and highlighted Smith’s work on the clean-up of the South Spit and the Salt River restoration and flood control project. Thompson added that “efforts to restore and protect our rivers – the Eel, Klamath and Trinity – would have gone nowhere without you.”

He said Smith should “take particular pride in saving the Aleutian geese, once a threatened species,” and told him that “timber, conservation, farming, ranching, fishing and people have had a champion in you.”

A variety of representatives from public service agencies had similar things to say but perhaps the most revealing aspect of Smith’s statesmanship was provided by his wife, Jacque. She said her husband’s fight against cancer began in the early 1990s with an initial diagnosis of lymphoma.

Once a commercial fisherman and wildlife researcher, Smith embarked on “a mission to serve” after being given 50/50 odds of survival by his doctors. He was elected as a Harbor District commissioner before becoming supervisor and Jacque Smith said that “I seriously don’t think Jimmy would have changed the course of his life so drastically, from commercial fisherman to politician, if it hadn’t been for that disease.”

Smith’s treatments have been effective and his appearance was a highlight of an appreciation ceremony for outgoing Supervisor Clif Clendenen at a supervisors meeting last month.

Back In the Black 

In 2012 the county finally emerged from a multi-year era of anemic budgets and across-the-board departmental cuts.

There was some suspense over the state’s budget but with the voter approval of the Proposition 30 ballot measure in November, funding for state programs realigned to the county is constitutionally guaranteed and massive “trigger cuts” that could have impacted local budgets were averted with tax increases.

Favorable budget trends were reported to the Board of Supervisors in early November. The budget’s general fund had a positive balance of $5.7 million at the end of the 2011 to 2012 fiscal year, which is a milestone in recent years.

Programs and staffing in the county’s Health and Human Services Department have been among the budget casualties in the recent past but the department’s balance was reported to be $13 million in the black.

The numbers on the county’s economy were mixed. By November, retail sales were down 5.5 percent from July but were stable overall compared to last year. County unemployment was 10.9 percent in July, an increase of 1.5 percent from last year. But supervisors were told by staff that unemployment claims were below where they were five years ago.

The county’s former glory industry continued to lose its luster. Lumber manufacturing dropped 2.3 percent from July and was down 12.3 percent compared to last year

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Political sea change on Board of Supes

From the county:


County to Swear-in Newly Elected Supervisor Estelle Fennell, 

Supervisor Rex Bohn, and re-elected 

Supervisor Mark Lovelace


EUREKA – Supervisor-Elect Estelle Fennell, and Supervisors Rex Bohn and Supervisor Mark Lovelace will all begin new four-year terms on the Board of Supervisors following a swearing-in ceremony on Monday, January 7, 2013. The ceremony will begin at noon in the Board of Supervisors Chambers at the County Courthouse.  Judge Dale Reinholtsen, the presiding judge for the County, will deliver the oath.


Supervisor-Elect Fennell won her seat in June and will represent the 2nd District. As a newly elected official she has immersed herself in the issues of the 2nd District and the County as a whole, meeting with community members, leaders and organizations in order to better move the County forward in a positive manner. Some of her experience includes serving as the executive director for the Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights, news director for Redwood Community Radio, and board member for the Healy Senior Center and Briceland Fire Department.


Supervisor Bohn was elected in June to represent the 1st District, and was appointed by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. on July 16, 2012 to fill the term of former Supervisor Jimmy Smith, who retired due to health issues.  Since his appointment, Supervisor Bohn has worked tirelessly to help guide County policy decisions on the use of Natural Resources and the protection of property values and property rights for all Humboldt County citizens. Some of his experience includes serving as a resource manager at United Compost and Organics, accounts manager at O and M Industries Inc., vice president at Evergreen Pulp Inc. and operations manager at Renner Petroleum.


Supervisor Mark Lovelace was re-elected in June to represent the 3rd District.  In his first term he worked to secure reliable and redundant broadband for Humboldt County and has been a leader in efforts to attract additional air service.  He worked diligently to support local businesses, to expand public transit and to ensure working families have access to quality childcare.  Supervisor Lovelace has been a strong advocate for fisheries, working lands and open space.  He has worked for the removal of the Klamath Dams, helped protect more than 50,000 acres of working forests and ranchlands and has worked with the City of Arcata towards completion of the Arcata Ridge Trail.


Please join us in the Board of Supervisors Chambers for the ceremony. There will be a reception sponsored by Supervisors Virginia Bass and Ryan Sundberg following the ceremony at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center, 921 W. Waterfront Drive, Eureka, Room #203 (upstairs) to allow the public an opportunity to meet and greet the Supervisors.


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Agenda for Tuesday’s NHUHSD meeting



Tuesday, January 8, 2013 

Arcata High School Multi-purpose Room 


5:00 p.m. 



1.1 Workshop led by Humboldt County Superintendent Garry Eagles regarding complaint process, procedures, and role of school board


5:45 p.m. 













A. Review terms of expulsion for Student #34/2012-13

B. Review terms of expulsion for Student #35/2012-13

C. Review terms of expulsion for Student #36/2012-13

D. Review terms of expulsion for Student #37/2012-13

E. Review terms of expulsion for Student #38/2012-13



2.1 Action taken in consideration of Terms of Expulsion

2.2 Announcement of action taken in Closed Session



6:00 p.m. 




1.1 Call to Order

1.2 Flag Salute

1.3 Roll Call NHUHSD Governing Board Agenda January 8, 2013 page 2



2.1 District Employees 

Individuals speaking on matters not listed on the agenda are asked to step forward to the lectern and state clearly their name and address.

2.2 Non-Agenda Items 

Members of the public may comment on non-agenda matters. No action may be taken on topics not listed on the agenda.

2.3 Agenda Items 

Individuals will have an opportunity to speak on items on the agenda before Board discussion on that item. Individual speakers shall be allowed three minutes to address the Board on each agenda or non-agenda item. The Board shall limit the total time for public input on each item to twenty minutes.


Notice to the Public 

All matters listed under this category are considered to be routine by the Governing Board and will be enacted by one motion on a roll call vote. There will be no separate discussion of these items. However, if discussion is required, that item will be removed from the Consent Agenda and considered separately.

3.1 Approval of Minutes of December 12, 2012, Organizational Meeting

3.2 Approval of warrants

3.3 Approval of ASB warrants

3.4 Receive and file monthly financial report


4.1 Student Representative Report 4.2 2011-12 Auditor Report

4.3 Bond Update

4.4 Electronic Board Packet Presentation by Todd Curry


5.1 Public comment on the NHUHSD and CSEA Public Disclosure Summary


6.1 Receive and file the 2011-12 Audit Report

6.2 Approval of Changes in Certificated and Classified Personnel

6.3 Recommend approval of the job description for the Project Manager

6.4 Recommend approval of the fourth quarter Williams Uniform Complaints Report

6.5 Recommend approval of the agreement dated December 17, 2012 between CSEA and NHUHSD for the 2012-13 school year

6.6 Recommend approval of new course: IB Psychology SL

6.7 Recommend approval of new course: Beginning Guitar

6.8 Recommend approval of new course: Intermediate Guitar

6.9 Recommend approval of MHS Ski Club traveling to Mt. Bachelor, Oregon from February 18 – February 22, 2013 NHUHSD Governing Board Agenda January 8, 2013 page 3



7.1 Letter to AHS Principal Dave Navarre from John Mitchell, California Department of Education regarding Arcata Arts Institute being identified as a regional model for outstanding program and curriculum design


8.1 Regular Board Meeting, February 12, 2013 6 p.m., Arcata High School multi-purpose room.


Study Sessions on Approved Topics – After January







NOTICE: Any writing, not exempt from public disclosure under Government Code Section 6253.5, 6254, 6254.3, 6254.7, 6254.15, 6254.16, or 6254.22, which is distributed to all or a majority of the members of the governing board by any person in connection with a matter subject to discussion or consideration at an open meeting of the board is available for public inspection at the Arcata High School and McKinleyville High School Libraries or the District Office. Please call Tammy Pires. Superintendent’s Secretary at (707) 839-6481 if you have any questions.

In compliance with Government Code section 54954.2(a) Northern Humboldt Union High School District will, on request make agendas available in appropriate alternative formats to persons with a disability, as required by Section 202 of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. Sec. 12132), and the federal rules and regulations adopted in implementation thereof. Individuals who need this agenda in an alternative format or who need a disability-related modification or accommodation in order to participate in the meeting should contact, Tammy Pires, Superintendent’s Secretary at (707) 839-6481.

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