Wednesday, 01 February 2023

Opinion

Consideration of the Provinsalia subdivision, which would put 660 residential units and a nine-hole golf course on a wildland site bordering Cache Creek in the southeast corner of the City of Clearlake, has been under way for four years now. Despite two separate environmental impact reports, many comment letters and innumerable meetings, questions still seem to outnumber answers.


Queries directly focused on environmental consequences – which include detrimental effects on biological and cultural resources, water quality, air quality, infrastructure, orderly growth patterns and traffic – can most easily be investigated by reading the material posted on line at www.lakelive.org/provinsalia, but the project’s equally doubtful economic implications have not yet been subjected to exhaustive scrutiny.


Some nuggets of information did emerge from the April 22 City Council/Planning Commission "workshop" on the project, including the revelation that the developers propose to retain title to the subdivision's golf course and other open land, instead of turning these recreational amenities over to a homeowners association or equivalent as is common practice.


Since it is also proposed to finance these improvements with bonded indebtedness backed by the full faith and credit of the municipality (which thus assumes a massive potential liability), with the bonds eventually repaid by assessments on project residents, retention of ownership seems at the least startling. In any case, why would the developers have any interest in retaining such a notoriously unprofitable "asset"?


Other questions are many and various. Why is the city planning to invest a huge amount of staff time in negotiating a development agreement on the project before environmental impact report certification – a necessary precondition to any further action – is complete?


How did the consultants happen to omit archaeologist Dr. John Parker's comment letter raising momentous questions regarding California Environmental Quality Act compliance from the "final" environmental impact report? This letter was received by the city and immediately forwarded to Pacific Municipal Consultants, apparently to be submerged permanently. Whether or not other comments were also lost, does this omission cast doubt on the validity of the results, doubts most appropriately rectified by recirculation of the environmental impact report?


Why was this important meeting scheduled barely five days after the "final" environmental impact report was made available to the public, even though the document had been presented to the city in the middle of March?


Who actually owns the Provinsalia project site itself? Modesto-based Price Development Group seems to be merely the first of several corporate layers that lead to Delaware, Mexico and possibly beyond. Who now owns the parcels to the east and south of the project site – approximately 200 acres of wilderness under county rather than city jurisdiction – that were included in geographic and biological surveys in 2004? What do the owners (whoever they may be) plan to do with this property?


Why does developer Dick Price assume that the members of the Planning Commission and City Council are unwilling or unable to read the environmental studies and other background materials necessary for a sound decision? He made dismissive statements to that effect at least twice.


If the owners of the land needed for construction of the new Provinsalia Avenue are reluctant to sell, is the city prepared to invoke its powers of eminent domain? If so, shouldn't that unpleasant possibility be stated explicitly from the beginning?


Who will repay the bonded obligations incurred to construct the Provinsalia golf course if the project is never built, or never built out? If these bonds are structured as now proposed, the city could be left holding the bag. Who will repair this pristine parcel if grading takes place but construction does not, as has happened many times in Lake County?


Answers to these questions, as well as the many additional questions raised during the EIR process, are essential components of a valid evaluation of Provinsalia’s effects on the city, the county, our people, and the land itself. We can only hope that some answers will eventually be forthcoming.


Victoria Brandon is chair of the Sierra Club Lake Group. She lives in Lower Lake.


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There is a paradox about salmon: We love them, but we are part of their problem.


We love them as an important food, as the base of fishing economies, for sport recreation, and as symbols of fresh water and renewal. But we harvest them, dam, pave and pump their streams, pollute their water and mix their gene pool with hatchery fish.


Then there’s global warming and changing ocean currents.


When we look at Central Valley Spring Run salmon decline, we look back to the 1990s and realize, shocked, that the populations have crashed by over 90 percent. Estimates may make that 95 percent or worse.


But that only looks at a few years. We don’t like to acknowledge that less than two centuries ago, the fish were so plentiful that they supported cultures. They were so abundant, in fact, that they could be harvested with pitchforks. The run of fish supported animals, the soil and plants, and were a significant wild ocean resource as well.


Now the runs are on the ropes, and wild salmon will be disappearing from our plates, as well as our rivers, for the next couple of years … at least.


The problems that salmon, as a group of species, have encountered are epic. They include loss of habitat, fishing in the ocean, changing ocean and inland conditions, less water, more pollution and predation from other marine life. In addition, we have introduced hatcheries into the life cycle of the fish.


Our runs are hatchery-dominated, with survival and pathogen issues plaguing the raised fingerlings. The hatcheries stand with the dams, the mitigations for cutting off spawning habitat, adding up to hundreds of miles of major rivers and thousands of miles of tributaries, the small streams where fish reproduce.


Ocean-farmed fish are not a solution. There are so many problems of disease, escapement and pollution that California doesn’t allow factory salmon farms in state waters.


The problem of salmon collapse is not restricted to the Central Valley. We have lost significant salmon and steelhead runs in the Russian, the Eel and the Klamath Rivers as well, creating economic disasters for fishermen and the sport-fishing industry. Emergency relief funding will only last so long, and we cannot support the fishing community on handouts from the government (nor do they wish to be supported in this way).


On April 1, the Senate passed my bill (SB 562) to support salmon monitoring and restoration with nearly $5.3 million. This money, which may enable our state to secure up to $20 million in federal matching funds, will go to basic science and the repair of specific problems on creeks and rivers. It is an investment in this resource.


But we will need more than simple patience and investment to get salmon back to respectable runs. We will need cooperation from fishermen, farmers, water users, the tribes, power companies, the governor’s office and the Legislature to find an effective path to recovery.


We also need help from every citizen to “think at the sink” and “use your brain at the drain,” and not introduce oil, detergents and chemicals into our waters.


No less than recovery is necessary for our fishing and sport-fishing economy, for our responsibility to the species, and to have great tasting, healthy wild salmon as part of a continuing California tradition.


Patricia Wiggins represents California’s 2nd Senate District, which includes portions or all of six counties (Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma). She also chairs the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture. Visit her Web site at http://dist02.casen.govoffice.com/.


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Last year an untrained junior Environmental Protection Agency political staffer got away with red-lining a report, originally drafted by scientists in his own agency and focused on development of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


The draft report looked at economic and environmental problems associated with well drilling, including pipeline and road construction, river diversions, deforestation, large scale infrastructure changes, interruption of historical wildlife migration patterns and other elements. It was comprehensive in nature and was well-based on the engineering, biology, and geology of the North Slope.


The subsequent red-lined report was the product of one individual,or maybe several in concert, certainly not acting alone but assuredly acting at the behest of those entrepreneurs from our economy whose interests lie in oil well drilling and the many ancillary side-lines this produces.


Taking this story to my point, the political arm of the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), masquerading as scientists, have, entirely without scientific justification, put forth a whole "New Detection and Enforcement Arm," the "quagga-sniffing dogs."


In an effort to trigger a response from somebody (ANYBODY!) from the scientific community in Lake County, I have, as someone with a doctorate in aquatic biology, offered arguments against "quagga-sniffing" dogs, both through the mail, in person before the Board of Supervisors and face-to-face with citizens who I'd hoped would distinguish between the fallacy, "Gee, wouldn't it be neat if my dog (cross-trained in smelling bear-gall bladder and cadavers) could sniff out quagga mussels?”


Does that “cross-training” suggest the “real” reason that cops (DFG wardens, by the way, are cops, with guns on their hips, a badge on their chest and the rule of law as their umbrella) would also pretend quagga detection, and push this, in order to pull in that miscreant with one too many abalone? Do your cynical best and think about it.


Any of you good folks who'd wish to challenge me on the duplicity of the "quagga sniffers" (and sure, toss in the Willits training if you'd like, and the frozen mussels, and their "latent vapors," or any parts of this cockamamie fiction and I'll be pleased to respond.


In the same way the EPA subordinate caved in to his political superiors, a local DFG warden saw her future unfolding before her: "... The route to my guard dog [the real reason] is through quaggas, and nobody knows any better.” This officer brags about California being "cutting edge" in the quagga detection dog industry. Does she, or do any of you, really believe that she was the first and only "investigator" to flash on any animal with a better sense of smell than, say, guinea pigs to toss into the lake or drop into the bait tank, and get the "Ah, ha, quaggas!" sign?


So politics being what it is, the DFG lieutenant warden got her silver bars a dog, and so much media bulk that unless there's just a huge up-cry from the media and the scientific community the lieutenant will just keep plugging onward and upward until she's a major.


John Brookes lives in Kelseyville.


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On May 11, 2008 the Real ID Act is to be imposed upon U.S. citizens. Before we all applaud this “fail safe system” of identification, we should look at a few historical facts and ask ourselves if we truly wish to allow history to repeat itself.


With the Real ID Act in place, we will be forced to provide personal recorded documentation, upon demand, in order to identify ourselves as citizens. Sound familiar? If not, think a little harder. This system was used in Germany by Hitler, whereupon, persons were forced to produce documentation concerning their private lives in order to identify themselves as Germans. In Nazi Germany, it was sold as a way to protect the security of the motherland. In the U.S., the Real ID Act is being sold to us as a way to improve homeland security.


Speaking of private lives, remember back in the day when only criminals were fingerprinted? Nowadays, for whatever reason, we have allowed ourselves to be treated like criminals. First we give up a fingerprint and then an iris scan. Eventually, it should be no problem giving up our bodies for a chip. Sound far-fetched? It is already being done, not for national security but to make it easier to pay a bar tab. Yes, our right to privacy, the protection of our bodies, seems to have diminished along with our good sense. So, why not take it a step further?


As if identity theft isn’t bad enough, why not put ALL our information in one place? Let’s think about this for a moment. In your home, do you keep all your valuables out where people can see them and know exactly where they are at all times? I would hope not. Is your life valuable? I would hope so. So, why then would we ever want to keep all of the valuable personal information about our life in one place where everyone in the world knows where it is and has access to it? Think about how many times a day your information is accessed and who accesses it from a card, currently. How many times a day does a card of yours get swiped, recorded and filed? (Yes, they keep records now, even on what you buy with that little discount card at the grocery store.)


Now, imagine this access coming from a single card. Your driver’s license, your bank card, your social security card, do you really want all that information in one place? Well, with the Real ID Act, it is only a step away. Don’t believe me? Look it up, they now have a way to pay your gas with your driver’s license. Do you really want the person running the gas station or the kid who slings your burgers to have access to all your personal identification information, in the future?


If we are willing to voluntarily give away our right to privacy in order to some clerk to buy groceries, beer and cigarettes, do you really think it is going to matter if the new card is tamper-proof and read by machine? Remember, we decided to make our California Driver’s License tamperproof by adding the hologram and making it machine readable. Did that stop anyone from ID theft? No, I daresay, it didn’t.


Think this ID won’t be used and abused for these purposes in the United States Of America? Did you know that originally the social security card was to be used strictly for tax id purposes? In fact, it originally stated very clearly on the card that it was NOT to be used for ID purposes. In fact, it was applied for when you were ready to get a job and not as soon as you were born, contrary to what it is today. Now, ask yourself, what is the number one use of the social security card today? Now, think again, do you really want to get behind a Real ID?


Or do you want to get in front of it and stop it before it is too late? At least three states have opted out of the Real ID Act, altogether. At least 16 others have passed resolutions against it. California Assemblyman Pedro Nava of Santa Barbara introduced resolution AJR 51 which asks California Congressional delegates to re-appeal the Real ID Act or opt out, as well.


I urge you to write to our congressional representatives, our governor and even our president, concerning this issue, before it is too late and history repeats itself.


Andrea Anderson lives in Lakeport.


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At first, it might not make sense for profit-making businesses to give away rather than charge for, wireless Internet access. However, a growing number of hotels and restaurants have found that it pays to offer free WiFi Internet access. This perk attracts customers and provides a real bottom-line payback for a relatively small capital investment, according to free WiFi pioneers.


Cities and community development organizations across the country have embraced free WiFi to boost economic development and attract visitors to downtown areas. A handful of small airports in the shadow of large hubs offer free WiFi to attract travelers.


One free WiFi pioneer is John Woolsey. He is the chairman, CEO and president of the restaurant chain, Schlotzsky’s Inc. in Austin, TX. Woolsey is not shy about sharing details of what he calls the "strong ROI" from the company’s free WiFi service. According to him, the free WiFi results in an additional 15,000 visits per restaurant per year by customers who spend an average of $7 per visit.


Keep in mind this was data from back in 2003, back when Schlotsky’s had only 30 company-owned or franchised Schlotsky’s Delis WiFi enabled. Nevertheless, back then WiFi service brought in more than $100,000 per year per outlet in return for an investment of about $8,000 per restaurant. The wireless infrastructure also required T1 connectivity.


Woolsey also uses the free WiFi as a high tech marketing tool. When wireless users first connect to Schlotsky’s WiFi Network, they are shown an in-house "splash" Web page the the chain uses to promote itself and its bill of fare. Schlotsky’s has even brought high-gain WiFi antennas into the process. These antennas are designed to transmit the splash page as far outside its deli restaurant as possible.


One Austin outlet beams its signal into dorm rooms at the University of Texas, and another beams it into a competing Starbucks. According to Woolsey, this high-tech guerrilla marketing campaign to grab the eyeballs of potential customers is less expensive and potentially more targeted than buying a 30-second TV commercial.


Today, a good and secure WiFi connection is a lot more affordable than it was back in 2003. The wireless service can also be achieved with either a cable or DSL connection rather than an expensive T1 line. Thanks to WiFi service companies like The Wifi Company of Denver, CO, creating a secure WiFi hot spot is both easy and cost-effective. The installation of the pre-flashed wireless router is simply plug-and-play.


While it is possible to have a WiFi hot spot by just connecting a wireless router to a cable or DSL modem, that connection will not be secure. And, that could result in serious problems for the wifi hot spot owner should the hot spot get hacked or exposed to viruses.


A good, secure WiFi hot spot is one that is connected to Virtual Private Network and monitored remotely 24/7 to make sure everything works properly and remains secure. The WiFi Company of Denver, CO provides all of it customers throughout the nation with that kind of protection.


These days, free WiFi can be found almost anywhere people congregate - not just in restaurants, coffee shops and book stores. For that reason, do not be surprised if you see free WiFi offerred in parks, marinas, automotive repair shops, schools and government offices. In fact, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is being asked to creatively use wifi hot spot advertising as a means to help lower California's $10 billion deficit rather than to seek closure of state parks.


Some small businesses have no desire to be a WiFi hot spot. They only want the cost-effective, targeted audience exposure provided by a splash page advertisement. This advertisement can take the form of an audio message (think radio commercial), video message (think Youtube) or HTML (display ad) in high traffic areas. CDMM, a small marketing company, is working with The WiFi Company to help make that possible.


Lamar Morgan lives in Hidden Valley Lake.


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Sometimes it's the smallest gestures that, ultimately, give the most meaning to our lives, and have the greatest impact on the lives we touch.


One of those small gestures we too often dismiss is the simple act of saying “thank you.” And, yet, for some people, hearing those words can make all the difference.


Today, March 30, is an important day to think about not just saying “thank you” but also “welcome home” to our Vietnam veterans. That's because this is the inaugural “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day,” approved by resolutions of both houses of Congress last year.


Thirty-five years ago on this date, the US finalized its pullout of combat troops from Vietnam, after more than a decade of US presence in that country, eight of those years engaged in combat that resulted in more than 58,000 deaths and 300,000 casualties among US Armed Forces members. More than 1,700 soldiers are still missing in action from that war.


Whether or not we'll ever have a truly accurate count of that war's walking wounded – the men and women who came home with post traumatic stress disorder, other mental health issues and drug problems – may never be known.


Believe it or not, many of the men and women who served in Vietnam have never had anyone thank them for their service, or felt really welcome home to the country they served.


I've talked to many veterans about what they encountered when they came home. It ranges from indifference from friends and family, to physical attacks and taunting by those who disagreed with the war.


I also have some personal interest in the subject. My own uncle, Darrel Gray, was a Green Beret in Vietnam, a winner of the Bronze Star for Valor, wounded or injured five times, and a victim of Agent Orange exposure, all in the space of one year, 1968.


The son of a World War II vet and great-grandson of a Confederate soldier, he had been in the Army for years by the time he landed in Vietnam.


Now in his early 60s, my uncle still suffers from the effects of post traumatic stress disorder, hearing loss, a body ravaged by the impacts of old wounds and the rigors of his service. Not only did he encounter a bad reception in the US, but an ongoing battle with the Veterans Administration, which didn't want to recognize Agent Orange exposure as a health issue.


Luckily, he had a family who loved and respected him to come home to when his service was up. Personally, I always looked on him with awe. He was my fun uncle, a man who never let on to how much he truly was suffering.


Between my uncle and Dean Gotham, I've learned a lot about the trials of Vietnam veterans.


Gotham is one person who I think should rightfully be called a local hero because of his efforts to reach out to fellow veterans and the community on the many issues Vietnam veterans still face – besides just being an all-around good guy. Quite frankly, his whole chapter is filled with good guys, good gals and heroes.


He's president of Lake County's Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951, and he and chapter members worked over the weekend to bring attention to veterans issues and this new day of remembrance through the first-ever sales locally of Agent Orange and POW/MIA clovers.


It was tough duty, standing outside in cold weather, but Gotham joked that he'd had tougher perimeter watch while in Vietnam.


Gotham is an expert at spotting fellow Vietnam vets, many of whom still wear their service as a badge of shame.


As I stood talking to him outside of Bruno's Shop Smart on Friday, a man came up to make a donation and Gotham handed him clovers. Shaking the man's hand, Gotham asked him if he was a Vietnam vet and the man said, somewhat abashedly, that he was.


Gotham said he can recognize Vietnam vets because of the “faraway look” in their eyes.


The more cynical among us might suggest that a welcome home celebration today, so many years shamefully overdue, can't make a difference.


But, I disagree. I think it's a start.


Today should be a day of healing for our vets, and gratitude from the rest of us because they did the frightening work while we enjoyed life at home. They kept the watches through the night and guarded the perimeters to protect their country, even though they were thousands of miles away.


The fact that we're coming full circle, that today you find people who are opposed to the Iraq War yet who still are careful to pay respect to the soldiers who are doing their job, is – I believe – thanks to the lobbying over the last three decades by Vietnam veterans.


In fact, Vietnam Veterans of America have as their motto, "Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another." Many local vets affiliated with the local Vietnam Veterans of America have worked hard to look out for young vets coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.


Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day day isn't yet a national holiday, but it should be. It's the least we can do in an effort to repair the hurt suffered by the men and women who have waited to be welcomed home all these years. Likewise, it's a reminder of the path we've traveled, and the course we shouldn't ever follow again.


Some moments in our national history will always be a source of pain and division. The Vietnam War is one of them. But the disagreement and pain of that division should no longer rest on the shoulders of the soldiers who went to serve. It's their time to rest.


To our veterans: Thank you for your service. Welcome home. What you did mattered and it won't be forgotten.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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