Thursday, 18 July 2024


LAKEPORT – Sheriff's investigators hope that technology will offer them another clue in the unsolved murder of a Nice man. {sidebar id=26}

Lt. Cecil Brown of the Lake County Sheriff's Office released a statement Friday to update the community on the investigation into the death of 39-year-old Paul Joseph Womachka.

Womachka was reported missing on June 27 by his ex-wife and business partner, Erica Womachka, as Lake County News previously reported. Two days later, his body was found in his Hey Taxi minivan, underwater in Big Valley Rancheria's marina.

On Friday, Brown reported that sheriff's investigators are waiting for the results of a forensics examination on several pieces of evidence, about which Brown did not elaborate. A previous report explained that the Department of Justice was conducting DNA analysis to identify one or more individuals who may have been present at the time of the murder.

One piece of possible evidence he did share pertained to the minivan itself.

Brown said detectives are working with experts from General Motors to recover any available information from the on-board computer of the van. The computer may reveal details of when and how the van was driven before it entered the lake.

“We're not sure exactly what it's going to tell us yet,” said Brown.

The hope, said Brown, is that the computer will reveal the position of the throttle when the minivan went into the water.

A previous sheriff's office report said the van crashed through a fence before going in the water.

On Friday, Northshore Dive Team members John Rodriguez and Keith Hoyt told Lake County News that they found the minivan in about 9 feet of water. The van was discovered as water depth measurements were being taken for BoardStock.

Hoyt said the minivan was about 10 to 15 feet offshore, and that water weeds had kept the vehicle from moving farther. The windows were down and the minivan was filled with water, with Womachka still inside.

Divers did not remove Womachka's body from the vehicle, said Hoyt. Instead, the van was pulled from the water and tarped, and Lake County Sheriff's investigators had it moved from the scene.

Investigation still lacks rancheria's cooperation

At about midnight on June 27, Womachka received a call from Robinson Rancheria, where he was hired to drive Morgan Matthew Jack, 30, to his home at Big Valley Rancheria.

“He didn't want to take that ride,” Erica Womachka told Lake County News Friday.

Nevertheless, Paul Womachka took the job and never returned home.

After his body was found, an autopsy would confirm that he had been murdered, according to the sheriff's office.

However, the precise cause of Womachka's death has yet to be made public.

Even now, investigators are carefully guarding the information.

Brown said Friday that sheriff's investigators asked him not to comment on the cause of Womachka's death, which he said is too revealing.

“There is going to be some information we're going to hold onto,” Brown said.

Brown said he was not aware of Womachka having received any threats prior to his death. “Everything that I've heard is that he was easy to get along with and not prone to conflict.”

Morgan Jack initially was taken into custody and questioned in connection with the case, since he was believed to be among the last people to see Womachka alive, according to the sheriff's office.

Later, Jack was taken into custody by state officials for a parole violation, and moved to San Quentin for processing.

Since then, state parole officials have released Jack, said Brown.

“He is out of custody,” said Brown, who added, “He has not been cleared from this investigation.”

In early September Brown released a statement in which he explained that the sheriff's office was receiving no cooperation from Big Valley Rancheria in the investigation.

Brown reported at that time that sheriff's investigators had received second-hand information that a number of people at the rancheria had either described the attack on Womachka in detail or claimed to have taken part in it.

He told Lake County News in a previous interview that when sheriff's investigators went to the rancheria to question certain individuals, those people literally ran away or had already gone into hiding.

After that initial public statement, Brown said he received a call from Tribal Chair Valentino Jack, who promised to cooperate with the investigation, including providing rancheria maps to the sheriff's office.

Det. Nicole Costanza has yet to receive that promised information from Valentino Jack, Brown added. Neither have any significant witnesses come forward, Brown added.

“The detectives continue contacting and interviewing people who live in that area but nobody has provided any significant information,” said Brown.

A call Lake County News placed to Valentino Jack's office at Big Valley Rancheria was not returned.

Family searches for answers

Connie Goetz, Erica Womachka's stepmother, said that Paul Womachka's family continues to feel the repercussions of his death.

One of the most disturbing things the family has faced is that Womachka's three sons have been harassed over the murder by other children at school, said Goetz.

A girl who sat behind one of the boys in class, reportedly the niece of Morgan Jack, laughingly told Womachka's son that her uncle had murdered his father.

“We went right to the police,” said Goetz.

Erica Womachka agreed that her sons have been struggling with their father's death at the same time as they've had to deal with the cruelty of some of their peers.

Although she hasn't been threatened, Erica Womachka said she doesn't feel safe since her ex-husband – and best friend – was murdered.

“I do feel that my children are sometimes in danger because of this situation,” she said. “How immediate it is, I can't say.”

As a result, she is considering leaving Lake County. But she said she wants her sons to help make that decision which, so far, they've been unwilling to do. “They all don't feel like they want to leave.”

Womachka said she has been unemployed since the murder, and has been devoting her time to homeschooling her sons. “I am definitely going to need to do something soon,” she said.

Because Paul and Erica Womachka were divorced, his next of kin are, technically, his parents, who live in Iowa, Erica Womachka said. She said investigators have been relaying information to the Iowa family members.

Goetz said that Det. Nicole Costanza has made herself available to answer the family's questions, but that investigators have been careful in what they've told the family as well. “They told Erica she may never know the cause of death,” Goetz said.

Erica Womachka said she believes local authorities are doing everything they can to solve the case.

The approaching holidays can be a tough time for families suffering a loss. To help deal with that, Erica Womachka said her sons will go back to spend time with their father's family in Iowa, a trip her sons are looking forward to taking.

Looking back at her ex-husband's murder, Erica Womachka said she has a hard time believing that four months have passed already.

Added Goetz, “There's got to be some kind of closure in all of this.”

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


LAKE COUNTY – The prosecution of sex offenders in Lake County remains a top priority for the District Attorney’s Office, with prosecutors netting another conviction on a sex-related case.

On Nov. 7, Judge Stephen Hedstrom sentenced Daniel Reneker, age 65, to six years in state prison for failing to register as a sex offender, according to a report from Deputy District Attorney John DeChaine.

Reneker is required to register pursuant to penal code section 290 as a result of two prior sex offenses, DeChaine said.

In 1985, Reneker was convicted of committing a lewd or lascivious act on a child under the age of 14 in Solano County, according to DeChaine. In 1995, Reneker was convicted of sexual battery in Yolo County. Both prior convictions were felony convictions but only the 1985 conviction qualifies as a strike in California.

Reneker last registered as a sex offender in Vallejo, California in April 2006, said DeChaine. Local authorities were not aware that Reneker was residing in Lake County until this past January, when Reneker was discovered living in Lower Lake.

State law requires that certain convicted sex offenders, including Reneker, register within five working days of changing residences, DeChaine reported. The investigation, which was conducted by Det. Mike Curran of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, yielded information that Reneker had been residing in Lake County for at least two months prior to his arrest on Feb. 1.

DeChaine said the District Attorney's Office filed the complaint against Reneker on Feb. 5.

Reneker pleaded guilty on May 4 to one felony count of failing to register as a sex offender, in violation of Penal Code section 290(a)(1)(A) and the District Attorney’s Office required that he admit that he had suffered a prior strike conviction, DeChaine said.

The court sentenced Reneker to the upper term of three years in prison for failing to register, according to DeChaine.

However, because Reneker was required to admit the prior strike conviction, DeChaine said Reneker's prison sentence of three years was enhanced to a total of six years.

The admission of the prior strike conviction also mandates that Reneker will not be eligible for parole until he serves at least 80 percent of his prison commitment, DeChaine reported. Had Reneker not been required to admit his prior strike conviction, he would have been eligible for parole after serving only 50 percent of his time.


CLEARLAKE – Clearlake Police have made an arrest in a case involving several reports of property from Lower Lake High School's locker rooms during a recent football game.

A report from Clearlake Police Lt. Mike Hermann explained that the thefts were reported on Oct. 26, during a football game in which Lower Lake hosted Kelseyville High School.

Hermann said visiting teams routinely dress out in the girl's locker room at Lower Lake High and store their belonging in the lockers.

At some point during the game, a person entered the locker rooms and stole approximately $253 in cash and an iPod, Hermann said.

Clearlake Police Officer Carl Miller, who is currently assigned as the School Resource Officer for Konocti Unified School District, began investigating the case shortly after the thefts were reported, Hermann said.

During Miller's investigation he identified a 15-year-old male suspect who had previously attended Kelseyville High School, and who is currently a Clearlake resident and Lower Lake High School student, according to Hermann.

The teenage suspect had reportedly told several other students about the theft and had apparently exchanged the iPod for other goods, Hermann reported.

Miller contacted and arrested the suspect on Nov. 2, said Hermann, and is currently in the process of trying to track down the subject with the iPod.

Hermann reported that the 15-year-old suspect was later transported to the Lake County Juvenile Hall facility and housed.

Miller credited several students for their assistance with his investigation and willingness to "do the right thing,” which helped lead to the arrest, according to Hermann.

If you have information in the case contact Clearlake Police at 994-8251.


WASHINGTON – On Friday, the House passed a bill that would provide millions of middle-class families with tax relief and help grow our economy without increasing the national deficit.

One of the most important provisions in this bill would protect 23 million middle-class families from being hit by the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), including more than 42,000 families in California’s 1st Congressional District.

“The AMT was created to make sure multi-millionaires were paying their fair share. It was never designed to hit middle-class families,” said Congressman Mike Thompson, who voted in favor of the Temporary Tax Relief Act of 2007 (H.R. 3996). “This bill is going to bring tax relief to tens of thousands of working families throughout our district. And it’s not going to increase the national deficit by one cent.”

In regards to the AMT, this bill would provide one-year AMT relief for nonrefundable personal credits and increase the AMT exemption amount to $66,250 for joint filers and $44,350 for individuals.

In addition to fixing the AMT, this bill would:

  • Provide 30 million American homeowners with property tax relief;

  • Help 12 million families by expanding the child tax credit;

  • Help 4.5 million families better afford college with the tuition deduction;

  • Save 3.4 million teachers money with a deduction for classroom expenses; and

  • Provide thousands of American troops in combat with tax relief under the Earned Income Tax Credit.

“The new Majority in Congress made a firm commitment to fiscal responsibility,” said Thompson. “This bill provides millions of hard-working Americans with much-needed tax relief, without passing the cost onto our grandchildren and without borrowing from foreign countries, such as China. And it will provide significant help to Americans trying to achieve the dream of homeownership and higher education.”

The bill would also help spur economic growth. The Temporary Tax Relief Act would extend tax incentives targeting small businesses and provides assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure or bankruptcy.

The bill also contains provisions modeled upon two pieces of legislation authored by Congressman Thompson. H.R. 1576 would make permanent tax incentives to landowners who conserve our country’s agricultural land and open spaces. H.R. 1304 would improve the manner in which motor sports complexes may depreciate facility-related expenses.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.



LAKEPORT – The Lake County Veterans Day Ceremony will take place in the Theater Building at the Lake County Fairgrounds, 401 Martin St.

The ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 11.

This year’s keynote speaker will be District 5 Supervisor Rob Brown.

Other participants in this year’s ceremony will be the Clear Lake High School Band, Lake County 4-H, Kelseyville Sea Scouts, Emily Barker, Ginny Craven and the United Veterans Council’s Military Funeral Team.

The ceremony will include brief presentations of the County’s eighth annual “Friend of The Veteran” award and the United Veterans Council’s “Veteran of the Year” award.

The fourth annual Free Veterans Barbecue will take place at the Theater Building immediately after the ceremony. The barbecue is sponsored by the United Veterans Council and all of Lake County’s Veterans Service Organizations.

Everyone is welcome to attend and join in in remembering and honoring all veterans.

For more information call the County Veterans Service Office, 263-2384.


LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's air quality and fire officials reported Monday that the countywide burn ban has once again been lifted and the fire season closed.

Effective Tuesday, Nov. 6, the burn ban in Lake County has ended; however, Tuesday will be a no burn day, according to Bob Reynolds of the Lake County Air Quality Management District.

Only those with an economic exemption will be allowed to burn Tuesday, Reynolds reported.

The burn ban previously had been lifted effective Oct. 22, but fire concerns and dry conditions around the state led officials to reinstate it.

Burn permits are required for all burns in the Lake County Air Basin. Contact your local Fire Protection Agency for a burn permit or the Lake County Air Quality Management District to obtain a Smoke Management Plan for burns that may last overnight or for several days.

All agencies charge fees for open waste burning permits ranging from $21 for agricultural, residential and smoke management plans, to $64 for land development/lot clearing.

Residential burn permits require a one-acre or larger lot, a burn location at least 100 feet from all neighbors and 30 feet from any structure. Burn hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. only.

Land Clearing burns require specified permits. Permits may be obtained from your local fire agency.

Multi-day burns, standing vegetation, whole tree/vine removals and all burns over 20 acres in size must obtain a Smoke Management Plan from the Lake County Air Quality Management District. Read your burn permit carefully and follow all conditions.

Each day of the burning season is designated as either a “no burn day,” a “limited burn day” or an “agricultural extended burn day.” On “no burn days” all open burning is illegal unless an exemption has been issued for a specific fire. Burning is generally allowed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. only. Burn only the amount of material that can be completely consumed during the allowed burning hours. Only vegetation may be burned.

Daily Burn Day status is available from your local burn information numbers: North County at 263-3121 and South County at 994-4444.

Remember to ensure adequate clearance for fire safety.

• Please consider composting as an alternative to burning leaves.

• Use the vegetative waste pickup provided with your waste collection services.

• Avoid smoldering fires and reduce the amount of air pollution by burning only dry vegetation.

• DO NOT burn green vegetation or wet leaves.

• Remember it is illegal to use a burn barrel, or to burn plastics, metals, treated wood or petroleum wastes, burn only vegetation.

• Contact your local fire safe council for chipping program information.

The law requires that an able-bodied adult supervise all fires. Burning even a small amount of illegal material can result in toxic ash and smoke, which cause cancer and other health problems, and can result in significant fines.

Your neighbors may be allergic to smoke; please be considerate. Some people have respiratory problems and their health is degraded by even small amounts of smoke. If your smoke enters your neighbor’s air space, ask them if it is bothering them and take corrective action if needed.

A permit does not allow you to create health problems for others and you can be liable for fines and other costs associated with your burning.


LAKEPORT – Officials have arrested a local dentist on a battery of charges, including burglary, forgery and obtaining controlled substances by fraud.

Dr. Scott Clayton Wheadon, DDS, 49, of Kelseyville was arrested on Nov. 7 by Lake County Narcotic Task Force agents, with the assistance of the California Highway Patrol, the Lake County Sheriff's Office and Lakeport Police Department, according to a report released to Lake County News Friday morning.

Wheadon is the dental director for Lake County Tribal Health's facility at 925 Bevins Court in Lakeport, according to a report from Lake County Narcotic Task Force Commander Richard Russell. Wheadon has been the dental director there for 10 years.

The arrest followed a four-month investigation, according to Russell.

In July, the task force received information that Wheadon was allegedly obtaining prescription medications for his personal use, which is illegal, Russell reported.

An investigation found evidence that Wheadon had allegedly obtained prescription medicals by fraud, deceit, misrepresentation or subterfuge on a number of occasions, according to Russell. Task force agents were able to identify some of those transactions through California Department of Justice records.

Agents contacted Wheadon at his office Wednesday while simultaneously serving a search warrant on his Kelseyville home, Russell said.

At Wheadon's home, Russell said agents found patient records, dental medications, and prescription medications Wheadon had allegedly obtained illegally.

They also found numerous firearms, including hunting rifles, a 9 mm pistol and a .38 pistol, said Russell. The firearms appeared to have been obtained legally, Russell added.

Wheadon was arrested on six felony charges, including procuring the administration of controlled substances by fraud, possessing controlled narcotic substances, forging or altering narcotic prescriptions, possessing a destructive device, forgery of prescriptions and first degree burglary.

The burglary charge, explained Russell, was added because Wheadon allegedly entered his place of work with the intent to commit a felony – in this instance, misrepresentation of a prescription.

The specific charges for which Wheadon was arrested stemmed from activities at his place of work, said Russell.

Russell would not disclose how long Wheadon was allegedly involved with the drug activities.

However, Wheadon's alleged activities don't appear linked to a larger prescription drug ring, and the drugs appeared to be for his personal use. “It was an isolated incident as far as we know,” said Russell.

Russell would not comment on a connection between Wheadon's alleged activities to obtain drugs and his patients.

Agents were unable to find evidence of similar alleged drug activity in other communities, Russell added.

According to jail booking records, Wheadon's bail was set at $65,000. By Friday morning Wheadon had posted bail and been released from the Lake County Jail.

According to his booking sheet, Wheadon is set to appear in court on Jan. 14, 2008.

On Jan. 31, 2008, Wheadon's dental license is set to expire, according to state Department of Consumer Affairs.

A call to Lake County Tribal Health to inquire about Wheadon's current employment status was not immediately returned.

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


LAKE COUNTY – The Registrar of Voters Office has released the final vote counts for Tuesday's election.


Lake County Office of Education Governing Board

Trustee Area 4 (ONE vacancy) – 5 of 5 precincts completed

David Browning: 1,272 votes, 78.3 percent

Larry A Juchert: 352 votes, 21.7 percent

Mendocino-Lake College District Governing Board

Trustee Area 3 (ONE vacancy) – 16 of 16 precincts completed

Joan M. Eriksen: 2,174 votes, 55.5 percent

Larry MacLeitch: 1,744 votes, 44.5 percent

Trustee Area 7 (ONE vacancy) – 16 of 16 precincts completed

Jerry DeChaine: 2,114 votes, 53.3 percent

Gary Taylor: 1,849 votes, 46.7 percent

Kelseyville Unified School District Governing Board (THREE vacancies) – 7 of 7 precincts completed

John R. DeChaine: 932 votes, 18.7 percent

Gary Olson: 723 votes, 14.5 percent

Chris Irwin: 678 votes, 13.6 percent

Andy Dobusch: 669 votes, 13.4 percent

Valerie A. Ramirez: 533 votes, 10.7 percent

Don Boyd: 511 votes, 10.2 percent

Philip Murphy: 486 votes, 9.7 percent

Mireya Gehring Turner: 457 votes, 9.2 percent

Lakeport Unified School District Governing Board (THREE vacancies) – 7 of 7 precincts completed

Bob Weiss: 871 votes, 24.5 percent

Robyn K. Stevenson: 855 votes, 24.1 percent

Philip T. Kirby: 791 votes, 22.3 percent

Craig Kinser: 687 votes, 19.4 percent

Patricia Jonas Voulgaris: 345 votes, 9.7 percent

Lucerne Elementary School District Governing Board (ONE vacancy) – 4 of 4 precincts completed

Kay Hancock: 276 votes, 63.6 percent

Bruce Higgins: 158 votes, 36.4 percent

Upper Lake Union High School District Governing Board (TWO vacancies) – 8 of 8 precincts completed

Annie Barnes: 519 votes, 29.2 percent

Colleen Alexander: 454 votes, 25.5 percent

Gary L. Lewis: 316 votes, 17.8 percent

Dawn R. Binns: 287 votes, 16.1 percent

Howard Chavez: 203 votes, 11.4 percent


Anderson Springs Community Services District (TWO vacancies) – 1 of 1 precinct completed

Beatrice A. Moulton: 43 votes, 47.3 percent

Penelope D. Falduto: 38 votes, 41.8 percent

Daniel L. Wood: 10 votes, 11.0 percent

Clearlake Oaks County Water District (THREE vacancies) – 2 of 2 precincts completed

Helen G. Locke: 317 votes, 23.1 percent

Mike Anisman: 252 votes, 18.4 percent

Frank Toney: 248 votes, 18.1 percent

Bob White: 229 votes, 16.7 percent

June A. Greene, 178 votes, 13.0 percent

Glenn R. Rowe, 149 votes, 10.9 percent

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


LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's voters will be out today to take part in elections for local school boards and special districts.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. The location of your polling place is on the back of your sample ballot.

Up for election are three vacancies each on the boards of the Kelseyville Unified and Lakeport Unified School Districts, one vacancy on the Lucerne Elementary School District Board, and two vacancies each on the Upper Lake Union Elementary School and Upper Lake Union High School District boards.

The Lake County Board of Education has three vacancies, one each from Trustee Areas 1, 2 and 3. Mendocino-Lake Community College District's board also is seeking to fill two Lake County vacancies.

Numerous special district vacancies will be filled on Tuesday. They include Anderson Springs Community Services District, Butler-Keys Community Services District, Hidden Valley Lake Community Services District, Kelseyville Fire Protection District, Lake County Fire Protection District, South Lake County Fire Protection District, Adams Springs Water District, Buckingham Park Water District, Callayomi County Water District, Clearlake Oaks County Water District, Cobb Area County Water District, Konocti County Water District, Upper Lake County Water District and Villa Blue Estates Water District.


LAKE COUNTY – The first successful Congressional override of a veto in the Bush presidency will have direct impact on Lake County, with the bill in question authorizing an ecosystem restoration project.

President George W. Bush vetoed HR 1495, The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2007, on Nov. 2.

In his veto message to Congress Bush said the bill “lacks fiscal discipline,” authorizing over 900 projects and programs at a cost of $23 billion, with another $38 billion in appropriations necessary to complete all the projects in the future.

Bush added that the bill failed to set priorities, and should have focused on projects with “the greatest merit.” He said it will hinder the Army Corps of Engineers' ability to pursue critical projects in providing greater hurricane protection for New Orleans, flood reduction in Sacramento and restoration in the everglades.

However, with no WRDA bill passing in seven years, Congress acted to hand Bush the first veto override of his presidency.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted to override Bush's veto in a bipartisan 361-54 vote, according to Congressional records.

On Thursday morning, the Senate followed suit, overriding the veto in a 79-14 vote, with seven senators not voting.

Congressman Mike Thompson, who voted in favor of the House's override, greeted the Senate's action with enthusiasm on Thursday.

"The past three Congresses failed to pass WRDA, and when the new majority in Congress made sure its passage was a top priority, the president vetoed it,” said Thompson. “Fortunately, Congress voted to override the president's veto with a strong, bipartisan majority. Communities across the country have waited too long to repair aging infrastructure that’s putting their residents and businesses at risk.”

He took aim at the president's claims about the bill being “fiscally irresponsible,” saying the bill “does not spend one cent.”

“It is a multi-year authorization bill; spending only occurs when Congress later appropriates funds for projects,” Thompson explained.

“Much of our nation’s flood control and navigation infrastructure is out of date,” said Thompson. “Many environmental restoration projects are struggling with inadequate funding. This bill authorizes the government to spend the money necessary to keep our communities safe. It’s an excellent example of how this Congress is working to address the priorities of the American people.”

What it means to Lake County

One of the projects authorized, but not funded, in WRDA's 2007 version is the Middle Creek Ecosystem Restoration Project in the Northshore area.

The project will restore 1,200 acres of wetlands and 500 acres of floodplain in the Clear Lake area, as Lake County News has previously reported.

The project calls for reconnecting the Scott’s Creek and Middle Creek to the historic Robinson Lake wetland and floodplain. These two watersheds provide 57 percent of the water flow into Clear Lake.

Bob Lossius, Lake County's assistant director of Public Works, said the project is very important to Lake County, and has never been this far along before.

With the bill becoming law, it will authorize the project, which Lossius said is critical to getting the federal, state and private funds needed to complete the work.

“It's another step in keeping the project going,” he said.

He added, “The next step will be for Congressman Thompson and others to get us appropriations in appropriations bills to fund this project at the federal level.”

The total project is estimated to cost about $45 million, said Lossius. The federal government will only cover 65 percent of that amount, so the remaining 35 percent – just under $16 million – must come from state and local sources, including nonprofit groups and private donations.

WRDA itself, said Lossius, only authorizes Middle Creek. “It doesn't commit a single dime to it.”

Lossius added that the county already has a $5 million grant to go toward property acquisition, which can be used as a match to that local funding requirement.

“We'll keep plugging along, going after grants,” he said.

At the state level, the county will work with Sen. Patricia Wiggins and Assemblywoman Patty Berg to get the state to agree to implementing the project. If the state does agree, said Lossius, there is a 50-percent chance of getting up to 50 percent of that $16 million non-federal share.

With WRDA's authorization, state legislation to get the state reclamation board's participation is another item on the to do list, said Lossius.

He said the county also hopes that nonprofit groups will be willing to donate funding to push the project forward.

A lengthy process still ahead

Middle Creek already has a lengthy history, said Lossius.

In 1989, Tom Smythe, an engineer with the county's Water Resources Division, suggested fully restoring an 80- to 90-acre area of land along the Nice-Lucerne Cutoff that is now being transformed into an organic rice field. The owner at the time, however, was not willing to sell, said Lossius.

In 1994, the county, the state Department of Water Resources, property owners and the Army Corps of Engineers met to discuss the area's deteriorating levees, and what could be done to stop flooding.

The Army Corps of Engineers suggested the ecosystem restoration as the best method to improve water quality, benefit wildlife and reduce floods in the Middle Creek area, said Lossius.

In 1997, the Army Corps of Engineers completed a reconnaissance study on the program, Lossius explained. The study was to look at the best options for addressing all of the problems.

The Army Corps of Engineers then conducted environment and feasibility studies beginning in 1999. Those studies were completed in 2004, said Lossius, and cost about $1.5 million, with the county receiving $400,000 in grants to go toward the project, and the state adding another $400,000.

The Corps' conclusion, said Lossius, was that the full Middle Creek restoration was the best of about six alternatives analyzed. The Army Corps chief proposed it in his report to Congress in November 2004.

Then they had to wait three years for a WRDA bill, which takes the project to the next step, said Lossius.

The county, for several years, has been setting aside $400,000 in matching funds for the project's phase one design, said Lossius. “We've been putting it aside for the last three, four years, hoping that this thing would get authorized so we could move forward with design.”

The design's phase one actually will be split into three phases of its own to give the county the opportunity to get together the needed funds, Lossius explained.

Project design will cost between $2 million and $3 million total, said Lossius. The county already has an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers to start the design once authorization and appropriation of the funds are in place.

About 13 homes still need to be moved out of the area – seven already have been moved, said Lossius – and 35 acres of Pomo land that will be flooded are still at issue. Lossius said the tribe has other land it would like to transfer into trust instead, but that has not yet been settled.

Restoring wetlands will improve water quality by filtering sediments out of the floodwaters that come out of the Scotts Creek and Middle Creek watersheds, said Lossius.

The project also will result in returning the area of Bloody Island – called Bo-No-Po-ti in the Pomo language – to an actual island once more when the lake is full, said Lossius.

So, how quickly could the project become a reality?

“The absolute best, if they appropriated at the federal level all of the funds and we had all of the non-federal funds available, it's going to take another three years just to get the design done,” said Lossius.

It would then move to construction, said Lossius. His best guess for the quickest completion would be five years.

However, realistically, it's more likely 10 to 15 years to get such a project completed, he said.

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


KELSEYVILLE – A fundraiser dinner late this month will help support a horse recovering from severe neglect. {sidebar id=24}

Valarie Sullivan is organizing a Nov. 29 benefit at the Saw Shop Gallery Bistro in Kelseyville to raise funds for food and medical bills for Soda Bay, a horse she began fostering earlier this year.

Soda Bay was turned in by his owner to Lake County Animal Care and Control on May 24, as Lake County News previously reported.

The 21-year-old Appaloosa/Thoroughbred gelding was extremely thin, with abscessed feet and other health problems. His condition was so bad that Animal Care and Control had concluded it was best to euthanize him.

However, while she was delivering hay to Animal Care and Control one day, Sullivan saw the horse, and asked if she could take on his care.

Months into his recovery, Soda Bay is doing well, said Sullivan. He’s been enjoying the fall sunshine over the last few weeks and also has been able to socialize with her other horses.

One day recently, Soda Bay even did a little running and bucking around the corral, Sullivan said. “That tells me he feels pretty good.”

The older horse – who Sullivan affectionately called a “grumpy old man” – also is looking better, with more flesh and weight covering his bones, which jutted out from his emaciated frame when Sullivan first brought him home.

“He's had his second set of corrective shoes and he's walking a lot better,” she said. “He barely has a limp any more.”

Good food, affection, joint supplements, a special diet and vet care have helped bring the horse to a point where Sullivan estimates he is about 70-percent recovered. “I think it all makes a difference.”

She added that he has made a lot of progress in just fourth months. “It’s kinda neat.”

His recovery has been helped by the many visitors who come to see him, said Sullivan. “There’s quite a following that he’s acquired. They bring carrots and apples.”

One woman who is in her 80s visits every Soda Bay every Monday, Sullivan said. Four volunteers come on a regular basis now, with activity slowing a bit since school started.

Sullivan wants to help Soda Bay find a good home. She said she is planning on starting an equine nonprofit called “A Gift Horse” which will put horses together with children who might not otherwise be able to have a horse.

Once fully recovered, Soda Bay will probably be up to some light riding for adults and children, said Sullivan. “Even old horses like to go out with their friends.”

Sullivan estimated that it would cost $6,000 for Soda Bay’s year-long rehabilitation. So far, she has received about $700 in donation, along with feed, a blanket and stall mats.

Tickets for the Nov. 29 benefit cost $35 each, said Sullivan, with proceeds benefiting Soda Bay’s recovery.

After Thanksgiving, people will probably be ready for someone else to cook, Sullivan said.

Guests will have their choice of one of three entrees and a door prize ticket, said Sullivan. In addition, there will be $1 raffle tickets, with ticket holders not needing to be present to win one of 10 raffle prizes so far, with the list of prizes continuing to grow.

Early donations include gift certificates to area businesses, custom-made horseshoe sculptures, horse-themed gift items, wine, and coffee and video gift baskets, Sullivan reported.

There also will be a silent auction, with items including a set of gold earrings valued at $350 donated from Coddingtown Jewelers, a deluxe room overnight stay and two one hour massages donated from Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa, a custom-made wine rack donated by Greg Stanley of Kelseyville, a wine gift basket from Ritchie Creek Vineyards of St. Helena valued at $400 and more, according to Sullivan.

Sullivan said she is still looking for primary sponsors for the event, and places to sell the raffle tickets.

For more information about the event, sponsorships or to purchase raffle tickets, call Sullivan at 707-279-9933 or on her cell at 719-661-0306.

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


LAKE COUNTY – A San Francisco man's double-murder trial may start next week.

Renato Hughes, 23, is scheduled to go on trial for the December 2005 deaths of Christian Foster and Rashad Williams.

Lake County News' last report on the case stated that the trial appeared ready to begin on Nov. 6.

However, late last week District Attorney Jon Hopkins said jury selection is still under way.

Hopkins estimated opening arguments and the first evidence in the trial could take place on Wednesday, Nov. 14.

Foster and Williams were shot by Clearlake Park resident Shannon Edmonds as they ran from his home after an alleged attempted robbery on Dec. 7, 2005.

However, Hughes is being tried for their deaths under the provocative act theory, which holds him responsible because he is alleged to have participated in a crime that resulted in a lethal response, in this case by Edmonds.

Hopkins, a veteran prosecutor with a nearly flawless record when it comes to winning homicide convictions, will be matched with Hughes' defense attorney, Stuart Hanlon of San Francisco.

Hanlon may be best known for his work on the case of Geronimo Pratt, a Louisianan and Vietnam veteran who became a member of the Black Panthers.

Pratt was imprisoned for 27 years for a murder he didn't commit. It was Hanlon and famed attorney Johnnie Cochran who eventually succeeded in willing Pratt's release in 1997.

In 2003, Hanlon was a member of the legal team representing San Francisco Police Chief Earl Sanders and nine officers facing obstruction of justice charges, according to a San Francisco Chronicle account.

The Chronicle stated that Hanlon was considered one of San Francisco's best defense attorneys.

Hanlon has tried unsuccessfully, so far, to have Hughes' case moved from Lake County, citing concerns about the largely white makeup of the county's population.

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


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