Wednesday, 21 February 2024

News

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – After two extremely hot days with temperatures in excess of 100 degrees in many areas, a rapid cool-down is forecast for the weekend, bringing a return to below-normal daytime temperatures beginning today.


Like much of California, daytime temperatures were well above normal on Tuesday throughout Lake County, although no records were broken here.


Around the rest of the state numerous records tumbled down as the mercury shot up due to a strong high pressure system that stalled over much of California and continued to heat up Northern California, including Lake County, on Wednesday.


According to Bob Benjamin, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, the high heat will not last and will cool down considerably through Sunday. That's when a strong trough from the Gulf of Alaska is predicted to settle over Northern California, with some areas forecast to see a 40-degree temperature drop.


High daytime temperatures should only reach the mid- to upper-80s Thursday, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento, and will trend downward as the cold trough moves in to Lake County.


The weekend will feel almost cold by comparison when temperatures only reach the mid- to upper-70s throughout Lake County, and overnight lows dip in to the upper 40s.


Average temperatures for this time of year are in the low-90s, with overnight lows in the mid-50s.


As the cooler weather settles over Northern California, a slight chance of rain is possible in the northern mountains, but forecasters predict it will be mostly clear to partly cloudy in Lake County throughout the weekend.


For up-to-the-minute weather information, please visit the Lake County News homepage.


E-mail Terre Logsdon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – The National Weather Service in Sacramento has issued a special weather statement for Lake County and much of Northern California for Tuesday, with high temperatures expected to reach above the 100-degree mark for the first time in August.


After an unseasonably cool and pleasant weekend, temperatures climbed back in to the high-90s on Monday, with areas in Middletown and Kelseyville reaching the century mark, according to the Western Weather Group.


Tuesday and Wednesday should be even hotter, according to the National Weather Service, as temperatures around Lake County are forecast to reach into the 100s.


Overnight Tuesday, the thermometer will only dip to the mid- and upper-60s, the National Weather Service predicted.


On Wednesday, daytime highs will cool by a few degrees, but still will hover near 100 degrees due to the continuing high-pressure system, forecasters said.


The National Weather Service said that daytime high temperatures will begin to decrease on Thursday. At that point, daytime temperatures will return to the average highs in the lower 90s, according to the Old Farmers' Almanac, and the cooling trend continues through the end of the week.


Overnight lows also will trend downward, forecasters said, with lows in the mid-50s expected on Friday morning.


For up-to-the-minute weather information, please visit the Lake County News homepage.


E-mail Terre Logsdon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif – Lake County's unemployment took a turn upward in July while the state and national percentages remained unchanged.


The Employment Development Department's latest report stated that July's unemployment rate in Lake County was 17.3 percent, up from 16.8 percent this past June and 15 percent in July of 2009. The county was ranked No. 49 out of the state's 58 counties.


The state rate remained unchanged at 12.3 percent, but remained higher than the 11.8 percent recorded in July 2009, according to state documents. The unemployment rate is derived from a federal survey of 5,500 California households.


The Employment Development Department said nonfarm jobs in California totaled 13,874,900 in July, a decrease of 9,400 over the month, according to a survey of businesses that is larger and less variable statistically. Job losses were primarily in government employment, mostly temporary federal Census jobs, while private nonfarm payrolls grew by 13,700 jobs.


A survey of 42,000 California businesses that measures jobs in the economy showed a year-over-year change – July 2009 to July 2010 – of 103,800 fewer jobs, or a 0.7 percent decrease.


On the national level, the U.S. unemployment rate also was unchanged in July at 9.5 percent, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national unemployment rate in July 2009 was 9.4 percent.


Statewide, the lowest unemployment rate was 8.6 percent in Marin County, while the highest was in Imperial County, which the Employment Development Department said recorded a 30.3 percent rate.


In July, Lake County had a work force of 26,010 people, with 4,510 of them out of work, according to state data, compared with 26,460 workers and 4,450 people out of work in June.


Lake's neighboring counties posted the following rates and state rankings: Glenn, 16.6 percent, No. 47; Mendocino, 11.4 percent, No. 15; Napa, 9.4 percent, No. 3; Sonoma, 10.8 percent, No. 11; and Yolo, 12 percent, No. 23.


Upper Lake continued as the county area with the lowest unemployment in July, 9.1 percent, while Clearlake Oaks again registered the highest unemployment locally at 25.5 percent, detailed state labor data showed.


The following unemployment rates were reported for other areas of the county, from highest to lowest: Nice, 25 percent; city of Clearlake, 24.6 percent; Lucerne, 18.2 percent; Kelseyville and Middletown tied with 17.6 percent; city of Lakeport, 16.7 percent; Cobb, 15.5 percent; Lower Lake, 14.6 percent; Hidden Valley Lake, 14.3 percent; north Lakeport, 13.7 percent.


State lost jobs in year-over-year comparison


The Employment Development Department said that a federal survey of households, done with a smaller sample than the survey of employers, showed an increase in the number of employed people during the month. The survey estimated the number of employed Californians in July was 16,018,000, a decrease of 51,000 from June, and down 83,000 from the employment total in July of last year.


The number of people unemployed in California was 2,251,000 – up by 7,000 over the month, and up by 100,000 compared with July of last year, the report said.


The agency's payroll employment report, tracking wage and salary jobs in the nonfarm industries of California, showed jobs totaled 13,874,900 in July, a net loss of 9,400 jobs since the June survey and a loss of 24,000 jobs in June.


The state said five categories – construction; trade, transportation and utilities; information; educational and health services; and other services – added jobs over the month, gaining 21,000 jobs. Educational and health services posted the largest increase over the month, adding 11,600 jobs.


Approximately 30,400 jobs were reported over five categories – mining and logging; manufacturing; professional and business services; leisure and hospitality; and government, the state said.


Government posted the largest decline over the month, down by 23,100 jobs, the state said, while one sector, financial activities, reported no change over the month.


In year-over-year comparison, five industry divisions showed a total of 65,400 jobs gained, including mining and logging; information; professional and business services; educational and health services; and other services. Educational and health services recorded the largest increase over the year on both a numerical and percentage basis, up 35,500 jobs, or 2.0 percent, according to the state.


Showing job declines over the year were six categories – construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; financial activities; leisure and hospitality; and government – down by 169,200 jobs. The report showed that construction employment had the largest decline over the year on both a numerical and percentage basis, down by 54,300 jobs, a decline of 9.1 percent.


The Employment Development Department said there were approximately 666,502 people receiving regular unemployment insurance benefits during the July survey week. That compares with 643,428 last month and 812,165 last year.


New claims for unemployment insurance were 73,817 in July 2010, compared with 75,866 in June and 80,048 in July of last year, the report said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

HOPLAND, Calif. – State officials have arrested seven individuals and are seeking an eighth in connection with an alleged embezzlement from Hopland Sho-Ka-Wah Casino.


The arrests resulted from an investigation begun in November 2008 by the California Department of Justice's Bureau of Gambling Control, according to a Tuesday report.


Joan Elizabeth Pickron, 42, of Ukiah, and seven associates were suspected of embezzling more than $102,000 from the casino, the Bureau of Gambling Control reported.


State agents from the bureau worked closely with the Hopland Commissioned Police and Hopland Band of Pomo Indians' Tribal Gaming Agency during the investigation, which they say revealed that Pickron and her co-conspirators had allegedly overridden jackpot slot machines to cheat the casino.


On June 26, Pickron and her seven co-conspirators were sent notices to appear in Mendocino County Court for embezzling the funds, the agency reported.


A month later, on July 26 four suspects – whose names were not immediately available late Tuesday – turned themselves in as ordered. However, the Bureau of Gambling Control reported that Pickron and three of the other suspects failed to appear in court. Based on their failure to appear, felony arrest warrants were issued.


On Aug. 19, Bureau of Gambling Control agents, Hopland Commissioned Police and Ukiah Police detectives located and arrested Pickron, along with fellow Ukiah residents John Steven Glass Jr., 38, and Alex Ralph Martin, 47, and booked them for embezzlement and grand theft.


Bail for all three arrestees was set at $15,000, according to Mendocino County Jail records. Glass also was charged with violating probation.


One suspect is still outstanding, although officials did not release that person's name.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – Lake County's only charter school is gearing up for changes as it prepares to enter the new school year.


The Lake County International Charter School (LCICS) is in the midst of transitioning its holdings into a central school facility in the Langtry House, located at 15850 Armstrong Street in Middletown, one block south of Highway 29 in the downtown area.


The school will offer full-day kindergarten through sixth grade instruction in the 2010-11 school year, along with creative arts and Spanish.


Previously, it offered seventh and eighth grade instruction, but school officials reported that demand for those classes wasn't high enough to continue offering those grades.


The charter school's staff and team are working with longtime Sonoma County principal Ceasar Camarillo to coordinate the changes and school opening.


“With school starting on Aug. 30, the staff and families are very excited,” said Camarillo. “Registration is happening every day for all grade levels. It’s great to see so many families coming by to help out the teachers before school starts.”


According to the California Department of Education, the school’s 2009-10 Base Academic Performance Index (API) scores for the school is currently 832, an increase of over 90 index points over the previous year.


“It’s one of the many reasons my children are attending here,” said Kathleen Noble, a school parent. “We’ve been here for four years and my children are doing great at LCICS.”


LCICS is a free public charter school, but is also an authorized IB (International Baccalaureate) World School, offering its Primary Years Program (PYP) to all K-6th students in Lake County.


“This program presents a unique educational option for our families,” said Charter Council member Gwendolyn Maupin-Ahern, whose own children attend the school.


“The IB program is not an off-the-shelf curriculum,” she explained. “Essentially, the core learning standards are intertwined inside project-based thematic units. Both teacher- and student-generated questions drive inquiry that motivates the students to be critical thinkers. So, in the end, the students learn much more than the basics. And because they participated in developing the learning projects, they stay focused and interested. ”


LCICS will host an open house from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28, for all current parents as well as the whole community.


The open house will feature teaching demonstrations, music, art, Zumba for kids, healthy lunch demos, food and more. The community is invited to join the school for the event.


For more information, please call the school at 707-987-3063 or visit the school online at www.lcics.org.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKEPORT, Calif. – The 31st annual Clear Lake Splash-In, the largest gathering of seaplanes west of the Mississippi, will be held in Lakeport on Friday, Sept. 24, through Sunday, Sept. 26.


The public can get a closeup look at float planes on Saturday, talk with pilots, and witness a spectacle of aerial events including water-bombing contests, a parade of seaplanes, fly-bys and more.


Seaplanes and amphibians at the splash-in will include Grummans, Republics, Lakes, Cessnas, Pipers, deHavillands and a variety of experimental aircraft modified with floats.

 

For pilots, registration is from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 24, at the Skylark Shores Resort, 1120 N. Main St.


The Skylark Shores Resort docks will serve fixed-float planes and the ramp at the Natural High School field is available for amphibious seaplanes.


Land planes or aircraft unable to land on water more than once will be welcomed at Lampson Field, a few miles away. Shuttle service will be available Saturday and Sunday from Lampson Field to the seaplane venues.

 

For more information, visit www.clearlakesplashin.com.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

Following several weeks of unseasonably cool weather, temperatures are on the rise again, prompting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to urge Californians to take steps now to prepare for the heat.


Employers should also review their heat illness prevention programs and remind employees of the importance of protecting themselves.


“Though this summer has been unusually mild, temperatures in many areas of the state are predicted to rise over 100 degrees this week, and everyone should take proper precautions to avoid heat-related illness,” said Schwarzenegger. “With just a few simple steps, such as drinking an adequate amount of water, staying indoors during the hottest times of the day and pacing yourself when outside, we can all keep cool and safely enjoy the outdoors during hot weather.”


The National Weather Service has forecast above-normal temperatures affecting the state through Thursday, with the highest temperatures expected in the Central and Southern California valleys on Tuesday and Wednesday.


“Though we’ve had lower temperatures recently, we cannot forget that it is summer in California and we must be prepared for hot weather,” said California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) Secretary Matthew Bettenhausen. “Taking time to review and update family emergency plans, restock emergency supply kits and drinking water supplies, learn first aid and CPR, are ways we can all reduce our risk and create a cooler environment to beat the heat.”


Because drinking fluids is essential to avoiding heat exhaustion, heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses, officials strongly suggested that Californians include plenty of drinking water in their emergency supply kits.


Officials also recommend Californians consider the needs of family members and neighbors, who are elderly, have physical impairments and other unique needs.


“Infants, small children, the elderly, people with illnesses and those who are taking certain medications could be at additional risk to heat-related illnesses,” noted California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Mark Horton. “If it hasn’t been done yet, now is the time to obtain extra medications and food, and to arrange for someone to check on those who are living alone or have special needs.”


Employers are also asked to take appropriate precautions.


The Division of Occupational Safety and Health investigations show that in 30 percent of cases in which suspected heat illness occurred, the employer did not have a heat illness prevention program. Heat illness is preventable. Preventing heat illness protects your workers and is good business. Health and safety problems and other health problems like heart attacks and falls may result from heat illness at the workplace.


In preparation for this week’s temperature increase, the following actions have been taken:


  • Cal EMA continues to conduct daily weather conference calls with the National Weather Service, state agencies, local responding agencies and private partners to coordinate response efforts;

  • State and local agencies continue monitoring the weather situation and providing updated information to employers and the public.

 

For summer heat resources, please visit Cal EMA at www.calema.ca.gov.


Additional health tips can be found on the California Department of Public Health Web site at www.cdph.ca.gov.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf.

LAYTONVILLE, Calif. – Mendocino County Sheriff's officials are seeking a suspect in a home invasion robbery that took place late last week.


The unidentified American Indian male allegedly accompanied 25-year-old Shawntell Hoaglen of Laytonville during a home invasion robbery that took place on Laytonville Reservation Road late last Thursday, according to a report from Capt. Kurt Smallcomb.


At 2 p.m. last Friday Mendocino Sheriff's deputies were contacted by officers from the Cahto Tribal Police Department and advised of the incident, Smallcomb said.


He said deputies proceeded to the Laytonville Reservation where they interviewed the victims, who said that Hoaglen and the male suspect entered into their residence through an open front door.


Hoaglen and her accomplice allegedly began to demand money before she punched a female victim in the face, causing injury, after learning there was no money inside the residence, Smallcomb said. The male accomplice brandished a small pocket knife and threatened to “stick” the male victim if he did not provide him with money or valuables.


Hoaglen and her accomplice allegedly spent approximately an hour inside the residence, terrorizing the victims and looking for valuables, Smallcomb said. Hoaglen and her accomplice allegedly forced the male victim to load a television and other electronics into a getaway car that they had parked in front of the residence.


During their investigation, deputies obtained items of evidence that proved Hoaglen's involvement, Smallcomb said. Evidence was also located that will aid in identifying Hoaglen's accomplice.


Deputies and tribal police officers located Hoaglen hiding inside of a residence and took her into custody without incident. Smallcomb said tribal police officers recovered the stolen property in a shed on the property where Hoaglen was staying.


Anyone with knowledge of the identity or whereabouts of Hoaglen's male accomplice should contact Deputy Wyant at 707-463-4086.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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An organic heirloom Brandywine ripening on the vine at Leonardis Organics in Kelseyville, Calif. Photo by Esther Oertel.




 


I may be overdoing it with this moniker for one of my favorite foods, but that’s truly what their fresh-off-the-vine, locally grown goodness tastes like to me. Like Pavlov’s dogs, the pungent smell of tomato vines can make me salivate.


The midsummer heat brings long-awaited fulfillment of my craving for fresh tomato sandwiches, and there is nothing better with which to make them than the beautiful array of local, farm-grown tomatoes available this time of year.


My affection for vine-ripened tomatoes is so great that the term “heirloom tomato” may be one of my favorite culinary phrases.


I’m thinking of them now, nestled in farmers’ market stalls in all their colorful glory. They’re calling my name: red, charmingly creviced Brandywines with their classic sweet taste; yellow firm-fleshed Persimmons; earthy, smoky Cherokee purples; Marvel stripes with their red and green striations, and oh-so-many more. Together they make a rainbow of sweet, savory, subtle, intense tomato flavor.


I’ll never forget when my husband got inspired by a seed catalog and planted more than 40 varieties of tomatoes in our home garden. We seemed to have tomatoes in every conceivable color and shape that year, from an almost black Russian variety to tiny yellow ones the size of berries.


I’m thankful that our dehydrator endured all its use that summer and that our friends enjoyed their Christmas gifts of our dried tomato experiments.


Tomatoes, along with eggplants and squashes, are botanically classified as a fruit; however, for culinary purposes, they’re considered a vegetable since they don’t have the high sugar content of other fruits.


On an interesting, if unusual, side note, in 1893 the U.S. Supreme Court was asked to rule on whether tomatoes should be treated vegetables or fruits. In that case regarding importation tariffs, the vegetable designation prevailed.


Supermarket tomatoes are no match for summer’s local crop. While the average American consumes almost 22 pounds of them each year (mostly in the form of ketchup and canned sauces), only 10 percent of us rate them as our favorite vegetable, largely due to the poor taste of those found in the produce departments of conventional markets.


Tomatoes are a fragile fruit, and do best when brought to the table from the vine in the shortest route possible.


Because supermarket tomatoes must endure shipping and cold storage, they’ve been bred for durability and a long shelf life, and that has done away with the complex mix of sugar, acid and chemicals that create good tomato flavor.


In addition, tomatoes that must be transported long distances are picked immature, before they’ve had the chance to develop their natural flavor, and are “ripened” later using ethylene gas, which gives them a red color.


When I buy a tomato from the supermarket in the off season, it’s the plum or cherry variety, which haven’t been as subject to the breeding that does away with flavor. In cooked dishes, canned Italian plum tomatoes often impart more flavor than fresh ones from the store.


Tomatoes are native to the western part of South America, including the Galapagos Islands, but were first cultivated in southern Mexico beginning in about 500 B.C.


They were brought to Europe by Spanish Conquistadors, and by the 16th century had spread throughout Europe.


They were not initially popular as a food, however, as they were thought to be poisonous. (While the leaves contain toxins common to members of the nightshade family, the fruit is – thankfully! – quite edible.)


Tomatoes are an absolute powerhouse of nutrition. They’re full of lycopene, an antioxidant which has been shown to be protective against a growing list of cancers, as well as a benefit to cardiovascular health.


If you’re interested in getting a healthy dose of lycopene, studies have revealed that organic tomato products have three times the amount than their conventionally grown counterparts.


Tomatoes abound in vitamins A and C, a range of B vitamins, potassium and fiber. They’re also high in vitamin K, which is essential for maintaining bone health.


I’m convinced that tomatoes are one of the healthiest things one can eat.


And, speaking of eating, what about that tomato sandwich I mentioned? My favorite way to create one is to layer slices of heirloom tomatoes of varying colors on sourdough French bread and top it with fresh basil leaves, real mayonnaise and a bit of salt and freshly ground pepper.


Sometimes I make a basil aioli to replace the fresh leaves and mayo, and I’ve shared that recipe below.


Modern-day aioli is a spin on the traditional sauce of garlic and olive oil that originated in the Provence region of France.


Aioli is often looked upon as a flavored mayonnaise, but a true aioli must contain garlic. If the garlic clove is eliminated from my recipe below (which is an option for its preparation), it would more appropriately be called basil mayonnaise.


Also shared below is my recipe for one of my favorite summer meals, a cooling tomato-based soup called gazpacho, which hails from the southern region of Andalusia in Spain. Chocked full of fresh summer veggies, you may be able to find most of its ingredients in your garden or local farmers’ market.


While some gazpacho recipes call for blending the entire batch of veggies into a puree, I prefer to puree only half of them to maintain an interesting texture and satisfying crunch.


Enjoy! Researchers have found that eating gazpacho helps guard against depression, so it’s guaranteed to make you happy.


Gazpacho


3 large tomatoes, diced

1 cucumber, peeled and diced

2 bell peppers, chopped (combine red, green, yellow or other colors)

1 red onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cups tomato juice

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

¼ cup fresh basil, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Tabasco sauce and salt & pepper to taste


Combine vegetables in a large glass bowl.


Add remaining ingredients and mix well.


Add half the mixture to a food processor and blend until smooth.


Combine puree with original mixture and chill for 4 hours before serving.


Garnish with diced avocado or cilantro, if desired.


Serves four.


Basil aioli


Combine one large egg, 1 clove crushed garlic, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a food processor. Process for a few seconds until mixture is emulsified.


Keep the motor running as you drizzle in just under a cup of extra virgin olive oil. Add 1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh basil and pulse a bit until combined. Scrape the aioli into a container and refrigerate.


Makes about 1-1/2 cups.


Esther Oertel, the "Veggie Girl," is a personal chef and culinary coach and is passionate about local produce. Oertel owns The SageCoach Personal Chef Service and teaches culinary classes at Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake. She welcomes your questions and comments; e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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A column of smoke rises from a fire near Indian Valley Reservoir on Tuesday, August 24, 2010. Photo by Lisa Kauppinen.




STORY UPDATED AT 6:45 P.M.


INDIAN VALLEY RESERVOIR, Calif. – State and local firefighters responded on Tuesday afternoon to a wildland fire in a remote region of Lake County.


Cal Fire spokesperson Daniel Berlant said the fire was located at the north end of Indian Valley Reservoir.


Initially reported at about 3:30 p.m., the fast-growing blaze had reached between 75 and 100 acres around an hour later, according to Berlant.


Reports from the scene noted the fire had a moderate rate of spread with the potential to burn several hundred acres. A structure was said to be threatened.


By 5:30 p.m., the fire had grown again, to 250 acres, according to Suzie Blankenship, another Cal Fire spokesperson monitoring the fire locally.


Blankenship said shortly before 6:45 p.m. that the fire had reached 600 acres, with the size partly attributed to a firing operation that was being used to fight the blaze. At that time it was 10-percent contained.


“They're making good progress,” Blankenship said.


Several air tankers and helicopters, along with bulldozers, engines and firefighters from Cal Fire were dispatched, according to radio reports. Northshore Fire resources also were being dispatched.


Blankenship said she did not have specifics on the resources at the scene immediately available.


“They're ordering up equipment for tomorrow's day shift right now,” she said.


Blankenship said winds were 5 miles per hour coming from the northeast, with the temperature at 96 degrees with 22-percent humidity.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

 

 

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Elizabeth Cox captured a photo of the Indian Valley Reservoir fire from the Clear Lake Riviera at 4:45 p.m.
 

THE ARTICLE HAS BEEN CLARIFIED REGARDING THE LENGTH OF THE STATE TRIBAL GAMING MONOPOLY.

 

UPPER LAKE, Calif. – In a decision that could have implications for other California gaming tribes, the US Department of the Interior has denied the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake's proposed gaming compact with the state, a move that will push back the tribe's planned casino project.


The decision was handed down last week in a letter signed by Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk, who asserted that the proposed compact – approved by the California Legislature last year – violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).


“This is devastating but I don't think we're done,” Tribal Chair Sherry Treppa told Lake County News in a weekend interview.


The Habematolel Pomo have proposed to build a $25 million, 34,000-square-foot facility with 349 machines, six game tables, retail shops and restaurants on an 11.24-acre parcel on Highway 20 outside of Upper Lake, as Lake County News has reported. The tribe has a compact for Class III gaming, where the machines have the user playing against the house.


County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox, who has worked closely with the tribe over the last several years, said he was disappointed with the Department of the Interior's decision.


“I think that the tribe has tried to do everything right and it's been a very long process and I think they deserved a better outcome,” he said.


Cheryl Schmit, director of Stand Up California, a group that monitors Indian gaming across the state, said the Habematolel are seeing the impact of court decisions involving the Rincon and Colusa tribes that may end up having a negative impact on residents across the state.


Specifically, those two court cases faulted California's negotiations for revenue sharing agreements with tribes. “The citizens of California are not going to be able to be reimbursed now for the significant off-reservation impacts” of casinos,” she said.


If such decisions hold, “We are the losers,” Schmit said of the state's residents.


Echo Hawk's decision letter was offered on the tribe's third submission of its compact for approval, Treppa said.


The state Legislature approved the tribe's first compact with the state last December. The compact terms included the tribe's agreement to pay the state general fund 15 percent of the casino revenues, with an allowance to have as many as 750 gaming machines. However, if the tribe were to increase its number of machines, it agreed to pay $900 for every machine from 350 and above into the state's revenue sharing fund.


State approval cleared the way for the compact to go to the Department of the Interior for the final approval, and Treppa said the tribe initially submitted the compact to the agency on Jan. 12.


However, Department of the Interior officials raised questions about the compact's revenue sharing provisions, a point acknowledged both by Treppa and Echo Hawk's decision letter, signed Aug. 17.


Treppa said the tribe withdrew its first submission in order to resubmit it with additional documentation on Feb. 25, but they again had to withdraw it on April 8, before the 45-decision period ran out, because Interior officials continued to question the compact's provisions. The compact was submitted a third time on July 6, Treppa said.


Treppa said the tribe found out that Washington policymakers wanted to send a message to the state by denying the compact. The tribe sought guidance from Echo Hawk and his staff on what would constitute an acceptable compact.


She said they were told to read Echo Hawk's letter and that Interior officials would meet with them in a few weeks. A copy of the letter also was to be sent to the state.


At the same time, “We were also told that what would be an acceptable compact 'has not been adequately determined by the Department,'” Treppa said.


Echo Hawk said in his letter to Treppa, “We review revenue sharing requirements in gaming compacts with great scrutiny,” and consider if the state has offered in return meaningful concessions, which he identified as items the state otherwise isn't require to offer.


He said an important part of his agency's analysis on the issue came from the Ninth Circuit Court opinion Rincon Band of Luiseno Mission Indians of the Rincon Reservations versus Schwarzenegger, handed down in April. That ruling, said Echo Hawk, provided “guidance on the extent to which revenue sharing and variations on tribal gaming exclusivity constituted 'meaningful concessions' under IGRA.”


Treppa said the Department of the Interior was under the misconception that the tribe was receiving an entitlement by being able to receive state revenue sharing funds – reportedly about $1 million annually for tribes with less than 350 gaming machines. It only would be considered an entitlement under the 1999 compacts, she said.


The tribe also negotiated an exclusivity clause with the state wherein if a Class III nontribal gaming interest came within 100 miles of the Habematolel facility, it would end the revenue sharing requirement because it would impact the tribe's ability to maintain its net revenues, she said.


Echo Hawk's letter explained that, under IGRA, the Interior secretary has 45 days to approve or disapprove a compact. If the secretary doesn't specifically disapprove the document, it's considered to have been approved. The 45-day comment period for Habematolel's third try at compact approval ended last Friday, Treppa said.


Treppa suggested that the small tribe with 211 members – with nearly 60-percent unemployment among its membership – is in the midst of what appears to be a standoff between the US government and the state of California. She questioned why federal officials simply didn't wait to sit down and talk with a new governor beginning next year.


It's a clear policy change from what has been done in the past, Treppa said.


“We have become a pawn in their fight,” she said.


Treppa said the tribe will be pushing hard for clarification from the Department of the Interior. “I believe that there is going to be a backlash with this decision,” she said.


Echo Hawk, who formerly served as Idaho's attorney general, advocated for changes to that state's constitution to prevent Class III compact negotiations with tribes, according to Indian Country Today. Concerns that he would take an anti-gaming approach in his assistant secretary's job led to criticism of him from some corners during the confirmation process.


The impacts of the Rincon decision


In the 97-page Rincon decision, the tribe sued the state over the terms of a renegotiated gaming compact in which it was seeking to increase its gaming devices from 1,600 to 2,500. The state agreed, but sought 15 percent of the net win on the new machines and an additional 15 percent annual fee based on Rincon's total 2004 revenue, the court document stated.


In exchange, the state offered Rincon a 25-year extension of its compact and an “exclusivity provision,” the latter a provision that the tribe argued already was provided under Proposition 1A.


In a majority decision, the court decided that Schwarzenegger had negotiated in bad faith, and that the state's revenue requirements constituted “an impermissible demand for the payment of a tax by the tribe.”


The argument of bad faith and taxation, the court explained, could only be successfully countered if the state could prove that the revenue demanded in the compact was to be used for “the public interest, public safety, criminality, financial integrity, and adverse economic impacts on existing gaming activities.”


The state also had to prove the compact's terms were consistent with IGRA, the stated purposes of which include ensuring that tribes are “the primary beneficiaries of gaming and ensuring that gaming is protected as a means of generating tribal revenue.”


The Ninth Circuit Court maintained that Schwarzenegger had failed to successfully make those arguments. In particular, the court found that the state's revenue sharing would result in $38 million in net revenue for the state but only $2 million for the tribe, making the state the primary beneficiary, not the tribe, as the IGRA requires.


The court's decision noted that the Department of Interior has approved other compacts with California tribes that included general fund revenue sharing provisions, but had done so “reluctantly.”


“Often, the Secretary simply permits compacts with revenue sharing provisions to go into effect 'only to the extent they are consistent with IGRA,' thus leaving open the precise question at issue,” the court noted.


While the court noted that it was mindful that states like California “are currently writhing in the financial maw created by the clash of certain mandatory state expenditures at a time when state revenues have plummeted from historic levels,” it also stated it was “keenly aware of our nation’s

too-frequent breach of its trust obligations to Native Americans when some of its politically and economically powerful citizens and states have lusted after what little the Native Americans have possessed.”


The court asserted that when Congress created IGRA, it “anticipated that states might abuse their authority over compact negotiations to force tribes to accept burdens on their sovereignty in order to obtain gaming opportunities,” which is why the good faith requirement exists, and why IGRA condemns the kinds of state taxation demands the court found Schwarzenegger made of Rincon.


The Ninth Circuit Court's decision wasn't unanimous, and Judge Jay Bybee wrote a dissent in which he suggested that the Rincon decision “does not just upset the apple cart – it derails the whole train.”


He continued, “If the majority is correct, then there is nothing for California to do but to authorize whatever devices the Band wants. The Band wins. Everything.”


Bybee didn't find that California's revenue sharing proposal was a tax, and said IGRA does not address whether states and tribes may include revenue sharing in their negotiations – although it does allow them to discuss provision directly related to gaming activities, and the court itself previously had held that parties could negotiate over “fee demands.”


“The majority now holds that such fee demands cannot include general revenue sharing derived from the operation of gaming activities, but are limited to fees spent on the regulation of gaming alone. This restriction takes from the State its primary incentive in negotiating gaming compacts with the tribes,” Bybee wrote.


Bybee also didn't find that California negotiated in bad faith, since its constitution granted tribes the exclusive right to offer Nevada-style gaming.


With the state offering Rincon more than a 50-percent increase in gaming machines and the 25-year compact extension, Bybee suggested that such terms were within the range of good faith negotiations.


“Of course, whether the Band should accept the State’s offer is a very different question from whether the State has negotiated in bad faith,” he wrote. “But absent the majority’s intervention, both sides would have strong incentives to continue negotiations.”


Bybee said the revenue sharing provision that the court majority struck from the negotiations is found in 15 other California tribal compacts that the state recently had negotiated or renegotiated, all of which the Secretary of the Interior had approved, which could lead the tribes to arguing that their compacts must now be renegotiated.


He said it also would affect every state where compact negotiations have included revenue sharing provisions – among them, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, New York, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wisconsin – that the Interior secretary also had approved.


“The result is going to be chaos as tribe after tribe seeks to reopen negotiations concluded and duly approved,” Bybee said. “Nothing in IGRA compels our intervention in these negotiations.”


He said he expects legal challenges to similar agreements to result throughout the United States as a result of the court's majority decision. Such suits “will eat up State, tribal, and federal resources and will unsettle dozens of mutually beneficial revenue-sharing provisions that have fed both tribal coffers and revenue-hungry state treasuries.”


“The Rincon decision did impact us, but it shouldn't have,” said Treppa, noting that the tribe's discussions with Interior official centered on the same revenue sharing issues raised in the lawsuit.


If federal officials are suggesting that no amount of revenue sharing should be paid, “that's even more concerning,” said Treppa, noting that no tribal compact would get through, and there are many up for renegotiation.


Habematolel is the first tribe to have its compact turned down since the Rincon decision, Treppa said. She also believes that had a larger and more influential tribe been involved, the compact would have been approved.


The Ninth Circuit Court denied a request from Schwarzenegger to hear the case again, with the case now reportedly headed to the US Supreme Court.


Schmit said the decision could mean that the 1999 compacts won't be renegotiated, and it raises questions about the justification for the tribal gaming monopoly that's been in place for 10 years. She questioned if the state should expand gaming to everyone or is there a way to get tribes to recognize the need for being better neighbors.


The Interior secretary previously signed four ballot measures allowing four of the state's largest gaming tribes – Pechanga, Agua Caliente, Morongo and Sycuan – to expand their operations in exchange for $300 million in revenue to the state annually. “Those guys aren't paying the money that they promised they were going to pay,” Schmit pointed out.


The lawsuits will make it more difficult for tribes to reach compacts with the state. “What's in it for the state now? Nothing,” she added.


Then, last week, on Aug. 20, the Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians of the Colusa Indian Community and the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians, who sued the state and the California Gambling Control Commission, were successful in arguing for a higher limit to the number of gaming machine permits.


The result, said Schmit, is that another 8,000 slot machines will be added to the statewide cap, currently at around 75,000.


What's next for the tribe


Treppa said the compact the tribe negotiated with the state is “dead” and they must go back to the negotiating table, with the revenue sharing and exclusivity the main points that must be reconsidered.


They're concerned, however, about having to spend a lot of time and money to continue a process when they might still be disapproved, Treppa said. Another unknown – how the state's new governor might approach such negotiations.


The tribe also is communicating with Congressman Mike Thompson's office, which Treppa said has contacted the Department of the Interior to express its concerns.


She said the tribe is working with its lender, Luna Gaming, to keep the project on track. She believes the lender will continue funding their efforts as they renegotiate the compact. Luna Gaming, a Michigan-based gaming management company, has been involved in the project since 2005.


All work has since stopped on the property where the casino is proposed to be located. Treppa said they broke ground earlier this year.


“We began construction and we were sent a letter by the state telling us to stop construction because we didn't have an approved compact” by the Department of the Interior, but Treppa said the tribe disagreed, sent the state a letter explaining its position and continued.


When it became clear that the compact wasn't going to be approved, however, they had to comply with the request to stop construction, and the lender didn't want to fund any further improvements, she said.


The tribe is considering other options, such as scaling its compact back to a Class II agreement for facsimile slot machines that are more like electronic bingo, with people playing against each other, Treppa said. San Pablo has such a gaming facility, and it doesn't require payments to the state.


The county and the tribe reached a memorandum of understanding in 2006 that constitutes an in-lieu contribution equivalent to the amount of property tax that would have been paid on the 11-acre casino site, as Lake County News has reported. The funds are meant to cover public safety costs.


The tribe also contributed $378,000 to the Lake County Sanitation District for system upgrades and agreed to pay a small amount to support the county's marketing department, which later will be replaced by an amount equal to the county's 9-percent transient occupancy tax if they build a lodging facility, the county reported.


“They've been an outstanding group to work with, right from day one,” said Cox.


Treppa said the county “has been stellar in support of us,” noting the tribe won't turn its back on the county and the memorandum of understanding it negotiated with county officials. While that agreement still stands, the payments will be postponed, since they're based on compact approval.


Cox said he anticipates the tribe eventually will get the compact through, but he felt it was a shame they were put through so many delays.


Treppa said she'll start beating the pavement again in Sacramento to get the process going.


“We certainly are not of the mind to give up,” she said, adding, “Sometimes things happen for a reason.”


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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