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Letters (July 29, 2021)

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Subject: Skunk Train, Current Status

Well, here we go again with Robert Pinoli and the Skunk Train. Of course Robert will save the day and deliver water to the parched coast. Of course he will.

There is no way the trestles down here can hold those cars -- no work has been done on them and they are collapsing.

I have a photo (taken yesterday) from the Trout Unlimited culvert project near mile 26. No tracks for 1/4 mile. It's been this way for nearly 2 years now. I'm pretty sure you need tracks to get a train through. You just have to wonder what Robert's angle is this time? Or perhaps he just wants to play the hero, but he ought to know damn well he almost certainly cannot deliver in time to help anyone with the water shortage in Ft. Bragg. 

Somebody really ought to investigate all of his claims and business dealings! Or reach out to Mike Hart, Sierra Railroads CEO. You just have to wonder about his relationship with Robert... 

Art Phelan

Fort Bragg

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Dear Mr. Anderson,

I am truly contrite and remorseful that I let my subscription lapse a month ago and I am having severe withdrawal symptoms, having lost the thread of various ongoing developing events I had been following closely. One of the lame reasons for my delay is that I have run out of the right kind of stationary. I am enclosing a check for my annual renewal and I am further requesting the back issues I missed with payment therefor if it is possible for you to send them to me.

My introduction to Mendocino County dates back to the early 1970s when my brother, James (all-around good guy and backhoe specialist extraordinaire, now of Little River) first bought a tract of land at Spy Rock. Decades after I moved back from the Bay Area to St. Louis for law school, brother Jim got me started with your publication, truly the best newspaper I have ever encountered.

I was initially crestfallen years ago when you handed it over and despite David Severn's yeoman's job while you were gone, I was jubilant when you returned.

My brother Jim, at age 73, has now elected not to get medical attention for his tongue cancer and has decided to opt for California's “death with dignity” procedure. He is an avid follower of your publication and deserves some attention. Like many of us, he sees you as a personal friend.

Very truly yours,

Lee R. Elliott

Troy, Missouri

ED REPLY: And I see Jim as my personal friend and am hoping he will defeat his affliction and not have to resort to the California Solution. I hate being so practically unhelpful, but without the Elliot brothers, in the flesh and as metaphor, this enterprise would not be worth doing.

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Our water and trees…

I saw this article and thought I should share it as it affects us all.

While the city of Fort Bragg Is staring down the barrel of a water crisis and their patrons are being asked to conserve more water, California Department of Forestry is selling millions of gallons of the communities water at a steep discount. There are three timber harvest plans currently active that are in the Noyo River watershed and tributaries of the Noyo, totaling just under 2,000 acres.

These THPs will be sucking out an estimated 2.4 million gallons of water from the Noyo primarily during drought months for the watering of roads during timber operations.

Further, Redwoods are known for helping to regulate and store water in an ecosystem and to regulate water flows during drought months: “Forest soils act like giant sponges, soaking up rainwater as it falls, and slowly releasing it throughout the dry season.”

Logging a forest has been proven to be one of the most destructive activities you can do to the forest floor. Additionally, thinning and removal of the canopy allows in more light and increased winds, two factors that affect overall forest dryness.

“Spencer Robert Sawaske, a Stanford researcher, measured fog-drip from individual trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains during the 2013 dry season.

He found that older redwoods and Douglas firs on the Pacific Coast side near the ridgetops produced the most fog-drip: up to 38 inches recorded over 2.5 months! He also found that this fogdrip soaked into the ground and replenished stream flow.”

With significantly fewer trees and canopy cover in these logging areas, there is and will continue to be less fog drip contributing to the Noyo watershed during the driest part of the year- when we need it most.

If you are working diligently to conserve water, if you are a farmer who is letting fields go fallow or a home gardener starring at bare dirt this year. If you are a city official or water worker scrambling to figure out a way through this summer, it’s time to hold the California Department of

Forestry accountable for their rampant water misuse. Please call your elected officials and ask them to put into effect an immediate moratorium, and to tell CDF no logging during drought!

Call scripts can be found at 

Rixanne Wehren


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To the Editor:

I read that Mendocino’s County Counsel Christian Curtis sort of opines that the proposed “small is beautiful” referendum may not be legal because it only deletes a single footnote from the appendix of our Supervisors’ 26-page Phase 3 cannabis ordinance. The referendum to delete that footnote is “Too narrow in scope” (Curtis’s opinion, summarized by Mark Scaramella in AVA, 6/30).

Counsel’s opinion is a screwball. The Supes used a single footnote to an appendix to encourage massive repurposing of Mendocino rangeland to commercial cannabis production AND to threaten our County’s water supply in this drought year. They did all of that … in Appendix A, footnote *6.

What the Supes (excepting reasonable John Haschak) did in their blatant subversion of their constituents’ will, we constituent voters can undo by passing the “narrow” 42-word small-is-beautiful referendum.

If the County follows Counsel’s advice and doesn’t put the SIBR on the ballot or withdraw their ordinance, we voters (a) sue the bastards, and (b) vote for the larger, out-with-the-baby-and-the-bathwater referendum also in circulation, and (c) start working on recalls.

Jonathan Middlebrook

Redwood Valley

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To the Editor:

What would be accomplished by a successful Phase 3 referendum? And how would that benefit the County of Mendocino and its residents? Yes we all would love to revert to the days gone by of simpler compassionate use regulation and zip ties if it were not for the well documented environmental destruction that resulted from weak and unorganized oversight that will be mitigated under Phase 3.

What is at stake today is the livelihood of residents who pay taxes and have the same right to participate in legal cultivation, processing and manufacturing, and distribution of cannabis in the Proposition 64 cannabis industry who qualify under Phase 3. Those residents who could not prove prior cultivation under Phase 1 regulation because they chose to obey the law and not cultivate illegally will be hurt and many of them likely your neighbor who if isn’t a cultivator may be an employee of a cannabis cultivator or producer.

And what would an EIR gain over and above the CEQA process? The environmental data gathered over a long multi-year EIR will certainly highlight the wide proportionality gap that exists between the acreage of proposed Phase 3 cannabis cultivation versus vineyards or cattle herds. What impact would an EIR have on the owners of the 17,000 thousand acres of Mendocino vineyards or the 15,000 head of cattle? In Hopland vineyard operators are planting hundreds of acres without the same burdens placed on cannabis cultivators who are assessed fees by the local fire department for approvals on a 10,000 sq ft greenhouse.

All residents of Mendocino desire performance based leadership that addresses the myriad of issues. Phase 3 is a positive step in that direction that the residents of Mendocino deserve.

Bill Claus


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To the Editor,

Another perfect word to describe the Democratic Party, this one is courtesy of the author Daniel Silva via the Oxford English Dictionary, and the word is kleptocracy (klep’takrase) a ruling body or order of thieves.

How fitting.

Thank you,

David Anderson


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To the Editor:

I’m going to keep my opinion to myself, my face expressionless, my fidgeting to a minimum here at this historical poker table, but I want you to know that I have this line, this ace to bring out when I need to: “rounding them up and driving them like cattle.”

Now to my neutral stance on the subject of the renaming of Fort Bragg to something, anything, less Fort Braggish.

Fort Bragg, CA, is not named after Braxton Bragg, North Carolina born and both United States Army officer and Confederate general. Fort Bragg, CA is named after the fort that was named after Braxton Bragg, who at the time of the founding of the fort – 1857, four years before the start of the Civil War – had not yet turned to fighting to preserve slavery.

Fort Bragg the fort is there to be seen in Fort Bragg the place, or a partial recreation of it is.

Fort Bragg the fort was built more or less in the center of the Mendocino Indian Reservation to (I don’t want to put down my ace yet)…. To assist in protecting the Pomo from the settlers and the settlers from the Pomo.

Oh, the heck with it.

What Fort Bragg the fort did was serve as a center for punishing and “rounding up” the Pomo and “driving” them onto the Round Valley Reservation, opened the year before. Early Military Posts of Mendocino County says “All troops stationed at the fort…operated against hostile Indians to the north as far as Shelter Cove and northeast to the South Fork of the Eel River and Long Valley.”

In 1861, Lieutenant Edward Dillon wrote from the fort that settlers familiar with the terrain and who had signed up to assist the soldiers as “90-Day Guides,” were stealing children.

When Bragg joined the Confederacy, there was a “period of agitation” among the soldiers garrisoned at the fort about the name. The commander of the 2nd Infantry California Volunteers wrote the fort “has long enough borne the name of a traitor,” but the name was not changed during the Civil War.

It should be said that Braxton Bragg was not in the United States Army when he joined the Army of the Confederacy. Bragg served the Confederacy as Commander of the Army of Mississippi, later the Army of Tennessee.

Fort Bragg the fort was abandoned in 1864. The Steamer Panama picked up the Fort Bragg garrison on Oct. 18 and arrived at the Presidio in San Francisco on Oct. 20. “Thus was completed the permanent evacuation and abandonment of the post.” (Early Military Posts of Mendocino County)

Fort Bragg the place became a town 25 years later, in 1889.

Fort Bragg the fort from it’s founding in 1857 to it’s closing in 1864 was the green zone for the one-sided fight going on in the woods and closer down on the Noyo River, the profitable mill site snatched out of Pomo hands. The 25,000 acres that was to be turned over to the Indians when the Mendocino Indian Reservation was disbanded. It went the way of all land in such cases, including the land on the Round Valley Reservation; it gets “acquired.”

The land on the coast atop the headlands and east to the dark woods went to settlers for $1.25 an acre.

A few minutes on the internet reveals Braxton Bragg fought against the Seminoles in the Second Seminole Wars, the Mexicans in the Mexican- American war, and the Union in the Civil War.

He was at the battle of Shiloh, Murfreesboro, Chattanooga, Chickamauga., Bentonville. He was routed by Grant at Chattanooga, and pushed back into Georgia. He was considered one of the worst Confederate generals, his losses principle factors in the ultimate defeat of the Confederacy.

I don’t know enough to say he owned slaves, but his wife did. She was an heiress to a sugar plantation in Louisiana. He resigned from the Army in 1856 to become a sugar cane plantation owner.

I’m going to say that again: he owned a sugar cane plantation; in Louisiana. In 1856.

Braxton Bragg never visited Northern California or ever saw Fort Bragg, town or fort.

Two paintings of Fort Bragg the fort were painted in 1858, and one of them was sent to Bragg. His wife reported it destroyed in the house fire when Grant and the Union Army came through in 1864.

The naming of towns after military installations that were there first, is not new. Some may be glad that a local area near Ukiah was not named after a fort that for just under a year was there in 1859 on the eastern side of the Russian River; that Redwood Valley was not named Fort Weller.

The concern was the Indians, and Fort Bragg and Fort Weller both anchored down for their areas the means for the “rounding up,” the herding, the “driving” of human beings that we call if not friends, then at least fellow citizens. And if we do not call them friends, places like Fort Bragg the fort and place are parts of the pieces of why.

So, together here, let’s update temporarily, the town bio for Fort Bragg the City: Fort Bragg is a city on California’s Mendocino Coast incorporated in 1889. It’s known for Glass Beach…part of sprawling MacKerricher State Park, which supports varied bird life, harbor seals, and whale watching. The Skunk Train is a steam locomotive that weaves through the redwood forests of the Noyo River Canyon. Named for an army officer who fought for the confederacy in the civil war, against the Mexicans in 1848, and against the Seminoles in 1840, the fort was pivotal in the forced removal of native Americans from their Mendocino County homeland.

William Walls



  1. Daniel Bobek July 29, 2021

    Art Phelan, How can I see that photo of missing track?

  2. Pat Kittle July 29, 2021

    More people means more demand for everything self-proclaimed “environmentalists” try to save — water, fish, forests, rural life, you name it.

    Without UNSUSTAINABLE levels of immigration the US population would be heading in the direction of sustainability.

    Does recognizing simple FACTS necessarily mean we’re hatefulxenophobicwhitesupremacist-blah-blah-blahs?

    Of course it does — it’s the (sl)easiest way to resolve this dilemma.

  3. Bruce McEwen July 29, 2021

    Your zealotry to lower the population exceeds all my previous encounters with fanatical lunatics. Every time I read one of your posts, I see you in your Santa Cruz bunker loading clips for assault rifles and stacking pipe bombs. Dude, get a grip before you go postal.

  4. Pat Kittle July 29, 2021

    As often happens, the AVA censored my 100%-within-AVA-rules comment.

    This time I was responding to unhinged wokester Bruce McEwen, who slanders me as a violent “zealot… fanatical lunatic” stockpiling “assault rifles” & “pipe bombs.”

    Typically, the AVA doesn’t censor McEwen — just my civil response to him.

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