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Mendocino County Today: January 13, 2014

WE IMMEDIATELY THOUGHT of the Willits Bypass when reading the recent news that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s staff created a bottleneck on the George Washington Bridge for several days on the false pretense that they were conducting a traffic study so that they could retaliate against a political opponent in the New York-New Jersey region. (Christie himself continues to deny being involved in the growing scandal, but his critics insist that he had to have known about it.) As the opposition to the Willits Bypass has pointed out several times, Caltrans pulled a Christie-style artificial bottleneck in downtown Willits — for years, not just a few days — by their non-sensical striping of the key Highway 101-Highway 20 intersection which made the traffic problems worse and could well have been done to make the Bypass seem like a better idea than it is.


THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH from a recent NYT piece isn't likely to comfort anyone, but here it is: “Beginning about 1,100 years ago, what is now California baked in two droughts, the first lasting 220 years and the second 140 years. Each was much more intense than the mere six-year dry spells that afflict modern California from time to time, new studies of past climates show. The findings suggest, in fact, that relatively wet periods like the 20th Century have been the exception rather than the rule in California for at least the last 3,500 years, and that mega-droughts are likely to recur.”


THE ANDERSON VALLEY EDUCATION FOUNDATION is very proud to present a special night for the Valley. Stars of stage, screen and television, Howard Hesseman and Rene Auberjonois have graciously offered us a memorable night of professional theater. Those of you who saw these marvelous entertainers three years ago, will surely want to see them again. Those of you who missed them: don't make the same mistake twice! This year's show is called “HEADS UP (back by peculiar demand).” Rene and Howard read a variety of notable poetry and short stories plus other odds and ends. Also, the actors think it would be fun if Valley people submit short stories and poems that they themselves have written. Howard and Rene will choose to read some that they feel would work into their show. Wouldn't that be an honor to have your work read at the performance by these two pros? Please submit your favorite short piece by February 1st to: The event is February 15, 2014 at the Grange in Philo. Doors Open at 7pm. The AVEF will be selling soft drinks, snacks and sweets plus wine and beer. Our actors will also be meeting and greeting. Curtain Time is 8pm. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for those under eighteen. Tickets are available at All That Good Stuff, Laughing Dog Books, Lauren’s, and Lemons’ Market. Or call Dick Browning @ 895-2561 or Lanny Parker @ 895-2644 for tix by mail. Come and enjoy! And send those short stories/poems in before February 1st. Remember, this is a benefit performance to support summer internships, student and classroom grants, scholarships, and fellowships. (— Lanny Parker)


Charles Portis
Charles Portis

THAT EVENING I stopped at a small motel called the Desert View — the real name this time. My room was a bit small but clean, new, modern, all those things, with a gleaming white bathroom. The bed was flat and firm. Over the headboard there were two good reading lamps mounted on pivots. I had air conditioning, cable television, a refrigerator, and a microwave oven. It was a quiet place with few guests, none of sly or rat-like appearance. I could park directly in front of my door. The nightly rate was twenty-five dollars flat, no surcharges. Allowing for inflation, this was little more than I had paid for the old cabin. The Desert View was, in short, something very close to that ideal in my head of the cheap and shipshape roadside dormitory, what I kept looking for all those years. Now, after finding it, I was confused. This place was too good to be true. I sat on the firm edge of the firm bed, very still, wary, taking stock. Something felt wrong. Everything, more or less, but something bizarre in particular that I couldn't put my finger on. Then it came to me — the very carpet was clean. Motel carpet! What was going on here? I didn't get it. Who were these Desert View people? Where was the catch? I cleared out of there at dawn and I still don't know. (Charles Portis)



by Tiffany Revelle

A Mendocino County Superior Court judge on Friday heard the defense's motion to dismiss a charge of assault with a deadly weapon against a Ukiah woman arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after allegedly plowing through her neighbors' backyard fence and hitting their house.

Joan Rainville allegedly had a blood-alcohol level of 0.25 when she got behind the wheel of her mother's 2008 Toyota Camry and accelerated forward instead of backing out of her parking space just before 9pm on May 26. She allegedly crashed through her neighbors' fence and into their backyard, where they were entertaining guests on the patio, and stopped when she hit their house and cracked a wall, on the other side of which an 8-year-old boy was sleeping.

Her defense attorney, Andrew Higgins of the Mendocino County Public Defender's Office, asked the court to dismiss the felony assault charge following a preliminary hearing last year, during which Judge Ann Moorman ruled that Rainville should face the charge, and that a jury should decide whether to hold her accountable for it.

The prosecution argued successfully at Rainville's August preliminary hearing that she should face the assault charge because she'd been convicted twice of driving under the influence, and the court had advised her that doing so was dangerous to others.

Higgins argued during the Friday hearing on his motion that the act of driving drunk doesn't make it probable that someone would be hurt.

"The bottom line is that a reasonable person must think ... just the act of driving under the influence makes it probable that there would be some sort of touching or assault," Higgins said. "There is nothing to indicate that."

He likened a drunken driver's chances of having an accident and hurting someone to winning the Powerball, and said buying more tickets doesn't substantially increase the probability of winning.

Higgins also compared Rainville's assault charge to cases where people had intentionally laid hands on the victims, and to a case where a person intentionally ran a red light, saying Rainville getting behind the wheel drunk after having been admonished by the court that it could be dangerous wasn't the same as driving into a busy intersection.

"Intent is not the issue here; it's whether driving under the influence would probably cause touching," Higgins said. "That's a very difficult case to make. Does the act of driving drunk suggest you're probably going to run into somebody with your car? There's no evidence to support that."

Judge Clay Brennan, who heard the motion Friday, questioned Higgins' reasoning, and said comparing the case to a murder case was the difference between "assault where someone died and assault where someone survived."

"There was no injury here; there was no touching," Higgins replied. "It's not probable that driving under the influence is going to become assault with a deadly weapon.... If that were true, then any DUI could become an assault with a deadly weapon."

Paul Sequeira, who is prosecuting the case, told the court that Higgins' points were "good factual arguments for a jury."

He continued, "The bottom line is that if you're driving a car when you've been drinking, you're going to get in a wreck, you're going to touch somebody and hurt somebody."

Addressing Higgins' comparison to the driver speeding through an intersection, Sequeira said, "Was there a high probability that he was going to hit somebody? Was a statistical analysis done on that? No."

It was the driver's "mental state," the driver's knowledge that someone could be hurt by driving through the intersection, that mattered in that case, Sequeira argued.

"What's the difference between that and repeatedly driving drunk?" he said, adding that when "a judge says if you keep driving (drunk), you're going to hurt somebody, you're going to kill somebody," getting behind the wheel anyway amounts to "gross negligence."

"It's that, I don't care,'" Sequeira said.

He added, "No touching is required for an assault."

Sequeira noted that if Rainville had run over someone, she would be facing a murder charge.

"We have a near miss; a kid was just behind the wall sleeping," he said.

Driving drunk makes a person "160 times more likely to have an accident," he said, wrapping up his argument.

Higgins again used the Powerball analogy, saying that if his odds of winning were 160 times greater, he wouldn't be quitting his job in anticipation of becoming rich.

Brennan took the matter under submission and said he would issue his ruling later.

(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal.)


A 4.5 EARTHQUAKE shook Sonoma County on Sunday afternoon, according to the US Geological Survey. The 12:24pm quake's epicenter was located around the Geysers, a complex of geothermal plants north of Healdsburg. The quake's depth was 1.3 miles, the USGS reported.




Indian Givers, Jack Weatherford

Beyond the 100th Meridian, Wallace Stegner

Desert Solitary, Edward Abbey

The collected short stories of John Steinbeck

Rabbit Boss, Thomas Sanchez

Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner

Hear that lonesome whistle blow, Dee Brown

City of Quartz, Mike Davis

Imperial San Francisco, Gray Brechin

The World until Yesterday, Jared Diamond

— Bruce Patterson, Prineville, Oregon


ANOTHER GREAT WIN for the Niners today. Carolina was game but in the clutch the Niners got 'er done. On to Seattle Wacky Stadium where people pay upwards of $300 a seat to stand for three hours and scream.

THE HUGE RIVALRY that's developed between the two teams, and what NorCal football fan has ever had warm feeling for Pete Carroll, won't be helped by the announcement that the Seahawks won't sell tickets to Californians, although last week fans of both teams vowed to donate money to children's hospitals in Seattle and San Francisco.

ONLY CREDIT CARDS with billing addresses in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, certain Canadian provinces, and Hawaii can buy tickets to next Sunday's NFC Championship game between the 49ers and Seahawks.

OF COURSE SEAHAWK FANS get preference, but the restricted sales policy is aimed at cutting down on scalping.


THERE IS A CULT OF IGNORANCE in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge. — Isaac Asimov


TUESDAY'S AGRICULTURE & ECOLOGY HOUR on KZYX will celebrate the year-long “Eat Mendocino” journey of Gowan Batist and Sarah Bodnar. After looking back at their 2013 adventure eating only local food, Doug Mosel and his guests will reflect on lessons for Mendocino County's local food system. Join us for a lively conversation! Tuesday at 7pm. (Doug Mosel)



by Dan Bacher

A Delta fish survey released by the California Department of Wildlife (CDFW) this month confirms the continuing collapse of the ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas.

The survey's release takes place at a crucial time for the survival of salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt and other fish populations in California and the West. 2013 was the driest year on record in California and no relief from the drought is in sight.

Meanwhile, Governor Jerry Brown is promoting the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels as the "solution" to the co-equal goals to "water supply reliability" and "ecosystem restoration."

The results of the Department's 2013 Fall Midwater Trawl (FMWT) reveal that populations of Delta smelt, striped bass and American shad declined from the disastrous levels of last year, while longfin smelt and threadfin shad showed little improvement from last year’s lows, according to a news release from the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA). The survey records population "indices," a relative measure of abundance.

The 2013 indices for Delta smelt and American shad were the second lowest in the 46 years of the survey. The striped bass index was tied for third lowest, while the longfin smelt and threadfin shad indices were the eighth and fifth lowest, respectively, according to Bill Jennings, CSPA Executive Director.

The survey results were documented in a January 2 memo to Scott Wilson, Regional Manager, Region 3, of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, from Dave Contreras, CDFW Environmental Scientist.

The surveys were initiated in 1967, the same year the State Water Project began exporting water from the Delta. They show that population indices of Delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad and American shad have declined 95.6%, 99.6%, 99.8%, 97.8%, 90.9%, respectively, between 1967 and 2013, according to Jennings.

The 2013 indices for Sacramento splittail, a native fish found only in the estuary, were not released, but results from 2012 reveal that splittail indices have dropped 98.5% from 1967 levels. In 2011, the Brown administration presided over a record "salvage" of nearly 9 million splittail in 2011, a record year for water exports by the federal and state projects.

A CDFW official described the results of the survey as "disappointing."

"It's disappointing to see the numbers of fish so low," said Carl Wilcox, a Delta policy adviser at the Department of Fish and Wildlife. "The results of the survey reflect the water year type conditions; we've just been through the driest calendar year on record. If you look at the data, the results are consistent with what we've seen in the past in these conditions."

Jennings had harsh words for the state agencies responsible for protecting fish species in the Delta and Central Valley, characterizing the fish population collapse as a "biological holocaust."

“Excessive water diversions from the Delta by the State and Federal Projects and the failure of state agencies to enforce water quality standards have created an extended fish drought that can only be characterized as a biological holocaust,” said Jennings. “And the same agencies that orchestrated and chaperoned this biological meltdown are not only proposing a scheme to divert massive quantities of fresh water flows via tunnels under the Delta, under the guise of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), but they ask us to trust them to build the tunnels now and figure out how to operate them later."

Jennings said BDCP proponents suggest that the two 35-mile tunnels under the Delta will not lead to an increase in total Delta exports.

"However, actual operations will be determined after completion of the project through a decision-tree adaptive management process by the same agencies that have historically failed to protect the estuary," he said. "Examination of the four alternative decision tree operational scenarios in the BDCP EIR/EIS reveals that all of them decrease Delta outflow and three of them substantially increase exports. "

Jennings also said BDCP modeling conducted for the State Water Resources Control Board demonstrates that BDCP could only export about 3.1 MAF of water if reasonable fishery protection measures are included (increased outflow, bypass flow, coldwater pool management, etc.).

“BDCP proponents are not going to spend some $67 billion to receive the same or less water and reduced outflow for an estuary already hemorrhaging from a lack of water is a death sentence,” Jennings said. "Given the agencies abysmal track record, there can be no trust and no tunnels until Jerry Brown takes affirmative steps to end his fish drought.”

Jennings noted that the vast majority of record low indices have occurred over the last decade, when record exports to corporate agribusiness, developers and oil companies took place.

"Comparing the average indices of the first six years of the survey (1967-72) with the average of the most recent six years shows that the six-year average indices of Delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad, American shad and splittail have declined by 91.7%, 98.6%, 99.3%, 99.9%, 69.6% and 88.7%, respectively," stated Jennings.

Excessive water exports by the state and federal export projects in 2013 led to degraded water quality and habitat conditions in the Delta, noted Jennings. The projects exported some 826,778 acre-feet more water than they had projected they would be able to deliver.

"Consequently, water quality standards were violated in the South Delta in June and July through 15 August and at Emmaton in April, May and June and at Jersey Point in June," said Jennings. "Emmaton and Jersey Point are in the western Delta. Sharply increased exports coupled with a sudden reduction in Delta outflow in late June and early July caused the low salinity zone and pelagic species like Delta smelt to be drawn into the western Delta where they encountered lethal temperature conditions created by a combination of warm water released from reservoirs and high ambient temperatures."

He said another likely factor in the killing of Delta smelt was high exports leading to excessive Old and Middle River reverse flows during the critical 15-April – 15 May San Joaquin pulse flow period.

2013 was also a bad year for Central Valley Chinook salmon populations. Jennings said many as half of this year’s up-migrating winter-run Chinooks were stranded in the Yolo Bypass and Colusa Basin in April-June and Sacramento River temperature requirements to protect spawning winter-run were relaxed in June.

Meanwhile, large releases of water from Shasta Dam into the Sacramento River, Oroville Dam into the Feather River and Folsom Dam into the American River throughout the summer resulted in the virtual draining of these reservoirs. Folsom Lake is only 18 percent of capacity now and the Bureau of Reclamation will reduce flows to only 500 cfs today, furthering imperiling steelhead and salmon on the river.

The massive export of water to corporate agribusiness also left little water for Sacramento River fall-run Chinooks, the driver of West Coast fisheries.

"In November, abrupt reductions in Sacramento River flow exposed spawning redds, killed up to 40% of Sacramento River fall-run salmon eggs and stranded newly emerged fry," said Jennings. "And low reservoir levels will likely lead to inadequate flows for young salmon out-migration this coming spring."

"The decline of Central Valley salmon populations over the last 46 years is similar to the declines of Delta pelagic species. But the full consequences of this year’s debacle will only become fully apparent when this year’s young salmon return to spawn in three years," Jennings stated.

Jennings emphasized, "We have seen a broad collapse of the ecosystem since the State Water Project begian exporting water in 1967. There are 5-1/2 times water rights claims as there is water available in the system."

If action isn't taken to reverse the collapse, Delta smelt and other imperiled fish species could become extinct.

"We are getting down to the point where a series of drought years may send some fish species to extinction," said Jennings. "We have no idea where the points of no return in Delta smelt, winter run Chinook and other fish species are. We are playing Russian Roulette with God here. Greed is destroying fisheries that evolved and prospered over millenia in a matter of mere decades."

Jennings proposed three main solutions to restoring the ecosystem:

• Delta exports need to be decreased to less than three million acre feet of water and outflows to the estuary need to increased.

• The Central Valley river system needs to return to a more natural hydrograph.

• The agencies need to replace the 1950's inadequate technology fish screens on the South Delta pumping facilities with current state of the art fish screens.

The Responsible Exports Plan proposed by the Environmental Water Exports sets a cap on water exports of 3 million acre feet:

Further information, including DFW’s FMWT Memo with graphs, the BDCP alternative comparison and the State Board’s quantitative comparisons can be found at:


  1. Lazarus January 13, 2014

    Anyone that’s been around Willits for longer than a hour and a half knows the striping deal. The north to south traffic certain times of the year was horrific. Traffic could be backed up to and beyond Oil Well Hill….. Music festivals, vacationers, major holidays.
    The City complained to Caltrans, Caltrans did a study and re-striped the road, but they apparently did not allowi for the increase in Willits dwellers but Ukiah workers. Due to the higher living cost in Ukiah many people who work in Ukiah live in Willits, Brooktrails in particular.
    The backup during the dreaded “Rush Hours” is mostly local, but personally I think accusing Caltrans of a contrived manipulative conspiracy is at best a “Grassy Knoll” theory…….Possible but giving Caltrans way to much credit….?
    At the time Willits Environmental Center was just getting off the ground, they had the City on it’s heals demanding everything from lane change directions to no left turns… of which worked out very well.
    The bypass was a decades long investment, right or wrong money had been spent, it was on the books, the money was earmarked, the deal was done…….get over it….all the protesting, tree sitting and letters to the newspapers will do nothing but add to the cost and frustration.
    If you really want an issue go after the new Willits Sewer Plant mess, or the Lake Mendocino water farce…….! Those issues one might have a chance with…….water…maybe not……
    Bon Appetite…….

    • Bruce Anderson January 13, 2014

      Yeah, we agree that accusing Caltrans of criminal conspiracies is Building 7 territory; it’s more likely the simple incompetence now synonymous with Big Orange (cf the latest on the Bay Bridge). We also agree about the post-mortem protests. It’s over, destruction and dumb won. As always.

      • David Gurney January 13, 2014

        To B. Anderson,

        Your a dumb asshole, as always.


        • AVA News Service Post author | January 13, 2014

          Mr. Gurney,

          If you wish to continue participating in this family forum, you will need to watch your language. We also strongly encourage commenters to develop their arguments in a more thoughtful manner, with specifics and reasonings, if possible. It makes for a more edifying and satisfying exchange for everyone involved.

          You are hereby warned and placed on probation.

          -The Management

      • Lazarus January 13, 2014

        Mr. Anderson,
        Since we seem to agree in spirt, I suppose I’m a a-hole too.

  2. David Gurney January 13, 2014

    Caltrans is arguably the most corrupt agency in a state mired in corruption.

    Anderson’s willful ignorance on the subject does’t excuse his BS.

    Thanks for the “probation.” It’s an honor.

  3. Bruce Anderson January 14, 2014

    I don’t know what gets into the little guy. He just seems to go off at the smallest provocation.

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