News and Information
for residents and visitors
Three Rivers,
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
National Parks,
Lemon Cove and Woodlake
Kaweah Kam

In the News - Friday, JANUARY 12, 2007







Annual year-end review in photos that, this week, includes the spectacular places that are Kaweah Country. Last week: THE FACES


Frozen forecast

for the weekend

   While the brightest minds of our time are telling us we need to act with urgency to counteract global warming, it’s ironic that here in Kaweah Country we are experiencing the coldest temperatures since 1998 and it may get even colder. The weekend forecast is calling for low temperatures in Three Rivers around 20, plus or minus a few degrees depending on elevation and location.
   The current blast of Arctic chill has Valley growers scurrying to cover up field crops and heat orchards, especially the citrus crops that await picking. The value of that crop, which could literally freeze in several Valley counties, is estimated at $1 billion.
   Forecasters are saying that snow flurries are likely today even on the Valley floor, especially in some of the coldest locations like Coalinga, Delano, and Hanford. In Three Rivers, the misty, foggy conditions on Thursday were the leading edge of a cold front that could bring record lows to all of California.
   The last time that the Central Valley and Sierra foothills experienced a run of consecutive nights in the low 20s was in 1998. In 1990, the coldest winter in recent years, the area experience several consecutive nights in the ‘teens.
   Preliminary snow survey data for January 1 is available for the Sacramento drainage. The results of 50 percent of normal are about what hydrologists expected.
   The statewide average (Jan. 1) is projected to be a paltry 19 percent but that could change drastically when all six major drainages, including the Kaweah, are measured on February 1. Warming water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific may be indicative of the formation of a late-season El Nino.
   If an El Nino influences local weather in the current season, look for another miraculous March or an awesome April. Those monster storms, characteristic of the El Nino years of 1995 and 1998, produce some anxious moments, but could have Kaweah Country back in the normal range in just a few short weeks.

Year in Review:

A look back at the

last quarter of 2006

  This is the third and final installment of the annual Year-in-Review. Here is the news from the last quarter of 2006:

   September 1— A midday power outage lasted nearly three hours and affected several hundred SCE customers in Three Rivers. A local asphalt contractor hit a power pole on South Fork Drive and caused the blackout.
   Law-enforcement officers were summoned to a residence near the Three Rivers Cemetery to persuade an aggressive female mountain lion to leave the area. After several unsuccessful attempts to drive the animal away, a game warden shot and killed the 80-pound animal.
   Gas prices were rumored to be dipping below $3 just in time for the traditionally long Labor Day weekend.
   Guy Moran, 38, of Bakersfield was found dead on the Cannell Meadow Trail in Sequoia National Forest after failing to return from a mountain-bike ride. The official cause of death was not immediately known but dehydration was suspected as a factor.
   September 8— Rob Stone, a California Department of Forestry battalion chief, and Sandy Willett, pilot, were killed when their spotter plane crashed near Mountain Home State Forest northeast of Springville. Stone, 36, of Visalia, had been raised in Three Rivers and was a graduate of Woodlake High School.
   Stone, an 18-year veteran firefighter, left behind wife Rindi, son Wil, 8, and daughter Libbie, 4. Stone’s parents, Cliff and Ginny, reside in Three Rivers.
   Jessie Bequette, formerly a longtime resident of Three Rivers now living in a Visalia nursing home, turned 100. Jessie is one of two living members of Woodlake High School’s original 25-member Class of 1924.
   Two men died within a couple of weeks in separate incidents in the backcountry of Kings Canyon National Park. The body of Gregory Raye, 52, an artist from Campbell, was spotted near the summit of Mount Brewer.
   Conor J. Lighthizer, 28, died while on a backpacking trip with his father. Lighthizer’s death was attributed to complications related to Type 1 diabetes.
   September 15— Family and friends mourned the loss of Chief Robert Stone at a service held at the First Assembly of God Church in Visalia.
   Fran Mainella, retiring National Park Service director and the first woman to serve in this president-appointed position, visited Sequoia National Park on her farewell tour. Coming to Kaweah Country, she said, was on her to-do list before she retired.
   Three Rivers School went over and beyond its forecast for improvement in the STAR testing program. Its score of 837 was the school’s highest ever.
   Vandals defaced Tunnel Rock, the Giant Forest Museum, and several other resources with graffiti. It was the second time in the past 18 months that subjects were arrested in connection with vandalism in Sequoia.
   September 22— The story behind a classic Mineral King painting created about 1890 was revealed by John McWilliams, a Three Rivers antiquities dealer and curator of the local historical museum. McWilliams purchased the Sawtooth/Monarch canyon landscape from the estate of Barbara Carter Milbradt. McWilliams believes that the artwork may be the oldest surviving painting depicting the Mineral King Valley.
   During the fall autumnal equinox, smoke from several fires in Sequoia National Park remained a lingering problem.
   Park officials announced that a new cave was discovered in Sequoia National Park. The new cave was named Ursa Minor. The location of the discovery was not made public.
   September 29— Three Rivers celebrated two business milestones: Three Rivers Mercantile held its grand opening, and Sierra Subs & Salads staged a gala first-anniversary party.
   Kathy Casey, the former owner and operator of NAPA Auto Parts in Three Rivers, joined the staff of the Commonwealth.


   October 6— Dozens of Cambodians came to Sequoia National Park to give their blessing to a historic signing of a sister parks agreement between the local national parks and Cambodia’s Samlaut Multiple Use Area. Craig Axtell, Sequoia’s superintendent, presided over the signing ceremony.
   More than 300 volunteers assisted Army Corps of Engineers staff at the seventh annual National Public Lands Day held at Lake Kaweah. The volunteers spent several hours picking up trash, painting, and doing maintenance on the last Saturday in September.
   October 13— Two pollsters, who caused quite a stir one year ago by knocking on doors unannounced up and down the South Fork, returned to Three Rivers to gather more data for an ongoing National Study on Drug Usage and Mental Health.
   National park fire crews ignited a prescribed fire in Mineral King. The entire burn project for the season would encompass 354 acres.
   Steven Medley, 57, the longtime president of the Yosemite Association and a resident of Oakhurst, died in a car crash on Highway 140 near El Portal. Medley had served as director of the Yosemite nonprofit organization since 1985.
   Sue Slater of Three Rivers was able to grab $188 worth of groceries in a mad 60-second dash. Sue won the grub grab with a successful bid at the Three Rivers Historical Society fundraiser during the All Town Dinner Dance.
   October 20— A Town Hall gathering examined some hot topics and featured timely discussion on future growth and the newly created Tulare County Fire Department. Local fire protection became an urgent topic in the wake of a recent article written by Captain Steve Green, CDF, in the Commonwealth, in which he was highly critical of cost-cutting when it came to staffing in the foothill areas like Three Rivers. In a show of unity, both Chief Sunderland, Tulare County Fire Department, and CDF Chief Ed Wristen, were in attendance to clarify department policy and explain the rationale for local coverage.
   In the evening’s other program, Jeff Steen, on behalf of the Tulare County Citizens for Responsible Growth, presented several scenarios if growth was allowed to proceed unregulated.
   The first significant snowfall was recorded in the local mountains.
   Mary Bomar was sworn in as the 17th director and second woman to oversee the National Park Service.
   October 27— Jack Slater, 45, of Three Rivers died suddenly in Astoria, Ore. He was a commercial fisherman for more than two decades.
   Supervisor Allen Ishida was appointed chairman of the board of the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG). TCAG is responsible for prioritizing and developing local projects that qualify for federal transportation grant funding and an expenditure plan for how and when Measure R road tax monies will be used.
   Local law enforcement seemed to be making headway in the war against pot growers in Tulare County. Seizures in 2006 were well behind the record-setting eradications of the previous two seasons.

   November 3— Pat O’Connell, Three Rivers’s one-man emergency road crew, received an unexpected gift of gratitude – a new tow truck.

  “A mere thank you to those who contributed just doesn’t seem to be enough. But nonetheless, I do thank you all sincerely,” wrote Pat.
   The weather took a turn for the more seasonal as a low-pressure system moved through the region.
   November 10— Tulare County’s Measure R appeared to receive just enough votes to pass, though the final results would not be known until after all the absentee and provisional votes were counted. In the four-candidate race for three school board seats, Bobbie Harris, Bob Burke, and Scott Sherwood were the top three finishers.
   In Woodlake, in the race for three elementary school board seats, Debi Baker, Joe Hallmeyer, and Joe Martinez were elected. Incumbents Frances Ortiz, Chuck Ray, and Raul Gonzales retained their city council seats.
   Lake Kaweah, at 14,370 acre-feet of storage, was about as low as it was going to go prior to the onset of the annual rise in the basin’s elevation during the rainy season.
   A recently installed toddlers playground adjacent to the Three Rivers Library was officially opened.
   November 17— Eric Barnes, the son of the legendary sculptor, was in town to present artifacts from the Barnes collection to the Three Rivers Historical Museum. The artifacts that were donated include the chisel used to carve Paul Bunyan.
   Erratic weather seemed to be everywhere in the nation except in Three Rivers. Sunshine with mild temperatures around 70 degrees were in the Thanksgiving Day forecast.
   Sunny Fields, owner of the Whitewater Gallery in Three Rivers and breast cancer survivor, accepted a $1,500 check on behalf of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The check was presented by Van Bailey of the Three Rivers Lions Club, which raised the funds during its Tough Enough to Wear Pink Day at the 2006 Three Rivers Team Roping.
   November 24— Patrick Courtney of Tulare was arraigned on two counts of homicide and three counts of arson and was facing the possibility of a third strike conviction. The charges stemmed from the plane crash that killed Battalion Chief Rob Stone and Sandy Willett.
   Diana Zigangirova, an exchange student at Woodlake High from Tajikistan, told her story in a series of presentations that she made to help Americans learn more about her country. Part of Diana’s mission was also to experience what a democracy was like so she could share the lessons learned with people back home.
   The new owners and extended family of the recently opened Hummingbird Café gave thanks for being in Three Rivers and celebrated a milestone in the restaurant’s history – they were permitted to serve beer and wine.

   December 1— Brrr… It’s been cold! Kaweah Country experienced a cold snap reminiscent of the one that destroyed a big part of the local citrus industry in the early 1990s. Temperatures in the predawn hours dipped into the 20s for several consecutive nights.
   Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks released their long-awaited General Management Plan. The 600-page document contains a rivers management strategy, detailed environmental impact statement, and an appendix containing copies of written public comments.
   December 8— Reimer’s Candies thieves helped themselves to several hundred dollars worth of pre-wrapped candy and cookies. The thieves gained access to the goodies by smashing a side window. The owners, Lynn and Mary Anne Bretz, offered a $250 reward for information leading to the conviction of the candy culprits.
   Bill Tidwell, a charter board member, received a ceremonial plaque for 15 years of outstanding service from the Woodlake High School Foundation. Tidwell was retiring as a voting member of the board but will stay on as an advisor and to help with scholarships.
   December 15— The reciprocal training with Samlaut, Sequoia’s sister park in Cambodia, unofficially started when local rangers Jody Lyle and Erik Oberg visited with their Cambodian counterparts. During their working vacation, the duo spent six days at Samlaut.
   Local firefighters sold Christmas trees at Three Rivers Mercantile. Proceeds from the sales were donated to the Three Rivers Volunteer Fire Department.
   December 22— One adult and two juveniles were arrested in various Valley locales to face charges connected with the recent burglary at Reimer’s Candies. Detectives said the reward was instrumental in the tip that implicated the trio.
   A fire that started in the attic destroyed the home of Salvador and Herminia Arias just east of Woodlake. The wood-shingle bungalow was built in about 1910 as a grove house and was currently owned by Sun Pacific, a farming company.
   A TKC newspaper box was stolen from its Cherokee Oaks location.
   December 29— An anonymous donor purchased an antique mailbox on eBay that looked very similar to the one stolen from the Kaweah Post Office in February 2006.
   It was donated to the historic post office and installed by Dave King back on its perch on the porch.
   The TKC newspaper box was found and returned by a Three Rivers mom who was walking along the river with her kids. Evidently, vandals tossed it off the North Fork Bridge.
   All dates cited are the issues in which specific articles were published, not when an event occurred. Archived issues may be requested and are available for $1 each.


If it’s a new year, then it must

be time to file for financial aid

by Sally Pace

   January and February are busy months for parents of high school seniors and eighth-graders. Senior parents should be getting ready to file their FAFSA and eighth-grade parents should be starting to plan for high school registration.
   The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA; is the basic application for state and federal financial aid. In California, the filing priority deadline is March 2. The FAFSA can be submitted beginning Jan. 1, 2007.
   The Cal Grant website is or call 1-888-224-7268. You will also need to submit the FAFSA for California Grants as well as for most scholarships.
   All students who are attending college should fill out a FAFSA whether they are eligible or not. Parents and students should start getting their finances in order for 2006 right away.
   Get a PIN (personal identification number used as an electronic signature) and plan on attending the FAFSA parent workshop at Woodlake High School, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 20, 6:30 p.m. Another option is to attend the Cash for College workshop, sponsored by College of the Sequoias.
   To attend the COS workshop, call 730-3870 to register or log onto These financial-aid workshops are the very best way to get accurate information from professional volunteers/staff who understand the financial aid process. To get a PIN, go to Write down the PIN for both parents and student and keep it in a very safe place. It will be used again in subsequent years and losing your PIN will cause delays.
   The priority filing deadline for the FAFSA is not until March 2, but it is recommended that you get your application in as soon as you have accurate financial information. It is also recommended that you file online.
   If you must file an estimate, this is acceptable but you will need to make revisions when your income tax information is finalized. All changes can cause delays.
   If you are a small-business owner, there are some changes this year that may be to your advantage. Make sure you check out the Cal Grant website for the latest information.
   The college that your child will be attending is the final grantor of the financial aid, so it is important that your child have some idea of where they will be attending college. This can be a problem because many colleges will not be notifying students who are admitted until April 1.
   It is always a good idea to also list COS as one of the schools, so if your child does ultimately attend COS, their information will be on file. Your child will not have to make their final college decision until May and the finances can play a big part in where they will eventually attend school.
   College is expensive and it is the parents’ responsibility until the student is 24 years old. Consider it a great investment.
   Many shy away from taking out an education loans, but they don’t have any problem taking out a loan for a $30,000 car!
   You have to look at the return for your investment. After you pay off the car loan, all you have is an old car. When your education is paid off, you have something no one can ever take away from you, as well as higher-earning potential.
   If you qualify for government-subsidized loans — in which the interest is paid for by the government until six months after your child leaves school — your student may be much better off taking out a loan instead of working part-time, which may cause them to lose their financial aid due to earning too much money.
   Parents of eighth-graders will be starting their high school adventure beginning in February. The Woodlake High School counseling staff will be giving two presentations for parents: Thursday, Feb. 1, 6 p.m., at the Woodlake High School Performing Arts Building, and Thursday, Feb. 8, 6 p.m., in the McDowall Auditorium at Three Rivers School.
   Before the parent meeting, students will receive a presentation during the school day about high school classes as well as extracurricular activities. The Woodlake High counseling staff will start registration for the 2007-2008 school year at Woodlake Valley Middle School during the week of January 29 and at Three Rivers and Stone Corral during the week of February 5.
   Parents may call if they want to have an individual appointment with a counselor.
   And, finally, remember: Eighth-graders are sure that their parents don’t know much about much and they may start discouraging you from being involved in their lives. That is, unless they need a ride, a signature, or money.
   Parents, please remain persistent and STAY INVOLVED! Your children will thank you when they are over 25.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
OFFICE: 41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, California
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
PHONE: (559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118 E-MAIL:
Entire contents of this website © Copyright 2003-2004 by The Kaweah Commonwealth