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In the News - Friday, January 20, 2012



March in January

What’s up with the weather?

  After that flirtation with 70 degrees last week it was a relief to feel the cold snap and smell the moisture-laden clouds earlier this week. After nearly two parched, cold, but dry months there appears to be a change on the horizon.
   The storm track, which determines who gets wet and who doesn’t, who is hot and who is not, is now trending southward. That’s good news because two inches of local rainfall by mid-January has evaporated those last two wet years from the collective memory.
   But we are not alone with this wacky weather. Hundreds of places from southern Canada to New York City set all-time records for warm temperatures in January.
Bellingham, Wash., recorded a high of 60 in the first week of 2012, while Fargo, N.D., was a balmy 44. New York City checked in with 61 degrees; parts of Colorado topped out in the 70s.
   In some regions of the Midwest, temperatures have been averaging 40 degrees higher than usual. Snow covers only 19 percent of the country this week compared to the typical January coverage of 50 percent.
  “The whole lower 48 and much of southern Canada are feeling the effects of what I call ‘Marchuary,'” said Paul Douglas, a meteorologist from Twin Cities, Minn. “It really is on the verge of being unprecedented meteorologically to be this warm for this deep into winter.”
   Whether you are loving the mild winter or hating the lack of snow, many are wondering:   What’s causing this wacky winter?
   Several forces are at work, not the least of which is the continuing La Nina. The little waif of a weathermaker has pushed the warm water toward Australia in the western Pacific, leaving the ocean of the America’s west coast about five degrees colder than usual. What that means for California is that moisture levels in the atmosphere have been lower so hence the prolonged dry spell.
   To understand how this effect works, think of a La Nina-dominated Pacific like a cold bathtub, said Jeff Weber, a climatologist from Boulder, Colo. Compared to a hotter and steamier bath, the water is less likely to evaporate from a chilly ocean. And since the prevailing weather moves from west to east, almost no rain and snow has been falling from the jet stream.
   La Nina is also responsible for pushing the storm track northward so what precipitation has been falling is coming to the ground in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
A widespread lack of snow cover also explains the recent run of high temperatures, Weber said. Without snow on the ground exposed soils and greenery are absorbing solar radiation, warming the ground, and feeding back into exceptionally warm temperatures from Michigan to California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.
   Last winter was an La Nina year, too, yet the West and Midwest had some massive and relentless snowstorms. That’s because there are other forces at work as well. Scientists are also learning that every La Nina is different from the last one.
   There are two forces that make the difference between massive snow storms and this year’s Marchuary. They are Arctic Oscillation (AO) and North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and they work together like gears to alter the jet stream up or down. Last year, both were in their negative phases with low pressure near Iceland and high pressure off Spain and Portugal.
   That locked effect blocked the weather from moving smoothly from west to east, Weber said. What resulted were kinks that had the storm track meandering. That led to all sorts of extreme weather in places like Kaweah Country; one month stormy and the next month the opposite extreme.
   This year, the AO and the NAO are positive, a trend that favors a strong, uninterrupted flow of air west to east over the northern half of the U.S. Since the La Nina is predominantly dry, precipitation is simply not falling across states in the north and west.
   But as of this week, the AO and the NAO are finally showing signs of breaking apart and that means a return to more seasonable January conditions. The La Nina is expected to weaken by March and that could mean more moisture.
   It’s tempting to blame climate change and global warming for this wacky weather but experts like Weber say it’s not necessarily so. In fact, a warmer world would cause warmer oceans, and what’s occurring this season is the exact opposite.
  “There were 99 federal weather disasters in 2011,” Douglas the weatherman said. “That’s a number exceeded only by 2010 and then along comes a bizarre winter like this. From the standpoint of meteorology, the last 18 months have been amazing. It’s going to be a wild ride.”

‘Don’t move a mussel’

Invasive mollusks are targeted

  That’s not a typo on the flashing sign at Lake Kaweah: “Don’t move a mussel — Check your vessel.”

  It’s actually part of an outreach campaign by the State of California to stop the spread of the quagga and zebra mussels, two invasive mussels, native to eastern Europe, that until 2007 had not been detected west of the Rocky Mountains.
   Five years ago, colonies of the mussel species were found in Lake Mead. Since then, surveys have detected smaller colonies in Lake Mohave, Lake Havasu, and on the Colorado River.
   They’ve been known to wreak havoc on waterways in the eastern states, and state and federal agencies are asking for the public’s help in making sure they don’t get a stranglehold here at Lake Kaweah and other California waterways. The mussels can be transported from lake to lake by attaching their encrustations to the hull of a boat.
   Among the damage they do is disrupt the aquatic food chain, encrust submerged resources, impact sport fishing, clog water pipes, and generally foul lake facilities like docks, ramps, and marinas. When they are present, maintenance costs skyrocket.
  “We haven’t detected any so far in Lake Kaweah,” said Matt Murphy, Lake Kaweah park ranger. “But they are starting to show up in the West so we want the public to be aware.”
   Ranger Matt said the invasive mussels need a certain amount of calcium in the water to thrive. At Lake Kaweah the water is relatively clean and the calcium content is only borderline.
   There are no plans currently to inspect boats at Lake Kaweah but that could change, Matt said, if any are detected when the monitoring program begins.
   For now, brochures with information about how to detect the mussels and what to do are available at the Lemon Hill Visitor Center. For more information call Lake Kaweah headquarters, 597-2301.

Kaweah volunteer group is FEMA-certified

  As of January 2012, a group of concerned citizens from Kaweah and Three Rivers is FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) certified and are now recognized by the State of California and the Tulare County Fire Department as a volunteer Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) organization. More than a dozen local residents have completed the disaster-preparedness training classes that led to the certification.
   A series of group training sessions were held in 2011 that included several facets of emergency response including how to set up evacuation shelters and treat multiple casualties in the event of an emergency. For their efforts, the group, led by Reverend Warren Campbell and Dutch Joens of Kaweah, has received disaster kits from the state for each volunteer that consist of hard hats, a vest, and backpacks.
   The Kaweah-based group also received a 1995 GMC fire patrol truck capable of delivering 250 gallons of water to local fire personnel as needed. According to a statement issued by Joens, the group will be conducting group training sessions and academies to help other groups start their own CERT units.
   Training is held the third Sunday of every month, from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., at the Church at Kaweah. The public is invited to participate or observe.

Sequoia gains a new sister park

  Mount Taishan Scenic Spots, a national park in China, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have much more in common than you might think. Both places are mountain parks with significant value as International Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites.
   The two areas, although a world away, have much in common, including valuable natural and cultural resources; mountain landscapes with high peaks; deep canyons and whitewater rivers with waterfalls; diverse plants and animals; and heavy tourism pressure during the peak season and on holidays. The parks are also bordered by well-populated valleys with residents who use the parks for recreation and education.
   In addition, both places are “Sister Parks” with a new formal agreement to work together to share ideas, lessons learned, training in interpretation and education, and leadership and management practices.
   As a result of this new relationship, three key staff from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks visited China from November 16 to 23 as the guests of Mount Taishan officials. The China park paid all travel expenses.
   The group included Superintendent Karen Taylor-Goodrich; Colleen Bathe, chief of the Division of Interpretation, Education, and Partnerships; and Denise Robertson, Sequoia South District interpreter. The U.S. representatives joined Mount Taishan officials in an agreement-signing ceremony and also received a tour of Mount Taishan’s operations.
  “After visiting Mount Taishan and other World Heritage Sites in China, we have a better idea of how visitors from China may want to experience Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks,” said Superintendent Karen Taylor-Goodrich.
   Interest in this new relationship started in March 2011 when Mount Taishan Scenic Spots officials requested an international Sister Park arrangement with Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The secretary of Mount Taishan, which is the highest-ranking official, and his staff visited Sequoia-Kings Canyon in April 2011 and met with Superintendent Taylor-Goodrich and other key staff to explore the possibilities.
   Mount Taishan is a mountain of historical and cultural significance located north of the city of Tai’an in Shandong province, China. The park ranges from 490 to 5,069 feet above sea level (similarly, Sequoia has a broad range of elevation, from 1,500 to 14,495 feet).
   As one of the “Five Sacred Mountains,” Mount Taishan is associated with sunrise, birth, and spiritual renewal. People have worshipped there for at least 3,000 years, and it serves as an important ceremonial center of China.
   The park protects 42 historic relics, 13 ancient tombs, 58 ancient architectures, 1,239 stone tablets, 1,277 cliff-side inscriptions, 14 stone statues, and over 10,000 cultural relics. In addition, it protects a wealth of natural resources including peaks, cliffs, and mountain ranges; canyons and gorges; streams, waterfalls, pools, and springs; rock outcrops and caves; peculiar stones and other mysterious geologic formations; and lush vegetation and old-growth trees. The park receives nearly 4 million visitors a year.
   Sequoia and Kings Canyon has had a previous sibling. In October 2006, a five-year sister park accord with Samlaut Protected Area in Cambodia was signed during a ceremony in front of the Giant Forest Museum.
   At least 40 other U.S. national parks have, or have had, sister-parks agreements with more than nations. Another dozen or so are also pending, including parks in Afghanistan, Georgia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Romania.

Kaweah Delta Health Care District

opens Woodlake clinic

  Rocio Medina, M.D., an internal medicine physcian and a 1998 graduate of Woodlake High School, has come home to stay. She is the doctor who will be seeing patients at the Woodlake Health Clinic opened this month by Kaweah Health Care District.
   The clinic is 4,200 square feet with eight exam rooms. It is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and located at 180 E. Antelope Ave.
   The clinic is staffed with Spanish-speaking providers and offers family medicine and women’s health.
   Dr. Medina graduated from University of California, Davis, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Cell Biology. She received her medical degree from U.C. San Francisco.

California rings in New Year

with hundreds of new laws

  Handgun open-carry, booster seats, LGBT rights, online privacy, child abuse, social media, identity theft, criminal records, Internet sales tax, employment credit checks, and human trafficking and slavery are all in the mix of 2012 California laws.
   There were more than 700 new California laws in effect just for 2011, and many more new laws than that will become effective in 2012. Try to keep up, California.
   Let’s look at some of the things Californians can and cannot do in 2012:

Child Booster Seat Law
The new California Booster Seat Law outlaws parents, guardians, or drivers from transporting on a highway in a motor vehicle any child under eight years old without securing that child in an appropriate child restraint meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards.
The new California law does contain a provision, however, that a child under eight years of age who is 4 feet, 9 inches, in height or taller may use a safety belt rather than a child safety seat or booster seat. Law effective January 1, 2012.

Employment Credit
Check Law

Employers can no longer request credit reports for Californians unless they are working or seeking work in a financial institution, law enforcement, or the state Justice Department.
The law also exempts anyone who (1) has access to people’s bank or credit card account information, Social Security number, and date of birth; (2) has access to an employer’s proprietary information or trade secrets; (3) signs a check, credit card, financial contract, or transfers money for an employer; (4) has access to more than $10,000 cash; or (5) is a manager in “certain industries.” Law effective January 1, 2012.

California Handgun
Open Carry Law

There is now an official open-carry citizen handgun ban because law-enforcement officers are unable to determine whether openly carried weapons are loaded or not. Violators pay $1,000 plus six months in jail (misdemeanor).
Gun rights advocates vow to carry rifles and shotguns instead. Californians can still get permits for concealed weapons, though it is increasingly difficult. Law effective January 1, 2012.

California Human
Trafficking Law

Enforces mandatory disclosure of efforts that companies take to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their entire supply chains. This law is currently being watched as a prototype of future legislation in other states and nations. Law effective January 1, 2012.

California Gay Bullying
Law (Seth’s Law)

Combats bullying of gay and lesbian students in public schools by requiring school districts to have a uniform process for dealing with gay bullying complaints. Mandates that school personnel intervene if they witness gay bullying. Law effective July 1, 2012.

LGBT Equality and Equal
Access in Higher Education Law

State universities and colleges must create and enforce campus policies protecting LGBTs from harassment and appoint employee contact persons to address on-campus LGBT matters. The law includes community colleges statewide. Law effective 2012.

Domestic Partnership
Equality Law

Corrects inequalities between domestic partnerships and heterosexual marriages, including domestic partner health benefits sharing. Law effective 2012.

Protection of
Parent-Child Relationships Law

Allows courts to consider the relationship between a child and a non-biological parent when considering child rights cases involving birth parents, adoptive parents, and gay or lesbian guardians. Law effective 2012.

Non-Discrimination Law

Provides public accommodation and protection in education, housing, and employment for gender identity and expression. Law effective 2012.

Transgender Vital
Statistics Law

Makes it easier for transgender Californians to get a court petition to change their gender on official documents. Law effective 2012.

LGBT Equal Benefits Law
Requires an employer with a state contract worth more than $100,000 to have non-discrimination policies in place for LGBT workers and their partners. Law effective 2012.

Judicial Applicant and
Appointment Demographics
Inclusion Law

Includes gender identity and sexual orientation of potential judges into the state’s Judicial Applicant Data Report to ensure that state courts are diverse. Law effective 2012.

Gay Divorce Law
Provides that if a gay couple got married in California but lives in a state that won’t grant them a divorce, the California court will have jurisdiction to grant them a legal divorce. The case must be filed in the county where the gay couple got married. Law effective January 1, 2012.

California Gay History Law
Governor Jerry Brown signed the Gay History Law, which mandates that school textbooks and social studies include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) accomplishments. Law effective January 1, 2012.

Internet Sales Tax
Governor Brown signed into law that out-of-state Internet retailers must collect California sales tax on transactions if the retailer has a presence in the state. Law effective Summer 2012.

California Renters
Right to Recycling Law

Apartment building landlords will have to start providing recycling services for seven million California tenants. Law effective 2012.

California Reader
Privacy Law

Government and third-parties can no longer gather information on Internet users’ reading, book shopping, or ebook-using habits without a legal court order.


New DUI Law
Section 23579 has been added to the California Vehicle Code, which authorizes courts to revoke a driver’s license for 10 years if a person is convicted of three or more DUIs. Motorists may apply for reinstatement of their license with the DMV after five years if the driver installs an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in their vehicle.

New Double White Line Law
AB 1105 prohibits vehicles from crossing double parallel solid white lines in California.

New Reckless Driving
Restricted License Law

AB 520 allows California drivers convicted of reckless driving under Section 23103.5 of the Vehicle Code to apply for a restricted driver’s license prior to the completion of their one-year suspension if they meet specific conditions, such as the installation of Ignition Interlock Device in their vehicle.

New DUI Checkpoint
Vehicle Impound Law

AB 353 prohibits law enforcement officers from impounding a vehicle for 30 days at a DUI checkpoint if the only offense is failing to hold a valid driver’s license.


California Male
Circumcision Law

Local governments, such as cities and counties, can no longer ban infant male circumcision.

California Data Breach
Notification Law

When consumer data has been breached, the holder of the data must notify the affected consumers of the occurrence in order to halt identity theft.

California Presidential
Primary Law

The presidential primary has officially been moved from February back to June.

California National
Popular Vote Law

All of California’s 55 electoral votes will ultimately go to the winner of the popular vote in U.S. presidential elections.

Mandatory DMV
Organ Donation Answer

The State of California now requires all driver’s license and identification card applicants to answer YES or NO to whether they want their organs donated.

Playing games and comfort

food at 3R Woman’s Club

By Linda DeLisio

  The ladies of the Three Rivers Woman’s Club arrived with games in hand at the Three Rivers Memorial Building on Wednesday, Jan. 4. Anticipation for a warm satisfying lunch and an afternoon of friendly competition was on everyone’s mind.
   At this recent meeting, my favorite part was the indulging in a variety of homemade soups, breads, and dessert provided by board members and the January committee, headed by Dot Robb. We feasted on Cream of Leek and Potato Soup and Kale and Bean Soup, both made by Linda Lewis; Chicken Vegetable Soup made by Kathy Bohl; Beef Barley Soup made by Ginny Lippire; New England Clam Chowder made by Mary Scharn; and my favorite, Hearty  Onion and Potato Corn Chowder made by Darla Castro.
   Geri Rios baked delectable Beer Bread, which completed the first course. For dessert, we indulged in a huge piece of Coconut Cream Cake, baked by Peggy Huddleston. What a treat and seriously delicious!
   These comfort foods filled me with a warm feeling and I began remembering the good old days in Philadelphia when there was over a foot of snow on the ground and school was closed for an immensely longed for Snow Day. The kids on the block would gather at my house after a morning of sledding down our neighborhood’s very steep street. My mom would get out games like Shoots and Ladders, Parcheesi, and Checkers.
   She would feed us Campbell’s soup with Wonder bread toast and hot Nestle’s cocoa. This was a homemade meal to me, am I right? We would slurp our soup and play games while we dried off and warmed up.
   After lunch, the women moved onto the business of the monthly meeting, then an afternoon of gaming. These gamers favored a deck of cards and Mexican Train.
   What fun was had by all that participated. It was a pleasure to see women all ages and a variety of backgrounds sitting around tables enjoying each other and sporting several gaming events.
                                                               * * *
   The Wednesday, Feb. 1, meeting will be at 1 p.m. at the Three Rivers Memorial Building. The program will be presented by the Critter Creek Wildlife Station’s Animals for Education. We will see a variety of wild animals and hear interesting facts about them. Two years ago this group put on a wildlife experience of birds to remember!
   Would you like to come? Call Bev at 561-4215. The Three Rivers Woman’s Club membership is open to all women of the community.
   Linda DeLisio is the 2011-2012 publicity chairperson of the Three Rivers Woman’s Club.


1941 ~ 2011

   Betty L. Nunnelee-Bergman died Friday, Dec. 30, 2011. She was 70.
   Betty was born in Hanford in 1941 to Bill and Leora Nunnelee. She was raised in Three Rivers and attended Woodlake High School.
   In 1958, she married her high school sweetheart Walt Bergman. She worked in property management since 1965.
   Betty is survived by her husband of 53 years, Walt; three children, Cindy and husband Gary, Don, and Julia; six grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; two brothers, Bill and Richard; three sisters, Lyn, Susan, and Karen; and many nieces and nephews.
   A service will be held at a later date.

Sherma Bierhaus
1935 ~ 2011

   Sherma Bierhaus died Monday, Dec. 26, 2011, She was 76.
   Sherma was the first woman superintendent in the National Park Service. She was born in 1935 near Grand Canyon National Park and all her life was an avid outdoor enthusiast and conservationist.
   Her father, Sherman Moore, was a park ranger, and Sherma followed in his footsteps. Her first superintendent position was at Timpanogos Cave National Monument in Utah (no year provided) then, later, Sherma was appointed superintendent of Arches National Park in Utah, from where she retired.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
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