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In the News - Friday, January 22, 2010

All stories written by John or

Sarah Elliott unless otherwise noted


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

'Western Wallop'

brings rain, snow

to Kaweah Country

  On Wednesday evening, Jan. 20, those wind gusts in excess of 50 mph accompanied by heavy thunder and intense lightning were certainly attention-getters but short-lived with only minor damage. A few trees were knocked down but once again Kaweah Country appeared to be positioned smack dab between more severe weather to the north and south.
   California update— By Thursday morning (Jan. 21), units of the CHP were advising all travelers to avoid the I-80 area around Lake Tahoe and the I-5 area through the Grapevine as heavy snow was making driving extremely dangerous. To the south in foothills areas that burned during last season’s Station Fire, thousands of residents were given orders to evacuate by Los Angeles County Fire Department officials that are expected to be in effect throughout the weekend.
   The series of El Nino-spawned storms had the ground saturated throughout the state and more mudslides and flooding were imminent in dozens of locales. Seaside bluffs were collapsing up and down the California coast causing damage to a spate of oceanfront properties as pieces of real estate fell into the ocean.
   Local update— Closer to home, the nearby mountains in Sequoia National Park are piling up some impressive snow totals. On Thursday, Jan. 21, Lodgepole rangers reported 72 inches at the stake with another two feet expected by Sunday.
   In Mineral King, snow sensors reported from six to eight feet, depending on elevation. At the Farewell Gap location at 9,500 feet, the forecast was for several more feet on top of the 80 inches already on the ground.
   All that snow bodes well for California’s water users. The February 1 numbers are now expected to exceed the totals for the entire 2008-2009 season throughout the Sierra.
   In Three Rivers, the season total as of January 21 was 10.43 inches of rainfall with one to two more inches expected by Sunday. On this same date one year ago, Three Rivers had recorded 6.71 inches with a paltry 32 inches of snow in the local mountains at 7,000 feet.
   The last year that piled up some impressive snow pack like this was also an El Nino event that occurred in 1998. So batten down the hatches and enjoy the extraordinary weather because there’s plenty more where this came from — the equatorial Pacific.

Three Rivers welcomes its
first baby of the New Year

At 1:01 a.m. on 01-01-10…

by Brian Rothhammer

   Noah has arrived!
   The New Year’s Eve countdown. People around the globe count off the minutes in many languages as midnight of December 31 arrives at their respective time zones. Three… two… one. For the new year of 2010 Jennifer Campbell of Three Rivers had a rather different countdown in store.
   Jennifer works at River View Restaurant and Lounge and was expecting a routine New Year’s Eve there. Thing is, Jennifer was also expecting a baby.

  “My due date was the ninth (of January), and I thought I’d go way over that, so I got dressed up for New Year’s,” she said. “It all happened so fast.”
   Jennifer went to the River View, which is owned by her parents Rex and Dorletta Hildebrand, and was having dinner with soon-to-be-father Ruben Pinon when she felt a bit woozy.

  “I thought I was just tired,” she said.
   But mom Dorletta quickly interjected, “I told her that morning, ‘You‘re going to have that baby tonight!’”
   Ruben drove Jennifer home to rest and went back to the River View, under admonishment from Dorletta to be on the ready and to not have a single drink. An hour-and-a-half later, he was called to duty.

  “I had been counting the contractions,” said Jennifer, “and when Ruben arrived, they were 20 minutes apart. By the time we got to Visalia, they were down to three minutes.”

  “Ruben was more nervous than I was,” she continued. “It seemed like we got to Visalia in about 20 minutes. I don’t think he said a word during the drive.”
   Ruben later confided to Dorletta, “I didn’t want the baby to be born in the car. I was scared to death, but didn’t want her to know it.”
Upon arrival at Kaweah Delta Hospital, Jennifer was wheeled immediately into a delivery room. The delivery went smoothly.

  “I pushed for about an hour. Between my mother, my dad, Ruben, Kaweah… they were all there for me.”
   At 01:01 a.m. on 01-01-10 (numerology, anyone?), Noah Francisco Campbell Pinon entered the world, a healthy new Three Rivers resident of 6 pounds, 13 ounces, and 18 inches in length. Jennifer’s daughter Kaweah acted as birthing coach during her new brother’s arrival.

  “At first I thought she’d pass out,” said Dorletta. “But by the end of the experience she was asking, ‘What kind of doctors are those? I want to be one.’”

GM to leave CSD

Applicants being sought

for general manager position

   In the economic forecast for the first quarter of 2010, good jobs will remain scarce and hard to find. But in Three Rivers, one of the best of a handful of local management positions is open and needs to be filled immediately.

  “It’s a great position where you are your own boss and in charge of scheduling all the water sampling,” said Randy Pares, Three Rivers Community Services District general manager. “For somebody who wants to live and work in Three Rivers, this is an ideal job.”
   Pares should know because it’s his resignation that has created the vacancy. He was hired in November 2002 and since that time things have been running smoothly, including the new playground project that has really been a feather in the cap of the Three Rivers Community Services District.
   But now the clock is ticking on Pares’s pending relocation to Buffalo, Wyo., where he will join his wife Bonnie who is already working there as a caregiver. Pares says the traveling back and forth for frequent visits can be a nightmare.
   During the recent Christmas holiday, Pares was trapped for more than 16 hours at the Salt Lake airport while maintenance workers attempted to de-ice waiting aircraft during a blizzard. In addition, he said, flying into Casper and then driving to Buffalo can be downright expensive.
   Pares, who has lived in Three Rivers since 1988, said the timing is right to make a lifestyle change. He will be taking a new job with Buffalo’s water treatment department that serves a city of 4,500 residents.
   The town is located at the 5,000 ft. elevation level and has its own dam and reservoir to store water coming out of the Big Horn Mountains. Pares said his new job will be an entirely different deal because the city’s system depends solely on gravity-fed surface flow and doesn’t employ groundwater.
   Pares admitted it will be difficult to leave Three Rivers behind but said each time he was in Wyoming it became harder and harder to leave. There, he said, he has relatives who are fly fishing guides and the recreational opportunities are limitless.

  “Who wouldn’t want to go to a place where the scenery is gorgeous and you have four distinct seasons?” Pares said. “The snow-capped Big Horn Mountains are absolutely beautiful.”
   Pares said he is confident the replacement process can be an easy transition. The agency has already received several applications and Pares plans to spend the month of February training the successful applicant.
   For inquiries about this exceptional career opportunity, call Randy at the CSD office 561-3480.

3R residents seek Measure R road repairs

   When county officials are in Three Rivers to discuss how they plan to spend $500 million in tax dollars over the next five years on county road projects, they’re likely to hear some tough questions on why more of that money is not being used in Three Rivers. That was certainly the case at the January 11 town meeting.
   Ted Smalley, Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG) executive director, and Johnny Wong, the county’s road department supervisor, both made presentations at the local forum. Smalley explained the big picture by pointing out that because Measure R revenue is earmarked for roads, Tulare County finds itself in an enviable position as a “self-help” county seated at the same table as the bigger players like Los Angeles and the Bay Area counties.
   What it means, Smalley explained, is that Tulare County can leverage more funding by coming up with a 10 or 20 percent match for road projects. The rest of the funding, which can amount to 80 or 90 percent of the total cost, comes from the state or federal governments.   That funding pot will enable the County of Tulare to undertake more than $500 million in road improvement projects that can be realistically completed in the next five years.
   Johnny Wong provided a handout showing where and when this money was scheduled to be spent. But the fact that no immediate projects were slated for Three Rivers riled several in the audience.
   Carole Clum, a South Fork resident, presented a two-page letter outlining concerns she had with a gamut of road-related issues, including the poor conditions of portions of South Fork Drive, Dinely Drive, and Dry Creek Road.
   According to Clum, she was told that there are 3,000 miles of county roads that are impossible to keep up with the maintenance even with Measure R money. Clum said that Craig Anderson, a Tulare County surveyor, recently told her that 90 percent of the county’s foothills and mountain roads are substandard.
   Wong responded by saying that although Eggers Drive and portions of South Fork Drive were recently repaired, he would look into other areas where there are the greatest needs. He agreed to come back in February with a revised map that identifies some areas where additional repair projects might be feasible.
   Tom Sparks, local member of the TCAG board, said one area that was not discussed at the recent town meeting was the 14 percent of the Measure R money that must be used for bikeways, buses, and environmental mitigation. Sparks says that some Measure R funding could be used to help the county restore abandoned rail lines that would benefit shippers now and become a light rail system in the future.

  “The improvement in our air quality alone would be well worth the investment,” Sparks said.

Sequoia Speaks begins third season

   Another compelling lineup of speakers has been scheduled for this winter’s Sequoia Speaks series. The programs will be held at Three Rivers Arts Center from 7 to 8 p.m. for six consecutive Saturdays, beginning tomorrow (January 23).
   All of the current week’s program will be listed in the Kaweah Kalendar. Here is the 2010 schedule in order of appearance:
   Creepy Crawlies of Sierran Caves with Joel Despain, cave specialist.
   Diggin’ the Parks: Archeology and the National Park Service with Jane Allen, archaeologist.
   Science in the National Park Service: An Evolving Relationship with David Graber, Pacific West Region chief scientist.
   Women in the National Parks with Adrienne Freeman, acting public affairs specialist.
   A Transect — Due East with Matthew Rangel, artist.
   National Parks in a Changing World with Bill Tweed, author.
All programs are free and open to the public.

3R Chorus recruiting for 2010

   Eileen Farrell has performed in New York City and worked as a talent agent in Hollywood, but these days focuses her efforts on the performing arts in Three Rivers and Tulare County. How fortunate for aspiring singers and actors in Kaweah Country.
   Registration is currently ongoing for the Three Rivers Chorus, which will begin its 2010 season in February. Eileen organizes and directs the chorus, as well as provides members one-on-one instruction for personal improvement.
   The members will work together as a small group while preparing for performances. Members who so choose also will have the opportunity for solo performances.
   After a career that spanned three decades in New York and Southern California, Eileen and her husband Walter moved to Three Rivers in 1994. Soon after, the Three Rivers Chorus was founded.
   Walter passed away in 2001, and Eileen has continued solo, producing and directing several Broadway musical productions, teaching drama and voice to children and adults, directing at Sierra Performing Arts Center in Visalia and at Exeter High School, teaching private voice lessons, and more.
   For additional information about the upcoming Three Rivers Chorus session, or to inquire about vocal or other performing arts lessons, call Eileen at 561-0361.

Events planned during ‘Hero Months’

   For the fourth year, the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring Hero Appreciation Months from January though March.   During these months, Kaweah Country-wide discounts are offered to public safety, emergency services, and military personnel.
   In addition, several events are always planned. On the last Friday of each month (January 29, February 26, March 26) at 7 p.m., a celebration honoring a specific group of heroes will be held at the Three Rivers Arts Center, which will feature speakers, refreshments, and awards. These gatherings are free and open to the public.
   New to the event lineup this year will be a family picnic and “Bathtub Race” fundraiser, which will be held at Lake Kaweah on Saturday, March 27. During this event, teams of five will acquire sponsors and compete to make a bathtub buoyant and remain afloat the longest.
   For more information about the upcoming Bathtub Race or Hero Appreciation Months, including a list of discount card issuers and participants, contact Leah Catherine Launey, 561-4270, or visit www.threerivers.com/events_sfcc.html.

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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