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In the News - Friday, January 23, 2009


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

Only in this week's print edition of

The Kaweah Commonwealth:

Photo Finish 2008:  THE FACES

Annual year-end review in photos (30 in all)

that, this week, includes the amazing people

who made news in Kaweah Country


Supervisor Ishida updates 3R
on rail lines, county budget

   When it comes to budget in these uncertain economic times there’s not a government entity in the U.S. that’s not facing some sort of emergency. In Tulare County, there’s a crisis to be certain, but the Board of Supervisors has pledged not to touch cash reserves but rather make cuts in non-emergency services.
   That was the bottomline of the discussion at the monthly Three Rivers town meeting held on Monday, Jan. 12, at the Three Rivers Memorial Building. Supervisor Ishida told a packed house that at the regular BOS meeting (Jan. 13) there would be about 200 layoffs and at least two county healthcare clinics closed.
   If things don’t improve soon, Ishida said, there will be more cuts and more layoffs. Ishida also said that after the BOS meeting, he, Tom Sparks, and Ted Smalley would be traveling to Washington, D.C., to lobby transportation officials on behalf of TCAG (Tulare County Association of Governments). The trip’s purpose is to prevent the abandonment and salvage of 30 miles of railroad track from Strathmore to the Tulare County line.
   The clock is ticking on the abandonment, Ishida said, and once the county loses those tracks and right-of-way, it’s almost impossible to put the railroad back in operation.
   The railroad that currently owns the line has applied for a permit that in March 2009 would allow the company to tear up the tracks for salvage.
   According to Tom Sparks, who heads up the railroad committee, TCAG is investigating every possible alternative to abandonment, including possible purchase for $1.2 million. Sparks wrote in a recent correspondence:

  “TCAG has held discussions with the rail line owner, San Joaquin Valley Railroad, to determine what it would take to continue service to 11 shippers on the route. TCAG has been approached by other railroad operators about taking over the freight service. A rail shippers’ association has been formed to seek improvements that are more cost effective.”
   Sparks also said that purchase of the line makes good sense because of the direct benefits rail service could have relative to air quality, commerce, and the eventuality of using the right-of-way for passenger transport and recreation.

  “Even if the freight service never materialized, the rails could be salvaged to recover any tax dollars spent,” Sparks said, “and we could run buses there.”
   During the recent trip to Washington, D.C., the Tulare County contingent met with members of the Surface Transportation Board and the Federal Railroad Administration.

  “Once you get eyeball to eyeball with people you have been corresponding with on these matters, I think some real progress can be made,” Sparks said. “We all came away from the meeting with a better understanding of what needs to be done.”
   Sparks said that one reason why we got in these dire straits was that the shippers who used the line in the past were unfamiliar with the process. If they had filed formal complaints because of excessive charges, shipping goods via rail might have remained a viable option instead of simply adding more trucks to Highway 99.
   Although there is a March deadline on the railroad-abandonment application, Sparks is confident that TCAG can move decisively.

  “This abandonment affects the future of Kern and Fresno counties, too, so we’re forming a joint powers authority,” Sparks said. “The feds are looking for ways to help because they understand that this transportation corridor is important to the future of the entire region.”

President Obama expected

to sign wilderness bill

   Among the first bills that will reach President Obama’s desk in the Oval Office for his signature will be omnibus legislation that will add hundreds of thousands of acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System. Included among the bill’s many provisions that passed the Senate on Thursday, Jan. 15, is the bipartisan Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Wilderness Act.
   The local parks’ act will permanently protect 85,000 acres of wilderness, including a section to be named the John Krebs Wilderness. The swath of Mineral King area acreage was named after the former Congressman from Fresno who fought developers and drafted an amendment that made the Mineral King valley a part of Sequoia National Park in 1978.
   The bill to expand protected areas of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks won approval only after its sponsors Rep. Jim Costa (D-Hanford) and Devin Nunes (R-Visalia) agreed to new language that ensured that horses and commercial stock trips would be allowed in the newly-designated areas.

  “Though these areas are newly designated as wilderness, they have been proposed and managed as wilderness for more than 20 years,” said Alexandra Picavet, parks’ spokesperson. “The public will see little, if any, change in the management of these lands.”
   The bill allows for exclusion from wilderness designation four check dams located in the Hockett Plateau/Mineral King area and a “cherry-stem”-shaped parcel around the Mineral King Road.    Typically, the NPS uses road corridor exclusion off both sides of the center line of major roads and from existing developments, e.g. the Mineral King cabins.
   Also included in the act are certain lands in the upper North Fork and Redwood Canyon. The bill is currently awaiting another vote in the House, but that’s expected to be a formality owing to the fact that the lower chamber previously approved a slightly different version.

Recyclers struggle in sluggish economy

   With most folks watching every penny these days, coupled with the fact that going green is in, one industry that would appear to be able to hang on would be recycling. But like so many other small businesses that depend on consumer spending for survival, recyclers everywhere are battling a precipitous decline in the cash flow. 

  “We expected to see a downturn in our business this winter because most people consume less cold beverages this time of year,” said Ramon Duarte, owner of Ramon’s Recycling. “But I’m upside down and losing money with the declining revenue the State is paying for reimbursements, and now the market is so bad we can’t even make a dime on the materials we salvage.”
   Early in 2008, Ramon, who also operates in Tulare, opened a recycling outlet in Three Rivers behind the Village Market on Saturdays to collect local materials. Until recently, Ramon said, he was collecting enough to make it worth his while to be open one day a week.
   The Duartes recently purchased a fixer-upper home on North Fork so they were happy to be spending more time in Three Rivers. Ramon said that for a time the local recycling outlet was a win-win, and Three Rivers responded by bringing their empty containers to the Village center rather than transporting them down the hill or not recycling at all.
   Here’s how California’s recycling program works. Operators like Ramon reimburse customers based on weight for the California redemption value that the consumer pays in the store.
   In the best-case scenario, the State reimburses the deposits paid and then the recycler is permitted to reap a bulk salvage rate of the materials collected. Recently, given the current state budget crisis, these payments have been late and aren’t even covering the monies that the recyclers have returned to customers.
   The salvage part of the equation, for a number of reasons, is paying less than in 2008 while costs continue to escalate. According to Ramon, the whole system is teetering on the brink of extinction.
Ramon said in his current rental situation, it’s not worth his while to open the local outlet even for a few hours but he’s hoping to find a more affordable situation. That would really help, he said, to get his business over the hump this winter and, hopefully, the market will improve soon.

  “We really like Three Rivers so we’re not going anywhere,” Ramon said. “For the time being we will still be open on most Saturdays, but we’re asking all our loyal customers to be patient and hopefully this economy will turn around so we can continue to provide local recycling.”
   For more information or to check on local hours before loading up the recyclables, call Ramon, 303-1962.

‘Sequoia Speaks’ series

begins second season

   In Three Rivers, there is no university where locals can avail the intellectual talents of the professors through lectures and other such academic events. But for the second year, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks has offered their experts who are employed in some diverse and, arguably, the most interesting careers on the planet.
   Last Saturday, Dan Pontbriand, Sequoia district ranger, discussed search-and-rescue tactics. Continuing intermittent Saturdays into March, a half-dozen more Park Service speakers will inform Three Rivers residents on subjects ranging from history to marijuana eradication to aquatic biology and more.
   Sequoia Speaks is held at the Three Rivers Arts Center. The programs begin at 7 p.m. and are about one hour in duration.
Here is the rest of the 2009 schedule:
   Saturday, Jan. 31— The Forgotten Dream: The Building of the High Sierra Trail.
   Saturday, Feb. 7— The Long, Strange Trip: An Illustrated Backcountry Ranger Rhapsody.
   Saturday, Feb. 21— When the Dust Settles: Restoring Native Landscapes After Marijuana Eradication.
   Saturday, March 7— California Native Plants: Their Value in the Home Landscape.
   Saturday, March 21— Restoring High Elevation Aquatic Ecosystems.

Healthy Living
Weekly tip

   Floss your teeth at least once a day. Next to brushing, flossing is the most important thing that you can do to ensure good oral health.
The purpose of flossing is to reduce the number of bacteria that inhabit our mouths. As the bacteria feeds on food particles left on our teeth, they produce acid, and it is this acid that eats into tooth enamel and creates cavities. Bacteria is also the cause of bad breath.
   Flossing removes the bacteria and plaque that hides in the tiny spaces between teeth. If plaque is allowed to remain between the teeth, it hardens into a substance known as tartar. While plaque can be removed by brushing and flossing, tartar must be removed by a dentist.
   Dangerous types of bacteria build up within tartar, which produce toxins that irritate and inflame the gums. This condition is known as gingivitis. If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress to periodontal disease, a condition where bacteria and their toxins invade not only the gums, but also the bones and structures supporting the teeth. This can lead to bone loss, loose teeth, and teeth that fall out.
   If you haven’t flossed in a while, your gums may bleed slightly and become sore. This is normal, but indicates that your gums are inflamed and in need of flossing. After two or three days of a regular flossing regimen, there will be no more bleeding or soreness. The most important time to floss is before going to bed.


New campaign promotes

Sierra Nevada businesses

   The Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce is collaborating with the Sierra Business Council (SBC) to offer a “Think Local First” presentation at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the Chamber office, located at the Three Rivers Historical Museum, 42268 Sierra Dr. Chamber members are encouraged to attend this program to learn more about a Sierra Nevada-wide effort to improve commerce in small towns such as Three Rivers. All interested residents may attend as well.
   Representatives from the SBC will be on hand to discuss Think Local First program details and how merchants and locals can create a strong, sustainable, and thriving economy.
   About Think Local First— SBC’s Think Local First program seeks to create local, living economies throughout the Sierra Nevada. This program encourages residents and visitors to think local when considering where to make purchases, buy local whenever possible, and be local by supporting businesses and enterprises that make the Sierra Nevada unique.
   Following a model developed by the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, the Think Local First program works to ensure that economic power resides locally, sustaining healthy community life and environmental quality as well as long-term economic prosperity.
   The Think Local First program supports the locally-owned, independent businesses that sustain our communities and give our towns unique character. Through celebratory events, marketing of local, independent businesses, networking, local buying guides and coupon books, and other educational efforts, this program fosters support for the businesses and people that make communities such as Three Rivers special and strong.
   Marketing Kits and Membership Options— To support marketing efforts for the Think Local First program, SBC developed retail support kits ($45) and membership programs (range of prices) that enable participating businesses to brand themselves as Sierra Nevada local and independent. This regional Think Local First effort brings visibility to the significant contributions provided by business to the local community, economy and environment.
   About Sierra Business Council— The Sierra Business Council is a 700-plus, member-based organization committed to pioneering innovative projects and approaches that foster community vitality, environmental quality, economic prosperity, and social fairness in the Sierra Nevada. The Sequoia Foothills Chamber is a member of this organization.
   For more information about SBC and the Local First program, visit www.sbcouncil.org.
   Article by Johanna Kamansky, SFCC president.


Mary Ann Fredich
1915 ~ 2009

   Mary Ann Fredich, a former resident of Three Rivers, died Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009, in Indio. She was 93.
   Mary Ann was born Aug. 16, 1915, to Stephen and Anna Dvorzak. She was raised in Ambridge, Penn.
   In 1933, she married Stephen W. Fredich. While raising their children, Mary Ann was a homemaker and community volunteer.
When Stephen retired from the Jones and Laughlin steel mill, the couple moved west to Escondido.
   In 1989, Mary Ann moved to Three Rivers to be near her daughter, Elaine Bowden. She resided here for 15 years at which time she was very active at St. Clair’s Catholic Church and volunteered her time at Senior League lunches, The Thingerie, and other community-service projects.
   In 1982, Mary Ann was preceded in death by her husband of 49 years, Stephen. In 2004, she was preceded in death by her daughter, Elaine Theveny Bowden of Three Rivers.
   She is survived by her daughters, Betty Naugle and Frani Richards; sister Catherine De Nino, five grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.
   A private service was held at Oak Hill Memorial Park in Escondido.

Larry Root
1950 ~ 2008

   Larry Joe Root, a former resident of Three Rivers, died of a heart attack Monday, Dec. 15, 2008, at his home in Visalia. He was 58.
   Larry was born Sept. 28, 1950, in Los Angeles to Frank E. Root and Colleen Gertz. He was raised in Long Beach and graduated from David Starr Jordan High School in 1968.
   Larry first discovered Three Rivers in 1970 when he came here to visit his sister, Teri. Since then, he has lived here off and on.
   Larry is survived by his daughter, Shannon Root, of Rapid City, S.D., and grandson Triston; daughter Colleen Root of Barstow and granddaughter Trinatey and grandsons Jayden and Gavin; sons Randon Root and Jessy Root, both of Visalia; and sister Teri Lowe and brother Frank Root, both of Three Rivers.
   A date is pending for a spring service.

   These stories and so much more in the weekly print edition of The Kaweah Commonwealth.


THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
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