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In the News - Friday, February 6, 2009


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

Mount Stewart (right) as seen from the Generals Highway

two miles inside the Sequoia National Park entrance.

Loss of oaks underscores

need for protection

   For the second consecutive Town Hall meeting, several Three Rivers residents expressed their concern at the destruction of a large stand of mature oak trees that were recently cut and cleared from commercial property adjacent to the old Indian Restaurant site and the Comfort Inn. A vocal contingent present at the meeting wanted to know why there was no official county policy to either prevent or mitigate a property where scenic oaks or woodlands are destroyed.
   Laurie Schwaller of Three Rivers read a letter to the gathering that she planned to mail to the landowner protesting the cutting of the oaks. She invited anyone interested to also sign the letter or write another one.
   David Claxton, chief planner with Tulare County, was present at the Monday (February 2) evening meeting to present an update on the Kaweah Scenic Highway proposal. Claxton said there really isn’t much as to a specific county ordinance, but the County’s new general plan contains an oak management plan that mandates when oaks are removed they are required to be replaced.
   But Claxton also said that the County’s input relative to oak trees was only effective when grading permits are sought or as a part of site plan review, which is required for new developments.

  “At last Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting, staff were directed to begin the process for drafting a county oaks ordinance,” Claxton said. “The ordinance will require some staff time so a draft can specifically address your concerns. The final version of the ordinance would, in effect, establish official county policy.”
   Protecting oaks is just one example, Claxton said, as to why these planning efforts — corridor protection plan, Three Rivers Community Plan, and an oaks ordinance — all fit together.

  “When you think about the scenic highway, think about it as protective, not restrictive,” Claxton said. “If you don’t put some of these regulations in place, you will have more intrusions like trees being taken out. Look at an oaks ordinance as protecting the community, not overregulation of your individual properties.”
   Relative to the timetable on the Kaweah Scenic Highway, Claxton said he is still waiting on the specific comments of Caltrans.
When asked if the area that essentially contains Three Rivers could be exempted from inclusion in a scenic highway, Claxton said he’s already been told that Caltrans will not support an application that exempts Three Rivers.

  “The best way to understand what we want to protect and where we want to go with regulation of things like signage, lighting, and ridgetop development is to address these items in the Three Rivers Community Plan,” Claxton said.
   In the works, Claxton said, are some upcoming workshops on the Three Rivers Community Plan. The new plan, he said, has essentially the same goals as the 1980 plan but with more teeth in it so it is enforceable.
   Alexandra Picavet, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks public information officer, provided an update on activities in the parks. She said that funding is in place for reconstruction of eight more miles of the Generals Highway to begin sometime after the contract begins on March 30, weather permitting.
   All work is scheduled to be completed by November 2 and there will be no delays on holidays or weekends. The delays should only be minimal to most park visitors because the section of highway being completed is located between Wolverton and Little Baldy.
   The next Town Hall meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 2.

Septic shock causes

Water Board to reschedule

   The proposed regulations calling for inspections of all septic systems every five years at a projected cost of $325, and even more stringent and costlier measures for broken systems, finally has the attention of a coalition of rural stakeholders.
   The latest outcry against the amendments to AB 885 (see “SWRCB takes aim at septic tanks,” THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTh, page 1, January 30, 2009), which was scheduled to take effect next January, now has the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) looking to reschedule key parts of the project’s timetable.
   A loud, concerted, “back off” message was sent to Sacramento officials when an overflow crowd showed up for last week’s Santa Rosa workshop that was one in a series scheduled from Redding to Riverside to gather public input (the closest meeting to Kaweah Country was held last month in Fresno, so local media outlets were not noticed). Because of the huge turnout, the Santa Rosa workshop has been rescheduled for two sessions on February 9 and moved to a bigger venue.
   Owing to that rescheduling, a public hearing on the regulations that had been slated for Monday, Feb. 9, in Sacramento, has also been postponed until the new regulations have been redrafted. The public will be officially noticed of a new date and time for the hearings.
   The rescheduling has also caused the public comment to be extended until February 23, 2009. All written comments will be incorporated into the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that are received by 12 noon on that date. Comments should be emailed to: AB885@waterboards.ca.gov.
   In light of the large number of comments received to date, SWRCB officials were already considering postponing the public hearing.
The public hearing will be rescheduled to hear testimony on the revised regulations. The written and oral comments play a critical role in determining the scope of and when the regulations are adopted.
   There are an estimated 1.2 million septic systems in California that under current law are only required to be inspected when they are first installed. They are largely forgotten until there’s a messy backup or a leak causes a pollution problem.
   The new regulations are timely, according to proponents, because as California searches for more clean water, it can ill afford leaky household systems that contaminate water sources.
   Documents pertaining to the regulations, including the draft EIR may be obtained from the State Water Resources Control Board website at: www.waterboards.ca.gov (click on Septic Tanks-AB 885) or by calling Todd Thompson, (916) 341-5518, or Gita Kapahi, director of public participation, (916) 341-5501.

3R gas prices edging higher

   Oil futures fell this week but pump prices edged slightly higher. A report released by the feds on Monday revealed some worry over a pending refinery strike that could affect more than one-half of the nation’s capacity to refine oil into gasoline.
   Futures remain mired between $38 and $48 a barrel, analysts said, despite efforts by producers to scale back production in an attempt to shore up prices. That’s a far cry from the July 2008 record of more than $147 a barrel.
   But what’s it all mean to the consumer at the pump? The numbers translate to a rise of 5.4 cents nationally for a gallon of self-serve regular to $1.892 according to the Energy Department’s weekly survey.
   In California, the rise was 1.6 cents per gallon to $2.113 a gallon. In Three Rivers, the prices remain steady between $2.299 and $2.399.
   A year ago, the statewide average was $3.107 per gallon while last summer, local prices topped $4.50 per gallon.
Prices dropped dramatically last fall, bottoming out in Three Rivers at just under $2 before Christmas.

Save ‘Box Tops’ for TRUS

   In these tough economic times, every little bit of money can help, especially for a small school like Three Rivers Union. The Box Tops for Education program has earned TRUS over $1,200 in the past two years.
   Each qualifying “Box Top” collected is worth 10 cents. Box Tops are found on hundreds of common brand-name grocery store items. This money goes into the student council fund, which directly benefits the students.

  “I want to thank all of the students, families, and community members who faith fully clip and save Box Tops for our school,” said Sue Schwarz, who organizes the effort. “But, we could use more help.”
   There is a Box Tops for Education collection bin located in the Three Rivers Post Office for everyone’s convenience. Clip Box Tops coupons and drop them off at the post office or TRUS office.
   Or, if you know a Three Rivers student, they would appreciate you providing them with Box Tops because there are monthly contests to see which classroom can bring in the most Box Tops.
   Another easy way to earn money for Three Rivers School is to login to the www.btfe.com website. Once registered for TRUS, you can click on “Marketplace” and route to a variety of vendors such as Lands End, Cabela’s, Office Depot, Target, and many more.
   Then, any purchases you make online means that these vendors will contribute one to three percent of the purchase price to Three Rivers School. It’s free, it’s easy, and it will help support TRUS and its students.
   For more information about the Box Tops for Education program, call Sue Schwarz, 561-3042.

Candidates now being

accepted for Sheriff's VIP academy

   VIPs are the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department “Volunteers in Patrol.” They are trained to be extra eyes and ears for the Sheriff’s Department and serve in a variety of ways.
   Currently, there are 13 VIPs who live and serve in Three Rivers. Some of their listed duties that apply to this community are:

  —Any service requested by a peace officer of the county.

  —Home patrol checks during a resident’s absence or for someone who lives alone and would appreciate a stop-by-check occasionally. (Request forms are available in the Three Rivers Post Office lobby.)

  —Traffic control during an emergency.

  —Assisting stranded motorists.

  —Search-and-rescue support.

  —Crime scene perimeter assistance.

  —Community outreach/parades/county events.

  —Area patrolling with the purpose of observation of anything unusual that needs the attention of an officer.
   VIPs who also serve in the valley are primarily responsible for transporting documents to courts, substations and government offices; transporting patrol vehicles for servicing; area patrolling; and providing basic office assistance.
   The next Academy is scheduled for March, and applications are being accepted now. To become a VIP, submit an application (available online at www.tularesheriff.info or from any VIP). After a background check and interview, the candidate attends a five-Saturday Academy presented by the Sheriff Department. This community volunteer service is a great asset to Three Rivers and the entire county. Since the VIP program began in 1993, approximately 100,000 volunteer hours have been tracked.
   According to Sheriff Bill Whitman, this frees about $500,000 a year for the county Sheriff’s budget, allowing the purchase of more safety equipment for officers. In addition to adding extra patrol vehicles on the roads, this is a positive and tangible financial effect provided by volunteers.
   Consider joining this dedicated group of Three Rivers VIPs. If you have any questions, contact Clancy Blakemore by calling 561-4435 or emailing clancydick@sbcglobal.net.

Woodlake announces

Man, Woman of the Year

   A Three Rivers senior at Woodlake High School will receive a Youth of the Year award at Woodlake’s annual awards banquet that honors extraordinary citizens. Jordan Vieira was chosen by the selection committee to be honored with the Youth of the Year award along with a female counterpart, senior Liliana Garcia.
   Other honorees are:
   Man of the Year— Mike Pace.
   Woman of the Year— Leslie Rivas.
   Spirit of Woodlake— Lupe Pinon.
   Lifetime Achievements Award— Frances Ortiz.
   Business of the Year— Valley Business Bank.
   The award winners, except for the Business of the Year, are selected by an anonymous committee made up of an appointed member from several groups and agencies in Woodlake who review present year’s nominees, as well as those nominees from the past two years. (Business of the Year is selected by the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce.)
   The 47th annual dinner banquet, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 28, is hosted by the Kiwanis of Woodlake. The event will begin with a social hour at 6 p.m. at the Woodlake Memorial Building.
   Tickets must be purchased in advance and are $20 per person. Tickets are available at Woodlake High School (see Frances Mann) or Woodlake City Hall or by calling 564-2054 (Sally Pace), 679-0795 (Pam Estrada).

Local workshop taught ‘Wise Traditions’

   In November, Anore Jones and Teriz Mosley, South Fork neighbors and ranchers, hosted a seminar on the benefits of raw milk. Anore and Teriz are the organizers of a Three Rivers chapter of Wise Traditions, an organization that emphasizes traditional foods, farming, and healing arts.
   The event was held on the Mosleys’ ranch and hosted about 35 local residents who gathered to hear a presentation by Mark McAfee. Mark, the owner of Organic Pastures Dairy of Fresno, is an expert on the benefits of raw milk and its place in a whole foods diet.
   The dairyman discussed the differences between raw milk and commercially-processed milk and addressed the health concerns associated with drinking raw milk.
   Organic Pastures raw milk is available through Family Farm Fresh, a local CSA that delivers to Three Rivers on Thursdays.
   Additional Wise Traditions seminars are planned. For information about the chapter, call Teriz, 561-3637.

Reaping rewards

   Mary Famisaran of Three Rivers was the winner of the Visalia Farmers Market’s monthly raffle in January. As a result, she received complimentary produce and other products donated by vendors. The Saturday Farmers Market is held year-round from 8 to 11:30 a.m. in the Sears parking lot. The Thursday evening market, held in downtown Visalia, is scheduled to restart for the season March 12.

Weekly tip

  No smoke is good smoke— Woodstoves and fireplaces are a source of both indoor and outdoor air pollution. They produce carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and other harmful chemicals, as well as fine particles that you inhale.
   Since 1990, the EPA has required all new woodstoves to use “clean-burn” technology, so they are safer, more efficient, and less polluting than they used to be. If your stove is old, you should upgrade to an EPA-certified one, which releases far less smoke than old models (2 to 5 grams of particulates an hour versus 40 to 60 grams).
   Make sure your woodstove is properly installed and vented. You should not smell smoke or see much smoke from the chimney. Woodstoves, fireplaces, and chimneys should be inspected and cleaned regularly. Also:

  —Use seasoned wood. Wood should be dried and stored outside for at least six months.

  —Don’t burn treated or pressed wood, plywood, or driftwood. Don’t burn garbage, cardboard, plastics, or anything with colored ink, paint, or glue on it. These can all produce toxic fumes.

  —If you use a fireplace, consider installing an EPA-certified insert, which will make it as efficient as a woodstove (an open fireplace is a net energy loser). An insert will reduce fuel use and pollution.


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
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
© Copyright 2003-2009 The Kaweah Commonwealth