In the News - Friday, February
stories written by John or
Elliott unless otherwise noted
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
silver lining: The scene from the Little Baldy area
on the Generals Highway in Sequoia
Park last Friday (Feb. 12) shows the foothills and
Central Valley shrouded in clouds
sunshine and spring-like temperatures were the order
of the day in the higher elevations.
storm that is forecast for the region this weekend
will bring more snow to the Sierra, which
again cause a temporary closure of the Generals Highway
in this area.
break floods Hammond Drive
When the call came into Kaweah
Powerhouse No. 1 this week, Lupe Mendoza knew exactly
what to do.
On the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 17,
it was discovered that water, mud and debris had swamped
a section of Hammond Drive and were cascading down-canyon
toward the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River.
The water was escaping from a flume operated
by Southern California Edison, managed and maintained
by Kaweah-Tule Eastern Hydro Division. Flume No. 1
is one of three flumes that diverts water from the
Kaweah River to three power-generating turbine stations.
Mendoza, maintenance supervisor, sprang into action
as did his crew.
number-one goal is public safety and to protect private
property,” said Lupe.
SCE workers, in cooperation with the
Tulare County Fire Department and the California Highway
Patrol, assessed the situation as to damage and public-safety
issues while simultaneously closing off the supply
of water at the main source near Oak Grove Bridge,
six miles up the Mineral King Road. Flume operators
then opened “side gates” to release the
water at locations that would not impact roads or
The cause of the break was failure of
a “leg.” The steel channel of the flume
is supported by a historic wooden trellis that requires
happens,” said Jim Kanard, manager of the Kaweah-Tule
rocks, trees, or fire” are the cause of breaches
to the flumes, he added.
Mineral King Road was closed briefly
to accommodate getting in some of the equipment to
assist in the cleanup. The river below
Mineral King Road flowed chocolate-brown throughout
the afternoon, reminiscent to how it looks after a
damages MK cabins
look at the steep canyon walls at Mineral King in
Sequoia National Park and it’s easy to spot
some avalanche-prone areas. There are several chutes
where scoured slopes are evidence of heavy snow events
of the not-to-distant past.
The series of winter storms that occurred
during late January and the weekend of February 5
through 7 brought heavy snow and caused several avalanches
in the Mineral King valley. Two cabins in East Mineral
King, just south of the Timber Gap-Monarch Lakes trailhead,
were damaged by one of the recent snowslides.
The Martin-Dula cabin and the Sellars-Voelz
cabin were hit by a fast-moving snowslide. According
to a park ranger’s report that described the
conditions, the slide appeared to have started on
the southwest-facing slope above Monarch Creek.
Of the two cabins, the Martin-Dula cabin
appears to have suffered the more extensive damage.
The entire structure was nudged off its foundation
and moved several feet to the southeast.
The Voelz cabin was hit by additional
snow that made its way around the Martin-Dula cabin
on the adjacent lot. The impact from that snow smashed
its way through a kitchen window on the northwest
corner of the cabin, flooding the first floor with
Although the cabin permittees have been
notified of the damage, it will be sometime after
the heavy snow in the area melts that the full extent
of the damage can be assessed. Dan Voelz visited the
area on February 8 and posted photos of the damage
to his cabin online (www.mk-webcam.net,
click on Special Features, then Photo Album).
Another slide farther up the Mineral
King canyon occurred in the Crystal Creek drainage
and ran all the way to the valley floor and crossed
the river. This slide snapped off numerous trees and
left in its wake a mound of debris.
Park rangers also reported several abandoned
vehicles on the Mineral King Road above mile marker
14. With another series of storms due to begin this
weekend, more avalanches are imminent and backcountry
travel in Mineral King and all areas of the parks
is not advised as conditions will be extremely dangerous
until at least mid-March.
about public involvement
as an opportunity for the public to get involved,
the free workshop Tuesday, Feb. 23, at the Three Rivers
Memorial Building is actually a hybrid meeting where
more than a dozen park staff from Sequoia and Kings
Canyon National Parks will be on-hand to engage all
comers in an array of park projects, issues, and plans.
To hear Adrienne Freeman, the acting
information officer for the local parks, explain the
rationale for this inaugural event, this meeting will
be more like a close encounter of the informative
did this type of event at Yosemite monthly and they
are a great way to reach the public,” Adrienne
said. “Our goal is to get more people involved
here at Sequoia-Kings Canyon and this is a proven
method to do it.”
Here’s how these meetings work.
Nancy Hendricks, NPS environmental protection specialist,
will offer some general remarks on planning and how
and when to furnish input.
According to Adrienne, that’s extremely
important because all the topics being represented
you’re interested in $35 million worth of road
construction, prescribed fire, a new concessions contract
for Kings Canyon, or the future of Mineral King, this
meeting will have something for everyone,” Adrienne
said. “Tuesday night will be like a festival
of park plans and projects.”
After some general discussion and questions
and answers, participants will break out and gather
at several workshop stations that will be highlighting
fire, roads and infrastructure, aquatic restoration,
bears, caves, law enforcement, concessions, marijuana
operations, Mineral King, and more.
Park staff scheduled to attend are: Dan
Blackwell, chief of maintenance and facilities; Deb
Schweizer, fire education specialist; Kit Knapp, law
enforcement specialist; Harold Werner, wildlife biologist-Aquatic
Restoration; Joel Despain, cave specialist; Danny
Gammons, wildlife biologist-Bear Management; and Thomas
Liu, concessions manager.
started out to schedule a meeting to deal with planning
and the new gun regulations,” Adrienne said.
“The list of topics just kept growing and so
did the parks staff who wanted to participate.”
Whatever might be one’s interest
in the parks, it will most likely be addressed at
this meeting. Personnel from more than a dozen programs,
plans, and projects will be on hand to provide information,
discuss the issues, and answer questions and address
Want to know the acreage proposed for
the 2010 prescribed-fire season? Want a synopsis of
last year’s marijuana eradication efforts? Are
the new gun laws the same throughout the National
Park System? What is the road construction schedule
next summer? These answers and more...
For more information, call Adrienne at
park gun rules go into effect
of the lesser-publicized amendments of the Credit
Card Act of 2009 takes effect Monday, Feb. 22, and
it could lead to confusion for some visitors who want
to carry loaded firearms into Sequoia and Kings Canyon
National Parks. That’s because state regulations
supersede the federal bill and that means only concealed
weapon permittees under California law will be allowed
to carry loaded weapons in California national parks.
anticipate there might be some visitors who get mixed
signals from the bill,” said Adrienne Freeman,
Sequoia and Kings Canyon’s acting public information
officer. “The key will be getting the word out,
especially at park entrance stations.”
Since the National Park Service was created
in 1916 it has been illegal to be in possession of
a loaded weapon in a national park. This new legislation
was a last-minute congressional deal that was passed
while most lawmakers were focused on other parts of
the legislation — in this case — credit
The Credit Card and Responsibility and
Disclosure Act is a federal law that was passed by
Congress and signed into law by President Obama on
May 22, 2009. Its aim is to safeguard credit card
users and reform the way card issuers raise rates
and change terms unscrupulously.
The bill was passed with huge bipartisan
support in both the House and the Senate. One of the
main provisions seeks to protect credit card users
who pay their bills on time.
A right to bear firearms coalition in
the Senate, led by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), added
the unrelated gun amendment to prevent the Secretary
of the Interior from enforcing a regulation that prohibited
everyone from carrying a firearm in a national park.
President George W. Bush also attempted to amend the
former policy through a rule-making maneuver before
he left office but the policy change was struck down
by a federal judge.
There are potential problems for local
park rangers if a visitor from another state attempts
to carry a loaded weapon into Sequoia and Kings Canyon
National Parks. Hunting remains illegal in national
parks and a valid permit from another state is not
valid under California law. Gun owners are responsible
for knowing the laws in the state and national park
in which they are traveling.
Mock Trial team reign as Tulare County
advances to State competition
like something out of a John Grisham legal thriller
— the little guys against corporate giants.
But this was a real-life page-turner.
This year’s Woodlake High School
Mock Trial team went up against big-city high schools
such as Mt. Whitney, Tulare Western, Redwood, and
Tulare Union, but sheer size and numbers didn’t
intimidate this year’s group of fledgling attorneys
and other courtroom professionals. They
defeated their opponents one by one in six different
rounds to emerge after a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat
tie-breaker as Tulare County champions.
The team now advances to the State Mock
Trial competition that will be held March 19 through
21 in San Jose.
Mock Trial team members are provided
a case and act either as the defense or prosecution
in various rounds. The teams advance through several
rounds in their quest to make it to the finals.
In Round 1, WHS won over Mt. Whitney.
Round 2: A win over Tulare Western. Round 3: WHS suffered
a loss to Redwood. Round 4: WHS emerges victorious
over Farmersville. Semifinals: WHS avenges their loss
to Redwood by winning.
Finals: On Tuesday, Feb. 16, WHS was
the prosecution team in a “murder case”
with the Tulare Union High School team as the defense.
The three-judge panel of County of Tulare
lawyers declared the match a tie after tallying the
points. As a tie-breaker, the panelists had to select
an ultimate winner and two out of three chose Woodlake
Kevin Skeen of Three Rivers, a math teacher
at Woodlake High, has been the Mock Trial advisor
for nearly a decade.
Becoming a member of the 16-member team
requires a major commitment of time and energy. The
team members have been preparing for the courtroom
competition for months with daily practice and research.
year’s team members and their roles are:
Casey LeFave, courtroom artist; Ben Pfenninger, pretrial
motions attorney; Brian Pfenninger, trial attorney;
Paula Gonzalez, trial attorney; Analisa Skeen, trial
attorney; Danielle Knapp, trial attorney; Molly Dunn,
defendant; Catherine Lima, expert witness; Joee Denis,
expert witness; Kelly McGinnis, arresting officer;
Jordan Martinez, witness; Maria Aguilar, witness;
Samantha Arellano, witness; Lauren Moore, witness;
Alberto Reynaga, bailiff; and Alejandro Reynaga, court
Diana from Century 21 Three Rivers will address the
real estate purchase market at a free buyers’
seminar, scheduled for Tuesday, March 2, 6:30 p.m.,
in the conference room at Comfort Inn. The seminar
will provide information for both first-time home
buyers and repeat buyers.
Diana Glass and Diana Jules will discuss
how buyers can best take advantage of some timely
market conditions. Gifts from the Federal Reserve,
they said, are on the clock.
Mortgage rates have been artificially
low the past 14 months due to assistance from the
Federal Reserve and its mortgage-backed securities
purchase program. The program will end March 31.
While it is uncertain to what degree
interest rates will rise beginning April 1, the overwhelming
trend will be higher. Many experts are predicting
that rates could rise in advance of April 1.
First-time home buyers have been taking
advantage of a tax credit of up to $8,000 for over
a year. Repeat purchasers were also provided with
an incentive in November with the availability of
up to $6,500 in post-closing cash. Tax-credit-qualifying
buyers have until April 30 to get under contract and
must close by June 30.
Seminar participants will be guided through
the home-purchase process, be pre-approved for financing,
and will receive an informative buyer’s guide.
The event is free, but reservations are required and
may be made by calling 799-8201.
a new group in town and they are all about ensuring
everyone has a good time in the mountains. The Big
Meadows Association, although a fledgling organization,
has made great strides in the betterment of the popular
Big Meadows area.
With the sole mission of “supporting,
promoting, and improving those areas used by visitors
for snowplay, backcountry experiences, hiking, fishing,
camping, biking, four-wheel-driving, and more,”
the group is currently seeking members, volunteers,
donations, corporate sponsors, and partnerships.
The Big Meadows Association is incorporated
as a nonprofit corporation. The group has also filed
for their 501(c)3 status with the IRS and will be
soon finalizing a memorandum of understanding with
the U.S. Forest Service.
The Big Meadows area is located in Giant
Sequoia National Monument, just off the Generals Highway
between Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Since
the area is under Forest Service jurisdiction, there
are some differences in what visitors can and cannot
do on these public lands as compared to national parks.
In Giant Sequoia National Monument, snowmobiles
are allowed on designated roads. Dogs are allowed
on trails. Camping (and snow-camping) is allowed outside
of developed campgrounds.
In the summertime, there is a campground,
a horse camp, a pack station, hiking opportunities,
and the Buck Rock Fire Lookout all in proximity to
Big Meadows Road.
In the wintertime, there is a plowed
parking lot with a restroom just off the Generals
Highway that provides access for cross-country skiers,
snowshoers, and snowmobilers. From the parking lot,
it’s a mostly flat 2.5-mile trek to Big Meadows,
where there is a well-stocked warming hut, maintained
for the past two winters by the Big Meadows Association.
Doug and Pam Canby have been the energy
behind the creation of the Big Meadows Association,
as well as the reopening last winter of the warming
hut, which they now stock weekly. Although they commute
to work in Tulare and Lindsay, respectively, the couple
lives in Badger and has a cabin in Heart Meadow, about
four miles beyond the Big Meadows campground.
are cleaning, stocking, and maintaining the hut weekly,
grooming the snow trails, clearing the outhouses and
payphone when snow-covered, and soliciting support
and advocacy as we speak,” said Pam, who is
president of the Big Meadows Association.
The one-room building includes a loft,
carpeting, and windows. The hut is mounted on a trailer
and will be hauled away at winter’s end, then
returned before the snow falls next winter. In the
off-season, it is used by Montecito-Sequoia Lodge
for storage or employee housing.
Inside, there is a Coleman campstove,
a teapot, water, and packets of coffee, tea, cocoa,
oatmeal, soup, and more. Donations are requested on
an honor basis to assist with the upkeep and regular
restocking of the hut’s goodies.
The guestbook at the hut reveals how
much people are enjoying having the facility. It may
have even saved a life or two as portrayed in an entry
on Monday, Jan. 18.
That is the day that the “Western
Wallop” arrived in the Sierra. The log entry
reads, “My dad and I stayed in a restroom overnight,
freezing with no food. In the morning, we kept walking
and found out you could come in here. You guys really
Currently, there are a dozen or so miles
of cross-country ski and snowmobile trails that can
be accessed from the Big Meadows parking lot, and
there is a trail for any level of skier. At times,
these trails are groomed by the Montecito-Sequoia
Lodge equipment, a Nordic ski resort that is located
just south of the Big Meadows turnoff.
The Canbys also maintain area trails
with their snowmobile and a grooming attachment that
creates a ski track.
Getting to Big Meadows in the winter
is a scenic trip, which ever way one may travel from
Three Rivers. The Generals Highway between Wuksachi
Lodge and Montecito-Sequoia closes when snowstorms
are looming and remains closed until Park Service
plows can clear the roadway.
However, when this road is open, it is
a marvelous drive through a spectacular winter wonderland
of snow-covered forest, groves of Big Trees, and views
of the Central Valley below, often socked in with
fog or clouds while the Generals Highway is basking
Another route, which remains open year-round,
is up Dry Creek Drive to Highway 245 then Highway
180 into Kings Canyon National Park. During or immediately
after a storm, the highway may be closed at The Wye
(where Highway 180 junctions with the Generals Highway;
about eight miles north of the Big Meadows Road) and
forest visitors will require an escort to continue
beyond the gate. This needs to be prearranged with
Montecito-Sequoia Lodge (call 565-3388).
The best bet for visitors — both
for ease of travel, personal safety, and recreational
enjoyment — is to explore the area when it is
not in the midst of a snowstorm. During the winter
months, personnel at the national park entrance stations
will require that all vehicles have tire chains onboard.
Even if drivers have an all-wheel drive, four-wheel
drive, and/or snow tires, the law requires that chains
be carried in snow-prone areas during the winter,
even if they will not be utilized.
Entering the area through either Sequoia or Kings
Canyon national parks, an entrance fee of $20 per
carload is required. A much better deal, however,
is to purchase the 12-month pass to the parks and
the Hume Lake District of Giant Sequoia National Monument
for $30 (an all-parks annual pass is available for
For details on skiing in the Big Meadows
area, visit the "Hiking" page on this website.
announces Hero Appreciation months
Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce’s fourth
annual Hero Appreciation Months, honoring public safety
and defense personnel January through March, is currently
in full swing with participants and honorees alike
enjoying the program, which is on course to being
the busiest to date. Heroes and their families from
points north and south are visiting these beautiful
foothills while enjoying their thank-you discounts
and parties and basking in the warmth of local hospitality.
On Friday, Feb. 26, for the second party
of the season, SFCC will honor current and former
law enforcement/peace officers, at 7 p.m. at the Three
Rivers Arts Center with refreshments, stories, certificates,
and trophies. Like all the other Heroes events, this
celebration is free and open to the public.
Special honorees are Tulare County Undersheriff
Dahl Cleek and Lt. David Galloway, who have spent
many hours working with local lodging owners and owners
of riverfront property on local river issues, along
with Three Rivers resident Don Thompson, past president
of the local Volunteers-in-Patrol. Don and his wife
Evelyn have spent more than five years working for
the VIPs, patrolling in Three Rivers and down in the
Valley as needed. Don, in particular, has always taken
the initiative when it comes to safety issues and
maintenance, especially with regard to the team’s
patrol truck. The trophies for this year’s honorees
are being provided by Phil Stewart of Stewart Laser
Designs in Exeter who, together with Three Rivers
artists, donated time and talent to create this year’s
The third Hero party of the year, honoring
members of the Armed Forces and veterans, will be
held Friday, March 26, at the same time and place.
Special honorees will be announced soon.
The fourth and final Hero event of 2010
is a Picnic and Bathtub Race, which will be held at
Lake Kaweah on Saturday, March 27, from 11 am to 4
pm. Steve Crigler of Three Rivers is donating the
use of the bathtubs, which teams will turn into “boats.”
Ramon’s Recycling, which serves Three Rivers
each Saturday, is also involved in the creation of
these boats through the donation of some flotation
Presently, there are five teams in the
early stages of preparing for the race: Three Rivers
Bread Basket, Three Rivers Volunteer Firefighters
and Ambulance, Tulare County Sheriff’s Department,
Pro Youth HEART, and Lake Kaweah rangers. Team leaders
should be selecting their teammates and beginning
to solicit individuals and businesses for sponsorships.
The deadline to turn in a list of teammates and sponsorship
funds is March 6. After costs are covered, the sponsorship
monies will be pooled and the winning team will donate
the funds to the charity of their choice. The winning
bathtub boat will be displayed at the Three Rivers
A special appearance at the Bathtub Race
will be Chris Selby, Mobile Veterans Center Readjustment
Counseling Technician with the Department of Veterans
Affairs in Fresno, with his mobile service facility
that offers services to veterans for free.
For questions or more information about
SFCC’s Heroes Appreciation Months, call Leah
Catherine Launey at 561-4270.