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Three Rivers,
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It’s a royal first…
Three Rivers teen crowned
Miss Tulare County

EnlargeJanessa Wells,
Miss Tulare County 2004.
  In the News - Friday, March 19, 2004

Three Rivers teen crowned Miss Tulare County

Lake Kaweah will be bigger than ever


Upgrades planned at Ash Mountain

Schools gaining on API scores


Chamber installs new officers

Spring training is for the dogs


It’s a royal first…
Three Rivers teen crowned Miss Tulare County

On Saturday, March 13, Janessa Wells, 19, became the first contestant from Three Rivers ever to be crowned Miss Tulare County in the 53-year history of the pageant. It was an unlikely win for the admitted ex-tomboy who was raised on her family’s ranch on the South Fork with two older brothers.

“I would never have thought of entering a beauty pageant on my own,” said Janessa. “But when my friend, Stephanie Root, said I should enter because I might win I started to think of the possibilities.”

The most immediate of those was the chance at more than $15,400 in scholarships — the second highest amount offered in the state — that were distributed among the 12 finalists, who also included Jennifer LaMar of Three Rivers and Dominique Diaz of Woodlake. Janessa, a sophomore at the College of San Mateo studying psychology, earned $5,100 in scholarship money for her performance that included an intensive interview and swimsuit, evening gown, and talent competitions.

It was the talent portion of the stunning evening at Visalia’s Fox Theatre that clinched the unanimous approval of the judges. Janessa performed a dazzling display of fire-poi dancing — a routine with balls of fire strung on the end of chains set to music.

“Janessa really struggled trying to ignite one of the wicks that just wouldn’t light,” said Mary Becker Wells, who was one of a throng in attendance rooting for the Three Rivers native. “But she ad-libbed her way beautifully through an awesome routine.”

Poi — flax balls swung on chords — have been used by the Maori natives of New Zealand for centuries as a form of dance and warrior training. Janessa learned the ancient art of poi dancing from whitewater rafting guides who ply the Kaweah River.

Janessa, like other Three Rivers kids who learned to swim in the Kaweah River, developed a special athleticism learning to navigate one seasonal swimming hole or another.

Last Saturday night, Janessa, who choreographed her own dance routine, captured all the beauty and grace of her unique Three Rivers style.

Next up for Janessa is to do what only two Miss Tulare Countys have done before — be crowned Miss California. That pageant — in which Janessa will vie against 51 other pageant winners — will be held this summer in Fresno. Miss California will then compete in the fall against women from all the other states and the District of Columbia for the title of Miss America.




Lake Kaweah will be bigger than ever

Whatever floats the boat: The upcoming Memorial Day weekend at an enlarged Lake Kaweah will present challenges for both visitors and Army Corps officials. The Kaweah Marina at Lemon Hill, shown here in spring-like splendor, will be the only available launch facility.
EnlargeWhatever floats the boat: The upcoming Memorial Day weekend at an enlarged Lake Kaweah will present challenges for both visitors and Army Corps officials. The Kaweah Marina at Lemon Hill, shown here in spring-like splendor, will be the only available launch facility.

Lake Kaweah is beginning to fill earlier than usual this year and, according to Phil Deffenbaugh, park manager, it’s only the beginning of major changes planned for the next two years. Within the next 90 days, the basin of the 42-year-old U.S. Army Corps of Engineers facility will see flooding in lots of new places.

The changes are now occurring because the new higher spillway, including six new fusegates, was completed last month.

“We’re [Lake Kaweah] storing early this year partially because we now can,” Deffenbaugh said. “We want to get as full as we can because we have to evaluate the new 21 feet of capacity very carefully.”

But there are so many variables, Deffenbaugh said, it is difficult to predict what will happen in this first year of the enlarged Lake Kaweah. Water forecasters are saying that currently the snowpack is at 86 percent of normal for an entire season in the Kaweah drainage.

That means that if little or no precipitation occurs for the rest of the season, it would be unlikely that much of the enlarged basin could even be utilized. The driest scenario is not likely because another weather system, with more rain and snow is already looming out in the Pacific and is expected to make landfall on the West Coast next weekend.

One or a series of winter storms could make a huge difference. Ideally, Deffenbaugh said, water-tenders would like the basin to continue to fill at its present rate — about one-and-a- half feet in elevation per day.

During the end of this fill phase, as the water level rises beyond the 694-foot level of the old spillway, engineers want to monitor the condition of the dam. That threshold is expected to be reached sometime in April.

Deffenbaugh said by that time there will be significant impacts to Lake Kaweah recreation facilities. Both the “number two” launch ramp and the Horse Creek campground will be underwater.

“The only launch ramp will be at Lemon Hill,” Deffenbaugh said. “And all boaters need to be on the lookout for trees, rocks, stumps, and snakes that weren’t there in past years.”

Lake Kaweah managers have some previous experience with high water. In 1997, the old spillway was sandbagged two feet so the water came up higher (696 feet) than it ever had been before. Deffenbaugh said during that season there were “snakes on the lake.”

In fact, rattlesnakes that are flooded out of their dens could be an issue, especially in the areas near the Three Rivers portion of the basin. Snakes, like all critters in the shoreline habitat, will have no alternative but to seek higher ground.

Deffenbaugh said the permanent dike being planned to protect the Best Western is still in negotiations.

“We really don’t know exactly how high we need to go to protect the property from waves created by passing boaters,” Deffenbaugh said. “This season, we will have some kind of temporary dike and sandbagging if it becomes necessary.”

Deffenbaugh also said one of the most visible positives of the enlargement will be the new facilities at Slick Rock. In addition to parking, restrooms, and a boat ramp, there will be a host on-site to help visitors enjoy the new river and lake access.

The facilities at Slick Rock are expected to be completed by the end of 2004. Visitors and residents are invited to direct questions to the Lake Kaweah park office by calling 597-2301.





Blanche McKee

1916 ~ 2004

Blanche Leona (McKee) Maloy died Thursday, March 11, 2004, in Visalia. She was 88.

Blanche was born April 11, 1915, in Lemon Cove. She was the eldest child of Earl A. and Edna B. McKee.

The family moved to Three Rivers when Blanche was a child. She graduated from Woodlake High School and attended Fresno State College.

In 1933, Blanche married Lee Maloy. They owned the pack station and riding stables in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park for more than two decades, after taking over the operation from Blanche’s dad, Earl Sr.

Blanche was a member of the Community Presbyterian Church in Three Rivers and sang in the choir. She is a former member of the Three Rivers Union School board of trustees and was past president of both the Three Rivers Woman’s Club and the Lady Lions.

After selling the pack station in 1963, Blanche and Lee moved to Reno, Nev., where they opened a western store with their sons, Leroy and Bill. Later, they operated a cattle ranch in Loyalton and, upon retiring, moved back to Reno.

Blanche was preceded in death by her husband of 58 years, Lee. Blanche returned to Three Rivers to live on the Old Three Rivers ranch where she was raised, which remains in the family, currently owned by her brother and sister-in-law, Earl and Gaynor McKee.

Besides being active in the Three Rivers community and any activity her children were involved in, Blanche will also be remembered for her love of family, music, beautiful voice, talent as a seamstress, and love of the outdoors and animals.

Later in life, she became an accomplished artist. In her “Neighbor Profile” in The Kaweah Commonwealth in 1998, Blanche said, “I love to paint horses, and I’ve wasted a lot of paint learning how!”

Blanche is survived by her sister, Earleen Monaghan of Atwater; brother Earl McKee of Three Rivers; her children, Leroy and wife Sandy of Woodlake, Bill and wife Mary Edna of Reno, and Virginia Newberry and husband Ed of Visalia; her grandchildren, Terri Vann of Virginia City, Nev., Tim Maloy, Donny Maloy, and Diana Maloy, all of Reno, Rick Reeder of Encinitas, Kevin Reeder and Alex Reeder, both of Visalia, Kelly Shear of Joseph, Ore., Wendy McKellar of Three Rivers, and Tate Maloy of Hollywood; and 18 great-grandchildren.


Sherel Janene Ward Richert

1959 ~ 2004

Sherel Janene Ward Richert of Three Rivers died Thursday, March 11, 2004, at Kaweah Delta Hospital of natural causes after an extended illness. She was 45.

Janene was born March 10, 1959, in Biloxi, Miss. Her father is Gary Ward and mother is Fran Randazzo.

Janene was raised in Hanford and the Newhall/Saugus area. She attended William S. Hart High School and College of the Sequoias and received her A.A. degree from Treasure Valley Community College while living in Ontario, Ore.

Janene moved to Three Rivers in 1977. She met her future husband, Jerry, while they were both working at the Pennwalt Corporation in Three Rivers, and they were married at Community Presbyterian Church in 1982.

The couple resided in Ontario, Ore., from 1983 to 1986, then returned to Three Rivers. Janene was an artist and worked at Reimer’s Candies.

Janene is survived by her husband of 22 years, Jerry; and her parents. She will also be dearly missed by Peni, Junior, Timmie, Jack, Donna, Kelli, Kim, Reece, Shellie, and so many more.

A private service will be held at a later date. Funeral arrangements were made by Smith Family Chapel in Exeter.


Louis Tury Jr.

1939 ~ 2004

Louis Tury Jr., formerly of Three Rivers, died Sunday, March 14, 2004, in El Monte, Calif. He was 65.

Lou was born March 27, 1939, in Rosemead. He and his wife of 47 years, Phyllis, resided in Three Rivers for 15 years, where Lou operated Tury Precision Machine.

In addition to his wife, Phyllis, Lou is survived by his daughter, Judy; son Louis; daughters-in law, Deb and Christine; grandson Brendan; his father, Louis Sr.; and sister Susan.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, March 20, 2 p.m., at Mission Community United Methodist Church in Rosemead.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Villa Esperanza, 2116 E. Villa St., Pasadena, CA 91107, so they may continue their work for persons with developmental disabilities.




Upgrades planned at Ash Mountain

Public input is being sought for two projects currently being planned at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks headquarters in Ash Mountain.


Water system upgrade

The National Park Service is proposing to upgrade the water storage and distribution system that services the administration buildings and housing facilities. The project will include replacing two existing water tanks, replacing portions of the distribution system, and the installation of a fire-suppression system in the four main administration buildings.

The water supply and distribution at this foothills locale serves domestic needs and is critical for firefighting capabilities.

The parks will accept public input on the project through April 6. An Environmental Assessment detailing the proposal is available for review at:

Written comments may be mailed to: Superintendent, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks, 47050 Generals Highway, Three Rivers, CA 93271 or emailed to (note “water system upgrade” in the subject line of the correspondence).


SNHA building enlargement

The National Park Service is also considering options that will provide the Sequoia Natural History Association with additional working space at park headquarters.

SNHA has been the parks’ primary non-profit educational partner since 1940. Among the services SNHA provides in the parks are Crystal Cave tours; Beetle Rock Education Center operations; publication of the Sequoia Bark, the parks’ newspaper; Pear Lake Ski Hut management; annual field seminars, and providing assistance and inventory at parks visitor centers.

Most recently, SNHA has opened the Sierra Nature Store in Visalia and provides assistance and educational products for the Kaweah Heritage Center at Lake Kaweah.

SNHA supports these activities through the sale of books and other educational materials to park visitors with the proceeds going to Sequoia-Kings Canyon. Last year, the total value of SNHA aid to the parks was more than $400,000.

The SNHA building at Ash Mountain is about 15 years old. SNHA sales activities and staff have grown significantly during this time, and the building is no longer able to support the association’s needs.

The Park Service is currently in the process of developing formal alternatives for the SNHA project and will prepare an environmental assessment that will be available for public review. One alternative will most likely be to allow SNHA to enlarge its existing building at the association’s expense.

To discuss this project, provide input, or learn more about the alternatives being considered, call 565-3130.




Schools gaining on API scores

Only two Tulare County schools have made the state goal of 800 or above on the Academic Performance Index (Royal Oaks in Visalia and Columbine south of Porterville). Three Rivers School continues to make strides toward its state-appointed goal and has hovered mere points below 800 for three years now.

Released on Tuesday, March 9, API scores are based on results from the Standardized Testing and Reporting program — or STAR tests — and for high school students, the California High School Exit Exam. Second through 11th-graders took the test last spring.

Resulting API scores range from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000, with 800 being the state’s goal for all schools.

Schools must show a five percent increase in the difference between their last score and the 800-point target. For example, Three Rivers School was required to improve five percent of six points — the difference between last year’s 794 and the 800-point target — or 1 point. By achieving 799, TRUS met that goal five times over.

Woodlake High School needed to improve by five percent of 232 points, or 12 points. It improved by four points in 2003 to 572, but the previous year the school’s API jumped 48 points when the five-percent goal required just a 14-point increase.

It has been proven over the course of the API-ranking system that such large increases are difficult to sustain every year.

Under present policy, low-performing schools that do not improve API scores for two years in a row can be taken over by the state, made over into charter schools, or shut down. Neither Three Rivers or Woodlake High are in danger of such sanctions.

Overall, the state’s 8,000 eligible schools are making small gains, and 21.7 percent scored at or above the 800 mark in this round of testing (2003), according to a press release from state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell. Last year, only 15.5 percent of schools could claim that achievement.

Although below the 800 mark by one point, Three Rivers School has the third highest API score in Tulare County. Woodlake High School, with its API of 572, is ranked 12th out of 15, but even the high school with the highest API — Tulare at 666 — remained well below the state goal.

And, as one teacher admitted, the closer a school gets to the 800 mark, the more difficult it becomes to actually achieve that goal.

Kaweah Country will take this year’s round of STAR tests in April or May, depending on the school.





Woodlake High School girls' basketball teams Road trip: Last month, the Woodlake High School girls’ basketball teams attended UCLA’s annual college fair and a women’s basketball game, organized by Kent and Sandy Owen of Three Rivers. EnlargeThe girls received a campus tour, stopping to pose with a statue of the school’s mascot, the Bruin, with their guides
(front row).

Chamber installs new officers

At a special banquet on Friday, March 5, at Gordo’s, the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce installed the new board officers for the current year.

The incoming officers were charged with promoting established businesses and attracting new commerce to Woodlake. Three new executives have been elected to fill the expired terms of outgoing officers.

Joaquin Federico replaced Robert Davis as president, Carol Stegler replaced Verna Williams as treasurer, and Verna Williams replaced Frances Ortiz as member-at-large.

Providing for a background of stability, the remaining members of the board retained their positions for the coming year: Gene Gong, vice president; Vorisia Davis, secretary; and Heriberto “Junior” Rodriguez, Ramona Lupercio, and Pauline Castillo, members-at-large.

Incoming president Joaquin Federico was raised in Woodlake and attended the College of the Sequoias in Visalia for two years before transferring his double French and math major to Sacramento State. He took a three-year break in his scholastics to work in the Army in military pay and finance and then returned to college to graduate in 1968.

Joaquin remained in Sacramento after graduation until mid-2003, working for various State of California agencies as a data processor.

He returned to Woodlake last summer to be near his fiancee, a high school classmate with whom he renewed acquaintances while visiting locally with family and friends.

Joaquin first attended Chamber of Commerce meetings as a guest of board member Pauline Castillo. He came to feel that his experiences could help the Chamber, so he ran for president in the early-February election.

Joaquin has proposed four high-level steps he thinks are important to increasing the Chamber’s presence in Woodlake.

One measure is to increase the amount of funds the Chamber raises, to be applied toward promoting Woodlake and improving the business environment.

Another goal is to expand community relations with other Woodlake service organizations by volunteering at their events.

The third target is to increase the involvement of Chamber members in the organization.

The fourth is to qualify Chamber of Commerce activities for high school community service hours. The last measure will also give high school students a first-hand view of small-business operations.




Spring training is for the dogs

The puppies are growing tall and strong at the Assistance Service Dog Educational Center (ASDEC).

Kenneled at the former St. John’s School just south of Woodlake, the nine- and 10-month-old golden retriever puppies now stand about two feet at the shoulder.

Last semester, the nine puppies learned 45 commands, half of the total they must know in order to graduate. These commands provide the foundation for the interactions they will have with their future client.

This semester, the puppies have been adding more complex tasks to their know-how. They are now learning to turn light switches on and off, open and close refrigerators, retrieve objects, alert their trainers to ringing phones and doorbells, understand compound commands, and perform multiple tasks. They are also becoming comfortable around walkers, canes, wheelchairs, and other medical equipment.

While two-legged students get a break from school for the summer, the four-legged students at ASDEC will work straight through. Pairing with the same high school student trainers, the puppies will begin taking numerous field trips to public places.

In malls, restaurants, and on the streets, the puppies will learn to work amid noises and distractions. They will train to press elevator buttons, open handicapped-accessible doors, and watch over their client.

When the incoming class of trainers and puppies begins in August, the current class will move to the advanced level. And the dogs — now having reached their adult growth and still matched with the same trainers — will hone their skills, learn how to pull wheelchairs, and train toward the specific needs of their client.

In May 2005, the dogs will spend two weeks of intensive training with their client before graduating from ASDEC. The ASDEC staff will continue to follow up with the dogs and clients for the next year to help ease any transition difficulties.




THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
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