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In the News -

Friday, March 7, 2008


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


It’s official:

There’s lots of snow

   Even if the higher elevations of Kaweah Country don’t get another flake of snow for the rest of the season, the pack that is already piled up has ensured an above normal runoff for the Kaweah drainage. With a few more storms — and according to the long-range forecast that’s entirely possible — the Kaweah River and its downstream users could be in for a whopper of a water year.
   All that good news is between the lines of the countless water statistics released March 1 by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). Overall, the statewide percentage of water content for the Sierra region is 118 percent, but the drainages farthest south have the best news of all.
   The most recent electronic sensors data show the northern Sierra water equivalents at 122 percent; the central Sierra at 118 percent; and the southern Sierra at 130 percent. One year ago, those same readings were 69 percent for the northern Sierra, 64 percent in the central, and 52 percent in the southern Sierra.
   The Kaweah drainage is included in the southern Sierra numbers and was recently measured at 146 percent of the March 1 normal. That currently translates to 130 percent of the April 1 total, traditionally the fourth and final survey of the season.
   The April “normal” measurements are based upon the norm of a half-century of readings compiled between 1951 and 2000.
   In the Giant Forest, where readings are taken by park rangers in Round Meadow, the current depth of 64.4 inches is the most March 1 snow since 2004 (72 inches). The most snow recorded for the date since 1935 is the 140 inches that was on the ground in the El Nino year of 1969.
   In the past week, with the Generals Highway dry and open between the parks, a multitude of travelers have been able to not only see the snow but easily access some of its best late-season conditions. Big Meadows (7,500 feet), seven miles southeast of the Highway 180 junction near Grant Grove, has its best spring backcountry skiing since 1998.
   Montecito-Sequoia, a Nordic ski resort in Sequoia National Forest just across the Generals Highway from Big Meadows, is reporting excellent groomed track and expects to continue their skiing program at least until early April. They also feature snowboarding, telemark skiing, and lots of snowplay opportunities for kids of all ages.

Tulare man drowns

at Lake Kaweah

   In Kaweah Country during a big water year, there is bound to be tragedy. Most often, a local drowning occurs when an unsuspecting victim enters the Kaweah River either by design or accident.
   But the chilly Lake Kaweah water can claim victims, too. That’s what happened Saturday, March 1, just before 4:30 p.m. after a fishing party had launched earlier that afternoon from the Kaweah Marina. From reports of witnesses at the scene, the troubling incident began when the small boat that trio was using to fish 100 yards from shore began to take on water.
   In a matter of moments, the 14-foot boat was filled and the three fishermen were in the lake swimming for shore and calling for help. Two of the men, Daniel Silva and Christopher Dick, both of Visalia, managed to make it back to shore.
   Daniel Silva’s uncle, William Silva, 46, was not so fortunate. He was having difficulty swimming in the Lake Kaweah water, which a park ranger later reported to be a frigid 40 degrees.
   Michelle Sylvester, a bystander on the shore nearby, heard the cries for help and was one of two persons who entered the water in an attempt to rescue the struggling swimmers. When she reached Daniel Silva he pointed to his uncle who was already face down in the water.
   Sylvester was able to reach the elder Silva and tried to flip him over while she pulled him toward shore. The cold water soon overcame Sylvester and she began to struggle and call for help.
   The woman’s fiancé, Eddie Silva, no relation to the victim, was also in the water in a vain attempt to pull the man to shore. The last thing he remembers was holding the man’s leg and then finally letting go to try to catch his own breath and keep from going under in the cold water.
   Eddie Silva later said the water was so cold he became breathless but will never forget the feeling he experienced when he was unable to locate the sinking victim. He said there are no words that could describe the feeling when he realized the victim was gone.
   A dive team recovered Silva’s body several hours later submerged in 25 feet of water. None of the men were wearing life jackets, but there were reportedly personal flotation devices onboard as required by California law.

Car vs. rock: Rock wins

   It’s difficult to say how many lives have been saved, but the wider shoulder that was drilled through solid granite in several places for widening a one-mile stretch of Highway 198 for the Three Rivers bike lane has undoubtedly made a difference. The wider margin for error along the shoulder has made Sierra Drive a little safer and on more than one occasion and has meant the difference between a near miss and a horrific accident.
   Last Sunday’s mishap that occurred in the S-curve section of Sierra Drive below Pumpkin Hollow, where a narrow shoulder does not have room for a bike lane, is a good case in point that wider is better. From the earliest days of travel in the upper canyon, the steep canyon walls in this section of roadway have been witness to an untold number of tragic accidents.
   On the afternoon of Sunday, March 2, a youthful resident of Lemon Cove was driving to work when she lost control in this shady area bordered on one side by a solid rock outcrop and the other by a concrete barrier. Apparently her 2004 Mustang crashed into the jagged granite wall and absorbed a glancing blow, coming to a stop partially on the shoulder and in the eastbound lane of traffic.
   Dazed, but lucky to be alive, the driver drove 200 feet farther up- canyon where she pulled off the road. The bumper of the vehicle became dislodged during the crash and remained at the point of impact.
   After wandering around at the scene for a few minutes, some passing motorists and curious neighbors came to help the dazed driver who was shaken but not seriously injured. A local tow truck operator was called to assist in removing the vehicle that was leaking fluids and no longer drivable.
   No official accident report was taken by the California Highway Patrol as a result of the accident. According to Officer Chris Wright of the Visalia CHP, the law does not require that an accident report be made when the driver does not sustain injuries or damage property other than their own.

  “I’ve been called to this scene numerous times over the years for accidents caused by black ice, excessive speed, or a driver that just wasn’t paying attention,” said the tow truck driver. “I’m not an accident investigator by profession but the sand that’s put on the roadway for traction on the icy spots could have been a factor in this one.”

Slick Rock environmental

assessment available for public review

   In what could be the final hurdle before construction, Phil Deffenbaugh, Lake Kaweah park manager, announced this week that a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) is now available for public review. The review period will end Wednesday, March 19, for the document that evaluates the construction of an access road, parking lot, and boat launching ramp that proposes expanding the existing facilities at the Slick Rock Recreation Area.
   Following a lengthy planning process that began in 2000 when a Cal Boating grant was approved in concept for Lake Kaweah, the construction phase appears ready to get the green light from federal officials. The possible consequences of the scope of work described in the draft EA were evaluated with consideration given to environmental, economic, social, and engineering feasibility. Findings of the study, which were coordinated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State Historic Preservation Officer, indicate that the project would not result in significant impacts to the environment or any cultural resources.
   The project became a priority to provide alternative launch facilities while other areas of the lake are inundated by high water resulting from the 2004 expansion of the lake basin.

  “We have a contractor standing by so we can proceed as soon as the final Environmental Assessment is done,” said Matt Murphy, park ranger. “In a best-case scenario, we could get construction completed before the high water that is expected in May.”
   Comments received on the draft document will be incorporated into the final document as appropriate. Written comments may be sent to the attention of Phil Deffenbaugh at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lake Kaweah, P.O. Box 44270, Lemon Cove, CA 93247-4270. For more information or to request a copy of the draft EA, please contact Phil Deffenbaugh 597-2301 or email: phildeffenbaugh@usac.army.mil.

Enticing the barn owl

to roost at Lake Kaweah

   It’s kind of like the old lady who swallowed the cat to catch the bird to catch the spider to catch the fly… In a new twist on an old song, bushes were planted that the gopher ate, so the owl is needed to catch the gopher that eats the plant that the beetle needs. But then predators of the barn owl moved in, so a new verse has been added...
   On Tuesday, Feb. 19, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers volunteer John Waleryszak and the Mountain Home fire crew replaced four of the existing barn owl boxes at the elderberry mitigation site with new, more owl-friendly boxes. The new boxes are acclaimed to be more suited to barn owls.
   The eight previous boxes were installed by Larry Baker, USACE park ranger, and volunteers during the 2003 Public Lands Day event. The eight owl boxes were installed on the 7.19 acres of mitigation land below Terminus Dam.
   This area was set aside to mitigate for loss of habitat for the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle. The beetle is a threatened species and as a result of raising Lake Kaweah, some elderberry plants, the sole source of food for the beetle, had to be relocated.
   In addition to the transplants, many new elderberries and other species were planted at this site. The number of trees planted was based on a formula set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
   With the transplanting and planting of new trees, it attracted the ever-present pocket gopher. Many of the new plants were killed as a result of the gophers eating the tree roots.
   Barn owls prey on rodents. If they are nesting nearby, a barn owl can significantly reduce the pocket gopher population.
   An orchard grower once observed a nesting barn owl catching 16 mice, three pocket gophers, one rat, and one squirrel in a period of 25 minutes to feed its young in an artificial nesting box. This method of rodent control seemed to be the perfect solution to natural predation.
   The newly-installed owl boxes have a smaller hole than the boxes installed in 2003. It is believed that the smaller 3¾-inch-by-4-inch oval hole will prevent the great-horned owl, the main predator of the barn owl, from entering the box. The older boxes had a six-inch hole.
   Moreover, the newer boxes have the hole elevated toward the top of the box which is supposed to deter predators such as raccoons from reaching in. A routed climbing ladder is installed so the young owls can climb to the hole when it is time to leave the nest.
   Bruce Norton, field manager for Sunsweet Corporation, recruited a shop class from the Central Valley to build the nest boxes. Bruce stated that some boxes were installed in an orchard on a Wednesday and a barn owl was occupying one of the boxes the following day.
   The nesting season for barn owls in the Central California region is from February to May, with peak hatches in April. It is too early to tell if the new boxes will attract the barn owl. However, previous testimony from growers in the valley has proven that it will be a success.
   Submitted by Larry Baker, Lake Kaweah park ranger.

Local Chamber plans

home and garden show

   The Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce will host the first ever Three Rivers Home and Country Living Expo on Saturday, March 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Three Rivers Memorial Building. More than 25 local business vendors will be on hand to discuss a variety of home and garden options with attendees. In addition, a special guest lecture series will run concurrently throughout the day.
   From home construction, remodeling, interior design, and home furnishing to gardening, landscaping, utilities, and financing, this show will highlight the wide diversity of Three Rivers and area businesses focused on the home.

  “Over 25 percent of the Chamber’s member businesses provide home and garden services to Three Rivers and area residents,” said Johanna Kamansky, Chamber president. “We want event attendees to realize that amazing talent, products and services are right in their own backyard.”
   The lecture series will begin at 8:30 a.m. Confirmed topics include new building and home-related code changes for 2008, wireless computer technology, and solar technology.

  “We want to familiarize homeowners with builders, designers, and others experienced with the special challenges of living in the foothills,” said Linda Drouet, Chamber event coordinator and owner of Drouet Design Build, a Three Rivers-based company. “This event will provide attendees with the opportunity to see new ideas and meet the businesses that provide services to their neighborhood.”
   The Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce’s mission is to support business and community growth by developing economic programs to strengthen and expand local business while promoting programs of a civic, social, and cultural nature that increase the community's functional and aesthetic values. For more information, call 561-3300.

3R artists to be honored

at Volunteer Recognition Night

   EACH YEAR SINCE 1951, Three Rivers School has thanked its most precious assets — its volunteers, educators, and staff. At a ceremony next Thursday, March 13 (see Kaweah Kalendar page for event details), the 2008 honorees will be recognized. Sponsored by the Eagle Booster Club, formed in 2004 when the PTA was dissolved, the event will spotlight the local artists who have donated their time and energy to provide art education to TRUS students as well as complete collaborative projects that beautify the campus and instill school pride.

  Honorees are: Wendy McKellar, Jerry and Nancy Jonnum, Andrew and Leslie Duncan, Dayann Graber, and Nadi Spencer.


Bob Carreras,

25-year 3R resident,

devout Krishna
1943 ~ 2008

   Longtime Three Rivers resident, Yugadharma “Bob” Carreras, died in the early morning hours of Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008, at his home. He was 64.
   According to family members, he left this Earth how he wanted — surrounded by family and listening to chanting.

  “It was actually a beautiful experience,” said his wife, Judy Carreras. She explained how it reminded her of a birth — where you wait and wait, helping the person to relax and focus on the task at hand. And in the end, there is deliverance.
   Bob was a fixture in Three Rivers. In a town filled with unique characters, his memorable personality stood out.
   He always had an opinion to give, usually a friendly word to say, and to those lucky ones, an interesting story to share.

  “He talked to everyone,” Judy said. “Sometimes he would reveal intimate family details, but he didn’t care. He put up no fronts about who he was.”
   Born Robert Leonard Carreras on May 18, 1943, in Brooklyn, N.Y., Bob moved to Long Island at 13. As a young adult, he made his way west, living in New Mexico as well as California.
   While living in Southern California, he met the two most influential people in his life — his future wife, Judy, and his spiritual master A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
   Bob met his wife in Laguna Beach, and they married soon after in 1972. They moved to New Mexico where they wasted no time in having their first child, Crystal, later to be known as Yasoda.
   While near Santa Fe, they were introduced to the Hare Krishna movement by Bob’s brother Janaka. In Krishna, they found direction, and this newfound spiritual life led them to their guru, Prabhupada.
   The founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Prabhupada initiated the Carreras couple, giving them their spiritual names — Yugadharma and Srisa.

  “When we first saw Prabhupada, we both felt like we could follow this man anywhere,” Judy explained. “We thought, ‘Yes, we could easily follow this man’s instructions.’ He had that powerful of a persona. He glowed.”
   After a nine-month stint living in Costa Rica, the couple made their way to Laguna Beach, then Culver City. Both locations contain Hare Krishna temples.
   Along the way, their second child, Amrita, was born. Then came their son, Robert, also known as Ananda, followed a few years later by Michael (Syam).
   Throughout, Bob traveled extensively. His main destination was India; the town of Vrindavana in particular. Vrindavana is considered a sacred place by Vaisnavas (Hare Krishna devotees).
   According to Vedic scripture, it is the place where Krishna experienced his pastimes. All in all, Bob visited India dozens of times.
   In 1983, Bob and his family moved to Three Rivers. At that time, a Vaisnava school for children was located at the end of Dinely Drive.
   Bob always worked as a salesman. Throughout his life, he sold a variety of merchandise — jewelry, paintings, cars, pagers and cell phones. During his later years, he co-owned Heart’s Desire, a Three Rivers gift shop, along with Judy and eldest daughter Crystal.

  “There was nothing he couldn’t sell,” Judy said. “He even was a salesman for Krishna. Often people would come into the store and he would be telling complete strangers stories from Vedic texts.”
   More than 100 people, both Hare Krishna friends and Three Rivers folks, turned out on Sunday, Feb. 17, to celebrate Bob’s life. They all ate a large vegetarian feast, chanted, told stories, and shared memories of his life.
   Bob is survived by his wife of 36 years, Srisa Carreras; his grown children, Yasoda Perry, Amrita Sullivan, and Ananda and Syam Carreras; two grandchildren, Anuradha and Manjari Perry; two unborn children; his brother, Janaka; sons-in-law David Perry and Dan Sullivan; and daughter-in-law Mindy Carreras.



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
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