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In the News - Friday, May 7, 2010


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

Kaweah watershed has

highest percentage of Sierra snow

   Remember the year 2010. It might never happen again in a lifetime or two but how sweet it is… if you like hundreds of thousands of acre feet of water cascading nearly everywhere in the nearby high country.
And if you like seeing snowmelt rushing through Three Rivers now, just wait until the first extended run of warm temperatures. The current flirtation with 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) on the Middle Fork will seem like a drop in the bucket.
   The recent snow survey totals — 191 percent of the May 1 normal — confirmed what those who have recently visited the High Sierra already suspected. The snowpack that is holding on the north-facing slopes of the upper elevations is a whopper.
   The readings for the entire Kaweah drainage are the highest above the norm anywhere in the Sierra Nevada region and the highest since 1998 when they were 248 percent.
   No, it doesn’t mean we have the most snow. But it does mean we have the most snow relative to what we usually have and the most snow on any May 1 in the past 12 seasons.
   Those cold April snow events ensured that the local pack would linger awhile longer so even though the snow in Giant Forest is melting rapidly, the biggest volume of water content is still up there at places like Panther Meadow, Hockett Meadows, and Mineral King.
   As of Thursday, May 6, Farewell Gap (9,500 feet) in Mineral King still had 85 inches on the ground and more than 41 inches of water content. With the onset of cooler weather this weekend that snow is liable to hold even longer.
   Here are some May 1 numbers for other basins: Kern River, 144 percent; Kings River, 145 percent; San Joaquin, 159 percent; and Truckee, north of Tahoe, 120 percent. In areas north of the San Joaquin drainage, the numbers trend downward.
   The way things are going this year, expect the unexpected.  Unprecedented floods, lingering snow in the West; in terms of refreshing a parched California, El Nino is best.

Sheriff’s candidates

face off at 3R forum

   Town hall meetings have become a popular way to get to know candidates for every office in the land. Voters can meet the candidates in person, ask questions, and see how each appears in front of an audience. See story...

Tough times loom

for local schools

   Budget woes are never pleasant but meeting the challenges they pose are a priority in these difficult economic times. Tuesday’s (May 4) joint board meeting with the Three Rivers Union School District and   Woodlake High School was an excellent opportunity to observe these elected officials working together to find common ground.
   Before budget items, there were some questions by the elementary trustees on the job Three Rivers is doing to prepare students to enter high school.
   Woodlake’s superintendent Tim Hire deferred to Nicole Glentzer, WHS principal.

  “There is always some transition for all students to make in the freshman year,” Glentzer said. “The students who come down to Woodlake for summer school before that first semester seem to make the transition much faster.”
   Glentzer also said that Three Rivers students typically are among the top achievers, but “…they are also some of our most promising underachievers.” She cited one student WHO received an award for exemplary standardized test scores but was ranked 115th in his class.
   Tim Hire gave an update on how the Woodlake district was using Measure C funds. There are now new baseball/softball fields so varsity and junior varsity teams can play simultaneously, and the six aging portable classrooms will be replaced at the end of the current school year.
   Hire also said the remodeling of the Performing Arts Building is next on the agenda. The more costly site improvements like the stadium, all-weather track, and new tennis courts are on hold until key matching grants can be secured.

  “We can’t move forward with these improvements until we resolve some significant drainage issues on the site,” Hire said.
   The Woodlake board has already made the decision to cut frosh boys’ and girls’ basketball, eliminate three teaching positions, and cut some extracurriculum activities.

  “The teacher cuts we made were related to Agriculture, English, and at the continuation school,” Hire said. “There will be no significant loss in the classes we can offer our students.”
   One other change will come in journalism, Hire said. That class will be combined with yearbook production.
   Hire said he is hopeful that the WHS newspaper, The Tiger Times, will be able to publish next year. Another cut that will save the district money is a cap on health care spending.

  “We’ve been proactive in saving money and upping our reserve from four to six percent,” Hire said. “As long as things turn around soon we will be fine.”
   For the shrinking district of Three Rivers Union to remain an independent district, some more creative measures will be needed.
   To help balance the elementary school budget, Sue Sherwood, superintendent/principal will also be teaching sixth-graders next fall.   In addition, the board is preparing to vote on a special assessment that would ensure that the two districts — TRUS and WHS — can continue to operate independently.
   The alternative, Sherwood said, is to consolidate with the Woodlake district. She is confident that independence is what the Three Rivers community wants and that voters will support the measure at the polls.

Rodeo worth the drive

by Brian Rothhammer

   Beverly Hills may be known for its exclusive Rodeo Drive (they insist it’s pronounced ro-DAY-o), but this weekend, the drive is to Woodlake for the 57th annual Woodlake Lions PRCA Rodeo.
   As Tarah Rowland articulates, “I love the western hospitality of the Woodlake Rodeo… it’s family oriented.”
   Tarah should know. Not only has she attended the Woodlake event yearly since she was a babe in arms, she arrives this year as the 2010 Woodlake Lions Rodeo Queen.
   The Queen and her court will ride in the Western Week Parade on Saturday, May 8. If you’ve never been to one of these parades, you’re missing a unique event. From the trick ropers to the school bands, the dancers to the vaqueros with their high-stepping steeds, it’s a delight of sound, color, and culture.
   Grand Marshal Paul Gomez will start the parade at 10 a.m. on Valencia Drive. Gomez, who has dedicated his life to community service said, “It is an honor… a duty I shall perform with pride.”
   After the parade, it’s time for rodeo at what the Lions refer to as “America’s Most Beautiful Rodeo Grounds.”
   The venue is just north of town on Avenue 398, but if you happen to miss the signs posted everywhere, watch for skydiver Kent Lane. At 3:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Lane will leap out of an aircraft flying overhead, unfurling a giant American flag so that the rodeo faithful can follow Old Glory in a spectacular descent to a precise landing at the center of the arena.
   Saturday honors military— For active duty or reserve members of the U.S. Armed Forces, present your current military ID for entry to the Rodeo at no charge.

  “It’s our way of saying thank you,” said John Whittall, a longtime Woodlake Lion who lives in Three Rivers.
   Pre-rodeo events start at 9:30 a.m. with the slack, which are timed events with prizes and all for the overflow of competitors who didn’t fit within the PRCA schedule. At 11 a.m. the first helping of the Rodeo’s amazing chow is featured with authentic western deep-pit barbecue served at the BBQ Barn.
   Then it’s onto the main events of bull riding, bronc riding, barrel racing, and team roping. Renowned rodeo clown Brian Potter will thrill the crowd with his zany stunts, and there’s even mutton bustin’ for the youngsters.
   As if all that food and fun isn’t plenty, those 21 and over might want to save some energy for the traditional Rodeo Dance on the 2,400-square-foot dance floor that starts at 6 p.m. with live music by Chaparral.
   Wear pink on Sunday— Along with being Mother’s Day, Sunday will be “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” day at the Woodlake Rodeo. Competitors, male and female, will wear pink to support breast cancer awareness as well as to raise money for the cause. The Woodlake Lions will also donate $1,000 to the Sequoia Regional Cancer Care Center.
   Tarah Rowland, this year’s reigning royalty, refers to rodeo as “America’s only homegrown sport.”

  “Rodeo people represent the traits of honesty, ambition, and integrity,” she said “They’re well respected folks. The men and women in the arena are recognized for doing what they love to do best.”
   Tarah first competed for Woodlake Rodeo Queen in 2009 and was chosen 1st Princess (runner- up). She said she appreciates her relationship with the Woodlake Lions and looks forward to another year of community service.
   A graduate of Golden West High School of Visalia, she currently attends Reedley College where she studies Animal Science. Upon graduation, she intends to transfer to Montana State University where she will major in Equine Science.
   Tarah’s career ambition includes breeding and training horses. Currently, she is training her mare to show with the Valley Cow Horse Association. She also intends to run for Miss Clovis Rodeo next year as another step on the road to Miss Rodeo America.

  “On Sunday, I will be riding in appreciation of all the things my mom has done for me to get me where I am today,” Tarah said. “She taught me to ride and taught me many life lessons. As a child, I scared her to pieces with my ‘need for speed,’ so I’m sure she will really appreciate my queen salute running full blast!”
   This weekend bring your mom, dad, the kids, and all your friends for some rodeo action, and some homegrown, down-home Woodlake hospitality.

There is no such thing as a free lunch but there’s

   The new Subway restaurant in Woodlake, along with all area Subways, will host a free customer-appreciation breakfast on Tuesday, May 11, from 7 to 10 a.m. The promotion includes a free Breakfast Melt Sandwich and an eight-ounce cup of Seattle’s Best coffee.
   There is no purchase necessary to take advantage of this offer. The only thing customers will be required to do is select what type of breakfast sandwich they want to experience: Egg and Cheese, Black Forest Ham and Cheese, Western and Cheese, Steak and Cheese, or Bacon and Cheese.
   All are served on an English muffin with an egg (or egg white) omelet, American cheese, and a choice of vegetables. The Western and Cheese melt is under 200 calories and contains just 4 grams of fat.
Cody Goswick, owner of Woodlake’s Subway, as well as Subways in Visalia, Farmersville, and Goshen, invites everyone to stop by and enjoy this free promotion offer.
   Subway in Woodlake is located just off Valencia Blvd. on Antelope Street.

100 feet of clearance required

   Prior to 2005, only 30 feet of clearance around homes and other buildings were required by state fire officials. But these days, it’s 100 feet, which ensures a greater defense in the event of a fire as well as firefighter safety.
   With the amount of rain that was received in the region this past winter and spring, the weeds and grasses are prolific — thick and tall. Fire season has not yet been declared, which gives local property owners additional time to maintain the required clearance, which annually should include knocking down all grasses, removing and treating invasive thistle, and thinning trees and trimming branches up to six feet off the ground and any that are overhanging the home.
Cal Fire will begin their annual inspection tour soon.


Clan of the brave bear

by Greg Sweet

   Shortly after midnight on Thursday, April 29, as Mauriene Landry of the Log House Lodge was passing into slumber, she was roused by a ruckus outside. Her fearless guard dog, a 10-pound silky terrier named Tula, was immediately on the job.
   This being one of the first warm nights of spring, Mauriene had left the windows open. She followed the noise and the dog to the kitchen to find a bear looking through the window screen, eyeing the bowl of apples on the dining table. Tula competently chased the bear from the windows so that they could be safely closed and latched.

  “If I hadn’t been half asleep, I would have thought to grab my camera,” said Mauriene. “But the flash would only have captured the interior of the house, and I wasn’t about to go outside.”
   The bear had retreated to the hillside behind the house, so she went back to the bedroom to have a second look. Much to her surprise, she found not one, but four faces looking back at her. Four young bears were sitting amongst the prickly pear cactus behind the lodge.

  “Normally, bears don’t bother me,” said Mauriene. “In fact, wildlife is one of the things I enjoy about living in Three Rivers. But four at a time is worrisome.”
   She estimated the age of all four to be about two years.

  “Sometimes you see a mother with her cubs, but bears are normally solitary animals,” she said. “Considering their age and number, I wondered if they had developed a sort of gang, or pack, mentality.”
   The next morning revealed much bear scat behind the cactus garden and an upended garbage can. To Mauriene’s knowledge, none of the neighbors’ garbage had been disturbed.
   It is rare to see four bears together, let alone four of the same age. According to several black bear sources, females will sometimes stay with their siblings until she breeds for the first time.
   Males may stick together until they are old enough to compete with more mature individuals for territory and mating prospects.
   There may be some concern about the proximity of the Log House to Three Rivers Union School. A school representative said that while bears are occasional visitors to the school dumpster, there have been no reports of marauding adolescent bears.

  “Currently our only battle is with rattlesnakes,” a TRUS spokesperson said.

A bird’s-eye view

by Pam Beck

   How many humans are given the opportunity to repeatedly view the inside of a huge raven’s nest from above the nest?
   How long does it take raven eggs to hatch? How long before fledgling ravens leave the nest?
   These and multiple other questions have crossed my mind ever since March 14 when first sighting this special nest and the mama sitting in it. Thanks to Google, all and more of my curiosities about these Corvus corax passerines have resulted in multitude conversations and story sharing. I now understand why ornithologists with trusty binoculars in hand go out on a limb, literally.
   Taking the dogs Kona and Mika off the beaten path allows them to romp freely while giving me and all daily dog-walkers much-needed cardiovascular workouts and the opportunity to enjoy ceaseless wonders of the natural habitat that Three Rivers so preciously provides.
   Did you notice the great horned owl nest with three babies in the sycamore downriver at Dinely Bridge? And, oh, the bounty of colorful wildflowers, the hermit bobcats, and beware of rattlesnakes... yes, we did already come across one.
   Since ravens are such fiercely protective birds, they normally strategically build their nests in high, unreachable places. The five individuals I know of who have viewed this raven haven consider themselves profoundly fortunate.
   Research has since informed me that ravens lay from two to eight eggs, the incubation period lasts from 18 to 20 days and, after hatching, the youngsters leave the nest in 20 to 45 days. That adds up to 38 to 65 days that the nest will be inhabited. It’s now been about 54 days. While the beaks of these five fledglings are getting huge and look very sharp, they still have a bit of filling in to do on the top parts of their scraggly wings.
   Raven is a Greek word meaning “croaker,” surely a play on words. However, many native tribes believe the association these birds have with death has given them mysterious powers as messengers from other worlds.
   Any day now, I will visit and they’ll be gone.
   Will they go all at once? Or one at a time? Will they hang around the nest for a while? Or go their separate ways?

Kaweah Country: It’s wild!

   RATTLESNAKES are on the move this time of year. While nights are still chilly, they stay close to their rocky dens, but as the weather warms they will travel farther afield. Rattlers do not look for a confrontation with humans, but will strike if disturbed, so always be on the defensive when outdoors in snake country.
   RIVER dangers abound in Three Rivers and Sequoia National Park. Lives of unsuspecting visitors are claimed annually. As the daytime temperatures rise, the Kaweah River will look very inviting. But, remember, it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The water is swift with undertows and, once in, if being banged against the boulders doesn’t kill you, the icy-cold water will.
   Stay away from the riverbanks too, because the water-polished rocks are as slippery as ice. People have drowned even though they never had any intention of going in the water.
   TICKS are a nuisance this time of year. If hiking in the foothills, be sure to wear light-colored clothing (so you can see the dark-brown pests that are about the size of a sesame seed. After coming in from the outdoors, check your entire body to make sure that a tick didn’t hitch a ride. Ticks want to burrow into the skin and live off the blood of a mammal. They can carry Lyme disease, which can affect the nervous system, joints, skin, and heart. Contact your doctor if you think you may be at risk for Lyme disease.

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
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