the News - Friday, May 29, 2009
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
IN THE MAY 29, 2009, PRINT EDITION:
• Rosters • Records • Awards
Day boaters and swimmers descended
the Slick Rock Recreation Area.
Lake Kaweah will fill
capacity this weekend
Lake Kaweah will reach the 715-foot pool-elevation
high water mark this Sunday (May 31), but it’s
already been as high as 714.35 feet above sea level
on Tuesday, May 26. And even at 714.20 feet on Wednesday,
and for the rest of this historic weekend, a little
water has already breached the spillway and will continue
to do so as downslope winds in the early morning create
an easterly chop.
“They [the scientists] don’t want us to
allow too much water to go over the spillway because
then the material would become saturated,” said
Phil Deffenbaugh, Lake Kaweah’s general manager.
“It’s really not designed for extended
periods of water.”
The plan, according to Phil, is to fill
the basin Sunday and keep it full to the brim for
about a week. Then dam-tenders pull the plug, increase
the outflow and begin the gradual drain-down.
But to reach Lake Kaweah’s high
watermark, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its
contractors for the last couple of decades have had
to dream big, meet lots of challenging deadlines,
and when it came to things that couldn’t be
controlled such as the weather, just plain hope for
some good luck.
In hindsight, everything has lined up
as planned and, according to Phil, has turned out
better than expected. But that wasn’t always
the case because it’s not easy to foresee what
might go right or wrong when millions of taxpayers’
dollars are at stake.
The biggest part of that expenditure
was completed when the USACE finished the Lake Kaweah
basin enlargement in 2004 that increased the capacity
from 142,000 acre feet to its present 185,000. Nobody
knew then what they know now nor was anybody certain
how these public works were going to work.
First came the innovative fuse gates
at the spillway of Terminus Dam, engineered to survive
a flood of biblical proportions. The local ones that
were installed are among the biggest on the planet.
Then there was the remodeling of the
Horse Creek Bridge that not only relocated the highway
a few critical feet higher, but also widened the roadway
making the tricky curve safer. Often the scene of
deadly accidents in the past, there are noticeably
less incidents where emergency personnel are called
Among the last pieces to the basin’s
enlargement puzzle was the building of the dike at
Holiday Lodge in Three Rivers and highway realignment
of Sierra Drive west of Pierce Drive. Now in the midst
of the fifth high water season for these infrastructure
improvements, there have been few surprises and the
future of Lake Kaweah is looking bright.
That also according to Phil Deffenbaugh,
who has been at the helm of the federal flood control
facility for more than two decades. In addition to
knowing that the best-laid plans of the Army Corps
planners and scientists are working, Phil is extremely
proud of the recreation amenities that the public
gets to use and enjoy that also required some re-development.
On Wednesday, May 13, the new boat ramp
opened at Slick Rock. It’s been packed the last
two weekends with boaters, and the consensus is nothing
short of awesome.
The Cal Boating grant that funded the
new facility was more than 10 years in the making.
The timing for the $1.5 million project couldn’t
have been more fortunate as it was recently announced
that currently there are no more funds available in
the state program due to California’s budget
Phil admits there have been some issues
with the parking at Slick Rock, especially during
the past two busy weekends, but they are being resolved.
“At first, a lot of folks were parking in front
of the Lazy J Motel but the CHP worked to redirect
that traffic to other areas,” Phil said. “The
parking along the highway [at Slick Rock] is only
temporary until we regain some of the spots that are
now under water.”
Phil said the collection of fees is working
well. Slick Rock ramp users are paying the $4 fee
or buying a seasonal pass for $30. Technically, those
who park along the highway are walk-ins so they are
not being required to pay.
“Some of those users who are parking on the
highway and launching a boat are also paying,”
Phil reported. “The payment of fees seems to
be having the desired effect, and so far everyone
is respecting the new facilities.”
Phil said a grand opening of the newly
improved Slick Rock Recreation Area will be held while
there is still substantial water in the upper basin.
A ribbon-cutting celebration with the local chamber
of commerce is currently being scheduled for the Fourth
Local drivers deal
Tulare County Fire Department units and
a CHP officer responded to a single vehicle crash
on Tuesday, May 26, that occurred at 10:23 a.m. approximately
one-half mile north of the Airport Bridge turn-off.
According to information gathered at the scene, the
driver, Walter Aguilar, 86, of Kaweah was southbound
when he lost control of his 2001 Lexus LS430 after
he swerved to avoid an oncoming vehicle that had crossed
The unsafe turning action caused the
Lexus to skid off the right side of the roadway, then
careen across both lanes and strike a tree. When firefighters
and emergency personnel arrived on the scene, they
found Aguilar pinned in the vehicle.
The passenger side was crushed and the
driver’s side was blocked by a tree and bushes.
Aguilar, who appeared to have a moderate head injury,
was extricated and transported via ambulance to Kaweah
IN AN UNRELATED INCIDENT during the afternoon
of that same day, an unidentified student allegedly
tossed a blue ice container off a Three Rivers-bound
Woodlake High School bus while it was passing Boat
Ramp No. 2 at Lake Kaweah. The projectile struck the
windshield of a 1992 Toyota pickup driven by Diane
Frazier of Three Rivers.
Frazier, who had her two children, ages 6 and 9, in
the vehicle, was terrified but used her windshield
wiper to disperse the bluish glop.
“When we passed the school bus, I saw something
out of the corner of my eye and then there was a loud
crack and bang,” recalled Frazier. “It
sounded like someone hit the windshield with a sledgehammer.”
Frazier, who was on her way to Woodlake
High, reported the incident to the administration
and a CHP officer was summoned to take her statement.
Since the incident is classified as an “intended
act” and not an “unintended” accident,
the incident actually falls within the jurisdiction
of the Sheriff’s Department.
To date, nobody has taken responsibility
for heaving the ice pack off the bus. The Woodlake
School District has agreed to pay $205 to replace
Anyone with information in the case is
asked to call Woodlake High School at 564-3307 or
Deputy Jim Fansett at 740-8894.
Tour teaches fire-safe tactics
by Brian Rothhammer
A fire is raging on a hillside close
to your home. Smoke fills the air and an eerie orange
glow announces impending doom. The wail of sirens
is a welcome sound.
Will fire crews be able to save your
house? Is your home defendable?
“We have to go in and decide which structures
are defendable,” said Chief Paul Marquez of
Tulare County Fire Department during a defensible
space home tour held on Saturday, May 16, in Three
In advance of a rapidly moving wildfire,
firefighters must make quick decisions as to which
structures can be saved.
One home that was toured illustrated
the point well. Tucked away amid a maze of narrow,
winding streets (pathways, really) and brush-filled
ravines was a handsome home on a well-cleared site.
“This home is defendable,” said Paul.
“We can get in and protect it.”
Small flags were set out at distances of 30 and 100
feet from the home.
“In 2002, [Public Resources Code] 4291 expanded
the defensible space requirement from 30 to 100 feet,”
Paul said as he pointed to the flags.
The area from the structure to the 30-foot
mark should be clear of any brush, tall grass, wood
piles, or other flammable materials.
From 30 to 100 feet should be a “shaded
fuel break.” Walking under an oak tree to illustrate,
Paul talked of removing tree limbs to a clearance
of six feet from the ground and eliminating “ladder
fuels,” the vegetation, live or dead, that gives
flames a route to climb into the tree canopy.
This zone may be landscaped with a wide
variety of low, ground-covering plants, but advice
was given to avoid “flashy fuels” such
as eucalyptus or other oily, fast-burning plants.
“You want the fire to lay down, then we can
more easily manage it and put it out,” said
Also consider fire-safe materials when
adding on to or building homes. This advice was offered
by Deb Schweizer, fire information officer at Sequoia
and Kings Canyon National Parks.
“It’s an investment in your home,”
she said. “Every year, I look around to see
what I can do to reduce fire hazards.”
Materials such as stucco or brick are
attractive, aesthetic, and less flammable than wood
“We really like to see metal roofs” added
Paul, and recommended that people familiarize themselves
with PRC 4290, which identifies the fire hazard severity
zones statewide and governs development in wildland
The home toured had a tile roof, which is an excellent
choice. The spaces at the ends, however, were not
screened which can allow windborne embers to fly into
those spaces and smolder. Also check your roof vents
Another thing firefighters need is clear
access. Old cars, RVs, boats, and debris piles should
be away from structures with accessible, wide pathways.
This demonstration house had easy access,
smart new landscaping, and so many other positive
aspects that would be welcome sights to firefighters
when minutes mean everything
The firewood was stacked well away from
the house, but in contrast, the four feet high by
10 feet long woodpile was next to the propane tank,
even under it. This could present a problem.
“We would have to send a crew there to clear
that,” said Chief Marquez.
Which brings us back to square one.
Would your house be defendable? A good
start is to ensure that your spaces are defensible.
Visit the Cal Fire website at www.fire.ca.gov
for more information on fire safety.
Public comment requested
Park Ridge wireless tower
An environmental assessment for the proposed
construction of an 80-foot cellular tower on Park
Ridge near Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park
has been released by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National
Parks. The National Park Service is required by the
Telecommunications Act of 1996 to consider all applications
for the installation of cellular equipment on NPS
In June 2007, Verizon Wireless submitted
an application to the NPS to construct, operate, and
maintain a wireless telecommunications facility on
Park Ridge near Grant Grove Village in Kings Canyon
National Park. Park Ridge is an established telecommunications
site for Sequoia-Kings Canyon. Current structures
on Park Ridge include two concrete-block structures
containing NPS and U.S. Forest Service communications
equipment with power generators, a 20-foot fire lookout
tower, two 40-foot lattice towers with NPS and USFS
telecommunications equipment, and a 30-foot tower
on the NPS communications building supporting a passive
reflector used for landline service operated by Verizon
The tower would provide wireless communication
and Internet coverage along a portion of the Generals
Highway and State Highway 180 in the vicinity of Grant
Grove Village and Wilsonia in Kings Canyon and nearby
undeveloped areas within the park and the surrounding
Giant Sequoia National Monument. The telecommunications
facility would include an 80-foot monopole tower with
antennas, a prefabricated single-story building beside
the tower for equipment storage, and a standby generator.
The unmanned facility would provide service to area
residents and businesses year-round, 24 hours per
The EA to “Construct Verizon Wireless
Telecommunication Facility atop Park Ridge in Kings
Canyon National Park” may be reviewed and public
comment may be submitted online by selecting Sequoia
and Kings Canyon National Parks at the NPS Planning,
Environment and Public Comment website: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/seki.
Printed or CD versions of the document may be obtained
by calling (559) 565-3102.
The public may also direct concerns or
comments regarding this project to the park in writing
by sending an e-mail to email@example.com, or
the public may mail or hand deliver their comments
Superintendent Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Attn: Verizon Wireless Project
47050 Generals Highway
Three Rivers, CA 93271
All comments must be received by Monday,
June 22, 2009. Commenters should know that their entire
comment, including personal identifying information,
may be made publicly available at any time. While
commenters can ask in their comments to withhold personal
identifying information from public review, we cannot
guarantee that we will be able to do so.
Anonymous comments will not be accepted.
1942 ~ 2009
Luis “Lucho” Anthonio Figallo
of Three Rivers died Monday, May 18, 2009. He was
Lucho was born May 26, 1942, in Sullana,
Piura, Peru, to Victor and Berta Figallo. In 1979,
he received his Master’s degree in Spanish from
California State University, Northridge.
He was a Spanish and ESL (English as
a Second Language) teacher at Golden West High School
and College of the Sequoias in Visalia until his retirement
Lucho was active in many groups such
as the Spanish Club, Campus Bible Student, and elder
of the Deacon Ministry. He enjoyed gardening; traveling,
especially to Peru; and entertaining and spending
time with family and friends.
Lucho is survived by his wife of 40 years,
Mary Figallo of Three Rivers; three sons, Luis Figallo
Jr. and wife Jessica of Visalia, Paul Figallo of Cayucos,
and Nick Figallo of Visalia; four brothers and four
sisters, all of whom reside in Peru; and three grandchildren,
Rexton, Quincy, and Piper Figallo.
A visitation, celebration of life, and
graveside service were held earlier this week in Visalia.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be
made to the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org).