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In the News - Friday, June 8, 2012

This week's front page

 

 

Only in the June 8 print edition:

Woodlake High School

GRAD PHOTOS and SCHOLARSHIPS

 

 

Powerhouse No. 3 back online

 Kaweah Powerhouse No. 3, located near the Ash Mountain headquarters in Sequoia National Park, was placed back in service on Saturday, June 2, after repairs were completed to the Middle Fork flume. The hydroelectric generating station had been out of service since a March 17 storm damaged the flume that delivers water to the plant.
Powerhouse No. 3 was built in 1913 by the Mt. Whitney Power and Electric Company and is now owned and operated by Southern California Edison. A permit to complete the maintenance was processed by the National Park Service in April; repairs were completed last week after a flurry of helicopter activity to transport rock and construction materials to the site.
The powerhouse facilities and flume are licensed to operate by the California Public Utilities Commission. The Kaweah facility is presently operating on a temporary permit until current application documents are certified by the commission.
Hydroelectric power is clean, renewable energy and fulfills in part the requirement for a certain percentage of SCE’s generating capacity to be sustainable. When all three Kaweah powerhouses are operational, the hydro facilities can generate energy equivalent to power 5,000 households.

Town meeting: Pot crime is safety threat

  While the majority of the attendees came to Monday evening’s Town Hall meeting expecting to hear the Sheriff’s Department strategy for patrolling river swimming holes and dealing with trespassers this summer, Lt. Robert Schimpf said there is another more pressing problem.   Marijuana growing-related crimes are escalating, he said, and have become a new threat to public safety in Tulare County.
   Last year alone, the new patrol supervisor for Three Rivers reported, more than 600 illegal grow sites were busted on the Valley floor alone.
   The changing laws regulating the use and distribution of medical marijuana have led to a shift in tactics used by the marijuana growers, Lt. Schimpf said. Thanks to what he called “disastrous loopholes” in the law, now the cartels can grow marijuana right in their own backyards.
   In effect, the new state policies that allow medical marijuana card holders to grow plants legally have attracted pot criminals from Southern California to agricultural areas like Tulare County where growers are becoming more numerous. Three Rivers is positioned right in the middle of two types of growers: (1) the cartels that develop large grow complexes on public lands, and (2) the smaller growers who grow in rural communities and are easy targets for rip-offs.
   The wave of violence caused by the escalated activity has required that the Sheriff’s Department give these criminals priority attention. The situation has put more strain on a department where budget cuts have already done away with some critical law enforcement resources.
   Diana Glass, a resident of Kaweah River Drive, asked Lt. Schimpf what coverage was being planned for those days when the resident deputy, Jim Fansett, is off duty. The plan is for at least one of four deputies, typically assigned elsewhere in the county, to rotate coverage for Three Rivers.
   Julie Hawes, who with her husband, Jason, own and operate the Lazy J Ranch Motel, said they have experienced recurring problems with visitors who use the new Lake Kaweah facilities at Slick Rock. They routinely encounter trespassers, some who have been verbally abusive and disrespectful of property boundaries and their owners.
  “My priority is for you to be secure,” said Lt. Schimpf. “Property owners have a right for people not to walk through their properties and leave their trash.”
   Lt. Schimpf encouraged that anyone having a problem to call him directly at 636-4707.
Steve Crigler, a Three Rivers resident who accesses the river near Dinely Drive, said that someone who lives nearby is using a megaphone to harass people who legally park in the vicinity of the Dinely Bridge. Crigler said it is not “honest” on the part of law enforcement to allow this type of harassment.
   What would be better, Crigler said, is that the area be clearly posted with the rules for parking and river use. Peter Sodhy, speaking on behalf of the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce, suggested that a meeting be convened before the summer season aimed at clarifying the rules of river access.
   Supervisor Allen Ishida was also in attendance and he reiterated that he is working with the Sheriff’s Department on the marijuana crackdown. He said the county has a marijuana hotline: 624-7205.
   The next Town Hall meeting, sponsored by the Three Rivers Village Foundation, is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 1. For more information, call 561-0123.

George Fire nearly contained

  A fire of suspicious origin in Giant Sequoia National Monument that was reported Friday, June 1, is expected to be contained sometime next week. The blaze, named the George Fire, was ignited in the Freeman Creek Grove of giant sequoias.
   The 4,192-acre Freeman Creek Grove, 28 miles east of Porterville, is the easternmost grove of giant sequoias and is considered to be among the most recently established. This concentration of Big Trees is mainly south of Freeman Creek and contains 800 specimens with a diameter greater than 10 feet.
   Several notable giant sequoias reside in the grove including the President George H.W. Bush Tree. President Bush delivered his presidential proclamation in 1992, setting aside giant sequoia groves on national forest lands for protection, preservation, and restoration, while standing beside a large giant sequoia near the perimeter of the grove.
   There are two ways to access the grove: the Lloyd Meadow Road and the Freeman Creek Trail. Both these arterials have been subject to closures throughout the incident as hundreds of firefighters worked to contain the blaze.
   High winds this past Monday fanned the flames in an easterly direction toward the confluence of the middle and north forks of the Kern River in the Golden Trout Wilderness.  By Thursday morning, the wilderness blaze had charred more than 1,800 acres.
  “The high winds on Monday presented some serious containment issues in the Little Kern vicinity,” reported Denise Alonzo, a public information officer with Giant Sequoia National Monument. “We had trees, rocks, and flaming debris coming down in steep terrain causing the fire to spread rapidly.”
   Alonzo said from the first moment the fire was reported, there was never a consideration to let it burn. The conditions in and around the Freeman Creek Grove are volatile and fire managers certainly didn’t want a replay of last summer when the Lion Fire burned 20,000 acres several miles to the north.
   The 2011 Lion Fire was managed as a prescribed fire and it also was located mostly in the Golden Trout Wilderness but eventually burned across the southern boundary of Sequoia National Park. It caused huge smoke impacts in Three Rivers, which the George Fire has not.
   In other fire news— Fire crews in Sequoia National Park completed two units of a prescribed fire treatment at the park entrance this week, but discontinued ignitions because the crews were not seeing a good level of consumption due to cooler temperatures and high relative humidity. They will finish this project when conditions are more favorable.
   Today (Friday, June 8), park fire crews will begin ignitions on the Roud Meadow Prescribed Fire in Giant Forest. Trails in the vicinity will be closed during the 50-acre burn.

Blowing in the wind
(photo caption)

Nathan Enns, a professional pilot from Bakersfield, captured this image while flying his plane at about 2,500 feet on Monday, June 4, at 4:45 p.m. This giant wall of dust, caused by winds whipping through the southern San Joaquin Valley, is just about to envelop the city of Visalia.

SPEAKING OUT (op-ed)

Low public participation in TRUS budget process

By Julie Hawes


   It is with great concern that I write this letter after attending the special Three Rivers Union School board meeting regarding next year’s budget. It was revealed during the meeting that the forecasted budget for three years down the road is very bleak.
   Our school would be considered “unqualified,” which means we could no longer cover costs. Now this doesn’t mean that our school would be closing as we have lived through this situation before. But it does mean that we need to look very closely at our budgets for the next two years and tighten the belt as much as possible.
   That is why I am writing this letter. I am asking all parents and community members to take even more of an interest in our school.
   We need to pay attention to these budget matters and make our opinions and any cost-saving ideas known to the school board. They are the elected representatives who have final say in the direction of our school and they need to be aware of the public’s opinion.
   It was very sad to see that only a handful of parents and staff were present at this board meeting. It was a special meeting of the board so perhaps many were unaware of the importance of the decisions that were going to be made.
   Salary schedules for the office staff were voted on as well as teachers’ salaries. It was announced that Mrs. St. Martin would be moving to second grade and that the kindergarten position would now be open.
   The deficit in the cafeteria budget was discussed and the possibility of raising lunch prices again. Unfortunately, decisions about the lunch prices could not be made due to the lack of figures as to what a lunch actually costs our school.
   Mrs. Sherwood discussed three options available for the coming school year:
   Option #1 would be for her to continue on as principal/superintendent at 80 percent time with full benefits.
   Option #2 included her as a kindergarten teacher, the remaining hours as principal/superintendent and receiving 100 percent of her salary.
   Option #3 is that Mrs. Sherwood retires as principal/superintendent and then returns as a part-time interim superintendent.
   I don’t know how any of these options would affect the budget, but I am asking that all of you take the time to find out and let your opinion be known.
   I’m also asking the school board members to please look very carefully at all of these options and consider how each would impact the finances of our school. You were elected to represent the voice of our community members and to do what is financially best for our school and ultimately our children. To do that, all personal relationships and feelings must be set aside to make those hard decisions, just like other operating boards would do.
   The next regularly scheduled board meeting is Wednesday, June 13, at 6 p.m., in the TRUS library. The agenda will be posted three days in advance both at the school office and in the post office. Please, take the time to be informed and let the TRUS board know how important our school is to our community!
   Julie Hawes resides in Three Rivers and is a TRUS parent.

SPEAKING OUT (op-ed)

Preserving post offices in rural America

By Kerry Wolny
District manager, Sierra Coastal Postal District

  The United States Postal Service has announced a plan to preserve post offices in small towns and rural communities across the country while the organization aims to achieve cost savings to return to financial stability.
   After listening to our customers and communities across the country who expressed a strong desire to keep their local post office open, the Postal Service developed a new solution that will preserve a post office in a rural community by modifying the retail window hours. Rural customers would continue to have access to their mailbox and lobby as they do today.
   A community would also retain their ZIP Code and community identity. This plan would enable the Postal Service to achieve over a half a billion dollars in annual cost savings in an effort to regain a stronger financial footing.
   Later this year, the Postal Service will hold public meetings with affected communities to gather feedback on this new plan as well as the previously announced options that include a) establishing mail delivery service to residents and businesses by either rural carrier or highway contract route; b) contracting with a local business or community venue to create a village post office; c) providing service from a nearby post office.
   Some communities may opt for a village post office where a local business, like a grocery store, could provide more convenient access to postal products and services 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, the Postal Service continues to expand alternative access by providing most postal services online at usps.com and has developed a new smartphone app where customers can buy stamps and print off shipping labels anytime.
   In addition to online offerings, customers can utilize alternate postal access at more than 70,000 retail partner locations across the country including Wal-Mart, Staples, Office Depot, Walgreens, Sam’s Club, Costco, and many others.
   While this trend will continue and reach a point where a majority of customers are accessing postal services outside of the typical “brick and mortar” post office, there is still a desire to keep post offices open in rural America. However, 88 percent of small rural post offices do not cover the operating costs, and customer visits to the post office have declined by more than 27 percent since 2005.
   While the financial crisis has forced the organization to leave no stone unturned in achieving cost reductions to return to financial stability, the Postal Service has not forgotten its fundamental role in delivering for the American public and providing universal access to its products and services.
   The new plan to preserve post offices in rural America provides a path forward for small towns and rural communities to keep the flag flying at their local post office.

Changing of the guard
(photo caption)

  SPRING IS TRADITIONALLY the time of year when local service clubs appoint officers for their upcoming year. Several local clubs also take a summer hiatus and begin their new year when meetings resume in the fall.
   Fifteen women attended the St. Clair's Altar Society’s annual spring luncheon at which the installation of officers was also held.

  THE REDBUD GARDEN Club and Three Rivers Woman’s Club installed its 2012-2013 officers this week during their final meetings of the year. The clubs will gather again in October. The next Town Hall meeting will also convene in October.

Graduation for the dogs
(photo caption)

  On Friday, May 25, the graduation of the Assistance Service Dog Educational Center’s “H” Team was held at the Woodlake Memorial Building. The “H” signifies the eighth graduating class of the ASDEC program. The ASDEC is sponsored in part by the Woodlake Rotary Club and is a part of the Woodlake High School curriculum. This year, eight student trainers and their dogs were honored for their two-year accomplishment.

OBITUARY

Dolores Whitehead
1921 ~ 2012

   Dolores “Dee” Whitehead, a former resident of Three Rivers, died May 15, 2012, in Albuquerque, N.M. She was 91.
   Dee was born May 10, 1921, in Paris, Texas. Her parents’ farming operations on several sections of land were wiped out because of the great drought and dust bowl in the 1930s.   The family migrated to California’s San Joaquin Valley over a two-year period of time working as migrant farm workers.
   There were six of them, the parents and four children. Dee moved to Three Rivers around 1940 and worked at the Pumpkin Hollow Restaurant [present-day Gateway Restaurant].
While working there she met and later married Herbert Wilson. She lived and worked at Lake Elowin Resort in Three Rivers on and off for some 20 years at the resort that the family built and operated.
   Later, as a single mom, Dee leased and operated the Noisy Water Restaurant in Three Rivers for 16 years during the 1960s and ‘70s. After she remarried to E.H. “Whitey”   Whitehead in the 1970s, she moved to Hanford. She worked with Whitey running his successful agricultural land-leveling business until he passed away in 1980.
   She then lived by herself on their 10-acre ranch until 2006 when she moved to Albuquerque to live close to her son, Daniel, his wife, and her family.
   Dee loved life, loved people and enjoyed traveling and experiencing new places. She made some 15 trips to Hawaii to visit her son and daughter-in-law. She made other trips to the East Coast to experience the historic sites. She loved houseboat trips on Lake Powell and the many motor home trips she took.
   She was always reading, never without a book, and was extremely well read. Dee loved to sing and often broke into spontaneous song that would match the location and time that she was in. “You Are My Sunshine” was her last remembered song that she would sing when you walked into her presence.
   Dee was preceded in death by her children, Karen Wilson, Rodney Wilson, and Brent Wilson.
   She is survived by her son, Daniel Wilson, and wife Linda; grandchildren Lora Gomes of Three Rivers, Shawna Wilson, Christopher Wilson, Colton Wilson, and Crystal Wilson; her great-grandchildren; and nieces and nephews.
   Cremation has taken place. A burial of the ashes and memorial service will take place later this year in Woodlake. Her son, Dan, invites all family members and friends of Dee’s to attend. To be notified when the date of the service is set, send your email address to Dan Wilson at wilsoncomprop@msn.com.

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