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In the News - Friday, June 21, 2013





Level of Lake Kaweah rapidly dropping

   With so little flow coming in from the Kaweah River, Lake Kaweah will quickly be drained of most of its precious acre feet much sooner than in recent years. In fact, the 115 cubic feet per second (cfs) mean inflow that was recorded on Thursday, June 20, could be an all-time low flow for the date.
     The current storage as of June 20 is 76,499 acre feet.
    “The initial projections had us still above 200 cfs for this week but the flows are even lower than expected,” said Phil Deffenbaugh, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers general manager at Lake Kaweah. “Unless Mother Nature sends some weather our way this summer, the minimum pool will be occurring this year sooner rather than later.”
     Phil said the only year that’s even remotely similar to this one is 1990 but the current one could be an all-time record. The 30 percent of normal precipitation was not unprecedented but the fact that what little snow did accumulate was so high up, less of the melt reached the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River, and that means less water in the lake.
     The 97,000 acre feet extant on Memorial Day will be approximately 50,000 acre feet on the Fourth of July. At that level, Phil said, the entire road in the lake bottom will be drivable.
If there is a silver lining in the lack of water this season it is that the network of trails in the lake bottom, popular with hikers, bikers, dog walkers, and runners, should be high and dry by late July. That’s more than two months ahead of schedule in a typical water year.
     Phil also said that this is the first June since the basin was enlarged in 2004 that Horse Creek campground was not inundated in June. Campers are enjoying the easy access and all the lakefront access that is normally under water until after the kids go back to school in August.

Follow the leader... or not

    En route to the construction zone on Tuesday, June 18, an Allen Construction pilot vehicle careened off the Generals Highway just below the Tunnel Rock area. The driver was not seriously injured and told park rangers that the steering locked up.

The hills are alive with Center Stage Strings

    When Danielle Belen, founder and artistic director of Center Stage Strings, made her opening remarks at the Tuesday, June 18, concert kickoff for the 2013 music camp, she couldn’t have been more gracious. What an unbelievable journey it has been, she told the appreciative audience in the sanctuary of Community Presbyterian Church in Three Rivers.
    “…This local music camp, incredibly, is in its fourth season,” she reported.
     From humble beginnings in 2010, the camp for violin, viola, and cello students ages 8 to 19 has evolved into a two-week summer session packed with engaging activities and generous good times for its 25 campers.
    “For the first three years, students were housed in local host homes,” Danielle said. “But this year, we have moved into the new facilities of the Santa Teresita Youth Conference Center at St. Anthony Retreat.”
     Having all the campers housed together has been a blessing to help keep everyone focused on why they have come to Three Rivers.
    “Our new campus is helping our students to reach even higher levels,” Danielle said. “They have more time to rehearse, relax, recreate, and there is a new sense of camaraderie as they experience all that comes with dorm life. I am thrilled at how things are going so far.”
     To accomplish the musical goals of Center Stage Strings, Danielle has assembled a world-class faculty who are all virtuoso musicians and expert instructors in their own careers.
     The showcase concerts, like Tuesday’s opening night, feature various combinations of the faculty performers playing some of the best classical music to be heard in any venue, right here, right now in Three Rivers. And though she shuns the spotlight and prefers to focus more on the accomplishments of her students, Danielle is the star of this show.
    The 30-year-old violinist appears poised at the threshold of true greatness, and it is within the Three Rivers setting where her virtuosity has clearly blossomed. During Tuesday’s show, Danielle’s performance of John Williams’s arrangement of Carlos Gardel’s Por Una Cabeza was only an inkling of her pent-up passion for playing her 300-year-old violin.
    But Danielle readily admits her special love is teaching. That innate passion so aptly demonstrated in her playing is also evidenced in her teaching. And now the music camp she has created in four short seasons has become a festival extravaganza that has the classical music world texting, tweeting, posting, and all abuzz.
     And where do the uninitiated think Three Rivers is? “Three Rivers, in Northern California,” wrote Kaitlin Wright in a June 9 article in the Orange County Register, is where seven local students are spending part of this summer intensely sharpening their concert hall skills.”
    Well, maybe not quite Northern California, and not quite Southern California either, but would you believe Central California?
     For an ever-growing legion of accomplished and aspiring classical musicians, their families, friends and fans they now know precisely where Three Rivers is located.

Drinking and driving: You can't afford it

DUI checkpoint planned for Sequoia National Park

    On any given day throughout the busy summer season, hundreds of vehicles wind their way up and down Sequoia National Park’s historic Generals Highway. The weekends, especially Sundays, are peak times for touring national parks, and during certain hours it seems like everyone is either coming or leaving all at the same time.
     In the 16 miles from the Ash Mountain entrance to the Giant Forest Museum, there are dozens of hairpin turns and narrow stretches of roadway with unforgiving shoulders and sheer cliffs that demand every driver’s full attention. To add to this demanding mountain driving the motorist who has been drinking or who might become distracted by the jaw-dropping views of the scenic Kaweah canyon and lives become at risk.
    Some of the worst accidents have occurred during these peak periods, snarling traffic in both directions for several hours. Impaired judgment from drinking and driving often plays a part in these traffic mishaps so rangers in the local parks have decided to get proactive — and maybe save a life and prevent a tragedy.
     On Sunday, June 30, from 4 to 8 p.m., Sequoia law-enforcement rangers will briefly detain motorists in the Ash Mountain area to check for alcohol use or drug impairment. Kevin Hendricks, chief ranger, said that increased day use in and around the popular swimming holes along this foothills stretch of the Kaweah River prompted park rangers to conduct the first sobriety checkpoint in Sequoia National Park.
      If you are in the local parks that day and encounter a checkpoint be patient, slow down and always remember never drink and drive.
     The cost of drinking and driving: The Automobile Club of Southern California has calculated  that a first-offense misdemeanor DUI conviction can now cost up to $15,649 in California. The penalties are even higher for teenagers. The expense of an under-age-21 first-offense misdemeanor DUI is up to $22,492.
     The Auto Club developed its cost estimate by totaling up mandated state and local fines, penalties, restitution, legal fees, and increased insurance costs. The calculations do not include thousands of dollars of other potential expenses drivers might face if they lose work time for a criminal trial or go to jail, need to pay bail, or incur injury or vehicle damage from a crash they caused.
     It also doesn’t include other potential drunk-driving-conviction consequences such as the risk of a civil trial or the requirement to install an ignition interlock in a vehicle.
     Drunk driving is completely preventable. Just make the choice to be responsible. It could save a life, possibly yours or your children’s.
     If alcohol is part of the social gathering, designate a driver.

Three sisters and their Park Service mission

     Meet the Sobinovsky sisters: Maria, 13, and twins Gina and Lisa, 10. They have been junior rangers longer than many rangers have been rangers. And they have probably been to more parks than most rangers, too; 368.
     It’s a good piece of trivia to know how many units in the National Park System there actually are when talking to these girls or their parents, Joe and Christine Sobinovsky of Martinsburg, W.V. That number is 401, which includes 59 national parks, as well as national historical parks, national battlefields and military parks, national memorials, national monuments, national seashores, national scenic trails... and more.
     Between the three of them, the girls have collected almost 1,000 junior ranger badges, which are displayed on vests that were originally men’s shirts with alterations by Christine.   With the adornments, the vests weigh about eight pounds. Maria, at 360 badges, is a little ahead of her younger sisters because she had a three-year head start. Lisa and Gina have 307 badges apiece.
     To qualify as a junior ranger and earn a badge in a specific park, youth must complete activities in the junior ranger booklet, attend a ranger-led program, and pick up trash in a park locale.
     During their recent California trip, the Sobinovskys had also visited Death Valley, where they camped in 111-degree temperatures, but were mainly here to do some junior rangering at the new Cesar Chavez National Monument.
     Although they have vivid memories of most of the parks they have visited, they each claimed a different favorite. Maria likes Dry Tortugas (Florida) for its history. Gina or Lisa (sorry, they’re twins!) selected the Grand Canyon because of the mule ride the family took on the Kaibab Trail while the other opted for Lava Beds National Monument (Northern California) because of the endless opportunities for exploring the lava tubes.
     And a state that is still on the family’s to-do list: Alaska. With eight national parks, including the largest (Wrangell-St. Elias) and others so remote that they are not reachable by road, this future visit will include unforgettable memories and add some serious weight to the girls’ vests.

Hiking the Parks:


by Sarah Elliott

    Sure, everybody knows about the famous falls of Yosemite National Park. And they do prove irresistible, even to someone who lives right next door to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. So every few years, we find ourselves on a journey to Yosemite to take in the famous, and some not-so-famous, sights.
     This past April, we did just that. And an early morning hike found us at the top of Upper Yosemite Fall with not another person around. Yes, we’ve become quite crafty at escaping crowds, even in Yosemite.
     We were on the trail before daybreak, using headlamps to assist us in staying upright on the granite-strewn trail. We snuck past the famous Camp 4 with its new generation of iconic mountaineers still snuggled in their sleeping bags.
      The new day’s first light was filtering through the pines as we started up the switchbacks that would be a constant companion during this short (3.6 miles one way) yet steep (2,700 feet elevation gain) route. In a mile and dozens of switchbacks from the trailhead, there is a promontory called Columbia Rock. There was another early-bird visitor here with his tripod set up, ready and waiting to photo-document the day’s sunrise. This was the only person we would see during our ascent.
      After a brief downhill respite, we rounded a bend and were granted our first up-close view of the upper fall. We stood in the blustery breeze created by the spring runoff that free-falls over the granite ledge and could barely hear each other talk due to the thunderous cascade. Then the sun made a memorable appearance.
     This valley and its vertical, glaciated granite walls couldn’t have had better placement if designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. As we were being misted by the world-renowned fall, we looked east across the valley to see the sun’s rays shining skyward over the silhouette of Half Dome. This was followed by the rim of the sun itself that formed a halo over the towering summit that was indeed an ethereal scene.
      Within minutes, the sun was up and over the giant monolith, warming the air just in time for a climb through the rainforest-like vegetation that maintains a constant drip and drizzle from the fall’s overspray.
      After a few more dozen switchbacks, we were at the top of North America’s highest waterfall via this trail that is one of Yosemite’s oldest; built from 1873 to 1877. Although millions have traveled this same route over the past 136 years, the only evidence of their occupation on this day was footprints. We were all alone.
      Our first stop was the overlook; a narrow, vertigo-inducing ledge that looks straight down over the falls. Then we found a sunny spot on a granite slab above the fast-flowing creek and the precipice that it tumbles over to reach the valley below. It was a pleasant locale for a picnic breakfast.
      There are trails leading beyond the falls and into the backcountry, and although they were proving tempting, these adventures would have to wait for another day. Down the trail we went. Our rapid descent was slowed only by the one hundred or so hikers who were now making their pilgrimage up the mountain. Soon the area at the top of the falls would be filled with people, but we wouldn’t be around to add to the crush.
      The Sequoia and Kings Canyon region has waterfalls, too. Here are some of the most accessible:
      Tokopah Falls (Sequoia)— Length: 3.5 miles round-trip. Trailhead: Lodgepole Campground. Difficulty: Easy. Best Viewing: March-June. Notes: A bear sighting here is almost guaranteed.
      Marble Falls (Sequoia)— Length: 8 miles round trip. Trailhead: Potwisha Campground. Difficulty: Moderate-Strenuous. Best Viewing: February-May. Notes: Foothills terrain so plan your hike to avoid the summer heat.
      Cascade Creek Falls (Sequoia)— Length: .50 mile one way. Trailhead: Crystal Cave. Difficulty: Easy-Moderate. Best Viewing: May-August. Notes: If you’re taking the time to see this 25-foot waterfall, then purchase tickets at the Foothills or Lodgepole visitor centers and take a tour of Crystal Cave while there, which is the reason this trail along Cascade Creek is even there.
     Grizzly Falls (Giant Sequoia National Monument)— A picnic area adjacent to the Kings Canyon Highway. Best Viewing: April-August. Notes: In the Kings Canyon on the way to Cedar Grove.
      Roaring River Falls (Kings Canyon)— Length: .25 miles one way. Trailhead: Cedar Grove. Difficulty: Easy. Best Viewing: April-August. Notes: The paved trail is wheelchair-accessible.
     Mist Falls (Kings Canyon)— Length: 8 miles round-trip. Trailhead: Roads End, Cedar Grove. Difficulty: Moderate. Best Viewing: May-August.

Kings Canyon campgrounds scheduled for opening

    Two Kings Canyon National Park campgrounds — Crystal Springs in Grant Grove and Sentinel in Cedar Grove — are schedule to open on Monday, July 1. Both of these campgrounds have sites available on a first come, first served basis.
     Dorst Creek Campground, one of just two campgrounds of the 14 throughout Sequoia and Kings Canyon that takes reservations, is expected to close this season due to lack of water as a result of limited snowfall over the past winter. No new reservations are being taken for Dorst, and if the campground must close, existing reservations will be honored at a different campground in either park at no additional cost.
     Park information: 565-3341.

Avoiding dog bites with prevention and training

by Kelly Anez, DVM

    The end of May was National Dog Bite Prevention week in the United States. For most people, this event went largely unnoticed. However, as we reflect on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s statistics below, it is easy to see that dog bites are a serious public health problem that inflict considerable physical and emotional damage on victims and incurs immeasurable hidden costs to communities.
     Each year approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs. Almost 1 in 5 people bitten require medical attention.
     And each year more than 800,000 Americans receive medical attention for bites. Children are by far the most likely to be bitten and are the ones that most often are severely bitten. Of the 10 to 20 people that die every year from dog bites, the majority are children.
     Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs. Senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims.
     Dogs have shared their lives with humans for more than 12,000 years, and that coexistence has contributed substantially to humans’ quality of life. In the United States, there are slightly more than 53 million dogs sharing the human-canine bond.
     For those of us who are pet lovers, they enrich our lives in many ways, and for some of us they are like family members. However, owning a dog, or a pet of any kind, comes with a responsibility, and responsible pet ownership builds a solid foundation for dog-bite prevention.
     Dogs should be selected carefully, and puppies should never be obtained on impulse. If you are not sure if a dog that you would like to add to your family is appropriate, seek help from your veterinarian or a respected dog trainer.
     Once you have selected the right pet, train your dog with the basic commands of “sit,” “stay,” and “come,” and always have your dog on a leash when in public. Make sure that your dog is properly socialized as a puppy so that it knows how to behave around strangers and other dogs.
     Socializing your pet helps your dog feel at ease in different situations and will make it a more pleasurable experience for you to have friends over to your house or to take your dog on outings.
     Keeping your dog healthy is also a large part of responsible pet ownership. It is imperative that all dogs be vaccinated against rabies and other preventable infectious diseases. A dog that bites a person and does not have proof of vaccination against rabies may be subject to a quarantine, or worse, may be euthanized by health officials.
     As a dog owner, it is important to understand why dogs bite. It is difficult for many dog owners to understand and embrace the fact that big or small, male or female, young or old, any dog can bite. Even the cutest, cuddliest, sweetest pet can bite if provoked.
     It’s not the dog’s breed that determines the risk, it’s the dogs behavior, general size, the number of dogs involved, and the vulnerability of the person bitten that determines whether or not a dog or dogs will cause a serious bite injury. Don’t rely on breed stereotypes to keep yourself safe from dog bites.
     A dog’s history and behavior are much more important that its breed. A pack of Chihuahuas running down the street pose more of a threat than a Pit Bull behind a secure fence (true story, as any runner will tell you).
     Dogs can bite as a reaction to something, or they may bite in a stressful situation or to defend territory. They can bite if they are sick or injured or if they are protecting something such as food or a toy.
     Often dogs bite or nip during perceived play activity such as wrestling or tug-of-war. These types of activities can make dogs overly excited and are best to avoid. When educating children, it is important to relate that there are times when we shouldn’t pet a dog, whether the dog is yours or someone else’s.
    —Don’t pet dogs that are not with their owners.
    —Always ask permission to pet a dog that is with its owner.
    —Never reach through a fence or into a car or the bed of a pickup truck to pet a dog.
    —Do not pet a sleeping or eating dog or any dog that seems nervous or anxious.
    —Never approach a dog that is growling or barking.
     It is important to remember that dogs are not little people in fur coats. They are animals, and they have a distinct set of social signs and behaviors that cannot always be interpreted correctly by people, especially children.
     Remember, more often than not, people are bitten by dogs they know. A dog that has bitten once can bite again, and a dog that’s never bitten could still bite.
     Never assume that your pet is completely safe around all people at all times and in all situations. If you do have a pet that has a history of nipping or biting it is your responsibility to alert others to this fact and to take precautions in public situations. Every veterinarian or postal worker can tell stories of dog owners who were in the process of vehemently denying that their dog would bite only to have the dog then proceed to do exactly that.
     It is the dog owners responsibility to prevent these situations, in both fairness to the public as well as the pet. Information and responsible ownership together can ensure that we continue to enjoy our wonderful relationship with “mans best friend.”
     Kelly Anez is a doctor of veterinary medicine at Pacific Crest Equine in Exeter.

Bird watch

(photo caption)

    The snowy egret is a year-round resident at Lake Kaweah, where they stalk their meals of fish, insects, and reptiles along the marshy shores. The egret’s feathers were once in demand as adornments for women’s hats, which endangered the egret population. They are now protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and their numbers have since rebounded.


    Robert Lester Dixon, a former resident of Three Rivers, died Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012,
in Huntington Beach due to Alzheimer’s disease. He was 91.

    A celebration of Bob’s life will be held Saturday, June 29, 2013, at 11 a.m., at Community Presbyterian Church.


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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