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In the News - Friday, June 25, 2010


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

Florida man dies in rafting accident

   Even when all safety procedures are followed, rafting the Kaweah River can be risky business. And although since 1995 when local commercial whitewater rafting began there have been very few mishaps, accidents can and will happen.
   A tragic one occurred Monday, June 28, just before 10 a.m. during an All-Outdoors Class 4 trip on the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River. Four rafters with a guide and a “chase boat” put in below the Pumpkin Hollow condos, a designated commercial launch site about a half-mile below the Pumpkin Hollow Bridge.
   The river channel is narrow there at first but widens in the first mile as the paddlers encounter a rapid known as “Power House” named for Power House No. 1, the nearby hydroelectric plant. According to several local rafters, this stretch of river is actually more dangerous during lower flows because more rocks are exposed.
   The flows during Monday’s trip were at 1,900 cubic feet per second (cfs). For whitewater thrill seekers anything around 2,000 cfs is optimal.
   It was in the Power House rapid that the raft with four clients overturned. The four rafters and guide — all wearing helmets, wetsuits, and life jackets — hit the water simultaneously. The guide managed to get back into the raft and went after the clients now afloat in the turgid whitewater.

  “There’s a relatively calm pool to the right just below the rapids so it’s not too difficult to swim out of there,” said Dave Hammond, owner of Three Rivers Hideaway. “They [All-Outdoors guides] did everything right and nobody was in the water more than a minute or two.”
   According to one witness, a couple of the rafters, including the victim, Grady Larry Singletary, Jr., 47, of Castleberry, Fla., went right while the two others went left. Three of the patrons made it quickly to safety while Singletary continued about one-half mile into the next rapid in mile two known as Cyanotic.
   Cyanotic, named for a medical term referring to a condition when the skin turns bluish due to lack of oxygen in the blood, churns through a boulder-filled channel with surging whitewater. The All-Outdoors website contains a description and video tour of the landmark rapid.

  “There is little time to warm up before embarking on the longest rapid of the day. Rafts pivot around large boulders and drop into a continuous series of hydraulics…” the website says.
   Hammond, an experienced whitewater rafter and guide, said that if the victim was recycled in that water there’s no telling what happened.    He also said that Danny Walker, the trip manager for that All-Outdoors excursion, is one of the best in the business.
   Within minutes, the guides had Singletary on shore below a Dinely Drive residence where they alternated administering CPR until emergency personnel arrived. Engine 14 was on the scene within 10 minutes after a local resident saw the victim in the water and called 911.
   The victim was transported via Three Rivers Ambulance to Kaweah Delta Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. The coroner later ruled the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the chest.
   All-Outdoors is based in Walnut Creek and is one of seven commercial rafting companies permitted to operate on the Kaweah River. According to Greg Armstrong, a co-owner of All-Outdoors, the outfitter has operated on 10 California rivers for more than four decades with a spotless safety record.

Locals recall own near-drownings

By Brian Rothhammer

  “If sharing my story would save even one life…” said DeLinda Chubbuck of Three Rivers, Kings County Office of Education school psychologist, as she recalled a near drowning experience of her own.
She was eight years old and on a camping trip to Mammoth Lakes with her family. DeLinda and her two brothers, both 10, went to the banks of a river to swim.

  “We found an area that looked fairly calm and started toward the water, but a fisherman was there and he shooed us away.”
   The three children walked along the shore to an unoccupied spot. 

  “We went in holding hands. The water was pretty swift. My brother scraped his foot on a rock, and the next thing I knew I was under a bush.”
   She was swept downstream by the current, lost consciousness, and recalls being pulled ashore by one of her brothers.

  “He must have been making a lot of noise, because men from a nearby campsite came rushing over. It was lucky that one of the men had just been trained in CPR.”
   Lucky indeed or she may not have survived.

* * *

  A Cherokee Oaks resident recalls a near-drowning experience on the Kern River when he was 17.

  “It was a high-water year, and I swam across the river, but was carried downstream by the strong current. I walked through bushes to get back to the point opposite from where I had started.”
   With adolescent invincibility, he jumped in again.

  “I was swept downstream again, being banged and thrashed on the rocks,” he recalled .
   He noticed an angler shouting something that could not be heard over the roaring water.

  “The guy was jumping up and down, wildly pointing downstream. I lunged upward and saw nothing but whitewater ahead.”
   With adrenaline pumping, he swam for his life.

  “I wound up on a pile of rocks with a couple of trees and a bunch of very angry ants. I was so wiped out that it took me a while to even knock the biting ants off of me.”
   The river was narrow and deep and the current was very strong. When his friends running along shore caught up to him they threw him a line.

  “I tied the rope through the belt loops of my cut-off Levi’s and jumped in, finding myself quickly slammed against rocks on the bank, and my rescuers were also almost being pulled in as they hung on.

  “Right about then a rescue crew arrived, and they were none too happy with me. They had just come from their third river fatality that weekend.”
   The waters of the Sierra Nevada are beautiful, cool, enticing, and awesome in their power. To not respect that power, even for a moment, can spell tragedy. Be aware, be respectful, enjoy the waters, but stay safe.


Flora Bella Farm expands offerings

   This has been one incredible spring. The cooler than average May and June is unprecedented in recent memory.
   Just ask organic farmer James Birch who has been farming on his North Fork Flora Bella property in Three Rivers since 1988.

  “It’s been a very unusual season this year,” reported James. “Everything is about three to four weeks behind normal.”
   Normal is tons of farm-fresh organic produce that’s usually by now going to the local market in addition to the fan club of chefs who for years have purchased Flora Bella’s produce at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. Currently, the L.A. in-crowd is going wild over Flora Bella’s bumper crops of apricots, nectarines, plums, Yukon Gold potatoes, summer squash and, of course, the staple of gourmet greens that are available year-round.
   Starting Monday, June 28, all that organic bounty and more will be available at the Flora Bella office location at 41763 Sierra Drive, just upriver from Three Rivers Market. Within a few weeks, the expanded produce offerings will include more summer favorites like Flora Bella’s killer tomatoes but also organic eggs, milk, and meats like cage-free chicken and grass-fed beef.

  “We’re timing our grand re-opening with the next First Saturday (July 3) so the visitors will have an opportunity to buy all this local produce too,” said Tammy Lieskovan, Flora Bella’s store manager. “But starting Monday, we will be open daily every morning except Wednesday.”
   Tammy said in a few weeks, James plans on bringing back special orders of other products like organic poultry and dairy products that are currently available from L.A. vendors.

  “Just let us know what products you’re craving and James can track them down,” Tammy said. “We are planning to really expand and upgrade our local outlet.”
   Starting Monday, June 28, the Flora Bella store will be open from 8 a.m. to noon weekdays (except Wednesday); Saturdays will have extended hours depending on events, visitor traffic, etc. For more information, call 561-4855.

River, lake hit seasonal highs

   If you are among those water watchers who are wondering about this season’s high water marks, then wonder no more.
   According to Phil Deffenbaugh, Lake Kaweah general manager, the peak mean inflow of all the Kaweah tributaries occurred Sunday, June 6, at 10 p.m. River gauges recorded a water flow of 7,546 cubic feet per second.

  “The high water mark of 714.14 feet at the lake was reached Wednesday, June 23,” Deffenbaugh reported. “From here on the lake will be gradually trending downward but there will still be a very large pool through July 4th.”

In brief…

   Sequoia National Park fire crews ignited several hazard reduction burns near Ash Mountain Headquarters earlier this week. The tall, dry vegetation threw up some huge flame lengths while a large contingent of firefighters were on scene monitoring the progress of the prescribed fires.
   Deb Schweizer, the parks’ fire education specialist said next on the prescribed fire agenda is a 97-acre area east of the Moro Rock Road known as the Bobcat unit. She said warming temperatures and declining air quality might postpone the ignitions that, if conditions improve, are scheduled for sometime next week.
   If the burn is conducted as planned, Schweizer said, the parks’ interpretive trailer Fire Place will be parked at the Giant Forest Museum to explain to visitors the role of fire in the germination of giant sequoia seedlings. Visitors could experience smoke delays on the Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow roads.

O  n Friday, June 18, a CHP dispatcher forwarded a cell phone call for help to the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks dispatch. The caller indicated a member of their party was experiencing high-altitude sickness.
   The cell signal was traced to Forester Pass at elevation 13,351 feet, the highest pass on the Pacific Crest Trail. Sequoia Park rangers dispatched a helicopter to the area that located the hikers moving down in elevation in the vicinity of Tyndall Creek.
   One member of the party of three, Dave Weil, 40, of Beaverton, Ore., was experiencing a fluid build-up in his lungs, a symptom of high altitude pulmonary edema. The patient was flown to Ash Mountain where he was then transported via ambulance to Kaweah Delta Medical Center.


   The Tulare County Superior Court announced earlier this week that the random drawing for the 2011-2012 Grand Jury panel will be held Thursday, July 1, at 10 a.m. in Department No. 1 of the Visalia Courthouse.
   The public is invited to attend the ceremony. Information: 730-5000, ext. 1359.

Parks celebrate 50th anniversary
of helitack

Helicopter and crew members serve

as backbone of parks operations

   Whether implementing a daring rescue from a 14,000-foot peak, spotting destructive wildfires, or delivering necessary supplies to a backcountry trail crew, the helitack program in Sequoia-Kings Canyon plays a vital role in day-to-day park activities and has done so for more than a half-century. This crucial assignment was celebrated on Saturday, June 12, during an open house for the public and a reunion of past and present members of the parks’ helitack crew.

  “Helitack” is a term coined to mean the initial attack on a wildfire by a helicopter. Fifty years ago, this operation was deemed necessary in Sequoia-Kings Canyon since the majority of the vast parks is roadless.
Sequoia-Kings Canyon has one of the oldest helitack programs in the National Park Service. The first helicopter serving the parks was a Bell 47.
   When the helitack operation was first created in 1960, the policy of total fire suppression was still intact, so air attack was indispensable to fighting fire.
   Times have changed since the 1960s, and these days fire is no longer so feared nor suppressed. Although suppression is still warranted in some cases, a naturally caused fire is usually left to burn in the backcountry, yet the helicopter is vital in monitoring the behavior of these blazes that can at times be numerous and far-flung. Helicopter operations are also used to spot new lightning strikes and flare-ups.
   In addition, the parks have flown countless search-and-rescue missions, as well as wildland fire, backcountry, and wilderness support missions. Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the Lower 48, is within the boundaries of Sequoia National Park, and the helicopter and crew have made numerous trips to the summit over the years.
   Countless rescues are still performed year-round but short haul has been added to the helicopter crew’s repertoire. This technique provides technical rescue personnel an extra tool with which to expeditiously remove a seriously injured subject and extract rescue personnel from a remote accident site to a waiting ambulance or where advanced care and aid is available. Short-haul rescue involves the use of a rescue line suspended from the helicopter to accomplish this task when a safe landing is not possible.
   In recent years, marijuana-growing operations within the local parks boundaries have added another dimension to helitack operations. Helicopter overflights initially spot these clandestine gardens from the air, then the helicopter is used to flush out the growers, transport law-enforcement rangers and site-cleanup personnel, and haul away the eradicated contraband and tons of garbage, chemicals, irrigation equipment, and other supplies used to maintain the environmentally destructive sites.
   More than 30 alumni of the parks’ aviation program attended the reunion that was held earlier this month. The public also attended and met the crew members and toured the parks’ current helicopter and facilities.

Road construction continues

on Generals Highway

Delays occur between

Amphitheater Point to Eleven Range

   One-hour delays Monday through Thursday from 7 am-5:30 pm from Amphitheater Point to Eleven Range. Half-hour delay from 5-5:30 pm. Pass through is at the top of the hour with lower (uphill bound) traffic released first (which could at the busiest times include more than 100 cars). During hours of construction, traffic will be controlled by a pilot vehicle. Traffic signals are in place during non-construction hours, which are timed at 20 minutes.

  THIS WEEK: Night work is tentatively scheduled from Sunday, June 27-Thursday, July 1, 9 pm to 5 am, with one pass-through each evening at 11:30 pm.

Fighting fire with fire

   On Tuesday, June 22, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks fire personnel conducted a hazard-reduction burn along the Generals Highway between the Sequoia entrance station and Ash Mountain headquarters. The burning continued Wednesday as crews worked to reduce the fuel build-up around buildings and other facilities in the foothills area of Sequoia National Park.

  Minor delays along the highway occurred due to smoke, but travelers had plenty to watch during the short wait.


The history of food

By Mona Fox Selph

   It is summer, and many farmers and gardeners in Three Rivers are enjoying the fruits of their labor. Not just their own labor, actually, but the labor of many generations who came before us and developed the improved seeds and sustainable farming methods that have fed the world’s people over the millennia.
   Not just the people who came before us, actually, but also the animals that have helped us feed ourselves, down to the bees, butterflies, and bugs that pollinate one out of every four bites of food we consume. Not just the visible creatures, but the microbes and fungi that create a living soil in which plants can survive.
   The history of food is a fascinating subject. Up until some 10,000 years ago, people lived mostly hand to mouth as they hunted and gathered. Then, in the Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in present-day Iran and Iraq, animal husbandry and agriculture began on a scale that allowed settlements that became cities. Ergo, civilization.
   There in Mesopotamia, sheep, goats, camels, oxen, and horses were domesticated. Eventually, falcons were trained for hunting other birds.
   In Africa, the donkey was put to service. Pigs, geese, chickens, buffalo, and dogs were raised in China. Cormorants were used to catch fish.
   Turkeys and musk ducks were bred in Mexico and Central America. In South America, the llama, alpaca, and guinea pigs were domesticated.
   In the far north sub-arctic and tundra of Eurasia, reindeer were used for drawing sleds and for milk, meat, and hides. In India, even the great elephant was enlisted for lifting and hauling that could not easily have been accomplished otherwise.
   From the earliest times forward, farmers have selected the best seeds for the next year’s planting. This practice set in process the gradual development of better food plants.
   An example is corn or maize, which started in Central America as a seed head of grass only an inch or two in size. Other plant foods originating in that part of the world are cocoa and vanilla, tomatoes, avocados, squash, and beans.
   South America gifted us with ground nuts, potatoes, cotton, pineapples, pimientos and peppers, cassava, and the rubber tree. From the Middle East came oats, wheat, peas, lentils, flax, olives, figs, and dates.
   From Central Africa came sorghum, yams, coffee, and palm tree oil. Western China produced mil, soy beans, and tea. Southeast Asia and the Southern Pacific gave us rice, bananas, sugar cane, oranges, eggplants, coconuts, and pepper.
   We have a world of choices available to us now, but the best practice for the planet is to consume mostly foods that are grown seasonally and locally. Food is a matter of taste (pun intended). It varies with the culture.
   Dogs evolved from wolves, and it is unknown whether we chose to live with them or they chose to live with us. It is plausible that it all started when someone found some orphaned pups and they were too cute to eat, if they weren’t starving at the time.
   We mostly love our dogs, and they mostly love us. However, canines are good breeders, and the problem is what to do with the excess. We have spay-and-neuter clinics, but still we have to euthanize many that would end up as starving strays on the street. In Asia and in pre-Columbian Mexico, the people ate the excess so as not to let them go to waste. For the dead dog, there is no difference as long as the death is as quick and humane as possible.
   In Europe, horse meat is consumed by some, distasteful as the thought is to horse lovers. In the Andes, Peruvian families keep guinea pigs inside their homes. The kids may play with them, but when mom needs some protein for the stew, she grabs one.
   Among the Aborigines of Australia, the peanut butter flavor of giant earthworms is enjoyed by some. What category — animal or vegetable — does birds’ nest soup of Japan fit into? Made of the mucilaginous secretions of particular birds, someone must have been pretty hungry to test that out the first time.
   Next to that one, chocolate-covered ants sound pretty tasty. If one researches modern industrial agriculture in our country, one gets pretty alarmed.
   The overdraft of ancient aquifers, the practice of monoculture and soil health depletion, the use of poisonous sprays on the land and antibiotics in animals, genetically modified seeds and plants, the patenting of every seed and seed use rights by such mega-companies as Monsanto, and the government subsidies that drive self-sustaining farm families in poor countries out of business and into starvation all are huge issues in an unsustainable system. But there is room for hope. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of small farms has increased by several hundred thousand in recent years.
   Small and local food production is catching on, and we can practice or support it. Learn more in October at the Three Rivers Environmental Weekend.
   Mona Fox Selph of Three Rivers is an organizer of the Three Rivers Environmental Weekend.

Installation of 3R Woman’s Club
officers, cowgirl style

By Kay Packard

   On Wednesday, June 2, there was a changing of the guard in the Three Rivers Woman’s Club. The 2009-2010 officers were gratefully acknowledged and the 2010-2011 were welcomed by Miss Cowgirl Bodine.
   Barbara (Miss Cowgirl) Bodine galloped into the room on her wooden stick horse, hooting and hollering, all duded up cowgirl style, sorta toothless, and fit to be tied. She handed out gifts appropriately designed for each newly elected officer and her appointed role.
   The new officers are: Kathy Bohl, president; Mary Scharn, vice president; Carlene Mooneyham, secretary; Karen McIntyre, treasurer; Linda Lewis and Carolyn Talley, directors; and Estelle Christensen, past president.
   This muscle mass is also supported by a number of standing committee members.
   The Woman’s Club serves the Three Rivers community in numerous ways, largely through The Thingerie thrift shop. The Thingerie is the best place to shop in all of Tulare County! Why? Stop by and find out.
   The new officers will continue to pilot the way for all club members to collaborate, share in activities, and give back to our community. “In union there is strength” (club motto).
   The Three Rivers Woman’s Club is having a membership drive through the end of July. Anyone who has been thinking about joining the club or has questions, contact membership chair Annie Hayes, 561-3231.
   Kay Packard is the 2010-2011 publicity chairlady for the Three Rivers Woman’s Club.

VIPs wanted to patrol community

   It’s summertime and the river is enticing. Many residents are currently exploring ways to assure that private property is respected while still having river play that’s available and safe.
   One of the ways to have a more peaceful experience is to have more eyes and ears from the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department. Extra coverage by deputies is gratefully acknowledged, but it is obvious that the deputies cannot be everywhere at once. And here is where volunteers enter the picture.
   Anyone who is over 21 and has a clear police record can be a Volunteer in Patrol (VIP). There is now a “fast track,” so the process moves more quickly from application to being in the VIP truck on daytime patrol here in Three Rivers.
   VIP duties include alerting on-duty sheriff’s deputies of possible problems, conducting emergency traffic control, doing resident/house checks, and performing other duties as requested by the Department.    For routine patrols, VIPs self-schedule, and there is not a required number of hours to fulfill. All patrol time is greatly appreciated in the community.
   Information and applications are available online at www.tularesheriff.info. Click on “Recruitment,” then “Volunteer,” then “Volunteers Programs,” then “Volunteers in Patrol.”
   For more information, call Clancy Blakemore, a local VIP, 561-4435.


3R Little League team
wins 2010 championship

by Eric Beedle

   The Raptors, a minor Little League team made up of players from Three Rivers, made history two weeks ago. A decisive 13-2 victory over the defending champion Express in the last game of the tournament sealed the overall championship for the Raptors. That victory made the 2010 Raptors the first team of Three Rivers players to win a championship in the Exeter Little League.
   At the beginning of the season when coaches Dave Howell, John Vincent, and myself picked up our official roster, a championship season seemed like a long shot. It was a big team with 13 players, eight of whom had never played organized baseball before and also with the youngest player in the entire Exeter Little League.
   The kids worked great with the coaches and each other and they improved every week. Our first loss came in game eight, and we lost only one more game in the championship tournament.
   We built our defense around solid pitching by our two most experienced players/pitchers, Dillon Howell and Clayton Vincent. Jordan Price, Callie Vincent, and Cole Frasier had a good season, playing the majority of innings.
   Andrew Meadows and Hannah Sherwood came on strong at the end of the season. First-year players Avery Thorn, Carson Beedle, and Dylan Mills all hit the ball, got on base a lot, and played good defense. Cal Williams, Jakob Bischoff, and Seth Varela played solid all year.
   I want to thank our sponsor Justin Price Construction, the Exeter Little League board for allowing us to continue having a team up here and, of course, our fans who braved the cold and then the heat to cheer us on to victory after victory.
   Eric Beedle of Three Rivers is the manager of the Raptors.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
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