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In the News - Friday, July 3, 2009

All stories written by John or

Sarah Elliott unless otherwise noted


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)



Readers' Poll ballot


Alta Acres embroiled in water dispute

  When Lake Kaweah is full to the brim, it’s hard to imagine that in a few short weeks a sizable group of Kaweah River water users could be facing critical water shortages. Most locals, who own and maintain their own hard rock wells unless a pump fails, rarely even think about the possibility of a water shortage.
   But consider the plight of hundreds of other Three Rivers residents who depend on river wells for their supply. When seasonal snowmelt is gone in some dry years during August and September, the flow of the mighty Kaweah River can slow to barely a trickle.
   That recurring condition, which is predicted to become more the norm than the exception in this era of climate change, can really put pressure on the dozens of local river wells to produce enough flow to supply even a single household.
   The problem is compounded for groups of water users like the Alta Acres Improvement District No. 1, who have more than 90 members that depend on a river well to supplement their system’s requirements. The system also includes several wells of the hard rock variety, but during some summers lose pressure so the river water becomes indispensable.
   The implications of a potential shortage surfaced recently when the Alta Acres association applied for a permit to refit their river well. Downstream users like the Kaweah River and the St. John’s River conservation associations filed a protest challenging the rights of Alta Acres to pump any water from the Kaweah River.
   Counsel for the associations said that all the river’s rights were allocated under a 1914 statute. According to Dennis Villavicencio, vice president of the Alta Acres association, who also happens to be an attorney, the association was caught off guard by the protest but is seeking to negotiate a settlement. The improvement association owns river frontage and believes they have every right to continue to pump river water.

  “In the past when somebody applied for a permit to pump river water there was rarely an objection,” Dennis said. “Now all of a sudden, it’s a really big deal.”
   The dispute is currently pending on the docket of the State Water Resources Control Board, but is on what Dennis calls “permanent hold.”

  “The water board is hoping we can reach some kind of settlement without having to go to court,” Dennis said. “Neither side wants an adverse decision.”
   To that end, the Alta Acres association is diligently searching to acquire ditch or other property rights above Lake Kaweah that might strengthen their position to strike a deal.

  “With mounting pressure to secure more water for development in the Central Valley, the issue of water rights will surface again,” Dennis said. “Water in Kaweah Country is going to be a big issue.”

Three Rivers rainfall season
ends at 82 percent

   In these wacky weather times the great debate is what’s normal. But looking at rainfall for the last half-century in Three Rivers at the 1,000-foot elevation level, it’s obvious that the normal “average” is 20 inches, plus or minus a few hundredths depending on the location.
   What this means for the current season — 2008 to 2009 — is that the 16.33 inches for Three Rivers is 82 percent of the 30-year norm; the norm is based upon the average rainfall since 1979. The rainfall season runs from July 1 through June 30.
   This year had some noteworthy events, including .62 inches of rainfall on June 6. That freshet was the first significant June rainfall in Three Rivers since 2000.
   Here are some more stats for comparison. In 2007-2008, the rainfall total was 18.42 inches. The last season above normal was 2006-07 when it rained 28.26 inches.
   In 2003-04 there was only 13.01 inches the entire season. In the last 50 years, more than 1,000 inches of precipitation has been recorded at the collection station on Barton Mountain, near the confluence of the North and Middle forks of the Kaweah River.

3R activist appointed to TCAG board

   Tom Sparks, a longtime proponent of community improvement projects in Three Rivers and Tulare County was promoted from an alternate to an at-large position on the 16-member policy advisory board of the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG). The appointment was made at the May 18 meeting of TCAG; Sparks was seated and assumed his new responsibilities on the board at the June 15 meeting.
   TCAG was created by a joint powers agreement in 1971 to oversee regional transportation planning. The policy advisory board consists of the five county supervisors, the mayors of the county’s eight incorporated cities, and three at-large members. The advisory board also includes a Caltrans representative; the final decision in all matters resides in the board of governors consisting of the 13 elected officials.
Sparks replaced Cliff Dunbar who retired from the board. The other at-large members who represent unincorporated Tulare County are Bob Zimmerman, who lives in the Ducor area, and Bill McKinley of Springville.

  “Visalia has a huge influence as to what the board does, but the interest of the foothill areas are served by the at-large members,” Sparks said.
   Sparks, who with has wife Marilyn, has lived in Three Rivers since 1993 following his retirement as an engineering and planning consultant.
   In recent years, Sparks has been a leading member of the board of directors of the Three Rivers Village Foundation. He has also served as a key member of the transportation sub-committee that’s been lobbying for restoring short-haul rail service in eastern Tulare County.
Sparks said the TCAG board is currently working to ensure that Measure R money is administered to the letter of the law. It has a very specific formula for its use, and owing to the opportune timing of the measure, he said, it has Tulare County positioned to get matching funds from the feds and the state.

  “Projects like the Road 80 widening between Visalia and Dinuba would not have been possible without matching funds that the County received in addition to the Measure R money,” Sparks said.
   In addition to Measure R projects, TCAG is working with eight San Joaquin Valley counties on a regional blueprint. A big part of that planning effort is to develop transportation facilities to meet the needs of the Valley’s projected growth. Sparks said light rail and a high speed bullet train are part of the blueprint’s 2050 scenario.
   In Kaweah Country, TCAG is looking to do more road repairs, improve public transportation, and develop bike trails that would connect with a regional county network. In Three Rivers, the push he said is to develop safe walkways in the village center with a pedestrian signal light at a crossing.
   Walkways, and a trail that would be developed around Lake Kaweah, are currently in the planning stages, Sparks said.

  “We’re already talking to Phil Deffenbaugh [Lake Kaweah general manager] to help make his dream of a recreational trail around the lake a reality,” Sparks said. “Apparently there is money available as a result of the enlargement project. That trail would be quite an attraction and benefit visitors and residents alike.”

If it’s summer, it must be fire season

   A lightning-caused fire continues to burn in the Golden Trout Wilderness, near where Shotgun Creek flows into the Little Kern River, just south of Sequoia National Park’s southern border. The Shotgun Fire, as of the end of June, had burned 231 acres.
   The fire, discovered Tuesday, June 23, was started by lightning earlier in June. It is being allowed to burn naturally, but is being managed by 70 firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service.
   The National Park Service is gearing up to ignite a prescribed fire in Kings Canyon National Park as soon as a favorable weather window presents itself, which looks like it could be early next week. The Hart Prescribed Fire, when complete, will have treated 802 acres in giant sequoia forest between the Generals Highway and Redwood Canyon.
Several prescribed fires are planned this summer for the Giant Forest area, totaling about 220 acres. These projects, however, are dependent on conditions and commitments by NPS fire crews.
   If lightning fires are sparked or if crews are called away to wildland fires in other areas of the West, the planned projects will be postponed.

California budget impasse

causes state of emergency

   The beginning of the fiscal year — July 1 — has come and gone, and California is making headlines because the state Legislature has failed to pass a budget nor solved the state’s growing deficit — currently $24.3 billion. As a result, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed Wednesday a fiscal emergency and called a Proposition 58 legislative special session to address this emergency.
   Additionally, the Governor exercised his executive authority to save cash for vital state functions — think fire season — and services by ordering three furlough days every month for State of California employees.
   This week, the Governor has followed through on his promise to veto any budget bills sent to him by the Legislature that failed to solve the entire deficit. He reiterated July 1 that he will not sign any legislation until a solution for the entire budget deficit is in place.
   As a result of this impasse between Governor and Legislature, beginning Friday, July 10, state offices will be closed the first, second, and third Fridays of every month through June 2010. All affected state employees will be unpaid on those days.
   Under Proposition 58, the Legislature has 45 days to pass and send a bill or bills to the Governor’s desk addressing the state’s budget crisis. If the 45 days pass and the Legislature has not passed a bill to address the problem, they cannot adjourn or act on other bills until the state’s fiscal emergency is addressed.
   Just months after the Governor and state lawmakers came together in a bipartisan effort to solve a $42 billion deficit, the worldwide economic slowdown produced a new multi-billion-dollar deficit. California is reputedly the world’s eighth largest economy.

Christy Wood adds ‘author’ to resume


by Christy Wood
AuthorHouse, 2009
158 pages, paper, $22.95

   Some spend their entire lives searching for what they were meant to do. Others have known their path for as long as they can remember.
   The latter is the case for Christy Wood of Three Rivers, who today is a horsewoman of unprecedented accomplishments, and it all started with a stick horse when she was two. Then, by the time she was old enough to drive a car, Christy had already purchased her first horse.
   Today, she owns the Wood ‘N’ Horse Training Stables on North Fork Drive, but travels the world regularly as a champion rider of Appaloosas, trainer for the Wood ‘N’ Horse Show Team and, for nearly two decades, an accredited judge for horse shows.
   Christy’s recently published book, Your Best Horse Show — her first but she is already at work on her next — may sound like a technical manual for the serious horse-show competitor or organizer, but it is also a fascinating compendium of Christy’s experiences, all which have led her to where she is today in the world of horse shows.
   But the main reason that Christy penned the book is she got fed up with the subpar horse shows. Instead of complaining, Christy took action.

  “There are many horse shows that come to mind when things didn’t go according to plan as I have been cold, wet, stranded, hungry, overworked, ignored and unpaid! There are two in particular that planted the idea for this book…”
   Even if you’ve never thought about organizing a horse show — perhaps because you crunch numbers at a computer all day or stand behind a counter and assist customers 40 hours a week — this book will make you want to get rid of the necktie or, if the case may be, trade the pumps for a pair of boots, and hit the arena. It is written in plain language that even the biggest city slicker will be able to understand, but if it still contains words that are unfamiliar, then page to the back of the book where the extensive glossary will clear it all up.
   This isn’t to say that the book doesn’t contain useful information for the experts. It will most certainly advance horse enthusiasts to the next level in their competition.
   In addition, if you are exhausted from traveling state to state to attend horse shows, then have the competitors come to you. With this book you now have the essential tools to organize your own horse show.
   There are 11 chapters in the book, with the first couple explaining the differences between the three types of horse shows and the classes within a show.
   Then there are chapters devoted to each job that is integral to the success of a horse show: manager (“A horse show manager is a person with very broad shoulders, who can multi-task and solve any problems that cross their path”), secretary (“The first person the show manager wants to select is a show secretary”), judges (“...exhibitors will appreciate and pay a little more for the expertise of a qualified, carded judge”), announcer (“An announcer can enhance the ebb and flow of a horse show”), and other personnel, including ring stewards (“The objective is to have an adequate number of ring stewards to manage the arena and assist the judges”), gate person (“It is their responsibility to get all exhibitors of a class into the arena when called”), and others.
   The “Facilities” chapter includes everything necessary when scoping out an arena, while “Show Program” walks readers through how to properly publicize their event, both before and during the show. The “Awards” chapter makes sure this all-important aspect of the horse show is not overlooked.
   Sample forms are provided that may be photocopied or re-created. These include everything from an entry form to contracts, judges’ cards, and even patterns for the horse and rider in the arena.
There is also an extensive checklist for the use of managers that will ensure that everything learned in the book is never forgotten or overlooked.
   And, last but not least, the book is illustrated with endearing pen-and-ink drawings created by Christy’s talented friend, Paul Parton.

Pinehurst Lodge at 100

by Brian Rothhammer

   Nestled in the Sierra Nevada at about 4,000 feet elevation, there is a treasured reminder of things past. It is also a social hub for the unincorporated community of Pinehurst, formerly known as Neff Mills.
Folks came from miles around Saturday, June 27, to attend Pinehurst Lodge’s centennial celebration at the historic site. It was a day of good food and friendship among the forested hills; of pie-eating contests, artists’ booths, horseshoe toss, and more.
   Inside, there was cold beer... because some things haven’t changed much in 100 years.
   The Lodge traces its ancestry to Charles Neff. In 1909, Neff purchased a 120-acre homestead from pioneer John Stansfield. The asking price was $10 in gold coin.
   The original owner had ranched there since 1889 and helped build the road from Pinehurst to General Grant National Park (now Kings Canyon National Park). Neff built a sawmill on the land to service the timber-rich region.
   Loggers do get hungry, so a small kitchen was built to feed them. That kitchen is the nucleus of the present-day Pinehurst Lodge.
   Later, Neff added a store, bar, gas station, and dance hall across the street. From there, the early Model T delivery trucks were fueled to compete with flume and mule teams to carry lumber down to the Central Valley (the Sanger Flume carried logs 54 miles from Millwood, near Sequoia Lake, to Sanger for finish milling).
   The original mill burned in 1912 and was replaced. In 1919, the new mill and 40 acres were sold to Will Unger, who moved the mill to Hume Lake. The original kitchen remained.
   In the heyday of the motor-touring trend, new owner Unger built a small resort of six tourist cabins, a home for his family, and onto the old kitchen a room was added for dining and dancing.
   Unger gave his new resort the name Pinehurst before selling it in 1921 to a candymaker from Fresno. From that time, the property has been bought, sold, leased, and managed by a succession of people leading to the current proprietor, Cindy Warner (whose sister Cathy Williams makes excellent cheesecakes).
   Through good times and bad, the people of Neff Mills, and later Pinehurst, have stood by the old place. It has been their local store, restaurant, meeting place, watering hole, and more.
   Darden Bowman, an honored member of the community, looks as if he’s never left these hills; well, almost never. Born in Reedley in 1926, Darden soon moved to his father's ranch in the Pinehurst area and left only when drafted into service during World War II (straight to Okinawa as a Navy Seabee). After the war, he made his way back home where he has been ranching and logging ever since. He currently runs about 300 head of cattle.
   Locals tell of the time when Bowman lost a finger in an event at the Woodlake Rodeo years ago.

  “I finished the event, then tied a bandana around it,” he said, as if he was discussing a paper-cut.
   Straightforward working folks are what one is likely to find at the Lodge.

  “This year was the 70th year of the branding... started by Darden's father,” said Les Chappell.
   Les has known Darden for 30 years and works the annual brandings along with a couple dozen or so other ranchers. Darden and Les took the day off from their ranch chores to be the judges at the centennial event's wet T-shirt contest. Winner Carrera Lovett even got to pocket some prize money, all in the name of good-natured fun.
   The mood throughout the event was one of good friends having a great time. From the tasty (and reasonably priced) tri-tip lunch, the kids diving into hay bales for coins and other children's games, to the genuine neighborly camaraderie, it was indeed a pleasant day.
   As daylight surrendered to night, the band Badlands fired up, and the dance floor got some serious use. There is entertainment most weekends at the Lodge, and daily one can get a great meal and a cool beverage.
   So if you find yourself in need of a day in the shade of the pines, take the drive up Dry Creek Drive to Highway 245, turn right and follow it to the Pinehurst Lodge. They start serving at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. Saturdays, and at 8:00 a.m. Sundays for breakfast.
   Call ahead (559-336-2603) for specials and to ask about their delectable cheesecakes.


Three Rivers residents David Lowe and Sue Schwarz each received $50 gift certificates to the Gateway Restaurant, donated by THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH. Sue guessed within three days the peak flow (May 19) of the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River. David guessed correctly the day that Lake Kaweah would reach its high watermark for the season (May 26).

Matthew Pinhey, a cadet at California Maritime Academy and U.S. Navy midshipman, is home in Three Rivers for a week after completing a 60-day South American training cruise aboard The Golden Bear. His travels took him to Chile, Ecuador, Panama, and Mexico. He was met in Long Beach by his grandparents, Edward (Ned) and Dee Pinhey of Three Rivers. Matt’s great-grandfather Edward (Ted) Pinhey, now 94, shipped out of Long Beach in 1932 as a British seaman, while grandfather Ned shipped out of the same port in the 1950s. Matt will soon be on his way to his summer job in the Bay Area, where he will be a sailing instructor at Treasure Island.

A couple of Three Rivers residents — Marilyn Sparks and Art Ogawa — are among the new officers of the Orangebelt Toastmasters. The international nonprofit organization assists members with public speaking and leadership skills through practice and feedback in its local chapters. Serving the Porterville-based group for 2009-2010 are Marilyn Sparks, president; Ray Cauwet, vice president-public relations; Bob Chiurazzi, vice president-membership; Janice Weisenberger, vice president-education; Carolyn Cooper, secretary; and Arthur Ogawa, sergeant-at-arms.

Three Rivers is all a-Twitter

   Just in case you haven’t heard, Twitter is the newest online social-networking craze. After setting up a profile, users can choose to “follow” other Twitterers — which includes everyone from friends and neighbors to news media and celebrities — while also having “followers.”
   Users send and read each others’ updates called “tweets,” which can be many but are kept short. Each post, kind of a micro-blog, can consist of no more than 140 characters.
H  ere are some Twitterers worthy of following (get started at www.twitter.com):
   SequoiaKingsNPS— The local parks are using Twitter on a trial basis for a few months. Follow them to keep up on specific dates and activities.
   3Rnews— These updates by THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH include everything from the weekend weather forecast to special Three Rivers events and upcoming news teasers.
   Art_Talk— Check out what Three Rivers artists are discussing as they prepare for next spring’s Artists’ Studio Tour. Started by Tour organizer Elsah Cort, the artists keep a running conversation on the site.
Kaweahriver— Kayaking enthusiast Bill Pooley maintains this Twitter page, but like Bill and the Kaweah River, the near-daily posts receded after our Three Rivers reached their peaks.
   YoseNatureNotes— A little out of our area, but for those who can’t get enough of the natural world, this page, which features dozens of video links to Yosemite features and other parks, is worth following.

Artists pursue their passions

online… and make money

   Every entrepreneur faces an uphill battle, but artists and craftspeople have an especially rough time. They turn out small batches of items with a big investment of time, and often find themselves trying to reach an extremely small audience. And, most of the time, they are crafting their wares while holding down a day job.
   Now artists can get some help from the Internet. In recent years, hundreds of sites have popped up where craftspeople can sell everything from handmade jewelry to fine art for a relatively small charge (usually a flat monthly fee plus a commission on sales).
For amateur artists, the lure of these sites is simple: It’s a painless way to earn money from a hobby.
   For the pros, the sites are a way to streamline an existing business. For instance, craftspeople who want to test out new products usually must make up a whole batch of items and lug them to craft fairs to see if they sell. With online marketplaces, artists can make a single prototype, list it online, and see how many people click.
   The sites don’t solve all the problems artists face. For one thing, there’s marketing. Most of the sites take out ads and try to get prime placement on search engines.
   But individual artists still must find ways to stand out, either by word-of-mouth on blogs or building sites of their own where people can get more information about their work.
   These sites can help a potential sellers bring in extra cash, but most likely not enough to quit their day job. And for the art patron, nothing can ever take the place of visiting a gallery where the art can be personally viewed. And meeting an artist at a festival or outdoor show gives special meaning to any work of art.
   But for the artist who wants to expand their audience, the Internet could be the answer.
Some sites to explore include:

Weekly tip

New laws target health

   Because we can’t seem to control our own bulging waistlines and especially those of our children, state lawmakers have done it for us. Effective Thursday, July 1, new laws were enacted that will make California a much healthier place to live and raise a family.
   Counting calories— California becomes the first in the nation to require restaurants to disclose how many calories are in their standard menu items. The new calorie-count requirements are modeled after a New York City ordinance and affect 123 chains with at least 20 restaurants — more than 17,000 total — in California.
   As of this week, those restaurants can either list the calories in the standard items on menus and indoor menu boards or they can offer customers brochures listing the amount of calories, saturated fat, sodium, and carbohydrates in those items.
   Starting in 2011, the calorie counts in standard menu items — food and drinks the restaurants sell at least half the year — will have to be listed on menus and indoor menu boards. Drive-through customers will have to be offered brochures providing nutritional information about standard menu choices.
   As a mother of a son who has Type 1 diabetes, this legislation will make his life much easier. He has to calculate a carbohydrate-to-insulin ratio for everything he eats. It can be a matter of life or death that he get it right.
   It was always a guessing game at restaurants when he was growing up. He recently admitted that the hardest part about going off to college last year was eating in the dining hall and never knowing exactly what was in his meals.
   As a result, his blood-glucose averages have edged higher, which is unhealthy for him in the short-term and can create dire medical complications for him in the long-term.
   For now, independently owned restaurants are free from the burden of providing calorie-count requirements, but the new regulation would set a high standard for others to follow. The California Restaurant Association supports the legislation.
   Trans-fat ban— You don’t know any better, kids, and obviously neither do some of the people in charge of feeding you, so the state government has stepped in to help you avoid a bad diet, weight gain, and future clogged arteries, which will eventually kill you. As a result, on July 1, artificially created trans-fats in school food are banned. This follows earlier legislation that barred artificial trans fats in restaurant dishes.
   This law includes all food-service operations on campuses, including cafeteria services, private food preparers, vending machines, and some well-known fast-food outlets. (Previous legislation covered just school cafeteria food.)
   Trans fats occur naturally in small amounts in meat and dairy products. Most trans fats are created when vegetable oil is hydrogenated (treated with hydrogen) to create baked and fried foods with a longer shelf life.
   Medical research has concluded there is a strong connection between consumption of trans fats and heart disease.
   Sodas and teens— The new soda ban for high schools follows an earlier ban on the soft drinks at elementary and junior high schools. The new law will allow high schools to sell students only fruit and vegetable drinks with no added sweeteners, bottled water with no sweeteners, low-fat and nonfat milk, soymilk, rice milk and similar nondairy milks, and electrolyte-replacing sports drinks with no more than 42 grams of added sweetener per 20-ounce serving.
   There is evidence that sodas contribute to childhood obesity, a condition that is becoming more and more prevalent. In fact, the current generation is the first ever that is predicted to have a shorter lifespan than their parents, and this is directly attributed to poor diet choices.
   This measure does not cover drinks sold at sporting events and other school-sponsored activities that take place at least a half hour after the end of the school day.
   Alcopops labeling— If your kids haven’t acquired a taste for beer or hard liquor yet, certain Big Alcohol companies have just the thing. Sweet, flashy, fruity drinks from hard lemonade to alcoholic energy drinks that look just like their non-alcoholic counterparts.
   Commonly known as alcopops (a combination of the words “alcohol” and “soda pop”) — or flavored malt beverages by the industry — these drinks must now carry labels spelling out in no uncertain terms their alcohol content. The drinks are deceivingly packaged in much the same way as sodas and fruit and energy drinks.
   Alcopops have about the same amount of alcohol as beer, but their high sugar and, in some cases, caffeine content do a great job of masking the flavor and the affect.
   They are shamelessly aimed at attracting young (note, underage) consumers. The legislation is designed to alert parents, store employees, and law enforcement that the drinks are alcoholic beverages. —sbe


John Launey
1929 ~ 2009

   John Glynn Launey, longtime resident of Baton Rouge, La., died Tuesday, June 14, 2009, after a long illness. He was 79.
   John was the father of Leah Catherine Launey of Three Rivers. He had visited his daughter here twice. He loved this area and said Three Rivers reminded him of the small town of Mandeville in Jamaica.
   John was born Oct. 7, 1929, in Chataignier, La., to Aloysius Launey of Evangeline Parish and Bertha DuBois Launey of Gonzales. In 1950, he earned a degree in Chemical Engineering from Southwestern Louisiana Institute in Lafayette. He served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. His assignments included an overseas tour in Europe at NATO headquarters and Fort Bragg, N.C.
   For 39 years, John was employed by the Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation. He began working at the company’s Gramercy, La., plant, but later transferred to Jamaica, West Indies. He retired as a vice president responsible for manufacturing safety worldwide.
   John also held a real estate broker’s license along with his wife and was a Eucharistic minister. He was avid LSU fan, played the cornet, competed in tennis and bridge, and enjoyed both New Orleans jazz and classical works.
   John is survived by his wife of 58 years, Leah Jacqueline Launey of Baton Rouge; his seven children and their spouses, including Leah Catherine Launey and husband Peter Sodhy of Three Rivers; 16 grandchildren; and three nephews.

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