the News - Friday, July 3, 2009
stories written by John or
Elliott unless otherwise noted
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
OF KAWEAH COUNTRY
Alta Acres embroiled in water
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
3R activist appointed to TCAG
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
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
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
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
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
Christy Wood adds ‘author’
A GUIDE FOR MANAGERS AND EXHIBITORS
by Christy Wood
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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):
The local parks are using Twitter on a trial basis
for a few months. Follow them to keep up on specific
dates and activities.
updates by THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH include everything
from the weekend weather forecast to special Three
Rivers events and upcoming news teasers.
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.
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
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
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:
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.