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In the News - Friday, July 31, 2009

All stories written by John or

Sarah Elliott unless otherwise noted


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


Summer in Mineral King:

Some business, all pleasure

Photo gallery of newly completed Mineral King mural,

speakers at the Mineral King Preservation Society picnic,

and the John Krebs Wilderness dedication ceremony

Slicky overrun with swimmers

   It’s a Three Rivers ritual for as long as anyone can remember. When temperatures soar on summer afternoons, locals and visitors alike, mostly from towns in the hot, dusty valley, flock to area swimming holes.
   The pressure to find parking and then some riverfront space for ice chest, beach towels, dozens of family members, and carloads of teens can be overwhelming. In fact, according to one riverfront business owner, Margaret Roberts of Rio Sierra Riverhouse, located just above the upper pool at Slicky, it’s getting crazy out there.

  “Last weekend, it was unbelievable. There were kids going back and forth making beer runs, and at least one fistfight,” Margaret said. “I’m afraid this weekend that the normally peaceful river scene here is going to explode.”
   Margaret says she’s had to hire a security guard to patrol her property to ensure that her paying guests don’t get caught up in the mix that includes Valley folks from every town and some from as far away as Fresno. There are no trash containers or toilet facilities near Slicky so all those visitors are obviously impacting water quality.

  “Some of the folks actually bring toilet paper down to the river,” Margaret said. “When I ask them where they go when nature calls they say ‘in the river.’”
   The human waste in the water is one obvious problem and trash along the waterfront is another. Margaret and a contingent of locals who frequent Slicky remove mind-boggling amounts of trash daily that include everything from soiled diapers, beer and liquor bottles, to every kind of fast-food container.
   But the trashing of the river is just the tip of the iceberg. Margaret is convinced that where there are crowds of people consuming untold amounts of alcohol, eventually there will be trouble.
   A number of local residents and business owners have called the Sheriff’s Department to report problems recently only to be told that deputies can only respond to a reported crime. Margaret says she’s worried what might happen, so she has requested a special meeting with Sheriff Bill Wittman to ask for more deputies.
   The attendant problems at Slicky have been building all season because of other area closures and the new fees at Slick Rock. It’s just less hassle for river swimmers to use Slicky.
   The word is out, according to the Three Rivers kids who use Slicky. Directions to the site in Three Rivers are posted on social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

  “I want to make it clear to the local kids who use Slicky: you are not the problem,” Margaret said. “But there is going to be trouble or someone getting hit crossing the highway. I want to see more deputies here during the busiest times, so that doesn’t happen.”

Comfort Inn burglarized

   It’s one of the unpleasant parts of every summer season. There are lots of tourists and carloads of visitors here daily. Add to the mix locals who come and go to work or who meet friends just to hang out.
   In summertime, it’s not unusual for someone to be out late at night or to be in the parking area at the Comfort Inn and Suites. Apparently, someone was in the area around 1:30 a.m. on Friday, July 24 and noticed an unlocked window directly behind the inn’s front desk.
   That window looks out onto the parking area and is located in a separate office of the inn. Using that window, someone apparently gained entry to the premises and removed at least one check and some cash.
   The loss was estimated at $450. The night desk clerk, according to the owner, was in the front lobby and never heard or noticed anyone in the office or near the premises around that time.
   The owner also said that footage from surveillance cameras is currently being reviewed and may have recorded the night’s activity. At least one other Sierra Drive business, Sierra Sporting Goods near Yokohl Valley road, reported a burglary the same night.
   The Tulare County Sheriff’s Department is investigating these cases and is advising all property and business owners to be especially vigilant during the busy summer season. Anyone with information about these cases or any crime is asked to call the Sheriff’s dispatcher at 733-6211.

Fire discovered in Middle Fork

   The Granite Fire was discovered on the evening of Wednesday, July 29, after a series of lightning strikes occurred throughout Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. It is in Sequoia National Park near Granite Creek in the upper Redwood Meadow area of the Middle Fork drainage of the Kaweah River.
   The fire is exhibiting active behavior and has a high potential for growth because of continuous fuels and rollouts. As of Thursday morning, it was reported to be just over an acre in size, but remaining active.
   Although there are no immediate threats to life or property, the Granite Fire will be contained due to its high potential for growth, as well as possible smoke impacts on the parks and Three Rivers.
   According to Deb Schweizer, parks fire information office, there are one to two-foot flame lengths with a single tree torching. Members of Crew 91 were inserted near the fire by helicopter Wednesday night to begin efforts to line and contain the fire, she reported.
   The remainder of the crew was flown in Thursday with a helicopter to support the ground operations. The crew estimated that the fire would be 40-percent contained on Thursday.
   Due to significant lightning activity in the Sierra this week, Deb said that more fires could be detected in the upcoming days.
   The following five fires were reported on last week (“Lightning ignites five backcountry fires,” July 24, 2009). Here is an update:
   Horse Fire— The Horse Fire, discovered July 19 at the headwaters of Horse Creek in the vicinity of Hockett Meadow in southern Sequoia, has expanded to 13 acres in size. It is burning at 9,100 feet elevation, and two fire monitors are onsite to assess fuels and its potential for growth.
   Burnt Fire— This fire north of Tehipite Valley in Kings Canyon National Park is a half-acre in size and has been classified as inactive.
   Scaffold Fire— This fire in Kings Canyon remains at less than an acre and has been placed in inactive status.
   Laurel Fire— This fire was discovered in the Kern River drainage in Sequoia, is less than a tenth of an acre, and has been declared inactive.
   Red Spur Fire— Also inactive, this fire is also located in the Kern drainage, near Mt. Kaweah.
   In other parks fire news— The Big Baldy Trail along the Generals Highway in Kings Canyon National Park on the boundary of Giant Sequoia National Monument has been closed since the Hart Prescribed Fire was ignited July 8. It reopened to the public this week as fire activity in this area has diminished significantly.
   Park fire managers warn that there are still some hot spots within sight of the trail and hikers should remain on the trail in these areas. The Hart Tree Trail is the only trail closure still in effect; all other trails in the Redwood Canyon area remain open.
   A 12-acre mechanical thinning project commenced this week near Atwell Mill Campground in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park. The project is intended to provide defensible space protection in the area.

Stuck truck

   On Tuesday, July 28, a lead truck scouting the route up the Mineral King Road couldn’t prevent a Mayflower flatbed container truck from getting stuck on the very first curve. The mishap, which occurred at 2:40 p.m., closed the Mineral King Road for nearly two hours. Kevin Hendricks, Sequoia-Kings Canyon’s new chief ranger and owner of the cargo, had to wait a little longer than anticipated for the delivery of his household belongings.

Killer on the lake

By Brian Rothhammer

   The killer cannot be seen, heard, or even smelled.
   Two 10-year-old girls were enjoying a day on the lake with their family. Unaware of the lurking danger, the girls entered the water.
Behind the family’s 20-foot ski boat, the girls were doing some “teak surfing.” The third time out, a passenger in the boat noticed that one of the girls was not responding to his calls.
   Hauling both girls aboard, the parents gave immediate CPR to their children as their brother gave the boat full throttle toward shore. Only a flawless rapid response by park staff with rangers and ambulance arriving within five minutes was able to save both of the girls from a likely death.
   The killer slipped away unnoticed. The operator of the vessel was cited by authorities.
   A Hollywood suspense thriller? No. Who is this killer and why was the boat operator cited?
   This incident took place recently at Grand Teton National Park, Wyo. The killer is carbon monoxide (CO). The unknowing accomplice in this near tragedy was the boat operator. The violation was his part in the act of teak surfing.
   Teak surfing (also known as teak boarding) is an increasingly common practice of hanging on to the swim platform behind a boat as the boat idles, then gradually gets underway. As the speed increases, the “surfer” lets go of the swim platform (often made of teak) and body surfs the wake created by the boat.
   Sounds like a lot of fun until the monoxide kicks in, and the killer works fast.
   The problem with carbon monoxide is that blood has 210 to 250 times the affinity for CO than it has for oxygen. Simply put, carbon monoxide sticks to hemoglobin (red blood cells) in the lungs, and oxygen can’t get past it. The victim suffocates.
   This can happen very quickly and with little warning.

  “They can be riding for just a minute or two before they get the poisoning,” said Roland Rojas of the Tulare County Lake Patrol at Lake Kaweah.
   Rojas and the Lake Patrol are very aware of the danger involved with teak surfing and of its illegality.

  “We have literature and pamphlets [at the Kaweah Heritage Visitor Center] that boaters can read,” he said.
   Along with urging boaters to avail themselves of all safety regulations, Rojas advises that “teak surfing is against the law.”
   After the August 2000 CO poisoning deaths of two young brothers at Lake Powell in Arizona, the Department of the Interior had extensive studies performed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. After three years of compiling information at the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, the resulting in-depth report released by NIOSH provided some alarming figures.
   The report reveals that CO levels can be as high as 26,700 parts per million (ppm) on ski-boat swim platforms during teak surfing. That is over 22 times the 1,200 ppm that is considered by NIOSH to be immediately dangerous to life and health.
   Houseboats, and houseboat generators in particular, present CO hazards as well. In 1994, a child was overcome while swimming near a houseboat on Lake Powell.
   The child was exposed to CO fumes for only three minutes before succumbing. The child died as another was able to regain consciousness and swim away.
   The culprit in that case was a generator with an exhaust terminus under the extended rear deck of the boat. Between 1994 and 2002, nine CO deaths were reported on Lake Powell. Seven were caused by this same design flaw.
   Between 1990 and 2004, over 80 CO poisonings occurred inside houseboats on Lake Powell alone. In 50 of those cases, CO detectors were verified to have been on board, but in only one incident did the alarm sound.
   Boating presents a series of hazards, and the sneaking, lurking danger of the silent killer carbon monoxide is taking the lives of more unsuspecting boaters and their guests each year. No deaths from CO poisoning have yet occurred on Lake Kaweah, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with the Tulare County Lake Patrol are determined to keep it that way.

  “Carbon monoxide is a killer. Do not swim around a boat with a generator or motor running. Teak surfing can put you under forever.”
   These words are printed in bold type on the back of trading cards provided to young visitors of Lake Kaweah by Senior Park Ranger Matt Murphy.
   They are, literally, words to live by.

Life jackets are free for
children at Lake Kaweah

   Suppose you just arrived at Lake Kaweah, are putting your coolers, towels, and such into the boat, and going through your “did I forget anything” checklist.
   Got the shades. Plenty of sunscreen. Chips and dips. But, geez!, there’s three kids and only two child-size lifejackets. What do you do?
   The Kaweah Heritage Visitor Center, located at the Lemon Hill marina, has 12 life jackets for children available to loan free of charge for just these situations.
   The Life Jacket Loaner Program was started in 1998 by the BoatU.S. Foundation (Boat Owners Association of the United States) and operates at over 500 locations throughout the nation.
   All you need to do is talk to the friendly folks at the Visitor Center, provide your name, phone and drivers license number, and fit the young person for the proper size.

  “We do ask that you please return the jackets prior to closing time [4 p.m.] or make arrangements at the Kaweah Marina,” said Carol Butler, a volunteer at the visitor center.
   Life jackets are required on Lake Kaweah for all occupants of a watercraft, and must be worn by all occupants under the age of 12 while a boat is in motion.

The Art Co-Op features

local artists, works

   Artists are lucky. They get to work at home or wherever the inspiration hits them.
   But there is one thing missing in this ideal working scenario. A storefront in which to display and sell their completed projects day in, day out.
   A collaboration of area artists have solved this dilemma, and as of Friday, Aug. 7, the doors will open on The Art Co-Op in Three Rivers.    There are six artists who are in on the ground floor of this venture: Tina St. John (see “Welcome to My Food Column” on page 5), Jana Botkin (see pages 6-7 for a sample of recently completed work), Nesi Mesman (see this week’s Neighbor Profile), Pamela Lockhart, Kim Elia, and Sam McKinney.
   The Art Co-Op is a cooperative of artists contributing time, money and, most importantly, their talents.

  “The artists involved will have ‘bread-and-butter’ art, which are pieces of art that are affordable to everyone,” said Tina St. John, artist and Co-Op partner.
   The advantage of having affordable local art is that it makes great year-round gifts, as well as a memorable, one-of-a-kind souvenir of a Kaweah Country vacation.
   Beginning August 7, The Art Co-Op will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. One of the artists will always be manning the shop during regular hours, so there will be the opportunity to discuss a potential purchase with an expert.
   Other artists will also be involved in the Co-Op as one will be featured on a revolving basis. The August featured artist is Ginny Wilson of Blue Ridge Photography.
   The public is invited to attend next Friday’s grand-opening reception with the theme of “A Celebration of Art on the River.” Wine and hors d’oeuvres will be served.
   For more information, call 561-1307.

Makeover coming for Chamber website

   The Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce’s comprehensive new website is scheduled to be completed in late August and will expand local exposure on the Internet.
   Upon the unveiling of the site, there will be advertising opportunities for businesses to promote themselves to all viewers of the site in addition to the free listing and information they will receive as a benefit of their membership.
   The chamber is expanding its commitment to local events by providing an interactive community calendar that will be downloadable from the new website. In this regard, it’s important that chamber members and community groups update their information and photos to launch the site by the end of August. Keep watching the Chamber Corner for the official launch date.
   More benefits, projects, and activities are in development, and we encourage businesses both small and large to explore the new opportunities arising from the efforts of the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce.
   For membership information, contact Linda Drouet at 561-2000.

Still time to file for local boards

   Altogether, there are six seats available on two local boards in the upcoming November election. But if not enough candidates file to run by Friday, Aug. 7, then the races won’t even appear on the ballot and directors will be appointed rather than elected by voters.
   The Three Rivers Memorial District has four seats up for re-election. The Community Services has two.
   Forms for declarations of candidacy may be obtained from the Registrar of Voters, Elections Division, 5951 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia (across from Mooney Grove).

Welcome to my food column

The (hungry) kids of summer

by Tina St. John

  Summertime and hungry kids go hand-in-hand. I remember when my kids were young and I would take them to the river for the entire day.
   Their little tummies seemed like bottomless pits. I would pack a cooler filled with watermelon, bagels, and cream cheese. The bagels and cream cheese would fill their bellies, and the watermelon would wash it all down and quench their thirst.
   Fast-forward 15 years. Summertime is here, they’re a whole lot bigger now, and so are their appetites.
   Their tastes have changed. But nothing beats mom’s cooking when you’ve been away for two whole semesters eating pizza, ramen noodles and, yes, bagels and cream cheese.
   So when they’re not in school and are home more often, which for most moms seems to be during the summer, how do you keep up with feeding them? The refrigerator seems to be like a feature movie.
   As soon as you get back from the grocery store, it’s as though you never went. After all, they’re growing like our flowers and vegetable gardens, so they need nurturing right?
   Well, I’ve included a Survival Kit with fast, healthy, and easy snacks to help keep you from having to take out a loan for your summer food bill. Sort of like a teaser trailer to hold them over until dinner is served.
   On another subject, if readers are interested in signing a petition to reauthorize The Child’s Nutritional Act back into school lunches, go to:
  Bon Appetit!


1 can diced tomatoes
1 jalapeño pepper (seeds removed)
1 small bunch of cilantro
1 clove garlic
Pinch of brown sugar
Juice of 2 limes
½ small red onion

Blend diced tomatoes, jalapeño pepper, cilantro, garlic, sugar, and lime until well blended. Dice red onion and add along with salt. Refrigerate.

You can serve this with:
Tortilla chips
Avocado and beans sprinkled with cheese

  Recipe from Tina St. John’s “Welcome to My Food Column,” published July 31, 2009, in THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH.


3 tbs. of olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 small onion
1 large green pepper
1 large red or yellow pepper
1 large clove of garlic
1 large can of diced tomatoes
2 cans of pinto beans

2 tbs. chili powder

Sauté onion and peppers in oil until onions are translucent. Dice garlic and add to onions and peppers for 1 minute. Add to tomatoes, beans, and chili powder. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Salt to taste.
   Recipe from Tina St. John’s “Welcome to My Food Column,” published July 31, 2009, in THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH.


Grapes or any other type of fruit
1 quart plain yogurt
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
Lemon rind, grated very fine

Place the cheesecloth in a colander and pour in the yogurt. Make sure there is space between the colander and the pan that the colander is sitting in. Cover and refrigerator overnight. Next day, empty the whey from the pan. Place the strained yogurt in a bowl and mix the syrup and lemon rind together. This is a wonderful dip for any fruit. You can also make this a savory dip for veggies (carrot or celery sticks) by adding herbs instead of syrup. Also if you don’t care for lemon rind, add vanilla extract to taste instead.
   Recipe from Tina St. John’s “Welcome to My Food Column,” published July 31, 2009, in THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH.


Weekly tip

Soda: Liquid candy

Soda tax
   The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition and food-safety watchdog group, has launched a web-based Liquid Candy Tax Calculator to show policymakers, activists, and media exactly how much money states and the federal government could raise by levying taxes on soft drinks. The calculator can be viewed at www.cspinet.org/liquidcandy/.
   While California and several other states already tax soda, a new federal excise tax of one penny per 12-ounce soda could generate more than $1.5 billion per year, according to the calculator. A steeper tax of one penny per ounce could raise roughly $16 billion a year — an amount that would make a serious down payment on a comprehensive healthcare reform bill.
   CSPI estimates that taxing soda at that amount would also reduce consumption by 13 percent overall and perhaps more among children, which would help slow the obesity and Type 2 diabetes epidemics.

  “Soda and non-carbonated soft drinks are basically liquid candy, providing nothing of positive benefit to the diet, just empty calories,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “Soda is cheaper than dirt, we consume too much of it, and it causes expensive health problems. The question is why has it gone untaxed for so long at the federal level?”
   Leading healthcare and nutrition advocates are urging Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to tax soft drinks to help fund healthcare reform.

  “While many factors contribute to weight gain, soft drinks are the only food or beverage shown to have a direct link to obesity, which in turn can lead to hypertension, stroke, heart attacks, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and other health and psychosocial problems,” the advocates wrote in a letter to Baucus. “In addition, consumption of sugary beverages can cause tooth decay and dental erosion.”
   Besides CSPI, groups signing on to the letter include the American Public Health Association, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, Consumers Union, Partnership for Prevention, Shape Up America!, and Trust for America’s Health.

Health warnings on soda
   CSPI says that one out of every 10 boys consumes 66 ounces of soda per day, equivalent to five-and-a-half 12-ounce cans, or about 800 calories. One out of every 20 boys consumes the equivalent of seven cans per day, or about 1,000 calories.
   Girls reportedly consume more than two cans per day on average.

  “How did a solution of high-fructose corn syrup, water, and artificial flavors come to be the default beverage?” asked Jacobson.
   CSPI has filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration, asking the agency to require a series of rotating health notices on containers of all non-diet soft drinks — carbonated and non-carbonated — containing more than 13 grams of refined sugars per 12 ounces (the typical 12-ounce soda contains 40 grams). CSPI said those messages could include:

  —The U.S. Government recommends that you drink less (non-diet) soda to help prevent weight gain, tooth decay, and other health problems.

  —To help protect your waistline and your teeth, consider drinking diet sodas or water.

  —Drinking soft drinks instead of milk or calcium-fortified beverages may increase your risk of brittle bones (osteoporosis).
   CSPI also said that caffeinated drinks should bear a notice that reads, “This drink contains caffeine, which is a mildly addictive stimulant drug. Not appropriate for children.”

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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