In the News - Friday, August 2, 2013
Town meeting will continue river-access conversation
Round Two: Special forum on gangs
and crime returns Monday evening
Another town meeting to exchange information and furnish direct input to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 5, at 7 p.m., at the Three Rivers Memorial Building.
The meeting is a follow-up to last month’s forum on gang violence when Bill Wittman, Tulare County Sheriff, pledged more local patrols in the wake of the June 27 Cobbleknoll gang-related shootings that left two dead and two others wounded.
Sheriff Wittman will be on hand Monday night to recount what steps are being taken to patrol swimming holes and furnish back-up for Scott Doyle, Three Rivers resident deputy. In addition, some Three Rivers residents have asked Wittman to present some budget numbers on what it might cost to add additional patrol officer(s) during the busy summer season or year-round at night.
A call for help to report a crime in progress, especially at night, could take up to an hour for an officer to respond in Three Rivers.
“When you [the Three Rivers community] put pressure on the department like that [last month’s meeting], we are going to respond,” said one deputy, who in recent weeks is getting to know Three Rivers intimately. “Now it’s time to put that pressure on the BLM to patrol their sites.”
Since the July 8 standing-room-only meeting, calm has been restored at several area swimming holes. A new permanent fence has been installed at Airport Bridge, neighborhood surveillance has alerted sheriff’s deputies when swimmers are at Edison Beach during closures, and other swimming spots like Slick Rock, Cobbleknoll, and Slicky are routinely patrolled.
And now the legal access at Dinely Bridge has become a tug-of-war between Three Rivers neighbors. One puts in a locked gate; another removes the lock.
But the criminal element and other visitors from Valley towns are still coming to Three Rivers everyday. The cat-and-mouse game of shooing swimmers from one spot to another plays on like a broken record.
The purpose of Monday’s meeting is to continue the dialog with Tulare County law enforcement. Basic public safety is at issue here but it is complicated by the fact that the public wants access to the river.
Gary Cort, who owns the Cort Gallery property adjacent to Slicky, is seen by some as part of the problem because river visitors access Slicky via his property. In truth, large groups have made threats against Cort and intimidate all who might suggest there are any rules or a code of acceptable conduct for river users.
A coalition of property owners and local river users led by Cort have petitioned the county, or any willing private operators, to establish a Three Rivers river park near the town center on vacant land west of the post office. So far the concept lacks the support or the funding to acquire the property and complete the feasibility studies.
Cort wonders what it will take to motivate the Three Rivers community to establish a river access park that could be an attraction, not a confrontation waiting to happen.
Captain Mike Watson will furnish an update on several ongoing investigations relating to crimes that have occurred recently in Three Rivers and what it would take to make more arrests.
In order to keep the Sheriff’s Department’s attention focused on the river-access issue in Three Rivers now and in the summers to come, community interest needs to be shown in the form of attendance at this meeting.
In addition, pressure needs to be put on the Bureau of Land Management to better manage the North Fork sites to reduce the pollution of the waterway and adjacent wildland.
The specially scheduled meeting is sponsored by the Three Rivers Village Foundation. For more information: 260-2909.
River users pollute upper North Fork
Large numbers of visitors have returned to the more remote, now-closed, BLM-owned sites on upper North Fork Drive (Paradise, Advance, and Cherry Falls), and there is plenty of evidence that members from several north and south affiliated gangs are often frequenting the area.
Sheriff’s deputies have been summoned to the sites on several occasions to inform visitors that the sites are closed.
But that has not deterred the gangs from trespassing on, and vandalizing, the North Fork sites. They have removed some of the “No Parking” signs and when confronted just shuffle along as if they didn’t know the areas were closed.
The trash that has accumulated at the historic sites of Paradise and Advance in the last few weeks is unprecedented. The river, which contains some of the most picturesque sections in all of Three Rivers, is polluted with diapers and other trash.
And if these river trespassers are leaving behind beer cartons, food containers, and their children’s diapers because trash receptacles aren’t offered, they are also leaving an inordinate amount of fecal matter as well since there isn’t a public restroom within miles.
Life on the upper North Fork as chronicled by a local resident
Paradise, Advance, and Cherry Falls, located five, seven, and eight miles, respectively, up North Fork Drive, are the three closed BLM recreation areas that are currently being frequented by a growing number of regulars. There is rarely any law enforcement presence. Many of the current users are merely being shuffled from other sites in and around Three Rivers where they have been encouraged to go elsewhere.
Scott Kalloger, a North Fork resident, wrote a letter to the editor after attending a BLM management workshop in 2003. Here are excerpts from that letter published October 10, 2003:
... First, it was brought to our attention that on peak usage days, over 160 vehicles filled with people arrive at the North Fork recreation sites. There are NO RESTROOMS! Where do you think these people go?
Second, it was also brought to our attention that California Youth Authority parolees and other criminals are being brought to these sites for labor. I believe this is a BIG mistake.
No doubt many of these people are gang members. It is highly likely that some of them return to the area and bring an undesirable element with them.
If the BLM cannot operate these sites in an appropriate manner then they should be closed until they are in a position to do so...
Kalloger’s premonitions were fulfilled just over four years later with this headline: “North Fork break-in yields firearms” (Feb. 22, 2008). Here is an excerpt from that article:
Scott Kalloger, 43, who lives six miles up the North Fork, told deputies someone entered his residence and stole a 12-gauge Mossburg shotgun, a Ruger 22-caliber rifle, a Browning 9mm pistol and a Freedom Arms 22-caliber handgun. Estimated loss with other property reported missing: $2,100.
3R Library now open Saturdays
In an unprecedented move in these days of shrinking budgets and diminishing services, Tulare County Library has increased its hours at the Three Rivers branch.
When given the choice of what additional day the Three Rivers Library should be open, Monday or Saturday, Sonja Hoogeveen, local librarian since 2006, admits that personally she would have liked Monday, but selflessly chose Saturday as being of most benefit to Three Rivers residents and travelers alike. As a result, the local library is now open from 10 a.m to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. every Saturday.
Sonja said that the library is a busy place with a steady stream of patrons, both local and from out of town. She said that the local lodging facilities know to guide area visitors to the library for the free Internet access, which they use to print out airline tickets, make hotel reservations, and more at the three computer stations available.
Currently, the Three Rivers Library doesn’t have wireless Internet service (Wi-Fi), but Sonja said that could be in place sometime during this coming fall.
Three Rivers Library holds a weekly storytime for preschoolers and a summer reading program for youth.
There are 15 branches in the Tulare County Library system. Only three others offer Saturday hours: Visalia, Springville, and Pixley.
A library card is provided for free as are all books, as long as they are returned or renewed by the due date.
The Three Rivers Library is located at 42052 Eggers Drive, behind Three Rivers School. Additional hours are: Wednesdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 6 p.m.; and Tuesdays and Thursdays, noon to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.
Smoke from out-of-area fires
cause diminishing air quality
The Aspen Fire — burning on the west side of the Sierra crest about seven miles north of Big Creek and Huntington Lake, 60 air miles from Three Rivers, and 40 miles west of Bishop — has grown to more than 16,000 acres and, as of August 1, is 40 percent contained (meaning there is a fire line to control growth around 35 percent of the fire). The fire, which has caused extreme smoke to billow into communities on both the east and west sides of the Sierra including Shaver Lake and Mammoth, was ignited by lightning on July 22.
That smoke has now reached Three Rivers and, to the east, across Nevada, into Utah and points east. About a dozen campgrounds on the Sierra National Forest in Fresno County are closed as a result of the blaze, and all trails in the Kaiser Wilderness have been deemed off limits to the public. Several road closures are also in effect, however, businesses remain open, including the backcountry visitor facilities at Florence Lake and Lake Thomas A. Edison.
Smoke from this fire, as well as several burning in Oregon, prompted the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to issue health cautionary statements this week for Tulare, Merced, Madera, and Fresno counties. In Three Rivers, both the ozone and particulate matter levels were deemed in the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” range on Wednesday.
“Smoke from fires produces fine-particulate matter (PM2.5), which can cause serious health problems including lung disease, asthma attacks, and increased risk of heart attacks and stroke,” stated the SJVAPCD press release. “Where conditions warrant, people with heart or lung disease should follow their doctor’s advice for dealing with episodes of particulate exposure. Additionally, older adults and children should avoid prolonged exposure or heavy exertion, depending on their local conditions.”
Nearly 2,000 personnel are involved in the fire-suppression efforts at a cost of nearly $13 million.
In Oregon, six major fires are burning, including three “complex” fires, which means that two or more fires have joined to become one massive conflagration. And the forecast is calling for more “abundant lightning” in that state.
LOCAL FIRE NEWS— Closer to home, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks crews have been working on and monitoring several lightning-caused fires. According to Linda Mutch, acting fire education specialist, four of the latest lightning-caused fires (Cahoon, Dennison, Silliman, and Skagway) have been contained.
The Dennison Fire was a challenging fire to staff as it was in steep, difficult terrain, she reported. It was of high concern due to its location near the western park boundary in the South Fork of the Kaweah River drainage.
Using a combination of helicopter bucket drops, a helicopter-rappel crew from Yosemite, and a local ground crew, this fire was successfully contained by Thursday, July 25, despite the challenging access issues.
Also according to Linda, two of the recent lightning-caused fires (Lower Tent and Hockett) and an early-July lightning-caused fire (Scenic Meadow) are being managed as “wildfires confined to natural barriers.” As of the most recent survey flights, these fires are showing no smoke.
Hydropower generator seeks
Terminus Dam expansion
Several Three Rivers residents received letters recently asking for comments relative to a permit application of the Kaweah River Power Authority (KRPA) to appropriate water released from Terminus Dam at Lake Kaweah. The current application was filed December 28, 2012.
The KRPA currently is permitted to use release water to generate up to 20 megawatts of power for sale back into the California grid. The hydroelectric generators last operated Monday, July 29.
“The water is only diverted when there is sufficient release to generate power,” said Phil Deffenbaugh, Lake Kaweah general manager. “There are no impacts to water quality in the KRPA releases that is then used by farmers downstream.”
The new permit, if granted would okay the generation of several more megawatts; 1,000 cubic feet per second could be appropriated by direct diversion with a 500,000 acre-feet annual limit.
The letter originated with the State Water Resources Control Board. Katherine Mrowka is the contact person for information on the application –(916) 341-5363 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“This is green, sustainable energy so I wouldn’t expect any opposition to the permit,” Deffenbaugh said. “The notification of the public is just part of the process.”
Woodlake hires new city attorney
Meggin Boranaian, the City of Woodlake’s new attorney attended her first city council meeting on July 22. She assumed her duties officially on July 1 after replacing Tom Watson, Woodlake’s city attorney for over 16 years, who will now serve in that capacity at the City of South Lake Tahoe.
Boranian is a partner in the Clovis firm of Fike, Boranian and Watson so she comes with the former city attorney’s recommendation. Boranian was licensed to practice law in 1981 after receiving her undergraduate degree at Cal State Fullerton and studying law at Western State University.
The new city attorney’s specialty is in labor and employment relations.