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In the News - Friday, November 13, 2009

All stories written by John or

Sarah Elliott unless otherwise noted


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

Park Service proposes

fish poison in lakes

Public input requested for

‘Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Project’

   For further information on the

Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Project

and where to send comments,

go to the NPS planning website at:


Comments, concerns, and suggestions

related to the project’s goals

are due Saturday, Nov. 21.

  For the couple dozen of folks who attended the National Park Service public information meeting at the Three Rivers Arts Center on Thursday, Nov. 5, Danny Boiano, aquatic ecologist at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, did a creditable job of framing the local parks’ latest ecosystem restoration project. He said the scope and amount of restoration that is being proposed is part of the mandate that he and his colleagues interpret to be in keeping with the mission of the NPS.
   But as Harold Werner, the parks’ wildlife ecologist, knows, the interpretation of that mission can change over time and so does the public perception of how park scientists should spend tax dollars. Werner, chief wildlife ecologist, has been researching and looking after the critters and their habitat in Sequoia-Kings Canyon for more than 30 years.
   Werner hinted that there is a touch of irony in the fact that many years ago he actually planted trout in some of the same lakes that are now being proposed for trout removal. But today, Werner said, the removal of the trout from specific high-country lakes is a cornerstone of new policy that would help restore aquatic ecosystems.
   Werner said that some restoration is needed in each of the major park drainages. The goal is to restore these drainages to a 19th-century condition, “… a time before we tampered with the system.”
   But one kind of tampering begets another, so that’s why, according to Boiano, this project is urgently needed. His passion currently is saving the mountain yellow-legged frogs, an endangered species, that he said could disappear altogether.
   It’s not only the voracious appetite of the trout that have the frogs in decline but also a mysterious virus that is spreading throughout the high country and decimating the two related species of frogs that inhabit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
   In addition to being a good indicator species as to the overall health of the ecosystem, frogs find themselves smack dab in the middle of the aquatic food chain. What that means for park scientists is that if these pristine high-country lakes and streams become out of balance, then the wilderness values that these parks were preserved for in the first place become even more threatened.
   The restoration would also give visitors to these out-of-the-way places an opportunity to experience an aquatic ecosystem as it was and, according to Boiano and Werner, is intended to be. For this project, the parks are proposing that Boiano and his crew spend the next several summers removing the fish populations from between 30 and 85 lakes of the 560 that have been identified in the study area that contain fish.
   The effects of the removal would be studied as a part of the 30-year restoration project.
   The scope of how many are treated determines how the Park Service actually eradicates the trout and what impacts doing so would have on streams, other wildlife, and humans. Boiano explained that the best-case scenario is to treat the largest number of lakes and streams with the chemical rotenone.
   Rotenone is an herbicide that is obtained by making a chemical compound from derris and cube root. It has been used for centuries as a way to procure fish for food.
   Boiano said that public agencies have used the chemical treatment for decades and that it is safe and has minimal impact on the environment. Nancy Hendricks, parks environmental specialist and facilitator for the Three Rivers meeting, said she has eaten fish killed by rotenone and didn’t notice any ill effects.
   In 1988, Lake Kaweah used rotenone to kill a predator species of white bass.

  “Rotenone kills all the fish by depriving them of oxygen,” said Phil Deffenbaugh, general manager of Lake Kaweah. “It was the only way we had available to effectively treat such a large area.”
   Deffenbaugh said that the use of rotenone was safe and effective for his project. Since the lake was purged, a species of Florida largemouth bass was introduced that now have become prized as trophy game fish at Lake Kaweah.
   But the jury is still out on whether the treatments would have the same effects on the more pristine snowmelt-fed lakes and streams of the Sequoia and Kings Canyon backcountry.
   Other eradication methods being proposed as a part of the project include gill-netting and electrical shock (electrofishers). Once the fish are killed, they are buried on-site to return nutrients back into the aquatic resource system.
   When park officials first began to scope the restoration project they realized there would be potential impacts and a level of controversy associated with the proposal. So those factors became the impetus to elevate the evaluation of impacts from an environmental assessment (EA) in 2007 to the present environmental impact statement (EIS) in 2009.

Water tops agenda

at monthly town meeting

   There is no more pressing issue than water resources and how best to ensure the delivery of the precious commodity. So it figured when there was a slate of speakers to talk water there would be a packed house at the Town Hall meeting of Monday, Nov. 2.
   The regular first Monday gathering at the Three Rivers Memorial Building was an opportunity for volunteers from three local water districts to compare services and see some of the big picture where local water use relates to the goals of the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District (KDWCD).
   The KDWCD maintains a guiding influence over the use and quality of all the water in the Kaweah and St. Johns watersheds below McKay’s Point, two miles below Lake Kaweah. Every drop of Kaweah River water used in Three Rivers potentially affects downstream users who are within the Kaweah Delta’s 340,000-acre conservation district.
   Rex Black, speaking on behalf of the Alta Acres Water District, said the subdivision was established in 1947 and its delivery facilities are aging and in need of upgrades. The water does not meet the current standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act so the district applied for and received a $500,000 USDA grant.
   An additional $2 million loan was secured to complete the necessary improvements. Each of the district’s 75 users is being assessed $21,000 per parcel to pay for the loan.
   Lew Nelson, who oversees the South Kaweah district in Cherokee Oaks, said his district is the largest of three in that area and delivers water to 130 connections. The water is drawn for three wells, two of which have had problems recently.
   The district, Nelson said, charges a flat rate that averages $10 per month for most users. There are conservation incentives but if more is used charges on a monthly bill can escalate to more than $700.
   Kevin Skeen, president of the North Kaweah Water Company and the Silver City water district, said his Three Rivers district serves 30 hook-ups along Kaweah River Drive. North Kaweah has metering, conservation incentives, and charges a flat rate quarterly of $98.
   Skeen voiced a concern that the district must utilize all volunteers yet the state licensing requirements are not appropriate when they require small districts to have certified operators in “reservoir management.”

  “I’d like to see some more sensible licensing for small companies,” Skeen said.
   Mark Larsen, general manager of KDWCD, gave a brief overview on what the district does and their relationship with their stakeholders. He said he thought that among the topics a Three Rivers audience might be interested to hear about was the proposed development of the Yokohl Ranch.
   Larsen said that although the ranch lies outside the boundaries of the KDWCD, his agency stepped forward to express its concerns to the developers.

  “We asked a number of questions like, where will they get the water? And how do we manage the sewerage?” Larsen said.”
   The district, Larsen said, also has concerns about flood control. The ranch land is primarily a network of dry creeks that can become flash floods during rain events.
   Adding further complexity to the Yokohl project’s quest for water is the fact, Larsen said, that the area has inadequate groundwater.

  “They [Yokohl Ranch] must import surface water from somewhere,” Larsen said.
   Larsen also said that one of the downstream users of Kaweah River water is the Corcoran Irrigation Company, which is an affiliate of the Boswell Company, parent company of Yokohl Ranch. Potentially, they could gain access to additional Kaweah River water by transfers with other stakeholders and increasing storage capacity during years of peak runoff.
   If the company is to gain public support for the Yokohl project, they must demonstrate that they can secure enough surface water and show a net gain relative to Tulare County water resources, Larsen said.
   The next Town Hall meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 7. The guest speaker is Lindsay Mann, chief executive officer of Kaweah Health Care District.

The little engine that could…

but temporarily can’t

Community’s assistance needed for upgrade

By Brian Rothhammer

   Engine 14 is tired. The once proud and new light fire engine formerly assigned to Three Rivers has been rotated to Tulare, as its decades-old chassis has become a cause for concern. A replacement engine, temporarily assigned as “Patrol 14,” has been sent from Tulare in exchange.

  “It’s closer to the [repair] shop,” said John Hanggi of Three Rivers Volunteer Firefighters in reference to the need for ongoing maintenance of the old unit.
   Firefighters need reliable equipment in addition to their dedication and skill to provide rapid response to emergencies in the communities that they serve. Even the replacement engine is showing signs of age.
Perhaps more importantly, it is a two-wheel drive unit whereas the former Engine 14 is a four-wheel drive.

  “In the wintertime, that could limit our capabilities. When we get adverse weather conditions up here, that four-wheel drive can really come in handy,” stated John.
   Three Rivers needs a new fire engine. But in these tough financial times, funding is an issue.
   That issue will be addressed at the next Three Rivers Community Services District (CSD) meeting on December 2. There are talks in the works that if the community of Three Rivers can provide a new cab and chassis, Tulare County might pay to retrofit the firefighting equipment from the old Engine 14 to the new one.

  “In the past, the money we’ve raised has gone toward specialized equipment and training,” said John.
   Hanggi cited as an example the recent technical rope rescue training that has been taking place at Dinely Bridge. But buying a new fire engine is a different level of need.
   The Three Rivers Woman’s Club has provided $5,000 toward purchase of the new engine. The total amount needed to match the county’s share in the project is estimated to be $30,000.
   Representatives from the Tulare County Fire Department will attend December’s CSD meeting; public input is welcome. The agenda will be posted at www.3riverscsd.com.

Horse Camp dream becomes reality

By Brian Rothhammer

   After more than a year of dedicated effort by volunteers in concert with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the horse-camping facility at Horse Creek will soon be open to the public. The corrals, provided at a substantial discount by Mike Rivas of Woodlake Growers Supply, have been installed and the finishing touches are being applied.
   Over 50 participants have signed up for a special event hosted by Ed and Valletta Lochridge of the American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA), scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 14. A special-use permit has been issued for the event, which will include a judged competition over a prearranged course.

  “This is a trial run prior to opening the Horse Camp to the public,” said Barrett Frobose, park ranger who manages recreation programs at Lake Kaweah.
   Barrett has been instrumental in the implementation of the new Horse Camp.

  “If things go well, and I anticipate that they will, the camp should be open to the public the next weekend,” Barrett said.
   Mark Anselmi of Three Rivers, who has worked tirelessly on the project since its inception with the High Sierra Unit of the Back Country Horsemen, echoed Barrett’s sentiments.

  “I am just so happy about the whole thing and that we’ve come so far,” said Anselmi. “Volunteers have worked on the project every day this week in preparation for the ACTHA event and the upcoming opening of the camp.”
   Ranger Frobose will address Saturday’s group at 9 a.m. to welcome the participants to the site and gather feedback prior to the public opening.
   For those who wish to make arrangements for future horse camping at the new facility, contact park rangers at the Lake Kaweah office: 597-2301.

Retired WHS coach honored

   Who says you can’t go home? Louise Achenbach of Woodlake did and was treated like a celebrity.
   Louise, a former teacher and coach at Woodlake High School, returned to her home state of South Dakota in September at the invitation of Black Hills State University in Spearfish. Louise was raised in South Dakota within seven miles of Mount Rushmore.
   Louise received two teaching degrees from BHSU in 1969 when it was still known as Black Hills State Teachers College.
   During its annual “Swarm Week” festivities, BHSU inducted six individuals and one team — the 1978 baseball team — into the 2009 “Yellow Jacket Hall of Fame.” Louise was inducted as a coach, having spent 32 years in that capacity at Woodlake High (she was also a teacher for nearly 40 years there).
   When Louise began her coaching career at WHS, the only league sports for girls were swimming and tennis. She expanded the program to include volleyball, basketball, and softball, coaching all of the above except for swimming.
   Louise’s Hall of Fame honor is well-deserved as her volleyball teams brought home 29 championships, and she was named the league’s Coach of the Year 17 times.
   Louise retired from WHS in 2007. Previously, she was inducted into the California State Coaches Hall of Fame and named Woodlake High School Teacher of the Year.
   The Yellow Jacket Hall of Fame inductees were honored at a luncheon, introduced at halftime during the football game, and in the parade.

County H1N1 update

  Tulare County and, in particular, Three Rivers. Countywide, there have been over 90 individuals hospitalized with H1N1 and two deaths attributed to the H1N1 influenza.
   For updated H1N1 information, Tulare County residents may call the toll-free H1N1 Information Line at 1-800-665-1140 (English and Spanish) to receive information on H1N1 symptoms, prevention, and vaccine.
   The current supplies of H1N1 vaccine are for the high-risk groups, which include pregnant women, household contacts and caregivers for children younger than six months of age, healthcare and emergency medical services personnel, all people from six months through 24 years of age, and those from 25 through 64 years of age who have health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications from the flu.
   Updated information can be found at www.tularehhsa.org (click on “Public Health”).

H1N1 vaccine clinics – Tulare County

   The H1N1 flu vaccine has made its way to Tulare County. Currently, the vaccinations are being provided free of charge to people ages six months through 24 years and those who live with or provide care for infants less than six months of age.
   Here are the nearby vaccination clinics that have been scheduled so far:
   Saturday, Dec. 5, 10 am-2 pm: El Diamante High School, 5100 W. Whitendale, Visalia.
   Saturday, Dec. 12, 10 am-2 pm: Golden West High School gym, 1717 N. McAuliff Rd., Visalia.
   Other vaccination clinics have been scheduled in Strathmore, Dinuba, Orosi, and Dinuba. Clinics will also be held in Woodlake, Tulare, and Porterville, but the dates and times have not yet been announced.
   All clinic dates are subject to change based upon the availability of the vaccine. In addition, other at-risk groups will be eligible as more vaccine arrives.
   Information: www.tularehhsa.org.

TRUS still working on water issue

By Brian Rothhammer

   Meeting on a Tuesday evening instead of the usual Wednesday owing to the Veterans Day holiday, the Three Rivers Union School District board of trustees meeting on November 10 was business as usual. According to Sue Sherwood, superintendent, that means that all is well at the local K-8 school.
   Accounts are balanced, student fundraising is productive, the carnival board changeover went smoothly, and current enrollment is 155 students.
   There is still an issue with water quality, however, but that is being addressed with the cooperation of the Three Rivers Community Services District and should be resolved soon. Bottled drinking water is being used and a chlorinator will be added to the school water system if it is deemed necessary.
   Bill Ostrem, president of the Yokohl Ranch Company, who has been a key figure in negotiations regarding the proposed development, has moved on to another assignment. The TRUS board is maintaining a vigilant watch on all developments pertaining to any future changes relevant to school district boundaries.
   There is still time to turn in some Pennies for Peace. Students will be collecting the one-cent pieces through Friday, Nov. 20, to benefit the Central Asia Institute and their efforts to improve the lives of children in Pakistan and Afghanistan through better education.
   Sue also announced that Marcia Sweet of Tulare, former TRUS band and music teacher, was hospitalized Saturday, Nov. 7, with a brain aneurism. She is in a medically-induced coma in the intensive-care unit at Fresno Community Regional Medical Center.
   For more information about the local school district or to place an item on an upcoming agenda, call the TRUS office at 561-4466. The next regular meeting will be Wednesday, Dec. 9, 6 p.m., in the TRUS library.

Commemorative plaques

installed at Three Rivers Cemetery

   When a revered institution turns 100 years old, it’s cause for a celebration. On May 30, 2009, the Three Rivers Cemetery commemorated its 100-year anniversary of its founding.
   With that milestone celebrated, the Three Rivers Cemetery board realized that even with its well-maintained grounds, ongoing improvements in the interpretation of the cemetery’s history were needed.
   Enter into this scenario Gary Whitney and a supportive board of his fellow trustees. Whitney, who was appointed to the cemetery board in 2007, assumed the daunting task of trying to mark many graves that for a number of reasons were currently unmarked.
   Along the way, Whitney uncovered historical gems about those interred and also garnered some serious donors for projects that he had in mind. Together with more funding, and utilizing a legion of volunteers, Whitney has helped promote Three Rivers history and enhanced the idyllic setting at the old cemetery.

  “The history of our community is at rest in this field,” Whitney wrote in a statement for the May 30 centennial celebration. “Out here, we have farmers, miners, storekeepers, doctors, teachers, family, and friends. I am sure that they would all be grateful that we would honor their memories by being good stewards of their final resting place.”
   The installation of these plaques commemorate the interred by telling a little more about the history of those who have contributed to the community life of Three Rivers.


10 household products to avoid

   This is the second installment of the “10 household products to avoid.” Part One, which was published October 16, warned against (1) high fructose corn syrup, (2) chlorine bleach, (3) insecticides, (4) hard alcohol, and (5) moth balls. Here are the next five to eliminate from your life:
   6. Air fresheners and fragrance candles. Everyone likes their home to smell clean and fresh, but synthetic fragrances that waft through the air can negatively affect the quality of indoor air, damage lung tissue and airways, and irritate the eyes. Keep it real. If your house is clean, there shouldn’t be any smell.
   7. Trans fats. Trans fat is a type of unsaturated fat that is made saturated during a manufacturing process that adds a molecule of hydrogen. These hydrogenated oils raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol and cause a host of cardiovascular diseases. They are slowly being removed from commercial recipes, but products in your home may still contain them. Look in your refrigerator and pantry and dump anything with hydrogenated oil on the label (stick or tub margarine, shortening, non-dairy whipped dessert topping, cake frosting, and non-dairy coffee creamer are major culprits, but don’t stop there. Every processed food from bread to cereal to peanut butter may contain trans fats).
   8. Toluene. Toluene, a solvent found in nail polish, paints, and when petroleum-based candles are burned can cause nervous system damage. Naturally scented beeswax, soy, or vegetable candles and natural alternatives to nail products are a better choice.
   9. Detergents with NPE. Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE) are chemicals that help liquid substances such as oil and water mix. They are found in laundry detergents, shampoos, and cleaners. These chemicals can mimic the hormone estrogen to cause early menstruation, low sperm counts, and poor reproductive health. Use natural cleansers and consider alternative cleaning tools, such as the microfiber mops or a steam cleaner that can reduce or eliminate the use of harsh chemicals.
   10. Cigarette, pipe, and cigar products. All tobacco products produce harmful chemicals even after you have eliminated the smoker from the house. When you have stopped smoking, give your house a clean makeover, washing all fabric curtains and upholstery and think about putting on a fresh coat of paint (without toluene!).


Lee Shackelton
1929 ~ 2009

  Leland J. Shackelton of Mariposa died Saturday, Nov. 7, surrounded by his family at a Modesto hospital. He was 80.
   Lee was born May 13, 1929, in Oakland to Fay and Freman Shackelton. He graduated from California College of the Arts and, in 1953, married his wife, Ti.
   Prior to a National Park Service career that spanned more than three decades, Lee served in the U.S. Army.
   He was a former park ranger at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. He also had assignments at Death Valley (then a national monument) and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, before settling in Yosemite National Park.
   This is where he and Ti stayed and raised their three children. He was Yosemite’s chief of law enforcement from 1971 until his retirement in 1992.
   His son, Steve, followed in Lee’s footsteps. He is currently chief ranger at Yosemite.
   In retirement, Lee worked as a private investigator. He was active in community-service organizations and enjoyed writing and telling stories.
   Lee is survived by his wife of 56 years, Ti; his three children, Steve Shackelton, Mary Lee Shackelton-Moore, and Jim Shackelton; daughters-in-law Jane Shackelton and Monica Shackelton; son-in-law Steve Moore; eight grandchildren; and his sister, Marilyn Birkett.
   A rosary is scheduled for today (Friday, Nov. 13) at 5 p.m. at Mariposa Funeral Home with viewing from 6 to 8 p.m. On Saturday, Nov. 14, there will be a 10 a.m. service at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, immediately followed by a graveside burial. At 1 p.m., there will be a reception at Casto’s Mount Bullion Vineyard, 6947 Hwy. 49 North, Mariposa.

David Domin
1959 ~ 2009

   David Lawrence Domin, a former resident of Three Rivers, died Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009, in Gold Beach, Ore. He was 50.
   David was born February 19, 1959, in Michigan to Alex Domin, DDS, and Shirley Domin. He was a faux painter.
   He loved to hunt and fish and be outdoors. His nicknames were “Artifact Dave” and “The Magnet” for his hunting skills.
   He knapped arrowheads as well as hunted for them. He had a large collection of Native American artifacts.
   His friends will miss his smoked trout and barbecue skills.
Dave was preceded in death by his parents, Alex and Shirley Domin.
   He is survived by his brothers, Mark Domin and Paul Domin, DDS, both of Michigan; and his uncle, Bill Douglas, of Gold Beach, formerly of Three Rivers.
   A celebration of Dave’s life was held Sunday, Nov. 8, in Gold Beach.

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
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