News and Information
for residents and visitors
Three Rivers,
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
National Parks,
Lemon Cove and Woodlake
Kaweah Kam

  Celebrating 10 years:

March 1995 ~ March 2005

For the past decade,

The Kaweah Commonwealth

has been telling readers

things they won't read, hear,

or see anywhere else!



In the News - Friday, MARCH 18, 2005

Rain, snow in

weekend forecast

   While Kaweah Country continues to enjoy a more normal winter season, mountain snowpacks are at or near record low levels in portions of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and northwest Wyoming.
   Insect damage and tree mortality combined with long-term drought in those areas are creating the potential for a very volatile fire season in the intermountain west.
   Locally, unsettled weather is in the weekend forecast for the Central California region with rain showers, heavy at times, possible beginning Saturday and continuing through Wednesday.
   On Saturday, as cooler air aloft enters the region, snow levels could drop below 5,000 feet in the local mountains.
   By Monday, forecasters are calling for more than an inch of rainfall in the Three Rivers environs and a foot of new snow at 7,000 feet.
   As of Thursday, March 17, the storage in a steadily-rising Lake Kaweah is 35,476 acre-feet or 20 percent of the newly enlarged capacity.
   Rainfall to date this season at Terminus Dam is 12.95 inches. The Three Rivers Fire Station has recorded a season total of 15.58 inches; Ash Mountain checks in with 23.08 inches of rainfall.

Taggers caught


   On Friday, March 4, two Hanford youths were caught spray-painting a newly constructed retaining wall on the Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park. The youths, suspected gang members, were with a group of nine others ranging in age from 14 to 22 years old.
   A park ranger witnessed the vandalism and asked the youths to stop. At that point, several of the suspects attempted to flee the scene but were detained by the ranger until backup officers arrived.
   In recent years, several citations have been issued for this type of vandalism that includes a mandatory appearance before a federal magistrate. The youths could be sentenced to six months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine, plus restitution costs for the cleanup.
   In the past, Sequoia Park maintenance crews have had to use a sandblaster at several locales along the Kaweah River to remove graffiti from boulders and facilities. South Fork Campground was temporarily closed in January while parks personnel made repairs to pit toilets and a bridge damaged by vandals.

  “Gang tagging has been increasing over the last 15 years,” said Russ Wilson, deputy superintendent. “It costs the National Park Service millions of dollars nationwide, and these parks [Sequoia-Kings Canyon], specifically, spend thousands of dollars annually to repair, replace, refurbish, and protect areas that have been vandalized.”
   Anyone with information about unlawful activity in the national parks may call the NPS hotline at 1-888-NPS-CRIME.

Road work looms

near Lemon Cove

   As early as next week, Kaweah Country commuters may encounter some delays as roadwork begins on a five-mile segment of Highway 198 west of Lemon Cove. Some of the culvert work started this past week as the contractor, Lee’s Paving of Goshen, agreed to get a head start on the portion where irrigation water must be diverted.

  “The project won’t officially start for a couple of weeks,” said Raul Lopez, Caltrans project engineer. “But several workers are already on the job doing some of the preliminary work.”
   The boundaries of the project are the Lemon Cove Fire Station on the east (near Ave. 324) and the vicinity of the old Yokohl Valley Market on the west (near Road 220) in Mehrten Valley. The scope of work, Lopez said, is some repair and widening of the shoulders to a standard eight-foot width.
   When complete, the entire stretch will have a new rubberized asphalt surface.

  “The two-foot width of the current shoulder doesn’t leave much room for error,” Lopez said. “The roadway will be much safer with the wider shoulders and new pavement.”
The wider shoulders could conceivably accommodate bike lanes, which are in future plans to connect Visalia with Sequoia National Park.
   Lopez said that one-lane closures would be in effect for much of the project. The delays, he said, should be minimal, but commuters on a schedule should allow extra time.
   In a few areas where blasting is necessary, both lanes might be closed indefinitely. The contractor for the traffic control is Force Traffic Control, Inc., of Exeter. The $3 million project is expected to be completed by October.
   Highway 216 roadwork: Minimal delays will continue for the immediate future near the intersection of the Woodlake road (Highway 216) and the Dry Creek turnoff. The roadway is being widened in that area to accommodate trucks entering the highway from the adjacent sand-and-gravel quarry. Road improvements in the area are a condition of approval for area quarries to service more vehicles.

10 years ago this month

   Now that The Kaweah Commonwealth has a decade under its belt, it is time to begin a new feature: TIME WILL TELL.
   Week to week, this feature will remind readers what was happening in Three Rivers a decade ago while comparing the stories with life today.
   March 1, 1995— First of all, the newspaper was published on Wednesday. The publishers soon changed this publication day to Friday to better correspond their schedules with those of their young children’s.
   THIS FIRST issue of the new Commonwealth included an introduction by Kaweah Colony historian Jay O’Connell, who recounted the history of the original Commonwealth.
   IT WAS reported that Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks had a new superintendent, Mike Tollefson. (He has since moved on, holding the top spots at Great Smoky Mountains National Park and, currently, Yosemite.)
   THE HUSBAND-and-wife publishing team wrote separate columns to introduce themselves. John Elliott wrote: “Because the newspaper informs without respect to race, money, or status, it is what some have called a ‘tributary of universal suffrage.’ That simply means that it belongs to all of us; we often refer to the local paper as ‘our’ newspaper.” Sarah Barton Elliott said: “John and I have a deep-rooted sense of purpose and commitment to Three Rivers, Sequoia National Park, Woodlake, and all of Kaweah Country. We strive for a standard of excellence that will provide accurate information in an entertaining format.”
   RAY MURRY was named Man of the Year during the annual Founder’s Day ceremony hosted by the Three Rivers PTA.
   A 14-YEAR-old cross-country skier, on a field trip from Santa Monica, died when she fell 2,000 feet from Big Baldy Ridge in Kings Canyon National Park.
   A PHOTO showed first and second-graders planting a magnolia tree from Mt. Vernon on Washington’s birthday at Three Rivers School.
   SOME ADVERTISERS who are worthy of remembering include: Angelina’s Family Dining, Mountain Arts, Heart’s Delight Home-Bake Pizza, Foothill Fruit Company, Wyrick’s All Value Office Products, Casey’s Auto Parts, Epicenter Market, The Phoenix Salon, Sequoia Real Estate, Loose Change Arcade, and Sequoia Guest Services, Inc.
   March 8, 1995— The shock and awe of that first issue was still settling in with the publishers. John wrote: “Whew! What a week.” Sarah wrote: “Last week was unbelievable… I lost track of what day it was, mealtime was a thing of the past, and I barely noticed the passing of day or night.”
  March 15, 1995— A late-season storm brought “torrential downpours, hail, high winds, rockslides, downed trees and powerlines, and caused a rapid rise in the Kaweah River.” About four inches of rain was received in Kaweah Country over a 24-hour period and the South Fork of the Kaweah River flooded over the Conley Creek Bridge, leaving residents stranded.
   THE “COLONY Corner,” by Jay O’Connell, debuted. The regular installments told the fascinating history of the Kaweah Colony, a 19th-century North Fork settlement with high aspirations. Jay’s research that was shared in this feature became, in 1999, a book, Co-Operative Dreams: A History of the Kaweah Colony.
   SOME ADVERTISERS worthy of mention because they are still advertisers are: Bank of the Sierra, Silver City Resort, Monarch Ford, Cider Mill Restaurant. Cutting Room, Sierra Garden Center, Sierra High Chiropractic, Century 21 Three Rivers, Three Rivers Realty, Country Properties, Realty World-Avant (now Avant Real Estate Center), Cal Western Realty, Affairs Real Estate.

Solo climber

found dead

on Mount Whitney

   The body of a male solo climber on Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park was recovered along with some mountaineering equipment and personal items on Wednesday, March 16. The climber apparently fell to his death on Sunday, March 13, reported Alexandra Picavet, Sequoia-Kings Canyon public information officer.
   It has been determined that the climber, whose name has not been released pending the notification of family members, fell about 1,000 feet while on the west side of Mount Whitney -- at 14,495 feet, the highest mountain in the contiguous U.S. -- after climbing the northeast face via the Mountaineer’s Route.
   The National Park Service was contacted by the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday, March 15, upon the report of an overdue 37-year-old solo climber from Los Angeles. An Inyo County Sheriff’s officer was flown to the locale later that day by a CHP helicopter and, although was able to confirm the fatality, was unable to recover the body.
   A technical team of Sequoia and Kings Canyon rangers were flown to the site on Wednesday, March 16, at about 9 a.m., and were able to complete the recovery effort.
   The Mountaineer’s Route is rated a Class 3 (on a climbers’ rating scale of 1 to 6, with 6 being the most difficult), meaning actual handholds and footholds must be found, tested, and used. The first ascent of this steep face is credited to John Muir on Oct. 21, 1873.
   The most challenging aspect of this climb is a large snowy couloir (an open, steep gully) located between the north arête (a sharp ridge of rock, snow, and/or ice) and the Great Buttress.
   Currently, Mount Whitney is mostly snow-covered and still experiencing winter conditions, which makes the ascent of the mountain even more difficult and risky. The cause of the fall is under investigation and a positive identification of the climber is underway by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office coroner.

Three Rivers

burglar arrested

   On Tuesday, March 1, William Santiago, 32, was arrested on a warrant in connection with the string of break-ins that occurred in Three Rivers on Feb. 18 and 19. Santiago, whose last known address was in San Leandro, was charged with petty theft and residential burglary.
   Santiago remains in the Tulare County Jail and is being held on $10,000 bail. The suspect was taken into custody the same day that narcotics officers in Poplar recovered some of the stolen property, which originally totaled $15,000 or more in items ranging from electronics to a vehicle.
   According to a witness in the case, Santiago first became acquainted with Three Rivers in December 2004 when he worked here as a computer consultant. Santiago delivered some business cards for the Three Rivers client but failed to complete the website-design work that he was originally contracted to do.
   A Sheriff’s Department deputy said that Santiago had no prior Tulare County arrest record. Santiago’s next court appearance is scheduled for Monday, March 21.

  “In cases like this, the defendant has the option of pleading guilty to a specific charge to avoid a trial,” the deputy said. “Whether that happens or not depends on how much evidence is presented in the case.”
   Rev. Warren Mark Campbell, of the Church at Kaweah on North Fork Drive reported that this week someone broke into a church building and stole a new DVD/VCR player that was still in its box. An investigation in that case is ongoing.


The planted,

they grew,

they tasted,

they tested,


   Each year, Three Rivers School seventh and eighth-graders are required to prepare a science project, which includes selecting a subject, creating a hypothesis, performing an experiment, documenting the findings, writing a report, and compiling the work into a graphically-pleasing display. This is then turned in to the school and showcased for judging.
   Last month, the judges, who are bona fide scientists from Sequoia National Park and the local U.S. Geological Survey and have understandably high standards, perused the projects, provided each student with a judging sheet and some constructive comments, and selected eight winners. Those top projects then competed at the county level.
   This year’s TRUS winners are:
   Ben Pfenninger (top scorer) attacked with “Grass Wars.”
   Jordan Vieira, Hillary Crouch, and Tor Skeen soaked up knowledge with “How Clean is Your Water?”
   Stephany Lineback took the plunge with “Dri-Water.”
   Jacob Parker, Dylan Bird-Gilmour, and Carl Schwarz performed swimmingly with “Tank and Fish Growth.”
   Casey LeFave got her daily dose of fiber with “Buttercrunch Lettuce.”
   Billy Osborn and Brendon Morgan flooded the competition with “Water Sources.”
   Madison Beck and Kaylin Reeves received flying colors for “Stroop Effect.”
   And, last, but not least, Andrew Leyva realized the sweet smell of success with “Fertilizer.”
   The Tulare County Science and Engineering Fair was held at the Sequoia Mall from Feb. 28 to March 6 and included 241 projects from 25 Tulare County schools. On Thursday, March 3, an awards ceremony was held in the center court of the mall.
   The top projects were recognized during the evening presentation, including two from Three Rivers School. Winning first place in the Zoology category were seventh-graders Jacob Parker, Dylan Bird-Gilmour, and Carl Schwarz.
   The boys’ project compared the growth of fish with the size of the fish tank. This effort garnered them a $100 cash prize.
   And the winners are…
   After participating in an oral interview with the county Science Fair judges, Jordan Vieira, Hillary Crouch, and Tor Skeen’s project was selected as one of the top 10 overall in the county, which qualifies them to advance to the California State Science Fair.
   This 54th annual competition, which will be held Monday and Tuesday, May 23 and 24, in Los Angeles, will host more than 1,000 participants from more than 350 schools throughout California. At least $50,000 will be awarded to the top projects.
   For the past five out of six years, a Three Rivers student has advanced to the State level of competition.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
OFFICE: 41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, California
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
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