Northern Exposure: Covering issues of Northern California

Published: Sunday, Apr. 14, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3E

EUREKA

Big tsunami warning exercise mostly successful in north state

A couple of warning sirens didn't go off, two Civil Air Patrol planes were grounded and one unfortunate business owner received telephone calls intended for NOAA's emergency weather line.

Otherwise, an expansive tsunami warning system test last month was a success, said Nancy Dean, meteorologist in charge of the Eureka Weather Forecast Office.

For residents along the coastal areas of Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties, the warnings through a variety of media are more than an idle drill. The Cascadia subduction zone, which stretches north to Vancouver Island, will eventually rupture, causing an earthquake that will trigger a tsunami.

"We will be tested at some point. We know it's going to come. We just hope people are taking it to heart," Dean said.

To prepare for that day, the National Weather Service has developed a system that interrupts television, radio and NOAA weather radio signals and warns people to get to higher ground. All of those tests went well, Dean said.

A second alert system uses sirens to warn of an impending tsunami. They didn't go off in a few areas, she said. The Civil Air Patrol, which uses low-flying aircraft to blast warnings of the emergency, hit bad weather that grounded two of its four planes. Some people who heard the warning misunderstood the emergency telephone number, inflicting a local business owner with calls.

Officials also realized they are not reaching many younger people, who may not be listening to radio or watching TV. They plan to investigate the use of cell towers for getting out emergency warnings. Stay tuned for tsunami texts: "OMG! DBD: RUN!"

HAPPY CAMP

Court action may slow permits for suction dredge miners

A dredge report has recreational miners stirred up about doing future business with the U.S. Forest Service.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month refused to hear a petition to overturn a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which found the Forest Service violated the federal Endangered Species Act for not consulting with the appropriate wildlife agencies before issuing permits for suction dredge mining.

The appeals court decision upheld a 2004 lawsuit filed by the Karuk Tribe arguing that the recreational mining requires a plan of operations and public review before the Forest Service can approve it in habitat critical to coho salmon within the Klamath National Forest.

The eventual upshot for suction dredge miners could be a delay in Forest Service permits to operate in streams nationwide, said Rich Krimm, a spokesman for The New 49ers, the recreational mining organization based near Happy Camp that filed the petition to the Supreme Court.

The decision will have no immediate effect in California because of a statewide moratorium on dredging to limit the impacts on water quality.

But Krimm fears the court-ordered changes in issuing permits will create confusion for the Forest Service and miners. He also worries that the decision will encourage environmentalists to file legal challenges against the way the agency generally handles recreational mining activities.

Karuk Tribal Chairman Buster Attebery called the Supreme Court decision "a great victory for the Karuk Tribe and everyone else who believes that federal agencies must act to protect our natural resources and fisheries."

SISKIYOU COUNTY

Wolf's appearance creates a need for public education

If there's a place in California with a wolf at the door, it's Siskiyou County.

OR7, the first gray wolf in California in almost 90 years, left the state March 12 the same way he entered it nearly 15 months earlier: through the county that borders Oregon.

That gives Siskiyou a particular responsibility to educate the public about wolves, said Patrick Griffin, the county's agricultural commissioner.

The 3-year-old male left his pack in northeast Oregon in September 2011, traveling south through the Cascade Range.

Since Dec. 28, 2011, when OR7 crossed into California near the town of Dorris, Griffin has taken a proactive approach, sponsoring a series of public meetings to facilitate what he called "informed choices" about wolves.

During his wanderings through seven different California counties, OR7 has generated a public debate about how to balance risks to livestock and humans with safeguarding endangered species. Ranchers throughout the northeastern counties have threatened to shoot the lone male on sight, while environmentalists have petitioned to protect canis lupus under the California Endangered Species Act.

It's critical to understand the issues wolves create because OR7 is likely the start of an influx of wolves over the next 10 to 12 years, Griffin said.

– Jane Braxton Little. Reach her at jblittle@dyerpress.com.

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