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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
February 12, 2014     Feather River Bulletin
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February 12, 2014

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6B Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 EDITORIAL AN D OPINION Bulletin, Progressive, Record, Reporter EDITORIAL SPI vindication won't end bounty hunter mentality Misguided. Deceptive. Not truthful. Corrupt. Tainted. Egregious. Systematic misdirection. Reprehensible conduct. Those are some of the words Judge Leslie C. Nichols used last week to describe the tactics of CalFire and two of its lawyers. Nichols threw out the state's $8 million lawsuit against Sierra Pacific Industries; and then ordered CalFire to pay SPI and its legal team $25 million for wasting their time. We were pleased to hear about the judge's ruling. It is vindication for the family-owned timber company with strong connections to Plumas County. Sierra Pacific Industries has argued from the beginning that it had nothing to do with starting the 2007 Moonlight Fire. Despite producing overwhelming evidence to that effect, the timber company was forced to hand over $122 million ($55 million in cash and 22,500 acres of prime timberland) to the federal government in 2012. The company really had no choice. It agreed to pay the largest settlement of its kind in U.S. history because the judge in the case (U.S.. District Judge Kimberly J. MueUer) told SPI it could be held responsible for starting the fire even if it could prove it didn't. State and federal investigators were quick to place the blame on one of SPI's subcontractors, saying a spark from a bulldozer ignited the fire. SPI was adamant that it could prove otherwise. But it never got its day in court. SPI's lawyers were fuming. They argued that the fact the government settled for a fraction of the $700 million it wanted proved that the timber company had a good case. Sierra Pacific blasted the government for its bounty hunter mentality. It said the government went after SPI because the company had the deepest pockets -- even though a $700 million loss would have amounted to a financial death penalty for the company. SPI claimed it was named a suspect just two days after the fire started. The company said the investigation by CalFire and the Forest Service was, at the very Ieast;rflawed ... if not corrupt. When the settlement was announced two'years ago, SPI said it couldn't wait for the chance to present its case in civil court, where CalFire was seeking $8 million from SPI to pay for the costs of fighting the 65,000-acre fire. Once again, the case never made it that far. Judge Nichols said the case wasn't worthy of a jury trial. Nichols hardly minced words in his rebuke of the state and two of its attorneys. While the victory for SPI is substantial, it doesn't make up for the damage caused by the 2012 ruling. Since SPI agreed to the $122 million settlement, there is probably very little chance for an appeal. Regardless who wins or loses cases like this, the bigger issue is the outrageous size of the financial settlements and penalties associated with these lawsuits. How can legitimate, vital companies like Sierra Pacific Industries justify doing business in a state as litigious as this one is? Would you want to work in a place where one misstep could put you out of businesS? Fea00Pfiblishmg 00wspaper For breaking news, go to ) Michael C. Taborski ............. Publisher Keri B. Taborski ...Legal Advertising Dept. Dan McDonald ......... Managing Editor Jenny Lee ................. Photo Editor Ingrid Burke ................ Copy Editor Staff writers: Laura Beaton Carolyn Shipp Michael Condon Makenzie Davis Ruth Ellis Will Farris Susan Cort Johnson Debra Moore Maddie Musante M. Kate West Aura Whittaker Sam Williams James Wilson Samantha P. Hawthorne Feather River Bulletin (530) 283-0800 Indian Valley Record (530) 284-7800 Portola Reporter (530) 832-4646 Chester Progressive (530) 258-3115 Lassen County Times (530) 257-5321 Westwood PinePress (530) 256-2277 Printed on recycled paper Member, California Newspaper Publishers Assoc. Mysteries of life leave A week ago Friday we got the call that a body had been found in Portola at the rock pile, near the railroad tracks. There was a good chance it was Michael Mowrey, who'd been missing for nearly a month. Our Portola reporter was unavailable, so I drove out there from Quincy, hoping I could find this rock pile that I had never heard of. The snow flurries I ran into at C Road should have clued me in that it really was cold outside, despite the sunshine and the warm weather when I left. As I neared the city, I kept one eye focused across the river, looking for the rock pile and the swarm of sheriffs department vehicles I expected. But I didn't see either. As I drove across the Gulling Street Bridge, I stopped my car and asked a pedestrian if he knew of a place called the rock pile. He said the only thing he could unanswered questions MY TURN LAURA BEATON Staff Writer think of was Rocky Point, by the Jehovah's Witness church at the far end of town. I continued across the bridge, made a left and drove down toward the recycling center, parallel to the tracks, just in case. There was no rock pile anywhere. I turned around anddrove back over the bridge toward Rocky Point Road. I turned onto the road and drove into the picnic area. No luck. This week's special days NOT JUST AN ORDINARY DAY COMPILED BY KERI TABORSKI Not just an ordinary day....a sampling weekly notable special days and facts throughout the year. February 12 1809 -- Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States was born today in Kentucky. admitted as the 33rd U.S. state. 1899 -- Voting machines are approved by the United States Congress for use in federal elections. 1912 -- Arizona, "The Grand Canyon State" is admitted as the 48th U.S. state. 1962 -- United States First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy takes television viewers on a tour of the White House. February 16 1852 -- Studebaker Wagon Company, a precursor of the Studebaker automobile manufacturer, is established. 1874 -- The silver dollar becomes legal U.S. tender. 1914 -- The first stone of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. is put into place 1999 -- United States President Bill Clinton is acquitted by the United States Senate in his impeachment trial. 1959 -- Fidel Castro becomes president of Cuba. February 17 Presidents Day is observed today. 1904 -- The opera Madame Butterfly premiers at the La Scala Opera House in Milan. February 13 1914 -- In New York City, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers establishes the copyright to protect the compositions of its members. February 14 Today is Valentine's Day. 1849 -- In New York City, James Polk is the first servingpresident to have his photograph taken. 1972-- The an-times sales to date of the Volkswagen Beetle exceeds the all-time. :ies of the Ford M0del T. February 18 1930 -- While studying photographs taken in January, an astronomer discovers the planet Pluto. 1859-- Oregon, The Beaver State is So I headed the other way on Rocky Point, which I had never been on. There were some very pretty sights along the winding riverfront road (including the Jim Beckwourth Museum I never knew existed) and I thought about taking pictures, but I didn't because I had a mission. I kept driving. Soon I was back on the bridge. This time I turned right through town toward the railroad museum. And then, as I cruised around slowly, looking for some sign of a rock pile or sheriff's vehicles, I saw a couple cars on the other side of the tracks, peeking out from under the railcars. I parked, threw on my jacket, grabbed my camera and began walking toward the vehicles hidden behind a long row of railcars. A couple of search and rescue volunteers were coming toward me with their dog, and when they saw me, they angled my way. I told them who I was and why I was there and they directed me to the scene. The sun was shining bright and warm as I reached a couple of deputies and detectives, who were waiting for the rest of their team to arrive. They said I couldn't get close to where the body had been found until the site had been cleared. The longer I stood around, waiting for detectives and then the funeral home people to show up, the colder I got as the sun sank behind the clouds and the wind kicked up. Eventually Manni Funeral Home came with their gurney and I followed them past a gigantic rock pile to where a bright yellow body bag lay on the frozen ground. I was struck by how small it looked. Is that what happens to us in death -- we become that small and inconsequential? To think that such a short time ago the body inside that yellow bag was a living, breathing, loving and caring man with a job, a home, friends and a purpose. What twist of fate occurred to end his life at the age of 51? What circumstances conspired to lead a man to shed his clothing and curl up naked on a patch of frozen ground just a few hundred yards away from warm cozy homes? We might never know exactly what happened to Michael Mowrey: the particular .twists and turns of fate that stole his last breath away will remain a secret. Is there a message for us amidst the apparent senselessness and mystery of a life cut short? Is there a lesson to learn, a moral to the story? Or is this just one more unknowable mystery that defies logic? If somebody knows the answer, please drop me a line. In the meantime, I'll keep pondering the strange, incredible and often heartbreaking mysteries of life. REMEMBER WHEN the Lake Almanor area to keep up with ............................................................... new construction that is predicted to KERI TABORSKI take place this spring and summer in Historian that area. 75 YEARS AGO ..... 1939 Telephone service for the residents of the Sloat-Cromberg area will be provided this summer. Constructmn of a line to carry electricity to Meadow Valley was started today by PG&E and will bring in a construction crew of 35 or more men. 50 YEARS AGO ..... 1964 Plumas County will hire a special deputy building inspector to work in 25 YEARS AGO ..... 1989 Former Chester resident Craig Dill donated the world's smallest playable violin that he built to the Chester Museum this week. He made the 15/16th of an inch violin in 1986 and it is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. Widespread public criticism and unproductive negotiations forced the Plumas County Board of Supervisors to drop their proposed self-imposed 12 per cent pay raise. 10 YEARS AGO ..... 2004 The Chester and Greenville Plumas County Sheriff substations, the Chester Fire Department and the California Highway Patrol responded to a bomb threat at Chester High School Wednesday morning. The three hour room by room search of the school detected or produced no bomb, however. Note: items included in the weekly Remember When column are taken from our bound newspaper archives and represent writing styles of that particular period. The spelling and grammar are not edited, so the copy is presented as it actually appeared in the original newspaper. What is with men and their tools? For five years, my father's daily walk has taken him around a nearby park and down a neighborhood street. A few years back, something embedded in that street caught his eye. He noticed it every time he walked. At first it was just a curiosity, but then it became a nagging obsession. So that's how I found myself standing guard last Saturday morning ashe chiseled away at an object stuck in the asphalt. He had a feeling that he knew what it was -- a clevis pin. What is a clevis pin you ask? Actuallyl I asked, but only after first struggling with "clevis,'" a word that I had never heard before. "It'sa pin that goes in a clevis" came the helpful explanation. With some hand gestures, (we are of Italian heritage) dad explained that it was used as part of a pulley system. He had several already. "How many do you need?" I asked. My dad's look silenced me: Obviously a man can never have too many clevis pins. My dad's prior attempts to retrieve the pin had been unsuccessful, but I silently prayed this time would be different because I knew he would not rest until he freed that pin, and I knew that when I left I would worry about him crouching in the street every morning oblivious to oncoming vehicles. The ping, ping, ping on asphalt broke the morning's stillness and no doubt the neighbors' sleep. "Damn it." I looked down and saw dad holding a piece of bent metal. I'm sure there's a MY TURN DEBRA MOORE Staff Writer name for it, but I don't know what it is. "I knew that was going to happen," he said. I refrained from asking the obvious question as he went back to hammering. Ruby, my aunt's dog and the reason for my dad's daffy walks, tugged at her leash. Now I knew why my dad was so happy that I decided to walk with him; while I held on to Ruby he had both hands free to battle the blacktop. "One more time," he said, as he whacked at the ground. I was pretty sure that we had to be breaking some law -- at the very least disturbing the peace. "I got it!" he said triumphantly as he pushed himself to his feet. There it was -- the object of such focused attention and effort. It didn't look like much to me, but I admired it anyway. He couldn't wait to get home to polish and rethread it. My dad is happiest when he has a project and now he had one. Later that afternoon he proudly displayed the shiny pin and then again the next day when my brother came to visit. Turns out he has clevis pins too. What is it with men and their tools? Actually, I think I understand. I have a couple of toolboxes of my own, and I'm proud of my array of screwdrivers, wrenches and widgets. It's not the tools as much as what they represent -- the ability to fix something or create something. They represent ability and independence. Well that's what I'd like them to represent. Truth be told, I have a plumber, a contractor, and my neighbor Matt on speed dial when my husband is out of town. I wish that I could be more like my girlfriend Lynn. When the broiler at her restaurant malfunctioned, she took it apart. When her ceiling fan stopped spinning, she got on a ladder. If she can avoid a repair bill, she will. I take out my checkbook. Growing up we never had a repairman. My dad could fix anything. Well that's not quite true. There was a toaster that never returned from the workbench. While I suppose I could have learned from my dad, that's not how our house worked. The boys did the outside work, while the girls did the inside work. (Even though I thought this was highly unfair since I had four brothers and only one sister.) When I bought my house, the sellers gave me a toolbox, a power screwdriver and a copy of"Home Repairs for Dummies." I'm actually not totally incompetent. I have used the screwdriver. But I have not, and I doubt that I ever will, use a clevis pin. Though if I do, I know where I can find one.