Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021 @ 2:59 p.m.
Here Are WRO's Top Stories for 2021 — The Year of Delta?
It’s hard to believe 2021 is over.
At the start of the new year Del Norte County slowly began to emerge from pandemic-induced shutdowns. Children were back in classrooms, though they remained masked and, for some, schooling continues to be done via Zoom and other distance-learning platforms. There were graduations, a Fourth of July parade and a Del Norte County Fair.
Twenty twenty-one also brought its share of challenges to Del Norte County. The hill above U.S. 101 at Last Chance Grade gave out during a rainstorm in February, separating Klamath from the rest of the county. Even after Caltrans reopened the highway, motorists had to time their trips north and south to account for hours-long closures.
Del Norte County also saw the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic when the Delta variant swept through in August and September. There were more than 400 active cases in the county at the surge’s peak. Sutter Coast Hospital was over capacity — most COVID cases were among the unvaccinated population, according to its CEO — and had to rely on the state for intensive care unit nurses, x-ray technicians and respiratory therapists.
What will 2022 bring? Who knows. For now, not in any particular order, let’s look back at some of the most-read Wild Rivers Outpost stories of 2021.
Yreka Couple Killed By Fallen Tree Near Hiouchi Leaves Behind 5 Children
Fallen Redwood on U.S. 199 Kills Two
Del Norters offered support and sympathy to the children of Jake and Jessica Woodruff, a Yreka couple who was killed on March 25 when a fallen tree struck their vehicle near Hiouchi.
The Woodruffs’ family created a Go Fund Me Account to ensure the couple’s five children would experience few financial hardships as the older began caring for their younger siblings. As of Tuesday, the Go Fund Me page raised $336,134 out of a $500,000 goal.
“We are brokenhearted and are trying to do as much as we can to ensure the children have, at the very least, no financial hardships as they learn to grieve their parents in addition to navigating childhood and parenthood,” the Woodruffs’ cousin, Emma Miravalle Hood, wrote in an email to the Wild Rivers Outpost.
Man and Woman Swept Off Crescent City Jetty Rescued After Clinging to Harbor Rocks in Icy Waters
Gary Charlesworth and Julie Limper were lucky to be alive after a wave swept them off the Crescent City jetty and into the harbor on Nov. 8. Del Norte Search and Rescue volunteers braved the jetty themselves to get to the victims. After about an hour, DNSAR personnel pulled the couple to safety and transported them to the hospital to be treated for their injuries.
The couple offered a heartfelt thank you to their rescuers. But after responding to the second of two jetty rescues in less than two months, DNSAR representatives said they’d like to see stricter measures taken to deter people from venturing out onto the jetty.
DNSAR secretary, Kathy Williams said she’d like to see a sign showing the number of fatalities and injuries people have sustained after being swept from the jetty.
“Even if we’re not allowed to make citations, at least if the information was there, people from out of town could say, ‘Oh wow, maybe I shouldn’t walk out there,’” she said.
Six weeks prior to the Nov. 8 incident, 43-year-old Reuben Cha, of Los Angeles, died after being swept off the jetty on Sept. 28.
California Crab Fishermen Reduce Asking Price To $3.10; Representative for Processors Say COVID-19 Effects On Dungeness Market Continue
Del Norte Fishermen, Experience Disappointing Start to Dungeness Crab Season
Five Days Into Dungeness Season, Fishermen Continue to Pull Up Empty Pots
State officials opened the commercial Dungeness season on Dec. 23, 2020, but North Coast fishermen continued to haggle with seafood processors over price well into 2021.
Initially asking for $3.25 per pound, fishermen settled on $2.75 so they could get out on the water. But when they pulled their pots on Jan. 16, the results were disappointing.
One fisherman, Kurt Ivison, of the FV Moray, only had six crab to show for his efforts on opening day.
“It’s never been this bad,” he told the Outpost.
Though seafood processors raised the price to $4 per pound five days into the season, according to Rick Shepherd, president of the Crescent City Commercial Fisherman’s Marketing Association, pots were still empty.
On Jan. 21, Shepherd estimated that less than 5,000 pounds of crab had been delivered to Crescent City.
The commercial Dungeness season ended statewide six weeks earlier than normal due to the presence of whales.
Permanent Fix to Last Chance Grade Narrowed Down to Two
Though Its Estimated Cost is $1.3 Billion, Tunnel Was Cheaper Than Other Last Chance Grade Alternatives, According to Caltrans Representatives
A two-mile long tunnel may be the best option for getting traffic around the precarious Last Chance Grade south of Crescent City, Caltrans officials decided in April.
The tunnel was presented to Del Norte County as one of two permanent fixes to the fraught stretch of U.S. 101 about two months after a landslide brought motorists to a stand-still. The second option includes an “end-to-end re-engineering” of the highway, moving it inland by about 130 feet and installing retaining walls and better drainage to divert water away from the hill, Last Chance Grade Project Manager Jaime Matteoli said in November.
‘It’s Emotional and It’s Not For the Faint of Heart’; True North Committee Embarks on Getting Patrick’s Point, Fort Humboldt, Peacock Bar Renamed in Local Languages
True North’s Inter-Tribal Organizing Committee, made up of Yurok, Wiyot and Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation representatives, was successful. Now, people can visit Sue-meg State Park near Trinidad in Humboldt County.
In Del Norte County, new signs at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Tolowa Dunes State Park and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, will welcome visitors to Tolowa land.
Caltrans Reopens U.S. 101 To One-Way Controlled Traffic
Caltrans Changes Last Chance Grade Schedule; Prepare for Two 4-hour Closures After July 6
U.S. 101 To Stay Closed at Last Chance Grade After Slide Activity Picks Up
Landslide Closes road to Klamath Glen; Closure at Last Chance Grade Continues
A rain-driven landslide at Last Chance Grade bisected Del Norte County around Valentines Day, keeping emergency services from reaching Klamath. The slide prompted some motorists to try to find a way around the closure by navigating Del Norte’s forest service roads, keeping Del Norte Search and Rescue personnel busy.
For awhile it looked like the hill would never stop moving. About a week after the initial closure on Feb. 13, Caltrans reported that its crews were contending with roughly 3,000 cubic yards of debris, forcing it to stop traffic for roughly two hours at a time so they could get the upper hand.
By summer, Caltrans announced that it would enforce two 4-hour closures to accelerate progress at Last Chance Grade. Caltrans discontinued those closures on Aug. 30, just in time for the first day of school.
Half of Sutter Coast’s Patients Are ‘COVID-Positive,’ Hospital CEO Says; Fair Rep Says Cost of Canceling Could Have Been Huge
With half its patients positive for COVID-19, Sutter Coast Hospital received help from the California Emergency Management Services Agency in the form of extra staff and equipment. State personnel ran the hospital’s vaccination and testing clinics and also administered monoclonal antibody infusion therapy to COVID patients, according to hospital CEO Mitch Hanna.
The number of COVID cases in Del Norte County began climbing in mid-July, fueled by Independence Day gatherings and the more virulent Delta variant. Despite the surge and calls to avoid large public gatherings, the Del Norte County Fair was held Aug. 5-8.
After the fair, John Pritchett, a board member for the 41st Agricultural District, said the cost to the Del Norte County Fairgrounds and its vendors, including Paul Maurer Shows, which was contracted to run the carnival that weekend, would have been huge.
“There’s a good chance we would have never seen those folks again,” Pritchett told the Outpost. “If we had canceled with the state saying you don’t have to and the state not coming in and saying you must close like they did in 2020, I don’t know if they’d ever come back.”
Del Norte County had 417 active COVID-19 cases at the surge’s peak on Aug. 21.
As of Wednesday, 41 people have succumbed to the disease, according to the county’s COVID-19 Information Hub.
Campbell Pleads Guilty to One Count of Election Fraud
Mayor Pro Tem Charged With Election Fraud, Perjury; Allegations State Alex Campbell Does Not Live Within Crescent City Limits
Not long after Alex Campbell was elected to the Crescent City Council, he faced felony charges of perjury and false declaration of candidacy. According to the accusations against him, Campbell didn’t actually live in the city he sought to represent.
Though he initially denied these allegations, telling the Outpost that while he owned a house in the county, his official residence was on I Street within Crescent City limits, Campbell pleaded guilty to one count of election fraud on March 2.
Campbell resigned from the Crescent City Council, though he passed out a “Free Alex Campbell” sticker designed to look like a Monopoly Chance card. Raymond Altman took Campbell’s place on April 1.
Dead Whale Beached Near Port Orford
The juvenile humpback whale washed ashore near the Paradise Point State Recreation Site on Oct. 14 though it had been decomposing for some time, Oregon State University Stranding Program Manager Jim Rice told the Outpost.
(UPDATED) CHP Leading Multi-agency Investigation Into Officer-Involved Shooting of a Black Man, Del Norte Sheriff Says
An officer-involved shooting of Robert Anderson, a 38-year-old Black man who had lived in Crescent City for seven months, prompted an investigation into whether excessive force was used.
California Highway Patrol officers and Del Norte County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a report of a disabled vehicle blocking the road near Parkway Drive and Sherwood Lane north of Crescent City on Aug. 25. When they arrived, they found Anderson allegedly holding a knife and walking in traffic lanes.
“The male subject advanced toward the officers and an officer-involved shooting occurred,” a CHP news release stated. “The subject died as a result of the incident. There were no injuries to CHP or DNCSO personnel.”
The CHP’s Northern Division Critical Incident Investigation Team and Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team investigated the officer-involved shooting. The Del Norte County District Attorney’s Office also assisted with the investigation.
On Sept. 11, the sheriff’s office released body camera video footage of the officer-involved shooting.
Quality Crab, High Price Make a Productive Opening to Del Norte’s Dungeness Fishery
Crescent City crab fishermen brought their catch to Citizens Dock on time for the first time in seven years on Dec. 1. Though they were unwilling to predict how the overall season would turnout, fishermen were pleased to receive $4.75 per pound for their catch.
“That’s the highest price anybody’s seen on this coast,” Rick Shepherd, president of the Crescent City Commercial Fisherman’s Marketing Assocation, told the Wild Rivers Outpost. “The price for crab has gotten up that high before when the volume drops down, but for a starting price at the beginning of the season, that’s the best price anybody ever seen.”
Crescent Seafood owner, Kurt Hochberg, was kept busy selling steamed crab, crab cakes and crab cake sandwiches. The influx of Dungeness also allowed Hochberg to freeze the meat for use later in the year.
“This is the first time we’ve had any real production in a long time,” he told the Outpost.
Hochberg was still cooking up crab on Dec. 29, though they’ll be closed New Years Day.