Community News

FISHING LICENSES

California’s Fishing Licenses could become valid for a full calender year after the passing of SB-187

Posted by Seth Conners

According to a release from the office of Senator Tom Berryhill, a bill authored by California Senator Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, to promote fishing for all Californians unanimously passed the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on Tuesday.
Currently, fishing licenses are based on a calendar-year cycle, with no extra time or prorated rates given for purchases made later in the season. SB-187, which is supported by groups representing nearly every type of Californian, would make fishing licenses valid for 12 months from the time of the purchase.
“Fishing is important for so many Californians,” Berryhill said. “From anglers who love the sport to people just trying to feed their families, this bill would improve the quality of life for our constituents.”
Recreational fishing contributes more than $4.6 billion annually to California’s economy. It is a major source of outdoor tourism, jobs and tax revenue for state and local governments. But sales have plummeted as rates have increased.
In 1980, when licenses were a reasonable $5, California sold more than 2.2 million licenses.  Today, the base price for an annual fishing license has skyrocketed to $47.01, while the number of annual licenses sold has decreased a staggering 55 percent.
California has over 2.7 million anglers, yet there is a growing concern that the unprecedented decline in California’s fishing sales will threaten funding for fishery and conservation programs, as well as millions of federal dollars tied to the number of licenses sold.
SB187 enjoys a broad coalition of support that includes sport, labor, business, tourism and citizen groups.
“This bill just makes sense,” Berryhill said. “Any bill that unites labor unions, state and local chambers of commerce, anglers, tourism groups and everyday Californians is ready to become law.”

 

FISHMAS!

General Trout Season opens on Saturday

Posted by Seth Conners

The general trout opener in many counties throughout California will commence on Saturday, April 29, one hour before sunrise.
Because of the popularity of this annual event with the angling public, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is making every effort to stock trout in all accessible waters approved for planting prior to the season opener. Because of the increased rains this winter, CDFW expects most lakes to be open and available for fishing. However, some upper elevation lakes may be inaccessible.
Most lakes, rivers and streams have a limit of five trout per day and 10 in possession. However, regulations differ on season opening and closing dates, bag limits, minimum and maximum size limits and gear restrictions.
Anglers are advised to check specific area regulations and opening dates in the 2017-18 California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulation booklet (www.wildlife.ca.gov/regulations) for regulations specific to each body of water.
In 2012, CDFW regional staff created the Eastern Sierra Back Country Fishing Guide to provide anglers with a quick, informative and accurate account of the distribution of fisheries in back country high elevation lakes. This guide does not address front country waters, defined as lakes and streams that are accessible by vehicle. Most of the lakes lie within U.S. Forest Service lands managed as wilderness and usually require back country permits for overnight use. Most back country fisheries are based on self-sustaining populations of trout and do not need regular trout stocking to maintain fish populations. The guide can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Regions/6 (under Hunting, Fishing, Education).
Crowley Lake in the Eastern Sierra is expected to be one of the most popular opening day destinations for anglers from around the state. In past years, an estimated 10,000 anglers have turned out for the opener, and approximately 50,000 trout are caught during the first week of the season. Typically Crowley is planted with hundreds of thousands of small and medium sized trout, and because of excellent food sources in the 5,280-acre reservoir, these trout grow to catchable sizes and weigh at least three-quarters of a pound by the opener. About 10 percent of the trout caught at Crowley during opening weekend weigh over a pound and a half. These fish are from stocks planted in previous years or are wild fish produced in Crowley’s tributary waters.
Anglers are asked to be particularly vigilant when cleaning fish and fishing gear at Crowley Lake and in the upper and lower Owens River Drainage. The New Zealand Mudsnail was discovered several years ago in the Owens River Drainage, and CDFW would like to prevent mudsnails from spreading into other waters. To avoid spreading New Zealand Mudsnails and other aquatic invasive species to other waters, anglers are advised to dispose of their fish guts in bear-proof trash cans, rather than throw them back into the water. Wading gear should be properly cleaned before using in new waters.
All persons age 16 and older must possess a valid California fishing license to fish within state lines. Freshwater fishing licenses can be purchased online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/online-sales or at regional CDFW offices or other license agents. Anglers no longer have to display their license visibly above the waist but they must have it in their possession while fishing.

KATHERINE KESSLER

Katherine Keesler passed away on April 14, very peacefully, at Northern Inyo Hospital with her son and daughter-in-law by her side. Per her wishes there won’t be any services.
Katherine was born April 23, 1925, to Elisabeth and Jimmy Robertson. She married Harold Keesler in 1942 and they had two sons, Marvin and Steven. After years of camping at Rock Creek, in 1959 they moved to Bishop; after living in the San Fernando Valley, the move was a blessing for all.
After Harold passed, Katherine met Bill Utter and enjoyed their relationship until his passing. She has since lived alone. Katherine worked as a sales clerk for various retailers in Reno and Bishop. The last place she worked was at Lyon’s Jewelry, which was her favorite.
Katherine is survived by her son Marvin and daughter-in-law Kathie; granddaughter and husband Melissa and Rob Motley; grandson and wife Christian and Renelle Keesler; great grandson Christopher Hoodman and wife Chelsea; great granddaughters Madison Keesler and Grace and Emily Motley; and good friend Dottie Bradley.
She was preceded in death by so many, most noted, husband Harold, son Steven and life partner Bill Utter.
“She was born and she died.” Between that she lived, loved and enjoyed every day. She lived with dignity and she died with dignity.  It doesn’t get better than that.  Love you,  Mom.

MAMMOTH YOSEMITE AIRPORT

Town announces details of new commercial airline terminal

Posted by Seth Conners

The Town of Mammoth Lakes is pleased to announce the next step in the process to design and construct a new Commercial Airline Terminal and Aircraft Apron at Mammoth Yosemite Airport.

 

“We have been working closely with Federal Aviation Administration staff to finalize passenger forecast data and a terminal area development plan,” stated Public Works Director Grady Dutton. “The next step is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental documentation process for the proposed project, including the required California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) documentation that the Town will concurrently complete.”

 

The proposed project description includes a three-gate, approximately 40,000 square foot commercial airline terminal and an aircraft apron that will include aircraft parking for three commercial aircraft. These new facilities are to be located immediately east of the existing terminal.

 

As an initial step, in May, the Town will issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a qualified Architecture and Engineering (A & E) Consultant Team. The selection process is anticipated to take four to five months from inception through execution of a consultant agreement. The selected team will be charged with preparing a preliminary design in support of the NEPA and CEQA processes. The design will include sufficient detail to identify potential environmental impacts of the project.

 

In June, the Town expects to issue an RFQ for an environmental consultant. That consultant will work with the A & E Team to identify and mitigate potential environmental impacts during the design process. The environmental consultant will be charged with preparing the NEPA and CEQA documentation.

 

Once the preliminary design and NEPA/CEQA processes are underway, a preliminary cost estimate and an overall preliminary schedule through construction will be developed. Although there will be a local share, the majority of the environmental, design and construction funds will be provided by FAA entitlement and discretionary Airport Improvement Program Grant funds.

YOSEMITE VISITORS SPENDING

Visitor spending supports 7883 jobs in local economy

Posted by Seth Conners

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 5,028,868 visitors to Yosemite National Park in 2016 spent $520,629,100 in communities near the park. That spending supported 7883 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $686,339,500.

According to a press release from NPS “Yosemite National Park welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Acting Superintendent Chip Jenkins. “We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides. We also feature the park as a way to introduce our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning more than $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”

Gateway communities along the Highway 120, Highway 140, and Highway 41 corridors provide a wide variety of recreational opportunities and services to help meet the diverse interests and needs of the over 5 million visitors who travel to Yosemite National Park. “We are a proud partner of the Yosemite Gateway communities and the many small businesses that provide services for visitors traveling to Yosemite National Park throughout the year.”

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service.  The report shows $18.4 billion of direct spending by 331 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 318,000 jobs nationally; 271,544 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $34.9 billion.

According to the 2016 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (31.2 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.2 percent), gas and oil (11.7 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (9.7 percent), local transportation (7.4 percent), and camping fees (2.5%).

 

Report authors this year produced an interactive tool. Users can explore current year visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage: go.nps.gov/vse.

The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

To learn more about national parks in California and how the National Park Service works with California communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/california.

BISHOP PUBLIC WORKSHOP

City of Bishop to hold workshop on short term rentals

Posted by Seth Conners

According to Elaine Kabala from the Bishop Public Works Department, on Monday, April 24th, the Bishop City Council will hold a public workshop during the regular City Council meeting to garner public input on drafting regulations to allow for short-term rentals in Bishop City limits.

In the past several years, websites such as Airbnb and VRBO have increased the number of people renting out their home or a room in their home on a short-term basis (under 30 days) both regionally and nationally. There are currently a handful of short-term rentals available within City limits.

City Council held an initial discussion regarding short-term rentals with the public at their regular meeting on March 13th. Several short-term rental operators spoke in favor of regulating the use, saying that short-term rentals allow tourists a unique lodging option that can’t be found at local hotels. Some residents voiced concerns about allowing for a quasi-commercial use in residential neighborhoods. One hotel owner said that he didn’t mind allowing short-term rentals, but that they should be required to play by the same rules as hotels, such as meeting building and safety standards, and paying Transient Occupancy Taxes or TOT.

The City Council is interested in receiving further public input on the pros and cons of short-term rentals within City limits before directing staff to prepare an ordinance regulating the use. The workshop is open to the public, and will be held during the City Council meeting on Monday, April 24th at 6:00 pm at the Council Chambers at Bishop City Hall, 301 West Line Street.

ROSSY SENTENCED

Dawndee Rossy sentenced to 9 years in State Prison

Posted by Seth Conners

    According to Inyo County District Attorney Tom Hardy, former Inyo County Health & Human Services Integrated Caseworker Supervisor Dawndee Rossy was sentenced today to nine years in prison to be served at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.  Ms. Rossy has been in custody at the Inyo County Jail since August 29, 2016, and will soon be transported to the reception center for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.  She was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,543,785.24, plus an additional $272,491.00 for unpaid state income tax.
            The sentencing followed a long legal process which began in January, 2013 when irregularities were discovered in a public assistance benefit case supervised by Ms. Rossy.  Upon being interviewed by Bishop Police Department and District Attorney Investigators, Ms. Rossy admitted her involvement in diverting public assistance monies to her own use.
            The complex investigation that followed revealed over thirty false or fraudulent welfare accounts created or reopened by Ms. Rossy. The evidence at trial showed that she developed a sophisticated plan whereby she acquired social security numbers and other identifying information for individuals living throughout the country and created public assistance benefit accounts on their behalf in Inyo County.  The benefits were then placed on electronic benefit cards (similar to ATM or credit cards) which she then used to withdraw cash for her own benefit.  Ms. Rossy forged and filed hundreds of false documents in the cases, creating a realistic looking “paper trail” justifying the benefit awards.  None of the individuals whose identities were stolen were aware that their identifying information was being used improperly.  Obviously forged documents were found in a search of her office, and she was recorded using electronic benefit cards issued to fraudulent cases at local financial institutions.
            The trial in her case began in February, 2016 before the Honorable Philip Argento, who was assigned to the case by the California Judicial Council.  Over the course of the multi-week non-jury trial, over 450 exhibits were admitted into evidence, and the court heard testimony from more than twenty witnesses.  On August 15, 2016, Judge Argento found Ms. Rossy guilty of 88 separate felonies including grand theft, embezzlement, conspiracy to commit theft, misappropriation of public funds, forgery, identity theft, manufacture of deceptive identification documents, filing false documents in public records, and state income tax evasion.  He also found to be “true” various enhancements regarding the amount of loss, and found that Ms. Rossy had misappropriated $1,543,785.24.
            The investigation was coordinated by DA Investigator Stephanie Rennie and Bishop Police Officer Mark Gutierrez (now an Inyo County Sheriff’s Deputy).  The tax fraud investigation was conducted by Special Agent Karen Lees of the California Franchise Tax Board.  District Attorney Tom Hardy personally handled the trial proceedings.  Invaluable assistance was also provided by the Fiscal Services office of the County Department of Health and Human Services as well as current and former Health and Human Services Employment and Public Assistance staff.

MAMMOTH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

New Chamber Director starts April 24th

Posted by Seth Conners

The Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce has hired Ken Brengle as its new Director. Brengle comes to the position with more than 30 years of Chamber experience, and is no stranger to mountain communities.

 

“I did a lot of work with Chamber resort associations in Colorado, as well as in Big Bear,” Brengle explained. “I love mountain communities and have a close tie to them.” Brengle was raised in Colorado and is a graduate of Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo. He managed Chambers throughout Colorado, Wyoming and California.

 

For the past two years Brengle has been working for Union Bank in Southern California while his son was attending high school, but his passion is in the Chamber management field. He is looking forward to getting back to what he loves now that his son is about to graduate.

 

Brengle’s wife used to live in Mammoth Lakes so he is familiar with the area. Ken is looking forward to jumping feet-first into his new position on April 24.

 

“Membership is always the number one priority with a Chamber,” Brengle said. “I’m looking forward to getting out and visiting the business community and listening to the business owners to determine the issues that need to be addressed.”

 

“We are thrilled to have someone with Ken’s breadth of Chamber experience with a track record of building communities by working with both the public and private sectors,” said Mammoth Lakes Chamber President Jeff Guillory. “As a Colorado native, we are equally excited to have someone like Ken who shares our love of and passion for the mountains.”

 

“I’m looking forward to getting back to a community that is obviously moving forward,” Brengle added, “and to assisting the business community in getting to the next level.”

 

As Brengle takes on the Chamber Director role, Jessica Kennedy, who has been serving as the Interim Director, and previously as Business Projects Manager for the Chamber and Mammoth Lakes Tourism, will step into the role of Assistant Director of the Chamber of Commerce.

 

Mammoth Lakes Tourism has hired local Emily Summers as its new Office Manager to replace the work that Kennedy was doing for MLT. Summers will begin work on April 24 as well.

MOUNTAIN PASS ROUTES

Caltrans issues ETA’s for reopening of several local mountain passes

Posted by Seth Conners

According to a press release fro Stuart Brown in Mammoth, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 9 has begun working on clearing snow, removing rocks, and repairing roads to its eight mountain passes.  As work progresses, pedestrians, bicyclists, skiers, etc. are advised to stay out of these areas. Safety is our number one priority, for the public as well as Caltrans’ workers. This is the District 9 Seasonal Pass Status as of Wednesday, April 12, 2017:

SR 89 – Monitor Pass

Snow removal has begun from US Highway 395 to the Alpine County line.  There is approximately 5 feet of snowpack at the Mono/Alpine County line.  Road repair is required before reopening.  There is no estimated date for reopening the highway at this time.

SR 108 – Sonora Pass

Snow removal equipment is in place and starting to work on the lower sections of the highway.  The snowpack is estimated to be 5 to 12 feet on the highway.  There is no estimated date for reopening the highway at this time.

SR 270 – Bodie Road

All snow has been removed but the highway remains closed at the request of Bodie State Park personnel.

SR 120 West – Tioga Pass (from the Junction of US 395 to the Yosemite National Park Gate)

Snow removal equipment is in place and starting to work on the lower sections of the highway.  The snowpack is estimated to be between 8 to 15 feet on the highway, with up to 50 foot snowdrifts in some locations.  There is no estimated date for reopening the highway at this time.

SR 120 East – Mono Mills

All snow has been removed and minor road repair is complete.  Seasonal opening is scheduled for 2:00 pm Friday, April 14, 2017.  If the area is impacted by inclement weather Caltrans may have to re-close the highway.

SR 158 – June Lake Loop

All snow has been removed and minor road repair is complete.  Seasonal opening is scheduled for noon Friday, April 14, 2017.  If the area is impacted by inclement weather Caltrans may have to re-close the highway.

SR 203 – From the Mammoth Mountain Parking Lot to Minaret Vista

This section of highway is under permit of Mammoth Mountain Ski area for the winter ski season.  There is no estimated date for reopening the highway at this time.

SR 168 West – Above Aspendell

Snow removal has begun and there is approximately 2 to 5 feet of snowpack at the end of the highway.  The estimated date for reopening is April 21, weather permitting.

Crestview Roadside Rest Area

Reopened on Wednesday, April 5th for the summer season.

State Route 182 Closed due to Rockslide – UPDATE

The California Department of Transportation would like to notify travelers that State Route 182 in Mono County near Bridgeport remains closed due to a rockslide across the highway.  Work is continuing on clearing the roadway.  The estimated date for reopening the highway is April 21st. The traveling public is advised to use U.S. Highway 395 as an alternate route.

All information is subject to change and is weather dependent.

For the latest highway information please visit the Caltrans QuickMap site at quickmap.dot.ca.gov or call the Road Condition Hotline at 1-800-427-ROAD (7623).

TELECOMMUNICATORS WEEK

Time is running out to acknowledge your local safety dispatchers.

Posted by Seth Conners

According to Carma Roper at the Inyo Sheriffs Office, each year the second week in April is dedicated to the men and women who serve as public safety dispatchers. Originally introduced to Congress in 1991, and officially recognized in 1994, National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week is a time to honor and thank our public safety dispatchers for a job well done.
Last year Inyo County Sheriff’s dispatchers handled thousands of emergency and disaster related phone calls, as well as business and traffic calls. Additionally Sheriff’s dispatch is responsible for the initiation of reverse-911 phone calls through CodeRED. The Bishop Police Department Dispatch also handled thousands of calls for Police, Fire, and EMS services in the Bishop area. On the Federal side, Owens Valley Interagency Communications Center dispatches for the Inyo National Forest and BLM Bishop Field Office, and is responsible for mobilizing resources in support of incidents that occur locally as well as nationally and internationally.
“Dispatchers are unsung heroes,” stated Inyo County Sheriff Bill Lutze. “They are the first to receive emergency calls for assistance, and they perform a very difficult job with professionalism and caring under extreme pressure.  I want to personally thank all our public safety dispatchers in Inyo County for what they do.”
Chief Ted Stec of the Bishop Police Department agrees. “Being a Public Safety Dispatcher is an extremely demanding and stressful job. It takes a very special kind of person to do this work and they are often unappreciated as they work mostly behind the scenes. It is my honor to be able to publicly thank them and recognize them for the great work they do.”
California Highway Patrol Bishop Area Captain Tim Noyes stated, “The men and women that dispatch for the California Highway Patrol and law enforcement in general work with the utmost commitment and devotion. Without the hard work of these highly trained men and women countless lives would be endangered. The public only knows about the dispatcher when they call 911 – but each time a new incident occurs, dispatchers are the vital link between the officers, public and all the other first responders going to the scene. Next time you hear about a call, remember there is somebody on that line giving the caller life-saving information or just being a sympathetic ear.”
There are four dispatch centers locally; the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, Bishop Police Department, California Highway Patrol, and Owens Valley Interagency dispatch. Some of the dispatching duties involve handling calls for law enforcement, fire, ambulance, search and rescue; and other county, state and federal agencies.