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The mystery birds of Mule Creek

CDCR has issued their Phase II report on the reported illicit discharges at Mule Creek some 20 months after the complaint was first made with the Regional Water Quality Control Board. That’s disturbing by itself, but it gets better. The Phase II report is 16,841 pages of sampling and testing that concludes the problem is fundamentally “bird waste.”

Who’s kidding who? Let me briefly review why that assertion is absurd. I was the supervisor for the company that had contracted to extend the storm drain culverts in the area of the “moat,” an open ditch that ran the exterior western half of the prison at the lethal electric fence that drained most of the facilities storm water. I was told that the premise for eliminating the “moat” was to eliminate birds and small animals from being attracted to the standing water in the “moat,” frolicking in it and then flying into the electric fence. I thought the concept was admirable. However, from the first day on the project in July 2017, water was pouring out of all of the storm drain culverts. It wasn’t supposed to have any discharge at that time of year. I asked at every opportunity to have the water shut off but all I got were excuses, blank looks and shrugs.

What should have been a few weeks became months and during this time we experienced what looked like soap, discolored water, hot water and worse. I was constantly reassured there was nothing to worry about. But by November 2017, I had an epiphany. No birds. Lots of no birds. In fact, we only saw one dead bird and it wasn’t on the fence but in the “moat.”

Ever had a girlfriend that would hang out with her handsome athletic cousin? And then one day your friend advises you she doesn’t have a cousin? That’s the feeling. We were unwitting conspirators helping to hide some of the most disgusting and vile discharge anywhere. I called the Central Valley RWQCB and even they were shocked by their findings. And today, 22 months later, the discharges continue unabated in defiance of the RWQCB order issued on February 14, 2017.

Let me be the first to affix the moniker to CDCR’s Chief of Environmental and Regulatory Compliance Section, Gregory Larrabee, the person most promoting the “bird waste” theory, as the “Bird Man of Mule Creek.”

CDCR produced a report that is 16,841 pages, blames all of the fecal coliform and e coli contamination on bird waste, and yet does no bird studies? They did nothing explaining the number or size of these mystery birds. I doubt Foster Farms or Tyson Foods has anything on Mule Creek. And the best part of all, CDCR will report on their genetic studies of the waste stream in the fall of 2020. Good thing it’s not an emergency.

David Anderson


Housing for seniors

I wanted to do a short follow up to my original letter (published in the Ledger Dispatch on August 6, 2019), mainly because I have received so many follow-ups via phone, email and on the street. The most common piece of advice was to check out Jackson View Estates as the answer to all my questions. Unfortunately, I found that there is a serious point of confusion as to the difference between affordable senior housing options and over 55 retirement gated communities.

After meeting with the sales rep from Jackson View Estates, we found that the smallest square footage home is around 1,700 square feet and is definitely not priced in the mid-300Ks. Most of the homes run in the $450K range and actually have fairly large back yards, which come as bare dirt for the homeowner to decide as to what they want and how much they wish to spend.

The senior housing that many people I have talked with is more in the line of condominiums, casitas or townhomes with square footage under 1,500 and turn key solutions for maintenance. They (myself included) are looking for homes where you can turn off the lights and leave for extended periods of travel, medical, etc., without worrying about safety or maintenance. We want to downsize not just square footage, but costs and responsibilities as well. If Jackson View Estates could expand their vision and scope, it could very well fit the bill.

But most of all, we want to be able to stay in the community we know and love.

Art McClellan


Sutter Creek artists seek new home after order to vacate

The Sutter Creek Gallery was given a surprise notice to vacate by Wayne and Susan Vinciguerra, the new owners of the building where the gallery resides, only minutes after the former building owner, Jean Pinotti, notified the gallery owners of the sale of the building. The Vinciguerras informed the Gallery owners the building must be vacated by February 6, 2020, in order to make room for a new Vinciguerra Construction office. The Sutter Creek Gallery, a cooperative of 25 local artists, is currently searching for a new building in Sutter Creek. The Gallery and artists would like to remain in Sutter Creek, continuing to provide art to the region and the many visitors to the area.

Sutter Creek Gallery has been in operation in historic Sutter Creek for the past 30 years. It has been a local mainstay in the old post office adjacent to Sutter Creek, just yards from where John Sutter founded the town in 1844. With the belief that art is for everyone, over the past many years, the artists of the Gallery have been and continue to be involved in many of the artists’ associations that provide: art demonstrations; fundraising for scholarships for local high school students; local art shows; and art programs for youth.

The cooperative suffered economic hardship due to the interruption of business during the Vinciguerra Construction’s Sutter Creek bridge renovation that took approximately 18 months to complete. Optimistic for future economic opportunity with the City of Sutter Creek’s makeover and bridge completion, the cooperative came together and completed their own renovation of the gallery. The Gallery just celebrated their grand reopening. Ironically, Vinciguerra served the notice to vacate just weeks after many celebrated his completion of the bridge project.

The cooperative thanks the City of Sutter Creek, the local community and the many visitors to the area that have supported the Sutter Creek Gallery over these many years. The artists are hopeful for a new opportunity and a Sutter Creek location. The cooperative plans on remaining together and are extremely thankful for all the community support, outreach and relocation possibilities during this challenging time.

The Sutter Creek Gallery co-op artists

Thank you for the sidewalks

In the front page article of the November 22 issue of the Ledger Dispatch, describing the dedication of the completion of wonderful road work on New York Ranch Road by City of Jackson and Jackson Rancheria Bank of Miwuk Indian partnership, I would like to add our appreciation of the new sidewalks.

Speaking for the walkers who use those sidewalks, it is a gift to have a safe walkway for those of us walking a dog, exercising, walking to the Amador County Senior Center for programs or lunch, shopping or work. Thank you. 

Now, if the city/county could continue the striping of China Graveyard Road, it would help those of us guessing our side of the road.

The continuing maintenance of the road is greatly appreciated. Keep up the good work. Looking forward to a wider road someday.

Mary Ann and Frank Tortorich

Rollingwood Estates residents