The Cambrian

In Brief: Cambria to be on network TV news shows; Coastal Commission desalination test well hearing today; A federal agency honors Piedras lighthouse volunteers; Vent system douses restaurant fire

Piedras Blancas Light Station volunteers Abel (at left) and Toni (at right) Martinez with Rep. Lois Capps (center) in Washington, D.C., on Thursday (5-6). Capps, who helped arrange the transfer of the light station complex from the Coast Guard to the Bureau of Land Management, congratulated the couple on their receipt of an honor from federal Bureau of Land Management on behalf of more than four dozen volunteers at the historic North Coast landmark.
Piedras Blancas Light Station volunteers Abel (at left) and Toni (at right) Martinez with Rep. Lois Capps (center) in Washington, D.C., on Thursday (5-6). Capps, who helped arrange the transfer of the light station complex from the Coast Guard to the Bureau of Land Management, congratulated the couple on their receipt of an honor from federal Bureau of Land Management on behalf of more than four dozen volunteers at the historic North Coast landmark. COURTESY PHOTO

Local area hits TV on two news shows

A couple of early morning, weekend network news shows are expected to feature familiar local settings soon.

The Weekend Today Show (6 to 8 a.m., NBC, cable Channel 4), is to feature Cambria, Nitt Witt Ridge and the North Coast as part of a segment about Highway 1 on Saturday, May 15.

Then on May 23, CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood (7 to 8:30 a.m., cable Channel 12) is to profile Hearst Castle in footage filmed earlier in the week on the San Simeon hilltop.

Mid-April downpours truncated the NBC tour and the shooting schedule, according to Carrie Head of the San Luis Obispo County Visitors & Conference Bureau, but Holt was able to interview Nitt Witt Ridge owner Michael O’Malley and see the eclectic historical landmark on Hillcrest Drive.

Holt and Head also walked along the Moonstone Beach boardwalk and toured downtown Cambria, including a stop inside Tina Cleaveland’s Home Arts store in West Village, even though the shop already was closed for the day. “They were charmed by her window displays,” Head said of the decision to film there.

The segment also is to include footage of Hearst Castle, so Holt could “compare one man’s castle to another,” Head said.

Mary Ann Carson of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce said she expects her phones to ring off the hook Monday morning. She’s basing those hopes on previous North Coast segments on Today and other network shows. Today’s Peter Alexander was at Hearst Castle in January 2007, and the show was there-several other times as well, Hoyt Fields, the Castle’s museum director, recalled.

The Sunday Morning producer is due in the area today (Thursday, May 13) to coordinate a shooting schedule Monday and Tuesday, according to Dan Eller, spokesperson for the Castle.

The preliminary plan includes filming at the Castle and doing an interview with Stephen

Hearst, vice president of the Hearst Corp. and great-grandson of media magnate William Randolph Hearst, at the Hearst Ranch.

—Kathe Tanner

Desal test well hearing today

State Coastal Commissioners are to consider today, May 13, the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to drill up to 10 holes on the beach south of the mouth of Santa Rosa Creek as part of testing needed to plan a desalination plant for Cambria at a meeting. The commission is meeting in Santa Cruz.

Up to three of those holes would be converted to test wells, and an additional two monitoring wells would be put in next to each test well. The wells would be removed after about 14 months.

If the commission agrees that the project meets state and federal requirements, the Corps’ contractor also could soon begin staging some equipment at the district’s sewage-treatment plant, according to Greg Sanders, president of the Cambria Community Services District’s board of directors.

However, under conditions likely to be imposed by the commission, the contractor couldn’t begin actual construction until September and would have to complete it by the end of October to minimize test-well impacts on wildlife, habitat and recreational use.

The contractor also likely would have to increase its monitoring of more than 100 contaminants in the water, including mercury.

Tom Luster, an environmental scientist for the commission, said May 10 that staff is preparing additions to their 29-page report, including several comment letters and e-mails.

The initial staff report for today’s meeting is online at http://bit. ly/ cEIldm.

The district has tried for about two decades to put in a desalination plant to supply more water to the town.

The Corps is involved because Congress has pledged $10.3 million toward the desal project.

Proponents say the plant would supply more water to people who are already here and could allow about 660 property owners, whose parcels are on a water “wait list,” to build over a 20-year period or so.

Desalination opponents say the plant could spur more growth than the district acknowledges, would damage the environment and cost too much to install, run and maintain.

— Kathe Tanner

Federal BLM honors Piedras volunteers

A diverse group of dedicated volunteers — who do everything from guiding public tours of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse to yanking out ice plant and replanting with native species — received national recognition May 5.

Toni and Abel Martinez, two of about 50 volunteers at what’s officially known as the Piedras Blancas Light Station and Outstanding Natural Area, accepted the federal Bureau of Land Management award in Washington D.C.

The national “Making a Difference” honor is given annually for exceptional accomplishments in volunteer stewardship of BLM lands. The Piedras Blancas Light Station volunteers, who put in more than 15,500 hours in 2009, were the only California recipients of seven awards given this year.

The 19-acre light station and its more than 135-year-old lighthouse are about 14 miles north of Cambria, on a rocky promontory between Highway 1 and the sea.

It’s the second time Piedras volunteers have won the award: In 2004, Carole Adams of Cambria received the “Making a Difference” honor for launching and shepherding the light station’s volunteer program.

Adams said the 2010 award is, “A dream come true. The PBLS volunteers are the greatest!”

The Martinezes are among the docents who teach tour visitors about the lighthouse and its dramatic, oceanfront site. The couple and other Piedras Blancas volunteers also work to maintain, improve, update, rehabilitate and restore the tower, other buildings, grounds and the site. Group members also create displays, work in the gift shop and research the station’s history.

Volunteers also raise money for the restoration work, especially the Piedras Blancas Light Station Association, and a separate group of Grover Beach elementary students — the “Pennies for Piedras Kids”—who have collected more than $6,000 worth of pocket change and donations to help restore the lighthouse’s historic tower room and light.

—Kathe Tanner

Vent system douses restaurant fire

A grease fire slowed production at Main Street Grill on Mother’s Day, May 9, but firefighters said damage was confined to the hood system of the indoor barbecue.

The fire was reported by local ambulance drivers about 9:15 a.m., after they spotted flames on the roof, said Fire Capt. Steve Bitto.

“The hood system went off and worked as it was supposed to,” he said, helping to douse flames apparently triggered when grease that had accumulated in the hood caught fire.

Grill workers said later that they’d opened as usual.

The restaurant had a similar blaze in August 2005, incurring about $2,000 in smoke and fire damage, according to a fire department report at the time. Authorities said that fire apparently started in built-up grease in the grill-vent system, and the blaze was contained to the restaurant’s attic. As in last weekend’s fire, the restaurant was still able to open for business at its usual time.

—Kathe Tanner

Trees, bridges, towers, desal on NCAC slate

North Coast advisors are to be updated soon on items as wide ranging as the next step on the path to Cambria’s proposed desalination plant, proposals to add cell antennas to a tower at the former Cambria Air Force Station, replacing a bridge at Santa Rosa Creek and Ferrasci roads, and hitches on modifications to a plan to remove some eucalyptus trees on Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.

Those topics and more are on the agenda for the North Coast Advisory Council’s meeting on Wednesday, May 19, at Rabobank, 1070 Main St. The meeting is set to start at 6:30 p.m.

For details on the council, go to

The council also is to appoint new members and elect new officers. People can still apply for open seats representing: Happy Hill, Leimert and Moonstone Beach Drive (Area 2); Pine Knolls and rural areas (Area 4); Lodge Hill’s Marine Terrace (Area 6); and other portions of Lodge Hill (Area 8).

—Kathe Tanner

Small quake hit about 5 p.m. Monday

A small earthquake that rattled windows in Cambria at 4:56 p.m. Monday, May 10, was centered 6 miles east-northeast of San Simeon and nearly 4 miles underground, according to the U.S. Geological Survey website.

The temblor’s magnitude was 3.3, large enough to be readily noticeable to people in buildings, but not to cause damage.

—Bert Etling

West Village paving project nearly done

It took six months to get started on the repaving work on Main Street in West Village, and only about two weeks to complete the $266,000 job. In fact, the noisiest, dustiest, smelliest traffic-halting tasks were done within five days.

Joe Whalen, resident engineer for County Public Works, said Monday, May 10, he expected the project from Cornwall Street to the Windsor Boulevard/Charing Lane intersection would essentially be done by Friday, May 14, including painting parking lines and the center stripes and realigning manhole covers.

There could be some touchup and last-minute tasks to complete after that, he said, but drivers, business owners and their customers shouldn’t have any delays or distractions.

Heavy tourist seasons and a prolonged rainy season delayed the job’s start.

But don’t relax yet: Two other county projects are expected soon for the main drag of West Village.

The first would add a disabled-access ramp at Main Street/Windsor Boulevard/ Highway 1 (the “spaghetti bowl”), and the second would prepare the area across Main Street from Main Street Grill so a temporary pump can be connected to piping under Highway 1 when heavy rainfall threatens to cause flooding in that low-lying area.

—Kathe Tanner

Wolff’s horses hang in Paso Robles

Cambria artist Jeanette Wolff will display works at the “Day at the Races” reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 15, at Studios On The Park, 1130 Pine St., Paso Robles.

Works of equine art will be featured in conjunction with the Preakness Stakes, the second race in horse racing’s “Triple Crown,” which will be run earlier in the afternoon.

For details, call 238-9800 or go to

—Bert Etling