Environment / Natural Resources

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Huffman Demands Accountability for Treatment of Pipeline Protesters

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 4:10 PM

Protesters are pepper sprayed while occupying the proposed route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. - ROB WILSON
  • Rob wilson
  • Protesters are pepper sprayed while occupying the proposed route of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman penned a letter to President Barack Obama today requesting an immediate meeting to “demand accountability for (the) alarming treatment of Water Protectors and peaceful demonstrators at the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.”

Huffman, who penned the letter with Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Arizona), also took the opportunity to denounce the Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to close the Oceti Sakowin camp. Both Huffman and Grijalva led 21 members of Congress earlier this month in urging Obama to deescalate tension in the Standing Rock protests. It seems those urgings went unheeded, as circumstances have deteriorated since then with daily reports of violent clashes between protesters and law enforcement.

From the congressmen: “[H]eadlines of mass injuries, frigid water being sprayed at demonstrators in sub-freezing temperatures, and of rubber bullets and similar anti-riot weapons being fired at peaceful, unarmed civilians, make it clear that this situation is only getting worse.”

See the full press release from Huffman’s office copied below, and their full letter can be seen by clicking here. And for more on the pipeline project and local efforts to combat it, see past Journal coverage here.

Reps. Huffman, Grijalva Demand Accountability for Brutal Law Enforcement Tactics at DAPL

Washington, D.C.- Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) today requested an immediate meeting with White House and Department of Justice officials to demand accountability for alarming treatment of Water Protectors and peaceful demonstrators at the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, and to denounce the closure of the Oceti Sakowin camp. The lawmakers, who jointly led 21 Members of Congress in urging President Obama to deescalate the tension at Standing Rock in a November 14 letter, noted today that circumstances since then have only deteriorated:

“[H]eadlines of mass injuries, frigid water being sprayed at demonstrators in sub-freezing temperatures, and of rubber bullets and similar anti-riot weapons being fired at peaceful, unarmed civilians, make it clear that this situation is only getting worse.  Additionally, the Army Corps of Engineers letter announcing the closure of the Oceti Sakowin camp to demonstrators represents a concerning and disappointing course of action by the federal government.

“We question the plan and reasoning given by the Army Corps of Engineers to close the Oceti Sakowin camp to the Water Protectors. The members of the Standing Rock Sioux and the hundreds of Americans who join them in opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline are constitutionally protected in their right to peaceably assemble.”

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Crab Countdown

Posted By on Thu, Nov 24, 2016 at 11:00 PM

Last season's first, long-awaited crab coming in at the Eureka waterfront. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Last season's first, long-awaited crab coming in at the Eureka waterfront.

If you haven't got your own pots to drop or if picking and dipping crab is as much work as you want to do, you're likely counting the days until commercial Dungeness crab fishing begins. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has given the green light to fishing north of the Humboldt Bay jetty starting Dec. 1 to the Oregon state line. Commercial boats will have to wait to fish south to Point Reyes until we get the all-clear on levels of domoic acid, a toxin that can cause nausea, dizziness and even death. Recreational crabbing has been on in our county since Nov. 5.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Close Call Leaves Mills with Lessons Learned

Posted By on Tue, Nov 8, 2016 at 12:04 PM

Mills in cooler days. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Mills in cooler days.
Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills has a PSA for would-be wave-watchers: "When they say don't go out on the jetty, don't go out on the jetty."

Mills was driving along the north jetty with his wife last Saturday when he decided to walk out on the jetty and take pictures of the large waves sweeping in due to an upper-level storm system. The National Weather Advisory had warned of 19 to 22 foot waves over the weekend, and advised people to "stay safe ... by staying farther back from the surf and off of rocks and jetties." It's a frequent warning on the North Coast, and one that sometimes goes unheeded to deadly consequence.

On Facebook, Mills quipped about his foolhardiness, "Big waves 22'+ they say. Stay off the jetty they say. I am smarter, faster and stronger than them, I say. My cellphone now sits at the bottom of the ocean along with the skin from my arms and knees. If you are trying to call or text me...sorry. Call tomorrow. For now the laughing squid who has my phone may answer."

In a phone interview today, Mills said that as an experienced surfer, he thought, like many, that he could judge the speed and trajectory of the waves and stay out of their reach, but in just a short time, "the waves got gigantic."

In seconds one crashed down on top of him, throwing him onto the cement.

"It treated me like a little tiny rag doll," he told the Journal, comparing the impact of being pushed against the rocks to a cheesegrater. "It's cement, wood, cement wood, like a cheesegrater. So, I thought, I’m going to get on top of the wall. That was a mistake. It pushed me off into the rocks. I held on my with my upper body and the next one came in and took me out."

Mills said a smaller person would definitely have been swept out to sea and killed. He managed to make it safely back onto the beach and to the car where his wife was waiting, although his phone was lost and a favorite shirt bloodied. He called the experience "humbling" and urges others to learn from his experience.

"The real thing is, compared to the power of nature, we are insignificant," he said. "Lots of lessons to be learned for Chief Mills."

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Crab: No Guts, No Worries

Posted By on Thu, Nov 3, 2016 at 1:37 PM

From the CDFW website. - C. JUHASZ
  • C. Juhasz
  • From the CDFW website.
You can start planning Christmas dinner — the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is opening recreational Dungeness crabbing all over California starting Saturday, Nov. 5. Mind you, the California Department of Health warns seafood lovers in Humboldt and other areas north of Marin County not to consume the guts "due to the sporadic detection of elevated levels of domoic acid in the viscera of Dungeness crabs." You remember domoic acid, that nasty toxin that more or less destroyed our last commercial crab season, which didn't open until May, and threatens consumers with nausea, vomiting and even death. So just melted butter, no "crab butter" for us. If you can't wait for commercial season to open but don't have your own boat, you might try dropping pots from the dock or by kayak.

Read the full CDFW press release below.
Recreational Dungeness Crab Season to Open Statewide Nov. 5
The recreational Dungeness crab season is scheduled to open statewide on Saturday, Nov. 5 — with a health warning in place for crabs caught north of Point Reyes (Marin County).

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has issued a warning to recreational anglers not to consume the viscera (internal organs) of Dungeness crab caught in coastal waters north of Point Reyes due to the sporadic detection of elevated levels of domoic acid in the viscera of Dungeness crabs caught off the northern California coast.

The health warning is effective for recreationally caught Dungeness crabs taken from state waters north of Latitude 38° 00' N. (near Point Reyes). CDPH believes that Dungeness crab meat is safe to consume, however, as a precaution, consumers are advised not to eat the viscera (also known as "butter" or "guts") of crabs. CDPH further recommends recreational anglers follow best preparation practices to ensure that they avoid any inadvertent exposure to domoic acid that might be sporadically found in some crab's viscera.

Domoic acid is a naturally occurring toxin related to a "bloom" of certain single-celled algae. Fish and shellfish are capable of accumulating elevated levels of domoic acid in their tissue, which can sicken people who eat them. Last fall and winter, domoic acid along the West Coast interrupted Dungeness and rock crab fisheries from Santa Barbara to the Oregon state line. This year, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will continue to work with CDPH and the fishing community to collect crab samples from the northern California coast until the domoic acid levels have dissipated.

Consult the CDPH biotoxin information line at (800) 553-4133 or CDPH's Domoic Acid Health Information webpage for more information.

CDFW reminds crabbers of new regulations that became effective on Aug. 1, 2016. For a complete description of the regulations, please go to www.wildlife.ca.gov and click on "New Recreational Dungeness Crab Fishery Regulations" in the Announcements box.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

From Pulp Mill Ashes, Redwood Marine Terminal II Rises

Posted By on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 2:23 PM

Jasmin Segura, with Humboldt Baykeeper, and Delia Bense Kang with Surfrider tour Marine Terminal II. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Jasmin Segura, with Humboldt Baykeeper, and Delia Bense Kang with Surfrider tour Marine Terminal II.
The buildings stand mostly empty and the work is far from done, but mood inside the Redwood Marine Terminal II last Friday was jubilant nonetheless. At long last, the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District threw a grand opening party for the out-of-service pulp mill it bought for $1 back in August of 2013. After successfully saving Humboldt Bay from potentially disastrous toxic sludge, the district has continued to rehabilitate the site into what is now officially the National Marine Research and Innovation Park, a multi-use facility designed to house both research and commercial opportunities in aquaculture, biomass conversion and renewable energy.

State Assemblyman Jim Wood, on hand for the festivities, called the achievement “remarkable” and praised the efforts of both the pulp mill and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. State Sen. Mike McGuire admired the hard work of all involved. Humboldt County Supervisor Virginia Bass recalled her childhood, during which the mill’s stink was known as “the smell of money.”

Virginia Bass. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Virginia Bass.
As an adult, Bass was employed to do public relations at the mill during its years under Evergreen Pulp, a task she confessed to being “ill-suited” for, in part, she joked, because she had to work with fellow Supervisor Rex Bohn, a man “hard to put a lid on.” Despite that, the “little space of earth” continued to be a prominent part of her life — she even recounted driving out to sit in the abandoned parking lot years later, sad to see such a “vibrant part” of the bay lying fallow. “How can we help?” she asked herself.

Opportunity arrived through the district’s purchasing of the site, which brought federal, state and local agencies, community partners, nonprofit organizations, the county and the city of Eureka into the “monumental” project, she said. And now, Bass finished, she’s confident “the Harbor District is up for the challenge.”

One of the most moving speeches came from Harbor Commissioner Richard Marks, who spent 30 years working at the pulp mill, “almost [all] in this building,” he said. He referenced the “ghosts of workers past” and noted that despite his longtime pride in the workers, “I was never proud of our bad environmental record.” Marks relayed an anecdote about bringing in a copy of the Northcoast Environmental Center’s EcoNews, telling fellow employees that they needed to do things right. This “new day forward” pleased him, he said, with the promise of “new jobs, clean jobs.”

Continuing the speechifying was Harbor Commissioner Mike Wilson (who takes a seat as a Humboldt County supervisor in January. “I don’t like the term ‘revitalization’,” he said, preferring to call the new chapter “vitalization.” He urged the district — and the community — to be “future-focused … Moving backward is so much more difficult.” To that beginning, Wilson noted, success of the NMRIP depends on an interim zoning change and update to Humboldt’s Local Coastal Plan.

Harbor District CEO Jack Crider wrapped up the event with a story of visiting the pulp mill site four years prior. “I did this crazy thing,” he said, “crawled around on top of all the tanks and buildings. I should have died that day.” Instead he took 500 or so photos to the Harbor Commission and showed them the disrepair — and danger — of the sludge tanks.

Afterward, Crider said, “Commissioner [Greg] Dale said, ‘Thanks a lot, Jack. Now we have to do something.’” That something turned out to solve a lot of issues, Crider continued, from removing the toxic sludge from failing tanks to providing dock access and future opportunities. This is his third experience converting a contaminated site, he said, and each time has meant putting his staff through significant challenges. This one, Crider finished, “was the biggest hurdle I’ve ever put anyone through.”

Byron Duty of Pacific Flake. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Byron Duty of Pacific Flake.
Harbor Commissioner Mike Wilson (left) talks to the crowd. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Harbor Commissioner Mike Wilson (left) talks to the crowd.
North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire (left) and Assemblyman Jim Wood (right) with Harbor Commissioner Pat Higgins. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire (left) and Assemblyman Jim Wood (right) with Harbor Commissioner Pat Higgins.
John Driscoll, the field representative for North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman, addresses the crowd. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • John Driscoll, the field representative for North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman, addresses the crowd.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Flooding Possible With High Tides and Storm Surge

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 12:50 PM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
  • National Weather Service
The worst of the storm that hit Humboldt County with a one-two punch is over but there is a chance of coastal flooding in low-lying areas of King Salmon and Arcata this afternoon when the storm surge and high tides meet up.

According to the National Weather Service, tides are expected to peak between 8.5 and 8.9 feet at the North Spit gauge between noon and 2 p.m. The evening could see another one-tenth to one-quarter of an inch of rain along the coast.

Troy Nicolini, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service’s Eureka office, said the storm brought local rain totals to more than 700 percent of normal for this time of year — with 6.29 inches since July compared to a normal total of .85 inches.

The system unloaded 3.94 inches of rain on Eureka over the last three days — while portions of Del Norte County saw 10 inches — along with some thunder and lightning that was unusual this early in the season, Nicolini said. 

"It was a pretty darn wet storm," he said.
 
Sunny skies are forecast to return by Wednesday with temperatures hitting a high of 66 along the coast and inland areas seeing top numbers on Thursday, with Willow Creek slated to reach 78 and Garberville topping out at 80. The warmer weather is expected to continue through the weekend.

Coastal flood advisory from the National Weather Service:

COASTAL FLOOD ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 3 PM THIS
AFTERNOON.

* COASTAL FLOODING...HIGH ASTRONOMICAL TIDES WILL CAUSE MINOR
FLOODING IN LOW LYING AREAS ALONG THE REDWOOD COAST. THE WATER
LEVEL IS EXPECTED TO PEAK BETWEEN 8.5 AND 8.9 FEET MLLW AT THE
NORTH SPIT TIDE GAUGE.

* TIMING...HIGH TIDE IS AT 1:00 PM AT THE HUMBOLDT BAY NORTH
SPIT TIDE GAUGE. FLOODING MAY BEGIN AN HOUR BEFORE OR CONTINUE
FOR AN HOUR OR TWO AFTER HIGH TIDE.

* IMPACTS...LOW LYING AREAS WILL EXPERIENCE MINOR FLOODING
INCLUDING...BUT NOT LIMITED TO...ROADWAYS IN KING SALMON AND
THE ARCATA BOTTOMS.



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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Early Prospects for Crab Season Look Good

Posted By on Tue, Oct 4, 2016 at 2:52 PM

North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman and state Sen. Mike McGuire during today's hearing. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman and state Sen. Mike McGuire during today's hearing.

So far, so good. That's the early word in today's extensively titled forum, "Crab Season Outlook for 2016-17 and Modern Aquaculture in California by the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture" taking place right now at the University of California Davis Marine Lab in Bodega Bay. Convened by the North Coast's own state Sen. Mike McGuire, who chairs the committee, and attended by our U.S. Congressman Jared Huffman, the hearing offers scientists and fishery experts a chance to give their take on the upcoming California crab season. 

After last year's disastrous crab season was delayed due to high levels of the toxin domoic acid, attendees were visibly relieved to hear relative good news from University of California Santa Cruz's Dr. Raphael Kudela, professor of ocean health, that while 2016 was "warm and toxic," the probability of a domoic acid bloom impacting North Coast crabs has decreased over the last month. This is "really good for crab and fisheries," Kudela said. Ultimately what things look like next year is highly dependent on winter storm conditions, he said, but right now, "good news!" 

Additionally, this marks the first time that the Joint Committee has focused primarily on aquaculture (aka “farming in water"). The farmed fish, oysters and seaweed industry continues to expand and so today's panelists will explore finfish, shellfish, inland production and perspectives from state agencies.  

Huffman noted his pride in the Second District's oyster farmers, noting the industry is not only "innovative" and "sustainable," but also "delicious." Representing that valued part of Humboldt's economy at the forum were Coast Seafood Company's Southwest Operations Manager (and Humboldt Bay Harbor Commissioner) Greg Dale and Hog Island Oyster Company co-founder and CEO John Finger.

The hearing will be live-streamed until 4 p.m. and then archived for future viewing. 

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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Fire Up the Chainsaws: Oak Woodlands Restoration Bill Signed

Posted By on Sun, Oct 2, 2016 at 3:30 PM

Firs swallowing a grove of black oak. - PHOTO BY LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Photo by Linda Stansberry
  • Firs swallowing a grove of black oak.
On Sept. 24, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1958, paving the way for landowners with conifer encroachment on oak woodlands to remove the invasive trees without replanting. The bill comes after more than a year of advocacy from small landowners and environmentalists who argued the existing rules by the state Board of Forestry were counter-intuitive to best practices in land management.

While slow-growing oak woodlands have been a dominant part of the Humboldt landscape for centuries, providing acorns and habitat for many species, the absence of fires has given quick-growing firs a chance to gain ground, shading out oaks and overtaking open ground. Previously the Board of Forestry has required an onerous timber harvest plan process to harvest and sell conifers. A.B. 1958 could ease these regulations, creating a seven-year pilot “exemption” to the THP process for smaller conifers and clarifying language around oak woodland restoration activities.

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Black Widows Found at Carlotta Post Office

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 11:44 AM

A black widow found in front of the Carlotta Post Office. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A black widow found in front of the Carlotta Post Office.

Officials are investigating an apparent infestation of poisonous black widow spiders at the Carlotta Post Office.

Carlotta resident, Journal columnist and bug enthusiast Anthony Westkamper was picking up his mail on Saturday when he noticed a black spider by the post office entrance and, being a bug enthusiast, took a closer look. He spotted the telltale red hourglass at the bottom of the spider’s abdomen and identified it as a black widow. In short order, he spotted seven more on the exterior of the post office building and later notified the U.S. Postal Service.

Fortuna Postmaster John Maloney, who oversees the Carlotta office, said he’s taking Westkamper’s report very seriously and has reached out to the owner of the building that houses the post office and has made plans to bring in an exterminator in the coming days. But Maloney pointed out that the post office makes up just about 400 square feet of the building, which also houses some residences and Café 36.

Maloney said he’s informed the office’s sole Carlotta employee and she’s keeping an eye out inside the building for any spiders, and hasn’t seen any. Westkamper said black widows are not common in the area and guesses they probably hitched a ride with someone hauling firewood or something.

According to WebMD, black widows produce a protein venom that attacks the victim’s nervous system. The venom has a range of effects for humans, ranging from slight to severe. The localized pain from the bite itself can be followed by muscle cramps, abdominal pain and weakness, and in very severe cases, nausea, vomiting, headaches, chest pain and respiratory difficulties.

Children and the elderly are most at risk of having serious reactions, but deaths from black widow bites, even when they are left untreated, are exceedingly rare, with some reports indicating one hasn’t been recorded in the United States in more than a decade. WebMD recommends you seek medical care after a bite if you experience “more than minor pain” or have “whole-body symptoms.”

Humboldt County Agriculture Commissioner Jeff Dolf said black widows aren’t an agricultural pest, so they don’t really fall under the purview of his department and instead are more of a private pest control issue. But Dolf said folks often bring unidentified insects into the Ag Department, and he rarely sees black widows.

“They’re not common around here but it’s not unheard of to have them,” Dolf said. “We do see them from time to time.”

Westkamper said the eight black widows he spotted in Carlotta — which included at least two males — could constitute a breeding population.

To read Westkamper’s first-hand account of finding the spiders, check back here Sunday for his regular HumBug column.

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Grants Bring Bay Trail Closer to Completion

Posted By on Thu, Sep 29, 2016 at 12:14 PM

An artist's rendition of a portion of the Humboldt Bay Trail. - COURTESY OF THE CITY OF ARCATA
  • Courtesy of the City of Arcata
  • An artist's rendition of a portion of the Humboldt Bay Trail.
Efforts to link a series of trails to create a 13-mile-long recreational waterfront corridor between Eureka and Arcata took two steps forward this week with nearly $1 million in grants being awarded to the cities.

In the works for years, the $550,000 California State Coastal Conservancy grant awarded to Arcata on Thursday, coupled with the announcement of a $323,000 grant for Eureka from the National Park Service and the Land and Water Conservation Fund earlier this week, moves the long-anticipated trail closer to completion.

While the Humboldt Bay Trail will provide a continuous route between Eureka and Arcata away from cars, the pathway will also serve a larger purpose as a critical connection with the California Coastal Trail.

Press release from the city of Arcata:
The City of Arcata’s Humboldt Bay Trail North (HBTN) project was awarded a $550,000 grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy at a meeting held at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka on Thursday September 29.
This project will construct a multi-use trail from Samoa Boulevard through the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary and then integrate with the railroad and Highway 101 corridors along the shoreline of the bay to an endpoint north of Bracut Industrial Park.
The southern-end point will transition onto the shoulder of Highway 101 south of Bayside Cutoff, as a temporary condition until the remaining segment of the Humboldt Bay Trail is constructed.
The Coastal Conservancy’s grant provides the final funding needed to construct the northern three-mile section of the planned 13-mile long Humboldt Bay Trail which will be the backbone of Humboldt County’s envisioned regional trail system and will provide a safe, Class I, ADA-accessible trail between Humboldt County’s two largest cities.
The Trail is also part of the California Coastal Trail, a network of public trails for walkers, bikers, equestrians, wheelchair riders and others along the 1200-mile California coastline, which is currently more than half complete.
At the same meeting, the Conservancy adopted California Environmental Quality Act findings and a mitigation monitoring and reporting program for the project, important aspects of a construction project located close to Humboldt Bay.
The total construction cost for the HBTN project is $4.6 Million. Other funding for the HBTN comes from the Active Transportation Program and matching local funds.
The trail has long been firmly established by the local community as the region’s highest transportation priority. The County of Humboldt is leading the development of the Humboldt Bay Trail South segment, which will provide the interconnecting link between Arcata’s HBTN project and the City of Eureka’s Waterfront Trail.
Development of the Humboldt Bay Trail South project is still in the initial stages and a target construction date has not been determined.

Press release from Congressman Jared Huffman’s office on Tuesday:
WASHINGTON­— Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) today announced a $323,000 grant from the National Park Service and the Land and Water Conservation Fund to Eureka for ongoing work on a waterfront trail through a once-blighted area.
“This grant means that more Californians will be able to enjoy and appreciate Eureka’s special place on Humboldt Bay,” said Rep. Huffman. “Improving Eureka’s waterfront and creating trails and a clean place for the public to recreate around the Bay demonstrates the value of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in our communities.”
“Through the hard work of city staff and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Local Assistance Office, the former mill buildings can be removed and one of the most picturesque areas of Eureka’s waterfront can be opened up for our community to enjoy a wide variety of nature viewing and recreational opportunities,” said Eureka Mayor Frank Jager.
This grant will go toward the removal of four former mill buildings, which will be replaced by a new park featuring a multi-use trail, nature play area, as well as interpretive viewing platforms and benches adjacent to Humboldt Bay.
For more than 50 years, the National Park Service has provided grants through the LWCF. Its State & Local Assistance Program focuses on helping protect a "seamless system of parks" by providing matching grants for local and state parks outside of National Park boundaries, such as this grant to the City of Eureka.
Phase A of this project is expected to be completed in November.

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