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Last Week's News 

By Hank Sims

hortly after we went to press last week it came to our attention -- and to the public's attention, generally -- that the City of Eureka had recently signed an indemnification agreement with the Security National subsidiary that is proposing to build the Marina Center project next to Eureka's Old Town. In the agreement, the subsidiary (known as "CUE VI") promises to pick up the city's tab for any legal challenges to the project.

The agreement -- the first of its kind in Eureka, at least in recent memory -- was signed Oct. 5, yet its existence was unknown to us at the time. It was also unknown to Eureka City Councilmembers Frank Jager and Larry Glass (at least). Nevertheless, it kind of makes mincemeat of one central tenet of an argument proffered in this space. We had written that the City Council should take just a teensy, weensy bit more time to process the 854 pages of challenges and responses to the project's environmental impact report that had been brought by various state agencies, nonprofit organizations and individuals. Something more than the two weeks that had been originally scheduled, in any case.

Our reasoning was partly, but not exclusively, predicated on the notion that the City would assume legal liability for the environmental impact report. With the indemnification agreement, this is not only the case: Not only does CUE VI promise to pick up the tab for the inevitable lawsuits that will follow the city's certification of the Marina Center environmental impact report, it further promises to assume liability for any and all suits that might proceed from the city's subsequent zoning changes that would permit construction of the 40-acre, big-box anchored project.

No one can dispute that reducing the city's exposure to lawsuit expenses is a welcome thing. It's a good thing! Honestly! Let the developer bear the brunt of the legal expenses on this controversial project! How can that be wrong? The cynical will note only that it does seem to have one sort of curious side effect. The agreement, of course, does not indemnify city government from suits brought by developer itself. Going forward, then, the only litigation exposure the city can face is from Security National. For me, I'm certain that members of the City Council will vote their consciences on this and every other matter, but it would be curious to get a game theorist's take on how this might affect future votes on the project.

 

Another update: The odd rally for the pulp mill that Heidi Walters previewed last week ("Pass Me a Tissue") has been canceled, because the pulp mill itself has been canceled. Freshwater Tissue's Bob Simpson -- the man who had promised to raise the storied facility from the ashes -- issued the depressing press release on Tuesday. He was admitting defeat, he said, because the federal stimulus wizards refused to kick down massive Obamabucks to revive and retool the thing for toilet paper. That means, for one thing, that the strange conundrum facing the local water district detailed in this week's cover story just became more permanent.

That seems to be the end of that. Once it was one of the two round-the-clock pulp factories out on the peninsula, making something useful out of sawmill waste and stinking up the city of Eureka something awful. This one -- known generally as the "Louisiana Pacific" mill, after the timber giant that built it -- held on longer than its sister down the road, passing from company to company and generally failing to make a go of it, even after switching over to an ecofriendly chlorine-free process. Barring a miracle, the thing will now be sold for scrap. In any case, it's days here are done.

It was always a controversial thing, and was bound to continue to be so, as this week's "Mailbox" demonstrates. On the one hand, it was the last large-scale blue-collar union shops in Humboldt County. Hundreds of good people made good livings out of it. They made good lives out of it, in fact. On the other hand, it was the largest polluters in the region and, by some metrics, one of the largest in the state. It was a tough thing to love, even after the stink-suppressing retrofits.

Now it's gone, and that should serve as a bittersweet reminder -- to those who need it -- that the Humboldt County of today is not the Humboldt County of the past. Plan accordingly.

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  • By Hank Sims

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Hank Sims

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