Environment / Natural Resources

Sunday, April 9, 2017

TL;DR: There Are No Easy Answers to Last Chance Grade

Posted By on Sun, Apr 9, 2017 at 8:45 AM

A March slipout on Last Chance Grade took 10 feet off the road. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • A March slipout on Last Chance Grade took 10 feet off the road.
Didn’t have time to read this week’s cover story? We understand. Life can get hectic. To help out, here are some takeaways from this week’s feature, which delves into the complicated tangle of issues surrounding Last Chance Grade and efforts to move the roadway inland.

Long story short, there are no easy answers to finding a way around the 3-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 101 just south of Crescent City. Named after a landslide which struck when a wagon road was first cut across the soaring cliffside locale in 1894, Last Chance Grade has been failing for decades.

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Community Choice Energy Coming in May

Posted By on Sat, Apr 8, 2017 at 2:38 PM

No matter how much electricity you use, you'll soon have reason to feel a bit better about it. - THINKSTOCK
  • thinkstock
  • No matter how much electricity you use, you'll soon have reason to feel a bit better about it.
Community Choice energy is rolling out in Humboldt County next month, bringing customers cleaner electricity at a lower price.

Redwood Coast Energy Authority recently sent out notices to PG&E customers letting them know that in May their services will switch over to Community Choice. Monthly bills will still come from PG&E, but the program will automatically enroll existing customers in the “REpower” program, which provides electricity from 37 percent renewable sources.

RCEA says that's because PG&E will still maintain power poles and lines, fix outages and deliver monthly bills — and because community choice will honor discount programs like CARE, Medical Baseline and FERA — customers won’t notice a difference, other than possibly “a slight decrease in your electricity bill.”

Customers have the option of opting out of the program — by calling RCEA or visiting its website — but they also have the option of opting up to “REpower+,” which offers customers 100 percent renewable electricity for an additional charge of 1 cent per kilowatt hour. That works out to about $5 extra a month for the average California household.

For more information on the program, or on how to opt out or opt up, visit RCEA’s website here. Check out past Journal coverage of Community Choice here.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ruling Puts Martens Up For Endangered Species Reconsideration

Posted By on Tue, Mar 28, 2017 at 2:06 PM

A young coastal marten. - COURTESY OF EPIC
  • Courtesy of EPIC
  • A young coastal marten.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will likely need to revisit providing endangered species protections to the coastal marten after a federal court judge today overturned the agency’s decision not to list the small woodland creature.

The Environmental Protection Information Center and the Center for Biological Diversity had sued the service after the latter unsuccessfully petitioned for the protections back in 2010.

Once thought to be extinct, the cat-like animals — also known as the Humboldt or Pacific marten — were rediscovered in 1996 after years of pelt hunting and timber logging decimated the old growth forest denizens' numbers.

“The magic of the Endangered Species Act is that it puts scientific facts over political games,” said Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie, who represented the groups. “No amount of spin will change the fact that coastal martens are already gone from over 80 percent of their historic range and at serious risk of extinction unless the Fish and Wildlife Service steps up."

Read the full press release from EPIC:
In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and Environmental Protection Information Center, a federal judge today overturned an April 2014 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denying endangered species protection to coastal martens.

Coastal martens were believed extinct until 1996 because of historic fur trapping and loss of their old-growth forest habitats, but are now known to occur in three small, isolated populations in California and Oregon. The groups were represented by the public-interest law firm Earthjustice.

“We’re thrilled the elusive coastal marten is back on track to getting the endangered species protection it so badly needs,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The science is clear that these fascinating and beautiful animals have been reduced to small, isolated populations and face a host of threats that place them at risk of extinction.”

Small carnivores related to minks and otters, coastal martens are found only in old-growth forest and dense coastal shrub in Northern California and southern and central coastal Oregon. Once extensively trapped for their fur, the cat-like animals were once common; now fewer than 100 of them survive in California, while an unknown but very small number are still found in Oregon.

“The magic of the Endangered Species Act is that it puts scientific facts over political games,” said Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie, who represented the groups. “No amount of spin will change the fact that coastal martens are already gone from over 80 percent of their historic range and at serious risk of extinction unless the Fish and Wildlife Service steps up."

The martens’ historic range extends from Sonoma County in coastal California north through the coastal mountains of Oregon. Humboldt martens were rediscovered on the Six Rivers National Forest in 1996. Since then researchers have continued to detect martens using track plates and hair snares. In 2009 a marten was detected in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park by remote-sensing camera, the first to be photographed in recent times. Martens are typically 2 feet long and have large triangular ears and a long tail; they eat small mammals, berries and birds and are eaten by larger mammals and raptors.

“This decision is a win for science and common sense,” said Rob DiPerna, California forest and wildlife advocate at the Environmental Protection Information Center. “We thought we'd lost the marten due to bad human decision-making once before, and we could not stand by and watch that happen again.”


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Saturday, March 25, 2017

In 'Crisis,' Yuroks Suspend Commercial Salmon Season

Posted By on Sat, Mar 25, 2017 at 12:01 PM

The Yurok Tribe's allotment of Chinook salmon this year equals about one fish for every 10 tribal members. - FILE
  • FILE
  • The Yurok Tribe's allotment of Chinook salmon this year equals about one fish for every 10 tribal members.

For the second year in a row, the Yurok Tribe will not have a commercial fishery — a devastating blow to the tribe’s culture and economy.

“We are in crisis mode,” said Yurok Tribal Chair Thomas O’Rourke in a press release that lamented poor conditions on the Klamath River that have led to historically low salmon returns. “The Klamath is our grocery store, our church and our main highway. It’s our lifeline. We will leave no stone unturned in search of additional short-term and long-term solutions to address the most terrible fisheries disaster in the Tribe’s history.”

The release comes after the Pacific Fisheries Management Council released its predicted Chinook salmon returns for 2017 at 11,000 fish — the lowest on record — and the tribe’s fish harvest allocation at 650 fish, or one for every 10 tribal members. The predicted return comes after two years of disease outbreaks in juvenile fish due to low flows and elevated water temperatures in the Klamath River.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sundberg Selected for Coastal Commission

Posted By on Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at 2:54 PM

Ryan Sundberg - COUNTY OF HUMBOLDT
  • County of Humboldt
  • Ryan Sundberg
Gov. Jerry Brown’s office announced today that Humboldt County Supervisor Ryan Sundberg has been appointed to the North Coast regional seat on the California Coastal Commission.

Sundberg will be the first Native American to serve on the powerful commission charged with determining the fate of California’s 1,100 miles of coastline.

The McKinleyville resident replaces Del Norte County Supervisor Martha McClure, who suffered a resounding defeat at the ballot box in June. He sought out and was recommended for the post by supervisors in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties, as well as the Humboldt County Mayor City Select Committee, which also forward the name of Trinidad Mayor Dwight Miller.

Sundberg takes the seat following a time of upheaval on the quasi-judicial body, including the controversial firing of the former director last year and a series of news reports on the cozy relationships that some commissioners had with lobbyists and developers, including McClure.

Read the announcement from Brown’s office below:
Ryan Sundberg, 41, of McKinleyville, has been appointed to the California Coastal Commission. Sundberg has served as a member of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors since 2010. He was a tribal council member at the Trinidad Rancheria from 1994 to 2010 and an insurance agent at Farmers Insurance from 2003 to 2010. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Sundberg is registered without party preference.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Updated: Last Chance Grade Losing More Ground

Posted By on Wed, Mar 8, 2017 at 4:02 PM

The lasted  slip out at Last Chance Grade. - CALTRANS
  • Caltrans
  • The lasted slip out at Last Chance Grade.
Update: Motorists traveling along the Last Chance Grade on U.S. Highway 101 south of Crescent City should expect up to 20 minute delays - day or night - as Caltrans works to stabilize a section of roadway there that slipped out on Wednesday.

Caltrans District 1 Facebook post:
TRAFFIC ADVISORY / UPDATE: Motorists using U.S. Highway 101 at Last Chance Grade in Del Norte County (~10 miles south of Crescent City) should anticipate one-way traffic control via temporary traffic signal with 10-to-20 minute delays at ALL HOURS.
Delay lengths are subject to change, and we will update the public with any new changes to delays or work schedules.
Originally, we had anticipated that 60-minute delays would be necessary at this location during nighttime hours only. However, our engineers, field staff, and contractors have found a way to further minimize impacts to traffic while performing the work in a more efficient manner. As the nature of work changes, however, the delay schedules may change as well.
Previously:
A Caltrans spokesperson said today that experts are working on an emergency plan to shore up a section of Last Chance Grade that hasn’t moved in a few years but yesterday lost another 10 feet of roadway.
In the meantime, the geologically active portion of U.S. Highway 101 — located approximately 10 miles south of Crescent City in Del Norte County — remains open to one-way controlled traffic.

“Our priority is to keep the roadway open as long as it’s safe,” Caltrans District 1 public information officer Myles Cochrane said.

He emphasized that the area is currently under 24/7 monitoring during inclement weather along with “near real-time monitoring equipment” to keep a close eye on any movement.

With a long history of instability, the segment of 101 is down to 18-feet of roadway in that section and any further loss could lead to a highway closure, Cochrane said, adding that construction crews were headed to the site this morning. The current plan, he said, is to drive in “left over piles from the Willits bypass project to shore up the area so it doesn’t slide any further.”

"Of course, we will close it down if we have to,” Cochrane said.

That status of the roadway is subject to change and Caltrans will be posting updates. The approximately 9-mile stretch is the subject of a major replacement effort due to the frequency of roadway failure and mounting maintenance costs to keep the vital highway connection open.

According to Caltrans Economic Impact Study, the closure of 101 at Last Chance Grade would result in: $1.3 million per day in travel costs for commercial and passenger vehicles — $450 million each year, as well as $300 to $400 million in reduced economic output in Del Norte County, 3,000 to 4,000 jobs lost, and $130 million in lost wages annually.

Caltrans District 1 Facebook post:
U.S. Highway 101 about a half mile north of Rudisill Road (Last Chance Grade) is experiencing the failure of a retaining wall. This is at the location where 24/7 one-way traffic control with a temporary signal has already been in effect.
The highway lost another 10' of width and is down to 18' for the one lane of traffic. Caltrans staff believe the highway is still safe and the highway remains open at this time. Staff will remain onsite 24/7 to monitor the highway to ensure public safety.
We will provide updates as needed until repairs have been completed.

Updated Caltrans District 1 Facebook post:

UPDATE: U.S. Highway 101 at Last Chance Grade in Del Norte County will be under intermittent full closures during NIGHTTIME HOURS ONLY to accommodate equipment working at the side of last night's slide on the south end of the grade.

The closures are to allow large equipment to drive "micro-piles" (steel rods approx. 8 inches in diameter which will be filled with concrete) into the ground below the remaining lane to ensure that it stays stable. Crews will drive one pile at a time, remove the equipment to allow traffic to clear, then resume driving piles.

This work will be done between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. until this portion of emergency repair work is completed. Motorists should anticipate 60-minute delays during nighttime hours. Daytime traffic remains under one-way traffic control, but should not experience further delays as a result of this work.

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Monday, March 6, 2017

More Rain Than Usual and More to Come

Posted By on Mon, Mar 6, 2017 at 2:19 PM

Hey, look, rain! - FILE
  • file
  • Hey, look, rain!
Snowy mountains. Rainy days. Flurries of hard-hitting hail. Unless you’re a fish, the weather continues to be bleak. The optimistic among us are calling it a return to an “old-fashioned Humboldt County winter” after years of drought but how accurate is that?

According to Matthew Kidwell, a meteorologist at Eureka’s National Weather Service office, the Eureka area has been drenched with 48.64 inches of rain since the start of 2017, which is fully 167 percent of normal. He adds that this is about 10 inches more than we experienced last year, which was also above normal.

If you think the chill has been more bitter than usual lately, you’re right. Kidwell says the average high temperature in January was about 3 degrees below normal and that overall we’re coasting below normal for this time of year.

Looking ahead, we have … rain. And more rain. Also, snow. It snowed down to 400 feet above sea level over the weekend, dusting even Crescent City and Willow Creek.

“There’s an increased probability for above normal rainfall and below normal temperatures,” says Kidwell, adding that the hail showers over the weekend caused a lot of accidents.

So bring the pets and plants inside, and be careful on the roads. The NWS would like to hear about your snowfall situation, as well. Check out its Facebook page for more information on how to report snowfall and check its website for the latest weather alerts.

NWS
  • NWS

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Monday, February 27, 2017

Discontinuing a Trail in Arcata's Community Forest

Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2017 at 11:44 AM

Tim Canning relocates a fern during trail maintenance day in Arcata Community Forest. - BEAU SAUNDERS
  • Beau Saunders
  • Tim Canning relocates a fern during trail maintenance day in Arcata Community Forest.
Early Saturday morning, volunteers gathered in Arcata Community Forest for a trail building work day.

Organized through a partnership between the city of Arcata and the Humboldt Trails Council, 25 volunteers spent the morning working on a section of Trail 4, which was recently rerouted to avoid a steep and slippery section of trail.

Dennis Houghton, parks facilities natural resources supervisor for the city, was directing the transplanting of more than 30 ferns, aided by Rees Huges, a volunteer coordinator of the Arcata Community Forest Trail Stewards (and sometimes Journal contributor).

“When we first started four years ago, we had seven or eight people showing up, and now we have a 25 person core group, which has been really good,” Houghton said. “Bottom line is each and every event is open to all, and we encourage people to come and help out. We’ve been partnering with [Humboldt State University], Arcata High School, and the local Boy Scout and Girl Scout Clubs, all helping make this forest accessible and safe to enjoy.”

By the end of the day, more than 100 yards of old trail had been filled with ferns, fallen logs, branches and forest duff and was clearly no longer a path for the bikers, hikers and equestrians who use the forest. David Guyer, a volunteer at the event, said, “I’ve recently moved back to the area after 20 years, and it’s one of the highlights of my week to come out make a good effort. Replanting ferns today was really fantastic.”

The Arcata Community Forest Trail Stewards meet at 9 a.m. on the fourth Saturday of every month (excluding December), and welcome volunteers to come help out.
(Left to right) Gary Friedrichsen, John Sullivan, George Nickerson and Orleen Smukler pass limbs down the slope to mix in with replanted ferns. - BEAU SAUNDERS
  • Beau Saunders
  • (Left to right) Gary Friedrichsen, John Sullivan, George Nickerson and Orleen Smukler pass limbs down the slope to mix in with replanted ferns.
City of Arcata Parks, Facilities and Natural Resources Supervisor Dennis Houghton. - BEAU SAUNDERS
  • Beau Saunders
  • City of Arcata Parks, Facilities and Natural Resources Supervisor Dennis Houghton.
Arcata Community Forest Trail Stewards Coordinator Rees Hughes. - BEAU SAUNDERS
  • Beau Saunders
  • Arcata Community Forest Trail Stewards Coordinator Rees Hughes.
Dennis Houghton directs Naomi Winger, John Cortenbach, Rees Hughes, Alex Orozio, Zachary Matthews, Dan Calderwood and Joshua Sears as they move a fallen tree to block access to the discontinued trail. - BEAU SAUNDERS
  • Beau Saunders
  • Dennis Houghton directs Naomi Winger, John Cortenbach, Rees Hughes, Alex Orozio, Zachary Matthews, Dan Calderwood and Joshua Sears as they move a fallen tree to block access to the discontinued trail.
Volunteers pose for a group photo. - BEAU SAUNDERS
  • Beau Saunders
  • Volunteers pose for a group photo.

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

That Dam Breitbart Story

Posted By on Sat, Feb 25, 2017 at 11:39 AM

Irongate Dam on the upper Klamath River. - FILE
  • File
  • Irongate Dam on the upper Klamath River.
If you read a Breitbart News story earlier this month about the Klamath River, you’d be excused for thinking those of us who live along the river are doomed to die in watery graves as soon as the largest dam removal project in U.S. history is complete.

You’d also be very wrong, both for taking a Breitbart story at face value and for thinking dam removal will have any substantial impact on flooding along the Klamath River.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Food Sovereignty, Tribal Sovereignty

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Potawot Community Garden farm stand. - COURTESY OF POTAWOT COMMUNITY GARDEN, UIHS
  • Courtesy of Potawot Community Garden, UIHS
  • Potawot Community Garden farm stand.
When the Northern California Tribal Courts Coalition (NCTCC) was awarded a grant to improve tribal health last year, it didn’t hesitate in identifying food as the keystone. Spearheaded by Program Director Cynthia Boshell, NCTCC will roll out its first Tribal Youth Food Sovereignty Camps later this month. The all-day camps will consist of hands-on education, discussion and participation in growing and cooking native foods. In order to serve youth on the coast and inland, the camp will be repeated on consecutive days: Wednesday, Feb. 22 in Potawot; Thursday, Feb. 23 in Klamath and Friday, Feb. 24 in Orleans.

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