Environment / Natural Resources

Monday, January 22, 2018

Humboldt Municipal Water Board Ready to Appeal Planning Commission Decision

Posted By on Mon, Jan 22, 2018 at 1:42 PM

Friedenbach and staff address the County Planning Commission about - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Friedenbach and staff address the County Planning Commission about
John Friedenbach, general manager of the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District, told the Journal today that his agency plans to appeal the Humboldt County Planning Commission's Jan. 12 decision to recommend rezoning of a parcel adjacent to the Mad River in Glendale. The property, owned by the Mercer Fraser Co., is currently in use as a gravel quarry and slated to become the future home of a cannabis extraction operation. This necessitated its rezoning for heavy industrial use.

Citing concerns about possible contamination of the county water supply, Friedenbach was joined by most of his staff and several community members to speak out during public comment at the commission's Jan. 11 meeting. Although the proposal includes a closed-loop system that would ostensibly protect against contamination of the water table, the site is on a flood plain, meaning that a natural disaster could potentially result in dangerous chemicals being swept into the water system, putting the health of thousands of Humboldt County residents at risk.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Award-Winning Eel River Documentary Screens Tomorrow in Eureka

Posted By on Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 4:11 PM

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The North Coast will get the chance tomorrow to take an up-close look at the Eel River, its history and its uncertain future.

A River’s Last Chance, an award-winning documentary by Shane Anderson, will screen at the Eureka Theater at 7 p.m., to be followed by a panel discussion with Anderson, co-producer Jason Hartwick and others. Anderson says he’s been working on the film for more than four years, with it becoming all-consuming in the last couple.

The ambitious film looks at the river’s history, from pre-colonial times through the salmon boom, the timber rush, its damming and the current green rush.

“I think the overarching theme is that those who can’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it,” Anderson said. “I don’t know how many more times the river or our local economy can withstand that.”

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High Surf Closes Bay Entrance

Posted By on Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 1:59 PM

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The United States Coast Guard captain of the port has closed the entrance to Humboldt Bay due to high surf, the Humboldt County Office of Emergency Service wrote in a Tweet this afternoon.

The National Weather Service issued a high surf warning this morning, in effect until 10 p.m., predicting waves up to 32 feet along the local coastline, especially on west and north west facing beaches.

“Large breaking waves along the coast will lead to increased wave run-up on beaches with waves topping and washing over large rocks and jetties. These large waves can be erratic and unpredictable,” the weather service warning states. “Use extra caution near the surf zone as these large waves will be capable of sweeping people into the frigid and turbulent ocean water.”

The warning also urged mariners looking to cross the bar to “exercise extreme caution especially during max ebb,” which was expected to take place between noon and 6 p.m. today. People are warned not to go down to the jetties to watch or photograph the high surf.
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Huff Asks Interior to Remove California from Drilling Plan

Posted By on Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 9:55 AM

Jared Huffman. - CONGRESS
  • Congress
  • Jared Huffman.
North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman joined a pair of his colleagues today in sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke opposing the administration's recently released draft offshore oil drilling plan and specifically requesting that it remove California.

The letter leans heavily on Zinke's rationale for removing Florida from the plan — which initially sought to lease dozens of new oil drilling sites on the continental shelf surrounding the United States, including two off the coast of Northern California. In exempting Florida — after an outcry from a host of officials there — Zinke pointed to the state's tourism industry and local opposition to the plan.

In their letter, Huffman and his colleagues point out that California also has a bustling tourism economy and a cadre of public officials — including the governor — have voiced strong opposition to the plan. Failure to remove California and other states from the plan, they wrote, would make Florida's removal look like a "purely politically motived decision."

Read the full letter here and see the press release from Huffman's office below.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

UPDATE: Blue Lake Area Rezoning Could Threaten Water Supply, Says District Manager

Posted By on Fri, Jan 12, 2018 at 3:48 PM

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UPDATE: The Humboldt County Planning Commission ultimately approved the project that will see Mercer Fraser establish a cannabis extraction process near where much of Humboldt County sources its water along the Mad River.

Several members of the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District Board, as well as community members, attended the public comment session to voice their disapproval. Because the site is in a 100-year flood plain, there is some concern that an emergency would dump solvents into the county water system, impacting the health of two thirds of those who rely on municipal drinking water.

“There’s plenty of existing industrial property in Humboldt for this to go,” said Friedenbach. “Just not here.”

Speaking for Mercer Fraser, Jeff Smith responded to concerns by insisting that the updated general plan had changed land use in the parcel, meaning it must be rezoned to be consistent with its current use.

Planning Commissioner Noah Levy said he found this argument ironic.

“I don’t want to disregard the importance of getting the zoning right,” he said. “There’s been a decades long gravel zoning on this parcel. That’s not squaring up the existing land use with the zoning as I see it.”

After more than an hour of discussion, Levy joined At Large Commissioner David Edmonds to vote no on the item. They were outnumbered by Robert Morris, Ben Shepherd and Kevin McKenny, with representatives Alan Bongio and Brian Mitchell abstaining. The project proposal will next appear before the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors for approval.

Previously:

The Humboldt County Planning Commission meets tonight to discuss a slate of items, including an 18,676-square-foot cannabis grow in Miranda, changes to the Commercial Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance and the rezoning of a Blue Lake gravel pit owned by Mercer Fraser Co. that will also allow the company to launch its own cannabis edibles line. This final item has drawn the attention of the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District, whose general manager, John Friedenbach, said in an email to the Journal that the requested zoning change — from Agricultural to Heavy Industrial — may have consequences for most of Humboldt County's drinking water.

The parcel, which is on Glendale Drive between Blue Lake and Arcata, is adjacent to the Mad River and, according to Friedenbach, between the HBMWD's collector's 2 and 3, as well as immediately upstream from Collector 1 and Industrial Station 6's surface water intake. What this means, according to Friedenbach, is heavy industrial activities "have the potential to negatively impact the integrity of our drinking water source for our district and 88,000 residents of Humboldt County."

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Interior Releases Draft Plan to Open North Coast Waters to Oil Drilling

Posted By on Thu, Jan 4, 2018 at 1:43 PM

Draft plan calls for leasing off-shore drilling operations in Northern California. - WIKIPEDIA
  • wikipedia
  • Draft plan calls for leasing off-shore drilling operations in Northern California.
This morning the Trump administration announced  sweeping plans to increase offshore oil drilling around the country, including in Northern California.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke released the draft five-year plan, which would potentially see a combined 47 site leases auctioned off in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Region, Pacific Region and off the coast of Alaska from 2019 through 2024. The plan  represents a marked escalation of the executive order Donald Trump signed back in May that aimed to expand offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. It has been cheered by the oil and gas industry but is already facing fierce opposition from a bipartisan group of lawmakers and conservation groups.

North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman struck a defiant tone in a statement released today.

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Friday, December 29, 2017

Crab Health Advisory Lifted

Posted By on Fri, Dec 29, 2017 at 2:32 PM

Crab is a go! - C. JUHASZ/CDFW WEBSITE
  • C. Juhasz/CDFW website
  • Crab is a go!
If you have a boat and some pots, you can get to cracking shells without worry. The California Department of Public Health has lifted its advisory for Dungeness crab consumption. Recent tests show domoic acid levels have dropped low enough that eating sport-caught crustaceans, if prepared properly, should be safe. Make sure to boil or steam your crab, discard of the water used in preparation and don't eat any viscera.

Commercial crab season is still on hold until Jan. 15.




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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Still no Crab

Posted By on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 4:22 PM

The crab, the state says, are still not ready. - C. JUHASZ/CDFW WEBSITE
  • C. Juhasz/CDFW website
  • The crab, the state says, are still not ready.
Another round of testing shows that local Dungeness crab are still not filled out enough, prompting a second delay for the commercial season in Humboldt, Mendocino and Del Norte counties.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today that the opener has been pushed back to Dec. 31 and may not end up starting until after New Year’s, depending results from another set of quality tests scheduled for next week.

“Additional testing will be scheduled to occur by Dec. 22,” the release states. “If quality remains low, an additional delay until Jan. 15, 2018 will be issued by the director. This date is the latest the season can be delayed due to quality testing.”

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Korbel Sawmill to Reopen Next Month

Posted By on Thu, Nov 30, 2017 at 9:45 AM

The last log to come off the Korbel Mill when it closed in 2015. The mill had been in operation on and off since 1884. - PHOTO BY WILLY WARD
  • Photo by Willy Ward
  • The last log to come off the Korbel Mill when it closed in 2015. The mill had been in operation on and off since 1884.
The Korbel Mill, closed in February of 2015 after a century of operation, and purchased from the Green Diamond Resource Co. by the Trinity River Timber Co. in May of 2016, will fire up again Dec. 18.

"It's been a journey, that's for sure," said Ken Dunn, general manager of Schmidbauer Lumber, which is the Eureka branch of the Trinity River company. Dunn has been working on the project since the mill's initial closure. "I've been working on it form concept to design to construction to implementation. There's challenges around every corner."

The mill will primarily produce Douglas fir commodities for the housing market and new construction, to be shipped across the state. Dunn acknowledges that a recent hike in gas tax, which increases the sales tax on diesel from 1.75 to 5.75 percent, may have an overall effect on the bottom line as relates to shipping costs, but its full impact has yet to be seen. 

"It’s early to say but yeah it will eventually ... impact freight costs," Dunn told the Journal, adding that the big trucks can be hard on roads. "You got to pay to play sometimes."

Trinity River President Frank Schmidbauer said in the 2016 press release announcing the sale, "The Korbel mill is a great addition. It is located in close proximity to timber supplies and good transportation both east and south." The sale came with an existing agreement from Green Diamond to supply logs from its timberlands.

It doesn't appear as though the reopening will add any new jobs, as Schmidbauer will be transferring 45 of its current employees from its Eureka site to Korbel. Those employees were working the second shift (4 p.m. to midnight) at the Eureka location, which the company had decided to curtail. 

"Instead of laying them off we allowed them a one-time transfer to keep their benefits and their seniority," Dunn said.

More shifts and employees could be added later on, he said. He estimates the mill will process 100 million board feet per year.


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Monday, November 27, 2017

Again With the Crab

Posted By on Mon, Nov 27, 2017 at 3:00 PM

The local commercial Dungenes crab season is delayed, again. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The local commercial Dungenes crab season is delayed, again.
Bad news, local Dungeness crab lovers. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is delaying the commercial season in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties for at least 15 days due to poor crab quality.

The fishery is now currently set to open Dec. 16 to let the crustaceans fill out a bit. A second round of testing is set to take place next week.

On the bright side, the recreational season is under way, although the California Department of Public Health cautions against eating the guts of crab — AKA the “butter” — caught in certain areas due to elevated levels of domoic acid — which, as most of us will remember, all but destroyed the 2015 season.


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