Environment / Natural Resources

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Reflections at Richardson Grove

Posted By on Wed, Aug 14, 2019 at 3:29 PM

Watch for falling rocks and stars in the Upside-Down. (We loved the reflection). - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Watch for falling rocks and stars in the Upside-Down. (We loved the reflection).
As you read on your computer or mobile device, remember that you, too, can unplug, go outside not too far from where you are now and experience a night something like the one in this image. I took a break from plugged-in things for a week and camped for part of it in Southern Humboldt’s Richardson Grove State Park with family. It’s not a wilderness area, but it is in a beautiful natural setting among hills covered in redwood and mixed forests along the South Fork Eel River.

Sitting in the shade in our camp in Oak Flat campground, we counted eight different tree species and a myriad of plants and shrubs without leaving our seats. Not that we sat around all day, although while sitting and tuning in to the surroundings there was plenty going on around the campground to keep me entirely fascinated, whether it was the activities other campers or things happening in the surrounding forest.

It has been a while since I last backpacked in the wilderness, but I used to a lot and I know what it is like to really get away from everything people-related. This wasn’t that. It is a campground. One hears and sees other campers. Even U.S. Highway 101 goes by not far away, though as a two-lane road weaving through giant redwoods. No it isn’t the wilderness, but you are in the forest, with nature all around. Sitting in it and soaking it in absolutely recharged me. Even listening to the wind while unplugged was recharging. We humans are part of nature, not part of the internet. Nature recharges us.
My brother Seth and I watch the world go by one summer night on the banks of the South Fork Eel River in Richardson Grove, Humboldt County, California - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • My brother Seth and I watch the world go by one summer night on the banks of the South Fork Eel River in Richardson Grove, Humboldt County, California
I hadn’t seen the South Fork Eel River looking so good at this time of year in many summers, and it had been longer since I last enjoyed a good dip in it. The Eel was clear and comfortably cool, with far more water in it than I had expected. It’s shallow near the bank where you see my brother and me standing beneath the night sky, easy to wade in. It gets gradually deeper until near the far shore my brother couldn’t reach the surface with his outstretched arm while standing on the bottom. It’s a tranquil stretch with a very slow current. It would be nice for the entire family.

Humanity disappointed me when we came upon the jarring sight of plastic trash left on the bank of the river by swimmers the previous day. I want to express how unutterably lame that is, but I find my vocabulary temporarily reduced to four-letter words. Some … let’s call them jerks, had brought their candy and plastic-wrapped crap to the riverside — and then left the trash there. I wonder what level of care they had, if any. Did they leave it for someone else to pick up? Thanks, that’s really crappy. Or did they not even care that much? Either way we were disgusted with them (“Houston, we’ve found lower life forms!”). We decided we would come back later with trash bags to clean up after them.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Rollback of Endangered Species' Protections Raising Fears

Posted By on Tue, Aug 13, 2019 at 2:53 PM

  • Courtesy of Redwood National Park
  • A wild-hatched condor.
The Trump administration’s move to weaken what many see as key aspects of the Endangered Species Act is garnering outrage and pushback, with critics fearing a greater deterioration of the natural world amid the planet’s growing biodiversity crisis.

Credited with saving the bald eagle — among many iconic species, including several on the North Coast — and giving others —  like the condor — a fighting chance, the ESA was enacted in 1973 by then-President Richard Nixon.

That year, fewer than 500 pairs of the United States’ national symbol were left in the wild while today some 10,000 sets of the stealth raptors with a distinctive snowy white head are found just in the lower 48 states alone.

While the ESA has seen many successes over the years, the rollbacks expected to be enacted soon come on the heels of a United Nation’s report released in May that found “the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world.”

According to an Aug. 12 joint announcement from U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the ESA regulatory changes are “designed to increase transparency and effectiveness and bring the administration of the Act into the 21st century.”

“The best way to uphold the Endangered Species Act is to do everything we can to ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal —recovery of our rarest species. The Act’s effectiveness rests on clear, consistent and efficient implementation,” U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, an attorney and former oil industry lobbyist, said in the release. “An effectively administered Act ensures more resources can go where they will do the most good: on-the-ground conservation.”

Meanwhile, conservation organizations like Center Biological Diversity are sounding the alarm bells about what these changes could spell for already at-risk species like the polar bear and are mounting a campaign to reverse the alterations.

“We can stop this disaster, but it's going to require pulling out every stop,” a post on the center’s website states. “Tell your member of Congress to do everything in their power to defend wildlife and uphold the Endangered Species Act in this time of extinction crisis.

Read the USFW and NOAA release below:

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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Coastal Commission: If Trinidad Rancheria Can Find Water, it Can Build its Hotel

Posted By on Sat, Aug 10, 2019 at 8:29 AM

The California Coastal Commission went against the recommendation of its staff Thursday and gave the Trinidad Rancheria the go-ahead — or a “conditional concurrence” — to build a five-story hotel on its property off Scenic Drive south of the city.

This means that the Coastal Commission, which is tasked by law with protecting the California coastline, will not stand in the way of the Bureau of Indian Affairs granting the Rancheria a lease and a loan guarantee so that the project can start. The “conditional” part of the concurrence means the commission is giving the Rancheria six months to come up with a reliable water source — either through an agreement with the city of Trinidad or by proving its newly drilled well has the capability to provide the 14,000 gallons of of potable water per day that the hotel will require without draining neighboring wells. According to Trinidad Rancheria CEO Jacque Hostler-Carmesin, the well can produce 8,040 gallons per day.

An artistic rendering created by the Trinidad Rancheria of what its proposed Scenic Drive hotel project would look like from Trinidad Bay. - TRINIDAD RANCHERIA
  • Trinidad Rancheria
  • An artistic rendering created by the Trinidad Rancheria of what its proposed Scenic Drive hotel project would look like from Trinidad Bay.
The decision came at the very end of an eight-hour meeting, much of which was devoted to the problems of other communities along California’s long coastline. By the time the hotel project was heard, the audience, which earlier in the day had overflowed the Wharfinger building’s main hall, had largely thinned out. Nonetheless, enough members of the public stayed to fill an hour with comments praising or criticizing the project.

The commission had also previously received about 190 public weighing in an all sides of the hotel.

This is the third time the hotel proposal has appeared before the commission. The previous two times, the commission objected to the proposal, effectively blocking it. Like all federally recognized tribes, the Trinidad Rancheria has the legal status of a sovereign nation, meaning it is not subject to state or local authority, which includes the California Coastal Commission. However, it is subject to the authority of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). In order to approve a project, the BIA has to affirm that the project will not conflict with any state laws, hence the need for the Coastal Commission’s “concurrence.”

An artistic rendering of the proposed hotel project at Cher-Ae Heights Casino off Scenic Drive south of Trinidad. - SUBMITTED
  • An artistic rendering of the proposed hotel project at Cher-Ae Heights Casino off Scenic Drive south of Trinidad.
The issue that has drawn the most public attention has been the hotel’s size and corporate appearance. Many residents — and some who live outside the area but vacation here — feel the hotel would clash with the serene forested look of the Trinidad Bay coastline.

The issue of most concern to the commission, however, was not the building’s appearance but the lack of a confirmed water source for the project.

The Rancheria hopes to be able to hook up to the city of Trinidad’s municipal water system but the city is unsure of its ability to meet the future needs of its own residents. It has commissioned a series of studies that will not be completed until December and the city has said it will not make any commitments to other entities before that time.

The amount of water reportedly needed by the hotel seems to be a moving target, decreasing each time it comes before a public body. The draft Environmental Assessment for the hotel stated that 18,860 gallons per day would be required. This later went down to 14,184 gallons per day. On July 26, a letter from the Rancheria said that a more accurate figure would be 9,000 gallons per day, although this low figure only reflected 60 percent occupancy, obviously a less-than-desirable outcome for the hotel’s backers.

(The water-related material sent to the Coastal Commission can be found online here; scroll to Item 12b and click on Appendix C).

At the Aug. 8 hearing, the project was first reviewed in depth by the commission staff; then project proponents and opponents each got to have their say; and last, the long-suffering members of the public each got their two or three minutes to speak. Amy Deutschke, the BIA official in charge of the project, started the debate by insisting that the only things being considered were a loan guarantee and a lease — the actual building was immaterial. The Coastal Commission disagreed with her.

Trinidad Rancheria Chair Garth Sundberg then said that the Rancheria had listened to everybody’s concerns about the view and tried to address them.

“We love the view from here,” he said. “We need economic development on the Rancheria. … It will create jobs, benefit the health and welfare of our members ... I want you to know that although we want the permits, we are going to go forward anyway.”

Hostler-Carmesin then gave the 100-year-old history of the Trinidad Rancheria, described a 10-year planning process for the tribe’s commercial development and emphasized the many contributions the Rancheria had made to the greater community. She then announced that the Rancheria had successfully drilled for water on its own land, and estimated that “our pumping capacity is at 8,640 and it is indicating that we have an adequate supply of water for peak usage.”

Then, Trinidad resident Richard Johnson spoke representing Humboldt Alliance for Responsible Planning (HARP), a grassroots group opposed to the project.

“We may have differences of opinion but we are all in this together and we all share the same limited resources,” he said, adding that while his group supports the Rancheria’s efforts to improve its economic status, approval of the project as it was presented would violate federal and state laws.

There was not yet enough evidence, he said, to determine whether or not the Rancheria’s new well could provide enough water to serve the hotel on a long-term sustainable basis.

“We all live in the Luffenholtz watershed and we have a finite amount of water,” Johnson continued. “Development of any well, whether on the Rancheria property or in other areas of our watershed, could affect other nearby wells by increased water withdrawal. It’s important to recognize that there is development planned for the future based on the Rancheria’s comprehensive community-based plan … Likely, the water requirements for the Rancheria will increase due to that development.”

For the next hour, members of the public spoke, some stalwartly defending the Rancheria’s right as a sovereign nation to do whatever it pleased with its land and others criticizing the project’s design and the perceived inadequacy of information about water.

Eventually, public comment closed, and the members of the commission got down to the gritty task of coming to some sort of conclusion.

The commission was clearly conflicted, with some members resonating more to the theme of past racial injustices inflicted upon Native Americans and others more concerned with the apparent inconsistencies with the Coastal Act pointed out by the commission’s staff. Motions were made, amended and withdrawn. Some commissioners worried that if a decision was made in favor of the Rancheria that it would set a precedent allowing other projects of questionable legality to be approved.

The question of what will happen if the city does not provide water and the well water is not potable, or reliable — or for that matter, how the hotel will make up the difference between the estimated water from the well and its projected needs — was an item of strong concern to most commission members.

During one emotional exchange with the commission, Hostler-Carmensin insisted vehemently that enough water would somehow be found, that the tribe intended to move ahead and added that the tribe had already sunk more than $5 million into the project.

“Passion does not equal water,” Commission Chair Dayna Bochco retorted. “What happens if you build the hotel and there is no water?”

Hostler-Carmesin said in that case, the hotel would be unable to open. That final decision, she said, would be up to the Trinidad Rancheria Tribal Council.

Speaking to her fellow commissioners, Bochco described the visuals of the project as “disappointing” and said that she understood why the community was not happy.

Nonetheless, the commission eventually voted 6 to 3 to grant a conditional concurrence to the BIA. The passed motion specifies that “prior to commencement of construction,” the BIA shall provide commission staff that either the city of Trinidad has agreed to provide water to the project or that the Rancheria has found an alternative source and conducted an analysis on its effects on coastal resources pursuant to the California Coastal Act.

Newly seated Commissioner Mike Wilson, Humboldt’s Third District County Supervisor, voted with the majority to approve the conditional concurrence.

Editor's note: This story has been updated from a previous version to correct an editing error regarding the commission's discussion of the project's visual impacts, and to correct the spelling of Jacque Hoster-Carmesin's name. The Journal regrets the errors.
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Thursday, August 8, 2019

Rainbow Ridge Treesitter Comes Down

Posted By on Thu, Aug 8, 2019 at 12:34 PM

Activists paint Rainbow Ridge protest signs. - BLOCKADE BABES INSTAGRAM
  • Blockade Babes Instagram
  • Activists paint Rainbow Ridge protest signs.
After two months, a treesitter who goes by “Rook” has come down from a perch in the canopy of a giant Douglas fir where she was protesting Humboldt Redwood Co.’s timber activities at Rainbow Ridge, according to a release from Earth First! Humboldt.

Rook was escorted from the scene by security but was not arrested.

Logging in the area has been a source of contention between the company and those fighting to save the forest stand that protesters say deserves protection due to its ecological significance.

Dueling opinion pieces in the Journal have laid out the disputes about whether HRC is following the sustainability practices the company promised to adhere to and clashes over the treatment of protesters at Rainbow Ridge.

Rook and Earth First! Humboldt allege she was harassed and endured “harsh conditions” during her time in the tree, which the company has denied.

“The tree I’ve been living in has all the important physical characteristics associated with old growth,” Rook says in the release, “but still falls outside of HRCs qualifiers for protected status, which primarily depends on age. While HRC promotes their policy as ecologically sound and sustainable, they continue to log un-entered stands and send forest giants like this to the sawmill.”

Four protesters were arrested in June after they allegedly blocked off the entry gate to Humboldt Redwood Co. property on Monument Road in Rio Dell.

"Protests and acts of civil disobedience are expected to continue," the release states.

Read the Earth First! Humboldt release below:

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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Trinidad Rancheria Believes it May Have Found Water Source for Hotel Project; Sundberg May Have Violated State Lobbying Law

Posted By on Tue, Jul 30, 2019 at 12:46 PM

At the 11th hour, with a hearing looming before the California Coastal Commission next week, the Trinidad Rancheria believes it may have found a water source for its proposed hotel development on Scenic Drive.

The commission is set to meet Aug. 8 in Eureka, two months after a divided commission voted 6-3 in San Diego to object to the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ determination that the project was consistent with the protections laid out in the California Coastal Act. Specifically, commissioners repeatedly voiced concerns over the Rancheria’s ability to find a water source for the 100-room hotel, noting that the city of Trinidad had not yet committed to supplying water from its system as it conducts a number of studies to determine whether its capacity can meet current and future needs for the city and its service area.

An artistic rendering created by the Trinidad Rancheria of what its proposed Scenic Drive hotel project would look like from Trinidad Bay. - TRINIDAD RANCHERIA
  • Trinidad Rancheria
  • An artistic rendering created by the Trinidad Rancheria of what its proposed Scenic Drive hotel project would look like from Trinidad Bay.

Word that the Rancheria may have found a different water source first surfaced when commission staff posted an ex parte communication disclosure form from Commission Chair Dayna Bochco, who reported that she’d received a text message at 9:25 p.m. on July 23 from former Coastal Commissioner and Humboldt County Supervisor Ryan Sundberg, who currently works as the interim general manager of the Rancheria’s Cher-Ae Heights Casino.

“Hi Dayna, we have had a (drilling) rig looking for well water so we don’t have to depend on the city of Trinidad,” Sundberg wrote. “Today was very exciting. We hit water today and will be able to have well water treated and used for the hotel. Can’t wait to see you all when you come up next month!”

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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

No Service: The Removal of a Long-Unpopular Cell Tower on Trinidad Head Poses Connectivity Issues

Posted By on Wed, Jul 24, 2019 at 9:37 AM

Trinidad Head - DREW HYLAND
  • Drew Hyland
  • Trinidad Head

For decades a large cell tower has dominated the top of scenic Trinidad Head, providing service to users of Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, but also creating much displeasure among some local residents. While most people have and use cellphones, many local residents wished the communications companies could find a less conspicuous location for their infrastructure.

Trinidad city officials have traditionally responded that the tower was necessary for the three companies to provide service, that they were bound by a long-term lease and that the tower provided about $50,000 in annual revenue to the city budget.

Last year, however, the Trinidad City Council gave in to pressure from the citizenry. The lease to Verizon, the main tenant, was finally up and the city decided not to renew it. Verizon and the other two companies that rent space on the tower — AT&T and Sprint — had one year to vacate the premises. They are supposed to be out by Sept. 1 but have the option of staying until the end of the year if they pay the city 150 percent of the normal rent for each month they delay.

Verizon built a replacement tower in a nearby quarry owned by Mercer-Fraser but has warned it will provide only minimal coverage to the Trinidad area. Nobody seems to know what Sprint will do and AT&T came up with a temporary solution that got squashed by the Trinidad Planning Commission at its July 17 meeting.

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Coastal Commission to Re-hear Trinidad Hotel Project in August

Posted By on Fri, Jul 19, 2019 at 9:38 AM

The California Coastal Commission will again consider whether the hotel development proposed by the Trinidad Rancheria on the bluffs above Scenic Drive is consistent with state coastal protections when the commission meets in Eureka next month.

On June 12, an obviously conflicted commission voted 6-3 to object to the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ determination that the project is consistent with the California Coastal Act, largely due to questions surrounding where the hotel will get its water from. The rancheria has asked that the city of Trinidad supply water for the proposed 100-room hotel adjacent to Cher-Ae Heights Casino but the city has not yet committed and has several studies underway to determine whether the city’s water source — Luffenholtz Creek — has sufficient capacity to meet the city’s current and future needs along with those of the hotel.

An artistic rendering created by the Trinidad Rancheria of what its proposed Scenic Drive hotel project would look like from Trinidad Bay. - TRINIDAD RANCHERIA
  • Trinidad Rancheria
  • An artistic rendering created by the Trinidad Rancheria of what its proposed Scenic Drive hotel project would look like from Trinidad Bay.

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Monday, June 24, 2019

Study: Humboldt May Need $2.5 Billion by 2040 to Combat Sea-Level Rise

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2019 at 3:53 PM

Eureka Slough during a recent king tide gives a glimpse of what sea-level rise will look like around Humboldt Bay. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Eureka Slough during a recent king tide gives a glimpse of what sea-level rise will look like around Humboldt Bay.

The United States will have to spend more than $400 billion by 2040 to protect coastal communities against sea-level rise, according to a study released this week.

The study, from the Center for Climate Integrity in partnership with the engineering for Resilient Analytics, found the problem would be particularly acute in Humboldt County, which would have to spend $2.5 billion (the second most of any California county) to build 142 miles of seawall (the third most of any California county). That $2.5 billion price tag, the study points out, equates to more than $18,000 per county resident, or roughly six times the county’s annual general fund.

The study points out that without a tremendous amount of aid from the state and federal governments, Humboldt County would be left with the difficult choice of imposing massive reductions to virtually all local services or simply abandoning coastal property and communities to be taken over by the encroaching sea. The second option would result in massive property losses and the flooding of critical infrastructure.

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Saturday, June 22, 2019

UPDATE: 5.6 Quake Rumbles Humboldt; No Tsunami Danger

Posted By and on Sat, Jun 22, 2019 at 9:11 PM


Minor damage has been reported from this evening’s magnitude-5.6 earthquake that struck southwest of Petrolia in areas of Southern Humboldt County, including Garberville and Redway.

The Shop Smart in Redway is currently closed while employees clean up damage to the store’s inventory and Ray’s Food Place in Garberville is only allowing customers in one at a time. “Just be patient with us,” said store employee Jacque Harmon. “We’ve got a lot of broken glass. It looks like maybe $300 worth of damage.”
  • Wine spill in Redway after the quake.
  • Submitted

A magnitude 5.6 earthquake struck southwest of Petrolia shortly before 9 p.m. sending rumbles throughout the county.

There is no tsunami danger from the quake, according to the federal warning system.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake hit at 8:53 p.m. with a depth of just less than 6 miles, about 3 miles southwest of Petrolia.

The numbers are preliminary and subject to change. Track the latest information on the temblor here.
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Monday, June 17, 2019

Four Timber Protesters Arrested in Rio Dell

Posted By on Mon, Jun 17, 2019 at 1:36 PM

The 24-foot ladder and protester which blocked the entrance to Humboldt Redwood Co. - HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Humboldt County Sheriff's Office
  • The 24-foot ladder and protester which blocked the entrance to Humboldt Redwood Co.

Before dawn this morning, four protesters were arrested after they allegedly blocked off the entry gate to Humboldt Redwood Co. property on Monument Road in Rio Dell.

According to a Humboldt County Sheriff's press release, when deputies arrived around 3:45 a.m. they found 15 protestors and a 24-foot ladder attached to the company’s gate and tied to several neighboring trees with one protester, Isabel Osheroff, having climbed to the top.

The logging company began timber harvesting plans along Rainbow Ridge, which lies in the Mattole River watershed west of Redcrest, earlier this month. Protests in this area first began July of 2018, when HRC initiated its logging activities on the ridge. Protesters then said they were trying to protect 1,100 acres of “pristine” forest (which they defined as trees that have not been logged) that mostly consisted of old-growth Douglas fir.

Michael John Gammariello, Brittany Krystal Soohoo and Georgia Hanrahan Doremus were arrested and booked into the Humboldt County jail on suspicion of trespassing, resisting arrest and impeding traffic. Sheriff's deputies, with the help of county public works employees, were able to safely take Osheroff down from the ladder, according to the release. She was also arrested on suspicion of  trespassing.

An earlier press release sent by the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters said protesters began demonstrating June 8, when a tree sitter climbed a centuries-old tree that he or she continues to occupy the tree. “The demonstration this morning is, in part, in solidarity and support of the tree-sitter, who goes by the name Rook,” the release stated.

 From the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office:

Four arrested for trespassing during logging protest
Deputy attempts to safely remove protester from ladder while in a boom truck
On June 17, 2019, at about 3:42 a.m., Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to Monument Road, in the county's jurisdiction of Rio Dell, for the report of protesters blocking an access gate to Humboldt Redwood Company property.

When deputies arrived on scene, they located about 15 protesters, in addition to an approximately 24-foot ladder standing in front of the gate, tethered to nearby trees with a subject at the top.

Three protesters, Michael John Gammariello, 32, Brittany Krystal Soohoo, 25, of Los Angeles, and Georgia Hanrahan Doremus, 32, of Arcata, were taken into custody and booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on charges of trespassing, resisting arrest and impeding traffic.

Humboldt County Public Works responded and deployed a boom truck to assist deputies in lowering the ladder in front of the gate. The protester on the ladder, Isabel Xochitl Osheroff, 24, of Berkeley, CA, was safely taken into custody and booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on charges of trespassing.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind the public to obey all laws when protesting a cause. Sheriff’s deputies will continue to respond as needed to Monument Road if further violations of state law occur.

From the Bay Area Coalition of Headwaters: 

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