Environment / Natural Resources

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Sneaker Wave Warning Today

Posted By on Sun, Jan 23, 2022 at 11:28 AM

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The Eureka office of the National Weather Service has issued a beach hazard statement warning of the potential of sneaker waves, which is currently in effect and will continue to be so until late tonight.

"Don`t be fooled by an ocean that looks calm. There can be 30 minutes of small waves before a sneaker wave strikes," the statement reads. "Avoid rocks and jetties. Avoid steep beaches. Stay much farther back from the water and never turn your back on the ocean."

For a reminder of how treacherous sneaker waves can be, view this video captured at Trinidad in January of 2020 during the King Tides.
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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Tonga Tsunami: A Reminder of the North Coast's Vulnerability

Posted By on Sat, Jan 22, 2022 at 11:35 AM

Screen shot from the Crescent City Harbor cam showing surges on Jan. 15. - NWS
  • NWS
  • Screen shot from the Crescent City Harbor cam showing surges on Jan. 15.
One week ago today, surges sent more than 5,000 miles across the ocean from the devastating volcanic eruption near Tonga began to hit the California coast as Humboldt County residents awoke Jan. 15 to a tsunami advisory that would span some 12 hours — and even longer just to the north in Del Norte County.

This time, however, the region came out basically unscathed.


As an advisory — which is one tier below a warning — the main danger locally was “strong currents in bays, river estuaries and harbors and more unpredictable variation in surf heights along the beach,” rather than inundation, according to Humboldt State Geology professor emeritus Lori Dengler, an expert on earthquake and tsunami hazards and hazard reduction.

“Mother Nature always has a wild card up her sleeve," she said. "We are just fortunate that this one wasn’t deadly. But, like our earthquake wake-up call on Dec. 20, the next event could be more significant.”

Other areas were not as lucky.

With information now trickling out of Tonga after the eruption severed communications, at three people have been confirmed dead, more are missing and on some islands nearly all the homes were destroyed by the ensuing tsunami.


As the surges made their way across a wide swath of the Pacific, more damage, deaths and near-misses would follow. Two women were killed after being swept out to sea in Peru and surfers were rescued from churning waters off San Francisco and Santa Cruz, the latter of which suffered an estimated $6 million in damage, according to media reports, while statewide tallies are still being calculated.

David Snider, the tsunami warning coordinator for the National Tsunami Warning Center in Alaska, described the sheer breadth of the impact as "humbling and scary."

Over the course of the Jan. 15 advisory, dozens of surges were recorded by three North Coast gauges: one located in Humboldt Bay on the Samoa Peninsula, another at Crescent City and the third at Point Arena in Mendocino, the latter two of which recorded a top water level of 3.7 feet.

The highest levels in the state occurred at Port San Luis in central California with a reading of 4.3 feet.

Those numbers were true to form for Crescent City, Dengler said, which "usually sees the highest or second highest amplitude tsunami waves no matter where in the Pacific the tsunami is coming from."

The small city in the far northern reaches of the state has the unfortunate distinction of experiencing more damaging tsunamis than any other port on the West Coast but was spared in this most recent event.

"The main reason — the tsunami wasn’t large enough to cause damage and the harbor modification done after 2011 seems to have worked," Dengler said.


Since 1933, more than 30 tsunamis have been recorded in the harbor, including some of the most destructive in the state, the most recent being just over a decade ago when the Tohoku earthquake in Japan generated waves that arrived on March 11, 2011.


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Saturday, January 15, 2022

SECOND UPDATE: Tsunami Advisory is Now Lifted (with Video)

Posted By on Sat, Jan 15, 2022 at 6:13 PM

SECOND UPDATE:

The tsunami advisory for Humboldt County has been lifted.

UPDATE:

The tsunami advisory remains in place for Humboldt County due to last night's volcanic explosion near the Tonga Islands.

“For your safety, stay away from beaches and low-lying coastal areas until emergency officials indicate it is safe. DO NOT GO TO THE SHORE TO VIEW THE TSUNAMI. Hazardous waves may continue for several hours.,” a 10 a.m. update from the Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services states.

The Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group reports that the peak height at Crescent City recorded so far (as of about 10 a.m.) was 20 inches and just under 3 feet at Arena Cove. View the Crescent City Harbor cam here.

"The tsunami advisory is still in place and everyone needs to stay off the beach, perhaps for the rest of the day," the group's post states.
According to a city of Eureka news release, after receiving notification of the advisory, staff went to the Eureka Boat Basin in the early morning hours to notify residents living on their boats and advised them to leave. People found camping in their vehicles at the Samoa Boat ramp or other harbor areas were also notified, the release states.

"All docks and ramps were closed and are expected to remain closed until an 'all clear' advisory is issued," the city's release states. "A slight surge was noticed in the harbor area around 8 a.m .and staff continues to monitor the area for additional surges. Surges which could be dangerous can happen many hours after the first wave arrival. The first tsunami wave or surge may not be the highest in the series."
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PREVIOUSLY:

The National Weather Service has issued a tsunami advisory for the West Coast due to seismic activity near Tonga last night. While no evacuation is called for, an alert message from the Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services warns local residents to "stay away from beaches and low lying coastal areas, avoid boating and fishing for the next several hours."

According to the National Weather Service's Eureka office's Facebook page, waves may reach heights of 1 to 3 feet, and "strong rip currents and coastal flooding" are expected.

The Redwood Coast Tsunami Working Group reports the tsunami surge locally is “modest” but arriving near high tide with high surg.

“Do not go to the coast to watch,” the group warns on its Facebook page. “You are unlikely to see anything of interest but the combination of storm waves and tsunamis could cause sudden unexpected surges along the beach.”
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Monday, January 10, 2022

Sneaker Wave Warning for Local Beaches

Posted By on Mon, Jan 10, 2022 at 3:16 PM

sneaker_waves.jpg
Starting late tonight and into tomorrow afternoon, the Eureka office of the National Weather Service is cautioning beachgoers about the potential of sneaker waves.

The NWS beach hazard statement warns that the "large, unexpected waves can sweep across the beach without warning, sweeping people into the sea from rocks, jetties, and beaches."

People are urged to keep their distance from the surf on Tuesday. 


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Friday, January 7, 2022

No, California’s Drought Isn’t Over. Here’s Why.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 7, 2022 at 6:00 AM

In a clear sign that the drought persists, California this week adopted new emergency regulations aimed at stopping residents from wasting the state’s precious water.

The rules ban practices such as hosing down sidewalks and driveways with drinking water, washing cars without a shutoff nozzle on the hose and irrigating lawns and gardens too soon after rain. 

Approved unanimously by the State Water Resources Control Board, the mandates could take effect as soon as Jan. 15 and have a one-year expiration date unless extended. Fines can reach as high as $500, but enforcement will be spotty: Local governments and water agencies are allowed to enforce them at their discretion, and they will largely be complaint-based.

“There’s not going to be like a statewide force of water cops or anything like that,” said Eric Oppenheimer, the water board’s chief deputy director. 

LESSONS LEARNED: DROUGHT THEN AND NOW

A CalMatters series investigates what’s improved and what’s worsened since the last drought — and vividly portrays the impacts on California’s places and people.

California’s drought is not over despite a bounty of snowfall and rain over the past month: California’s snowpack — a critical source of water — is 150 percent of average for Jan. 4. But with three months left of the wet season, it’s not enough to bring an end to the severe drought and water shortages.

California still needs about another foot of snowpack by the end of March to reach its historic seasonal average, according to the state data. Almost 16 inches had accumulated by Tuesday.

“December alone will not end the drought, clearly,” said Jeanine Jones, interstate resources manager for the Department of Water Resources. “December was wonderful, but now we just hope it keeps on going.”

The amount of water now stored is actually worse than last year at this time: The state’s reservoirs in December were projected to contain about 78 percent of average — compared to about 82 percent in 2020.

Moderate to exceptional drought still grips the entire state, and a soggy start to the rainy season does not guarantee even an average water year. California has felt that false hope before: In 2013, during the last record-breaking drought, a wet December turned into a dry January and February. 

Climatologists predict that the state will dry out during the rest of the winter and spring.

“After we get through this weather system this week, things go dry. And the expectations are a drier than average January, February and March,” said California’s state climatologist Michael Anderson.

And conservation still lags. California Gov. Gavin Newsom in July called for Californians to voluntarily cut water use by 15 percent in the face of the ongoing drought. But state officials today announced statewide savings of only 6 percent from July to November compared to last year. 

November, a dry month, saw only a 6.8 percent reduction in water use — down from 13.3 percent in October, which saw torrential rains. The greatest savings came from the northern half of the state; water use increased slightly by 0.8 percent in Southern California.

“You want to kiss every snowflake and every raindrop that comes down, because it was just so bad,” said Felicia Marcus, who chaired the State Water Resources Control Board under Gov. Jerry Brown during the last drought. “At the same time, we've got to exercise our efficiency muscles every way we can, all the time.” 

Similar restrictions on wasteful water use were temporarily enacted during the last drought under former Governor Jerry Brown, who also issued a statewide water conservation mandate.

In October, Newsom instructed regulators at the State Water Resources Control Board to consider once again barring wasteful water uses when he extended the drought emergency statewide.  

The emergency rules adopted today take aim at residents as well as homeowners associations, which can no longer penalize residents for brown lawns and drought-tolerant landscaping plants. Local governments may no longer use drinking water to irrigate ornamental turf on street medians.

The new rules do not affect agriculture, the leading user of water in California. And both public commenters and board member Laurel Firestone raised concerns about how penalties could affect low-income Californians — spurring the board to add new language requiring warnings and fees based on the recipient’s ability to pay. 

“This is not the most effective, or even in my mind appropriate policy approach to save water when we're in a drought emergency,” said Firestone, who called for a more systemic approach rather than individual penalties. “Unfortunately, like in the last drought, we don't have a more appropriate and effective policy developed that we go to in drought emergencies.”

The state's efforts to make permanent the emergency water waste rules enacted during the last drought faced opposition from powerful urban and agricultural water interests, and ultimately fizzled. But many local water agencies adopted their own rules. 

Officials couldn’t say how much water the regulations adopted this week are expected to save. Instead, they said, the focus is largely on educating consumers, rather than collecting fines.

“I don't believe that there were any fines of up to $500. There were, I believe, a small handful throughout the state of smaller fines after multiple levels of warnings and outreach,” said David Rose, senior staff counsel with the water board. “Mostly what the suppliers chose to do was to implement their own existing water waste or water use restrictions as opposed to the board's regulation.” 

The timing of the decision after such a soggy start to the water year “wreaks havoc with messaging,” Marcus said. 

But it’s a change that she said she hopes will persist longer term — which would require a different regulatory process. 

“To me, these rules are sort of the least we can do. They're primarily common sense.”

Julie Cart contributed to this story.

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Sunday, January 2, 2022

Community Members Set to Continue Search for Missing Man

Posted By on Sun, Jan 2, 2022 at 10:02 AM

Hunter Nathaniel Lewis - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Hunter Nathaniel Lewis
The search for a missing Blue Lake man is set to continue this morning, with organizers asking community members to meet at 11 a.m. at the Seascape Restaurant parking lot, where they will be assigned search areas.

Hunter Nathaniel Lewis is believed to have entered the ocean in his 15-feet green fiberglass canoe between 10 a.m. and noon Dec. 30 and hasn’t been seen since. His father posted to Facebook yesterday that half his son’s canoe had been found north of Elk Head, and today’s efforts are expected to focus on that area.

A multi-agency search for the 21-year-old launched Dec. 30 and crews worked through the night to locate him, but the U.S. Coast Guard suspended its active search efforts after sun down Dec. 31. The agency said it had methodically searched more than 1,000 nautical miles of water but had found “no sign of the man or his canoe or equipment.” It’s unclear if the discovery of Nathaniel Lewis’ canoe yesterday will prompt the Coast Guard or other agencies to re-engage.

An especially high tide is forecast to peak at 10:15 a.m. today, and gale force winds are possible later in the day, so searchers are urged to use extra caution around the water. According to a Facebook group set up to help coordinate the search, it looks like part of the focus of today’s search will be getting access to private properties along Stage Coach Road, north of Trinidad.

We’ll update this post with additional information as we can.
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Friday, December 31, 2021

UPDATE: Search and Rescue Effort's Focus Shifts to North of Elk Head

Posted By on Fri, Dec 31, 2021 at 3:47 PM

Hunter Nathaniel Lewis - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Hunter Nathaniel Lewis
UPDATE:
Part of a missing 21-year-old Blue Lake man’s canoe was found today on the shoreline north of Elk Head, according to a Facebook post by his father.

Hunter Nathaniel Lewis is believed to have entered the ocean with his canoe in Trinidad Harbor between 10 a.m. and noon Dec. 30 and hasn’t been seen since. Corey Lewis posted to Facebook earlier today that due to the discover of half his son’s canoe, the multi-agency search effort’s focus was shifting to the area north of Elk Head.

Anyone who saw Lewis in the Trinidad area yesterday or has any information regarding his current whereabouts is asked to contact the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251.

PREVIOUSLY:
The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office has launched a search and rescue effort for a 21-year-old Blue Lake man after he failed to return from the Trinidad area yesterday afternoon.

Officials believe Hunter Nathaniel Lewis may have entered the ocean in his canoe near Trinidad Harbor sometime between 10 a.m. and noon yesterday. A search of the harbor and surrounding areas was conducted through the night and continues today.

Multiple agencies are aiding the search, including the Sheriff's Search and Rescue Posse, the U.S. Coast Guard and California State Parks, with a Coast Guard helicopter and boats also assisting. Hunter Lewis is described as a white male, standing approximately 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighing 135 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. He is believed to be wearing a dark-colored wetsuit and his canoe is described as being 15 feet long with a green exterior and made of fiberglass.

Anyone who saw Lewis in the Trinidad area yesterday or has any information regarding his current whereabouts is asked to contact the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251.

See the full press release below:


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Monday, December 20, 2021

Aquafarm’s Full Draft Environmental Study Released for Review

Posted By on Mon, Dec 20, 2021 at 1:34 PM

An artistic rendering of what the fish farm will look like. - DRAFT EIR
  • Draft EIR
  • An artistic rendering of what the fish farm will look like.

In an unusual turn for a developer, Nordic Aquafarm subjected itself to a full environmental impact report in its bid to build a big fish farm on the Samoa Peninsula. The draft report, released today, supplanted a draft review in which the county determined the aquaculture plant wouldn’t negatively impact Humboldt’s environment.

The company’s new report also finds insignificant impacts on Humboldt Bay’s water, geology and energy. It calls for actively mitigating impacts on surface water, groundwater, water intake, stormwater runoff, hazardous materials, soil erosion, habitat modification, air quality and increased population.

The full EIR was requested by environmental groups like Humboldt Baykeeper and 350 Humboldt, and the company announced it would go along with the more thorough investigation in May.

“The major outstanding issue as far as Baykeeper is concerned is the ocean discharge and the potential for nutrient pollution that could exacerbate toxic algae that produce domoic acid,” Baykeeper Director Jenifer Kalt said in an email. “There's also the impacts of the bay intakes, which were not included in the initial study.”

The plant would also be “a massive energy user, requiring something like 15 percent of the output of the PG&E power plant, although they are working on a power purchase agreement with Redwood Coast Energy Authority (at our insistence). They claim they'll install 3-5 MW solar system, but that's just a fraction of what they'll need,” Kalt added.

The Humboldt County Planning and Building Department is set to receive public comment until Feb. 18, 2022. Comments may be submitted to the department at 3015 H St., Eureka, CA 95501 or at CEQAResponses@co.humboldt.ca.us. Find the full draft report here.
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Friday, December 3, 2021

Coastal Flood Advisory: The Tides are High This Week

Posted By on Fri, Dec 3, 2021 at 8:55 AM

Flooding on Jackson Ranch Road in Arcata during last year's King Tide event. - KIMBERLY WEAR
  • Kimberly Wear
  • Flooding on Jackson Ranch Road in Arcata during last year's King Tide event.
It’s that time of year again, when the alignment of the gravitational pull between the sun, moon, and Earth creates very high tides — also known as King Tides — bringing minor coastal flooding to low-lying areas.

Running through Dec. 6, tides upward of 8 feet are expected, including a high of 8.72 feet just before 11 a.m. on Saturday, according to the Eureka office of the National Weather Service. All of the peak tides will occur in the morning hours, with today’s high at 10:05 a.m.

A coastal flood advisory is in effect, with areas of concern including King Salmon and the Arcata bottoms. Some flood may occur an hour or two before the peak, according to the NWS.

“Flooding around Humboldt Bay typically starts around 8.8 feet at the North Spit Tide Gauge,” a post from NWS states. “Elevated surf may increase the impacts along the open coast. Coastal flood advisories will be issued if flooding is expected.

For more information on the tides visit: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/perigean-spring-tide.html.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

A 50% Coupon for One Tool? Gardeners Call California’s Subsidy Inadequate

Posted By on Tue, Nov 30, 2021 at 6:16 AM

Though Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill banning the sale of most new gas powered tools by 2024, gardeners and landscapers say a $30 million state subsidy isn’t nearly enough to help small operators make the switch to electric. 

The state agency responsible for administering the subsidy estimates it has only enough to give each self-employed gardener a 50 percent coupon for one tool, far from the truckload of leaf blowers, lawn mowers, small chainsaws, brushcutters and trimmers most haul around.

In fact, local governments have learned they need to offer more. In Southern California, a regional air quality district that has been running a similar incentive program since 2017 saw few takers until it increased rebates to 75 percent per tool. The district paired that with an outreach program and encouraged landscapers to test electric equipment.

The California Air Resources Board is still figuring out who will qualify for the rebate but Assemblymember Marc Berman, one of the authors of the bill, said he’s open to adding more funding if needed.

“Let’s not make the perfect be the enemy of the good,” said the Menlo Park Democrat.

Environmentalists hailed the first-in-the-nation law for advancing California’s clean energy goals, noting the state estimates that smog-forming pollution from small gas-powered engines will surpass emissions from passenger cars this year. But electrifying the landscaping industry creates financial and physical burdens for the estimated 60,000 one-person and often unlicensed landscaping operations, an industry with an average income under $40,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There’s an argument for subsidizing the transition. An electric leaf blower and batteries cost nearly twice as much as a comparable gas version. California estimates that a full transition of nearly 3 million tools used by landscaping professionals will cost  $1.29 billion.

Bryan, a landscaper who asked to be identified by his first name only because he fears losing business, uses a mix of electric and gas equipment. The electric ones fall short.

“I have 10 to 15 houses a day, right now, but with electric (tools), I may do seven or five houses a day,” he said. That’s a loss of $1,000 a week.

Already, Bryan has told his kid he can’t afford books or a new laptop. The cost of a full conversion by purchasing all electric tools, he said, would require him to raise prices 30 percent. He fears his residential clients will purchase their own tools and do it themselves, pushing him out of a job.

When the bill was signed, Berman and Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego called it a win for both the environment and human health. Electric tools have already been widely adopted by California homeowners, but only a fraction of commercial landscaping companies have made the switch, according to a 2018 survey by the air resources board.

At that time, 8 in 10 landscapers said they planned on buying gas-powered equipment with many prioritizing performance, run-time and cost. But operating a gas-powered leaf blower for one hour, for example, emits the same amount of pollution as driving a Toyota Camry from Los Angeles to Denver, according to the air board.

The lawn equipment conversion will bring the rest of the state in line with cities such as Palo Alto, Los Altos and Menlo Park, which have already banned noisy leaf blowers. The law also directs the air resources board to come up with statewide regulations for other small motor equipment, such as golf carts, small generators and power washers.

But the landscaping industry, the main target of the ban, says the transition has already been costly.

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock

Steven Wood purchased four batteries for his electric leaf blower after a number of communities in the Bay Area banned gas-powered leaf blowers. Woods, who owns a small landscaping business, immediately noticed the batteries don’t go far enough.

“I never spent $200 on something that lasted 45 minutes,” Wood said, “and it doesn’t last for six to eight houses a day.”

Once the batteries drain, Wood’s two employees resort to raking, which takes three times as long to complete a job.

Tests back him up.

Consumer Reports rated gas and electric tools, such as lawn mowers, leaf blowers and string trimmers, side by side. The nonprofit consumer organization found that battery-powered tools, with low maintenance and ease of use, were strong candidates for homeowners with less than an acre of land who could wait to recharge their batteries. But when it came to larger plots, more robust weeds to whack, or long hours of use, gas tools excelled.

“As an industry, we want this (battery-powered) equipment to be able to handle what we throw at it,” said Sandra Giarde, executive director of the California Landscape Contractors Association. “But it’s not there yet.”

The air resources board said the technology is close enough. While electric tools may not have the same power, they offer other benefits, such as longer lifespan, better torque for some tools and savings on gas and maintenance, said air pollution specialist Christopher Dilbeck.

“We recognize that, yes, there will be substantial costs associated with what we are proposing,” said Dilbeck. “That is part of why this funding is available.”

The board, which will allocate the state’s $30 million subsidy, has yet to release how it will hand out incentives other than saying it will target small operators, including those without a business license. In one scenario, California could offer 12,000 small landscapers a 50 percentdiscount on all their new tools, or every sole-proprietor could receive a 50 percent discount on one tool.

“You are not going to be able to get the jobs done as fast,” said Ken Tamplen, owner of Ken’s Rototilling, a landscaping company in Contra Costa County. “You’re not going to be able to make as much money.”

This article is part of the California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequality and economic survival in California.

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