Environment / Natural Resources

Friday, November 22, 2019

Rio Dell Mayor Asks Supes to Move Terra-Gen Appeal Meeting Down South

Posted By on Fri, Nov 22, 2019 at 1:24 PM

Rio Dell Mayor Debra Garnes signs the letter. - CITY OF RIO DELL
  • City of Rio Dell
  • Rio Dell Mayor Debra Garnes signs the letter.
Rio Dell Mayor Debra Garnes has sent a letter to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors officially requesting a change of venue for any future meeting on Terra-Gen’s proposed wind farm.

The Humboldt County Planning Commission voted 4-2 Thursday, with commissioners Mike Newman and Alan Bongio dissenting and commissioner Brian Mitchell absent, to deny the proposal to erect massive turbines on Monument and Bear River ridges south of Rio Dell.

In the letter with today’s date, Garnes writes that it is her understanding that Terra-Gen is prepared to appeal the planning commission’s decision to the board of supervisors.

Garnes notes that previous meetings had overflowing crowds, which included elderly and handicapped individuals who were “denied entry for safety considerations.”

“They were instead forced to stand for hours on end and listen to a small, dated speaker suspended from the ceiling,” Garnes wrote. “At one point, the crowd, which was composed of supporters and opponents of the project, chanted in unison ‘Let us in! Let us in!’ I know you can do better!”

She signs off by offering to help the board of supervisors secure an “appropriate venue,” writing that the city is “requesting that you hold this meeting here in
either Rio Dell or Scotia."

Read the full letter below:


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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Planning Commission Denies Wind Farm Project

Posted By and on Thu, Nov 21, 2019 at 9:58 PM

The Humboldt County Planning Commission voted 4-2, with commissioners Mike Newman and Alan Bongio dissenting and commissioner Brian Mitchell absent, to deny a proposal to build a wind farm on Monument and Bear River ridges south of Rio Dell.

An initial vote on a motion to accept the project stalled with a 3-3 vote, which prompted commission Chair Robert Morris to ask Terra-Gen's representative if he would be OK delaying the vote a couple of weeks until after the Thanksgiving holiday when the full commission would be available. The representative — Terra-Gen Senior Director for Wind Development Nathan Vajdos — replied that he wanted a clear answer then and there, prompting the vote on whether to deny the project. (Bongio, who had voted for the motion to accept the project, was the swing vote in denying it, but offered no explanation for the change.)

The proposal brought forward by Terra-Gen, a subsidiary of Energy Capital Partners, would see 47 600-foot wind turbines erected on the ridge lines, each placed on a large concrete platform. Proponents of the project conceded it would bring unavoidable environmental consequences but argued it would be an expedient local response to the global climate crisis, powering more than 40,000 homes with clean, renewable energy. In addition to the potential environmental benefits and impacts of the project, it promised to create hundreds of jobs during construction, as well as 15 permanent ones, while putting more than $2 million in tax revenue into county coffers.
A satelite image of the proposed project site and an approxiation of where the turbines will be located. - THE DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT. PHOTOILLUSTRATION BY JONATHAN WEBSTER
  • The Draft Environmental Impact Report. Photoillustration by Jonathan Webster
  • A satelite image of the proposed project site and an approxiation of where the turbines will be located.
But opponents — including some environmental groups and the Wiyot Tribe — argued the environmental cost of the project was too much, clearing carbon-sequestering forests and prairies, harming vulnerable bird populations and forever altering a sacred Wiyot prayer site. At the Nov. 14 planning commission meeting, about a dozen members of the public spoke in support of the project while 54 opposed it.

After hearing more than five hours of public comment spread over three meetings, the planning commission voted the project down tonight, denying a conditional use permit application that would have paved the way for Terra-Gen to begin the process of securing the dozens of other permits needed to begin construction.

The commission's decision is appealable to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. Check back for full coverage of the planning commission's decision in the coming days.
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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Sheriff's Office Releases Stats on Marijuana Enforcement Team

Posted By on Wed, Nov 20, 2019 at 3:07 PM

One of the grows the Marijuana Enforcement raided. - HCSO
  • HCSO
  • One of the grows the Marijuana Enforcement raided.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office has released stats for its Marijuana Enforcement Team, or MET, which just wrapped up its 2019 grant season.

According to a release, the team conducted 86 operations on unpermitted grows that eradicated more than 200,000 cannabis plants, seized nearly $100,000 in cash and resulted in the arrest of 16 people between October of 2018 and September.

Those operations, according to the sheriff’s office, were funded by a $200,000 grant from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, which has provided money to Humboldt County for the last two decades.
The scene at one of the operations. - HCSO
  • HCSO
  • The scene at one of the operations.
Over the summer, the National Guard was brought in to survey areas of Humboldt County for “illicit cannabis” grows.

“The National Guard is here at my request and they’re working with us to assist us with the illicit marijuana industry that has been a problem here in Humboldt County for years,” Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal said at the time in a Facebook video posted after concerns were raised about the flights.

The sheriff also said that his office’s actions were “complaint driven” and anonymous reports about potentially illegal grows could be made to the sheriff’s office hotline.

Read the full HCSO release below:

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Monday, November 18, 2019

Crab Quality Delays Commercial Season Opening

Posted By on Mon, Nov 18, 2019 at 12:46 PM

Another crab season, another delay. - C. JUHASZ/CDFW WEBSITE
  • C. Juhasz/CDFW website
  • Another crab season, another delay.
The commercial crab season for Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties is being delayed due to “poor crab meat quality tests,” according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

But there’s still hope for crab by New Year's,  if not Christmas.

In a Nov. 15 memo, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham wrote that “quality tests conducted on Nov. 3, 2019, indicate the crabs will not be ready for harvest on Dec. 1, 2019.”

For now, the season is pushed back to Dec. 16. Another round of testing will take to place around Dec. 1 to determine if the crabs have fattened up enough, otherwise the start date could be delayed again until Dec. 31.

“The season can be delayed no later than Jan. 15, which is what happened in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons,” the CDFW release notes.


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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Overflow Crowd Again Turns Out for Public Hearing on Controversial Wind Farm Proposal

Posted By on Sun, Nov 17, 2019 at 12:49 PM

The debate over the proposed Terra-Gen wind energy project seemed no closer to resolution after a second heated five-and-a-half-hour public hearing at the County Planning Commission on Thursday.

Once again, the Supervisors Chamber was packed with people standing in the aisles. About 40 people who could not fit into the crowded room stood outside in the hallway, and another 50 or so people filled a conference room down the hall, where the proceeds of the meeting were piped in. People in the hallway yelled en masse, “We want in!” and “We can’t hear you!,” and despite Chair Robert Morris' admonitions, frequently applauded — and occasionally booed — speakers.
Project Site Boundaries and Surrounding Land - SOURCE: HUMBOLDTGOV.ORG

More people seemed to speak in favor of the project than the at the commission’s first hearing a week earlier, citing the necessity of doing something about earth’s relentless global warming. However, they were still in the minority. Most people stated that, regardless of planetary threats, the proposed project — which would see 47 600-foot-tall wind turbines erected on Monument and Bear River ridges south of Scotia to produce enough electricity to power more than 30,000 homes — was at an inappropriate site and would do more harm than good. Twelve members of the public supported the project, while 54 opposed it.

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Thursday, November 14, 2019

CHP, Sheriff's Office Upping the Enforcement Ante on Driving Around Livestock

Posted By on Thu, Nov 14, 2019 at 10:04 AM

Cattle on Old Briceland Road will have to share their grazing ground with impatient travelers later this month. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIANNE ODISIO
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIANNE ODISIO
  • Cattle on Old Briceland Road will have to share their grazing ground with impatient travelers later this month.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and CHP are jointly “beefing up” (their words, not ours) enforcement around and awareness of driving on county roads with livestock crossings.

According to a release, both agencies “CHP have received numerous reports of livestock being struck by motorists” over the last year.

“As a rural county, several Humboldt County roads have easements granting the public passage through otherwise private lands; some of these lands being livestock pastures,” the release states.

“On county roads with easements, livestock have the right of way. While a fence is still needed to keep them on their property, it is not needed to keep them off the section of the road running through the property (often marked by cattle guards).
This does not apply to state highways, where a lawful fence is required, and livestock are not permitted to freely cross,” it continues.

One of the roads where this might occur is Old Briceland Road, which is receiving an upgrade to act as a detour for when the county starts repairs on Briceland Thorn Road, likely at the end of month.

As Marianne Odisio — who delivers mail in the area — says in this week’s JournalRough Road Ahead," Old Briceland Road runs through the working cattle ranch and this is calving season.
Calves from a previous year watching a vehicle pass along Old Briceland Road. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIANNE ODISIO
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIANNE ODISIO
  • Calves from a previous year watching a vehicle pass along Old Briceland Road.
"For the first few days of a calf's life, they are pretty clueless about vehicles," she said, adding that she’s also worried about the safety of domestic animals and wildlife in the area. "Sometimes ... a newborn calf will be standing on its wobbly little newborn legs in the middle of the road and you will have to slow down or stop until they get safely out of your way."

The release also notes that a driver can face hit and run charges for leaving the scene after striking livestock.

Read the full HCSO and CHP release below:


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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

County Sends Nearly 500 Cannabis Warning Letters

Posted By on Tue, Nov 12, 2019 at 10:28 AM

Last week, Humboldt County’s Commercial Cannabis Cultivation unit at Code Enforcement sent out about 470 warning letters to residents suspected of unpermitted cultivation activity.

As a result, consultants who help farmers through the permit process say they received multiple calls from panicky growers, with one saying in exasperation that the county has “carpet-bombed our community again.”

For his part, Humboldt County’s Planning Director John Ford, who oversees the program, describes the letters as a response to two community meetings in Southern Humboldt during which people asked for the courtesy of a warning letter before they received an abatement notice, potentially costing them tens of thousands of dollars a day in fines. Ford says these are those courtesy warning letters.
The county is sending out warning letters to cannabis growers. - FILE
  • File
  • The county is sending out warning letters to cannabis growers.

To some though, the letters signal the end to a way of life, not only for them but for their communities. As one farmer who received a warning letter for his 30 plants of cultivation explained, his family may have to leave the area. His kids go to a very small school with eight students. “When they leave, that school may close and the remaining kids may get bused out each day,” he told us.

The letters note that the county has observed activity they believe is cannabis cultivation. Ford says the letters are a request for a response. He said, “If it isn’t [marijuana cultivation,] contact us and tell us that. If it is, the county expects it to stop or [for the farmer to] get a permit and become legal.”

The letters in part read,
“You are receiving this letter as a courtesy to inform you of what appears to have been an unpermitted commercial cannabis cultivation operation on your parcel. A county land use permit and a state license are both required to legally cultivate cannabis in Humboldt County, and our records indicate that neither exist for this property.

While the overall cultivation area appears to be relatively small, it still requires an appropriate permit.

At this time you are not receiving a Notice to Abate Nuisance or a Notice of Violation …. but your attention and action are required.

You are encouraged to take one of the following corrective actions.

1. Cease the cultivation operation and remove any unpermitted structures related to the cannabis cultivation. For any unpermitted grading, apply for and obtain an after-the-fact grading permit to restore natural or preexisting grades.

2. Should your goal be to commercially cultivate cannabis, cease all cultivation, apply for and receive the required permits and licenses to cultivate cannabis before you commence any future cultivation.

For cultivation that existed prior to December 31, 2015, there is still an opportunity before the end of the calendar year to apply for a “pre-existing” cultivation permit.

It is a violation of County Code to cultivate cannabis without a permit. Code Enforcement staff will continue to monitor your property to confirm the cannabis operation footprint has been eliminated and that it does not appear in the 2020 cultivation season.

If unpermitted cannabis operation persists or reappear in 2020, you will receive a Notice to Abate and a Notice of Violation for an unpermitted activity.

At this time there is no obligation or requirement to contact Code Enforcement staff to discuss this issue or any potential violations of County Code.

If you have questions…you may contact the County Planning Department … .”

Ford said Code Enforcement was directed for the 2019 season to only send Notices of Intent to Abate to sites where the cultivation appeared to be using more than 6,000 square feet. He said these warning letters are for landowners with the smallest grow sites.


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Thursday, November 7, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: A Trail to the Moonset

Posted By on Thu, Nov 7, 2019 at 11:57 AM

No beach access here, a steep staircase descends to a narrow sandy trail snaking out to the point. Precipitous cliffs on either side offer a deadly drop to the wave-battered rocks far below. High above the ocean the point pushes into the waves crashing relentlessly against its base. I scurried along the narrow path in the dark in numerous attempts to illuminate the trail for the camera. My brother Seth would close the camera shutter for me after I’d painted in the observation area. Tepona Point, Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • No beach access here, a steep staircase descends to a narrow sandy trail snaking out to the point. Precipitous cliffs on either side offer a deadly drop to the wave-battered rocks far below. High above the ocean the point pushes into the waves crashing relentlessly against its base. I scurried along the narrow path in the dark in numerous attempts to illuminate the trail for the camera. My brother Seth would close the camera shutter for me after I’d painted in the observation area. Tepona Point, Humboldt County, California.
Scenic Drive in northern Humboldt County, California, offers beautiful western vistas over the Pacific Ocean. Extending from Moonstone Beach at the south end to Trinidad in the north, the drive itself is rough and in areas may require a car with good clearance, and sometimes four wheel drive. The road may not even go completely through at times during harsher, wetter winters. It becomes a winter casualty, as the relentless forces of water from the rains above and the waves below can be delayed but temporarily as nature ignores the best efforts of humanity in its ravenous desire to melt the cliffs into the sea.

Tepona Point stands out from the coast on Scenic Drive, a little north of Moonstone Beach. A natural pier of sorts, it boldly extends the coastline’s reach far into the lashing waves, which at the tip are perhaps thirty to fifty feet below. One’s experience at the point, and particularly on the trail out to it, may well depend upon your feelings about heights and the ocean, and on your confidence in the support of sandy soil. The trail out to the tip is narrow and made of sand perched upon rock, and to left and right are deadly cliffs dropping into the rocks and pounding surf.
A daytime look at Tepona Point. A steep flight of wooden stairs and a narrow trail take you out to the tip, where it widens to a sandy viewing area with a bench and a railing around the edge. Each season sees a little more eroded away. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • A daytime look at Tepona Point. A steep flight of wooden stairs and a narrow trail take you out to the tip, where it widens to a sandy viewing area with a bench and a railing around the edge. Each season sees a little more eroded away.
My lay person’s geologic description is that Tepona Point’s foundation is the typical sturdy rock we have along this part of the coast. The photograph shows some rocks like it still standing out in the ocean in brave defiance of the elements. They were once connected to the land, too. Yet none of them will survive; all will tumble into the sea. On top of this foundation is an accumulation of sand and sandy soil, held onto the rocks by vegetation. It feels little more substantial than a compacted sand dune sitting atop a rock.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Gray Whale Found Washed Up on Agate Beach

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2019 at 3:20 PM

This photo of the gray whale washed up on Agate Beach was taken under permits NOAA 19091-01 and CA Parks 18-828-52 . - SUBMITTED BY DAWN GOLEY
  • Submitted by Dawn Goley
  • This photo of the gray whale washed up on Agate Beach was taken under permits NOAA 19091-01 and CA Parks 18-828-52 .
A gray whale was discovered washed up on Agate Beach yesterday amid an elevated number of strandings along the west coast of North America this year that has scientists working to uncover the reason for the anomaly.

The adult male’s beaching comes about two weeks after a humpback whale that was found entangled in fishing nets on Samoa beach, resulting in the animal being euthanized after a specialist determined the female would not be able to survive the trauma.

NOAA Fisheries recently declared what is known as an "Unusual Mortality Event," freeing up resources and triggering a multi-faceted scientific review to figure out why gray whales are dying at higher than normal rates.

Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 212 stranding were been reported along the coast from Mexico to Alaska, with 121 occurring in a U.S., including 34 in California, according to NOAA’s gray whale Unusual Mortality Event” page.

NOAA
  • NOAA
Dawn Goley, a zoology professor at Humboldt State University and director of the Marine Mammal Education and Research Program and the HSU Marine Mammal Stranding Program, says the parks service reported this most recent beaching.

A team has taken blubber samples and other measurements to be sent to NOAA to help determine the cause of death, although — in this particular case — the whale was already well into the decomposition stage, making it harder to pinpoint why the animal died.

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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Update: Whale Euthanized

Posted By on Thu, Oct 24, 2019 at 12:48 PM

A humpback whale that was found beached just north of Samoa, California on Wednesday struggles in the surf. The whale had become tangled in fishing nets and a crab pot. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • A humpback whale that was found beached just north of Samoa, California on Wednesday struggles in the surf. The whale had become tangled in fishing nets and a crab pot.

Oct. 25 UPDATE:

At around 6 p.m. last night, a veterinarian with the Marine Mammal Center euthanized the whale that was stranded on the north side of Samoa beach Wednesday morning. The decision to euthanize the mammal came after the Sausalito veterinarian conducted physical examinations and blood tests to determine its health. (After the whale's death the teams were able to confirm it was female.)

Now, the teams are conducting a necropsy and external examination of the whale to try to find out more about what happened, said Dawn Goley, Humboldt State University professor and HSU Marine Mammal Stranding Program coordinator. Once they are done with the examinations, the teams will bury the whale on the beach.

“We’re really sorry it ended this way,” Goley said. “But this was the most humane way to go.”


UPDATE:

A specialist from the Marine Mammal Center in
Sausalito has determined that the whale beached just north of Samoa will not
survive or return to the water after assessing its condition and taking blood
tests, Humboldt State University professor and HSU Marine Mammal Stranding
Program Coordinator Dawn Goley said.

“We’re sorry for the outcome but right now we’re just planning for the next steps,” she said.

PREVIOUSLY:

The humpback whale that was found entangled in fishing nets on Samoa beach yesterday has now spent more than 24 hours out of water, which may greatly impact its health and survival according to Dawn Goley, a Humboldt State University marine biology professor who also works with the HSU Marine Mammal Stranding Network.


“It’s not good for a whale to be out of water, ever,” Goley said. “Land and gravity takes its toll. The force of the pull of [the whale’s] weight affects its organs. It’s very unlikely that this whale is going to survive.”


Goley was one of the first responders at the scene, coordinating with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Services. The MMSP team had first assessed the conditions of the whale and the entanglement of the net before contacting the NOAA to make a plan on how to disentangle it.


After about an hour, using specialized equipment the teams made careful cuts and were able to disentangle the whale from the net, they then began assessing its respiration and behavior to enact the best plan to return the whale to the ocean.

As of 10 a.m. this morning, the whale was alive and moving its fins. Goley said that if the whale isn’t able to swim away on it’s own they will not make any attempt to push the whale into the ocean, as it is dangerous for both the whale and people. Other ideas, like building trenches, also have profound risks, she added, saying that the waves on the North Coast play a role in the danger, calling them “treacherous.”

Helmet Allison Lui with HSU Marine Mammal Stranding Network throws sea water on a humpback whale that was found beached just north of Samoa, California on Wednesday. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Helmet Allison Lui with HSU Marine Mammal Stranding Network throws sea water on a humpback whale that was found beached just north of Samoa, California on Wednesday.

“We’ve been in communication with NOAA and other organizations around the country who have had experiences with stranded whales to weigh out every option,” Goley said. “It might seem like we are not doing much, but we’re thinking of what’s best and safest for the whale and people.”

Goley said that they do not know what other factors played a role on the whale coming onto the shore. Besides the fishing net, they do not know what the whale’s conditions were when it first caught on the net. Goley said she’d like to thank the community for its support and suggestions, they are taking this situation one step at a time.


“We’re expecting the worst, but hoping for the best,” Goley said.



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