Environment / Natural Resources

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Amid Kelp and Abalone Die-offs, State Raises Urchin Limits

Posted By on Sat, May 19, 2018 at 1:56 PM

Urchins blanket a rocky reef. - CYNTHIA CATTON/CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
  • Cynthia Catton/California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Urchins blanket a rocky reef.

The California Fish and Game Commission adopted emergency regulations this week aimed at reducing purple sea urchin populations off the North Coast.

The urchin populations have exploded in recent years, part of what marine biologists call a “perfect storm” of factors contributing to the collapse of northern California kelp forests and the widespread starvation of the region’s red abalone (“Plight of the Abalone,” March 8, 2018.)

ILLUSTRATION BY JACQUELINE LANGELAND
  • Illustration by Jacqueline Langeland
Purple sea urchins generally fall under the commission’s “general invertebrate bag limit” of 35 a day for SCUBA and skin divers off the Mendocino and Sonoma county coasts, but the new emergency regulations allow a daily bag limit of 20 gallons with no limit on how many urchins can be possessed.


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Friday, May 18, 2018

Amid Allegations he Violated Environmental Laws, a Planning Commissioner Resigns

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2018 at 12:09 PM

Kevin McKenny - FILE
  • File
  • Kevin McKenny
Humboldt County Planning Commissioner Kevin McKenny has resigned his post after revelations that he has been cited for violating state and federal environmental laws, according to reports in the Lost Coast Outpost and the Times-Standard.

The alleged violations took place on a property McKenny owns in Eureka and he conceded in an interview with the Lost Coast Outpost that he "made a mistake."

Humboldt County Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass, who controversially appointed McKenny to the commission in 2014 amid an outcry over the long-dilapidated Downtowner Motel McKenney owned in Eureka, announced the commissioner's resignation yesterday. (Months after his appointment, McKenny sold the property to Danco and it has since been rebuilt into a senior housing project called The Lodge.)

After the Lost Coast Outpost first reported on the allegations last month, a number of local environmental groups have called for his resignation.

For more on the alleged environmental violations and McKenney's resignation in the Times-Standard and Lost Coast Outpost.
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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Cannabis-Related Lights Polluting SoHum Skies

Posted By on Sat, May 12, 2018 at 4:37 PM

A greenhouse glowing in Southern Humboldt in late April.
  • A greenhouse glowing in Southern Humboldt in late April.

Editor's note: This story first appeared on www.kymkemp.com and is reposted here with permission.

Once again spring brings light to the hills of the Emerald Counties — large industrial lights that flood valleys, glow into neighbors’ windows and possibly confuse wildlife, disrupting natural cycles. Rural communities complain that greenhouses constructed specifically for growing marijuana bring unwanted light into rural areas usually only lit by the stars, the moon and an occasional pinpoint of light from a distant cabin.

Concerns about the lights vary. Many rural residents are worried about environmental issues, ranging from the light creating problems for animals that are nocturnal hunters to the it impacting the night skies, making it more difficult to view the stars. Others are concerned about lights shining in their homes and the generators that power them disturbing quiet neighborhoods.

Many greenhouses lighting up the night in Southern Humboldt this month.
  • Many greenhouses lighting up the night in Southern Humboldt this month.
According to Kyle Keegan, a local resident who has studied the issue, “[A]n increasing body of scientific knowledge tells us that altering the day/night cycles of environments can have a profound effect on the physiology of human and nonhuman species, as well as ecological systems.”

Keegan said, “The whole phenomenon of light pollution was not taken seriously until the last decade.” But, he said, scientist have become increasingly concerned as they’ve looked into the situation.

Keegan particularly worries that the large number of greenhouses lighting up the dark will affect nighttime pollinators, such as moths. He worries that the glow will attract moths and other insects. “If they are out there chasing that light, they are not being pollinators,” Keegan explained. This can disrupt natural processes and possibly change our local ecology.

Keegan says the number of uncovered greenhouses appears to have slightly decreased in his neighborhood this year. However, in March 2013, as the following light map shows, there were few lights showing beyond those found in towns.

Light map from March 2013 for Southern Humboldt. - LIGHTPOLLUTIONMAP.INFO
  • lightpollutionmap.info
  • Light map from March 2013 for Southern Humboldt.

By last year, light pollution had exploded.

Light map from March 2017 for Southern Humboldt. - LIGHTPOLLUTIONMAP.INFO
  • lightpollutionmap.info
  • Light map from March 2017 for Southern Humboldt.

One side effect of the uncovered greenhouse lights is that they are frequently confused with wildfires. Firefighters, most of them volunteers, are then roused from their beds and sent chasing the false fires wasting their time and their resources.

When low-flying fog hangs over a greenhouse, water droplets amplify the light. This can look like wildfire to observers and even trigger calls to bring firefighters and inmate crews. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • When low-flying fog hangs over a greenhouse, water droplets amplify the light. This can look like wildfire to observers and even trigger calls to bring firefighters and inmate crews.

Possibly of the most importance to the actual grower is that having a light source provides a beacon to the greenhouse and the light itself is illegal. According to Humboldt County regulations, “Cultivators using artificial lighting for mixed-light cultivation shall shield greenhouses so that little to no light escapes. Light shall not escape at a level that is visible from neighboring properties between sunset and sunrise.”

According to a spokesperson for the Humboldt County Planning Department, “The Planning and Building Department line is the best contact for light complaints…”

31957176_1959301737455601_4021257328102735872_n.jpg

Many, if not most, greenhouse owners cover their lights but, the glow from the ones who don’t continues to frustrate rural neighborhoods.
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Monday, April 30, 2018

Mountain Lion Sightings, Pet Attacks Prompt Warning in Rio Dell

Posted By on Mon, Apr 30, 2018 at 11:05 AM

Rio Dell officials caution residents to keep pets and children inside due to unusual cougar activity. - CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Rio Dell officials caution residents to keep pets and children inside due to unusual cougar activity.
Rio Dell officials are warning residents to keep their children and pets indoors following a series of mountain lion sightings near ravines frequented by children along the river bar and in neighborhoods along Riverside and Eeloa avenues on the east side of U.S. Highway 101.

The city warns that the sightings have taken place during the day and there have been to two reports of dogs being attacked, one of which died as a result. According to the release, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has been notified.


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Monday, April 23, 2018

Cruise Ships Coming to Humboldt Bay

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2018 at 2:22 PM

FILE
  • FILE
The city of Eureka announced today that fledgling efforts to bring cruise ships to Humboldt Bay have been successful, with the first such ship arriving Monday, May 21.

According to its press release, the city, in association with the Humboldt Bay Harbor District, formed a partnership with Eureka Main Street, the Eureka Visitor Center and former city council candidate Chet Albin "to strategically recruit cruise ships to Humboldt  Bay."

The team — dubbed the Humboldt Bay Cruise Ship Partnership — has been on the road a lot, visiting Astoria, Oregon, to witness its thriving cruise ship tourism and traveling to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to talk up Humboldt Bay to attendees at an international cruise ship  trade show. They also have plans to go to Seattle later this year.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Mercer-Fraser Co. Withdraws Controversial Glendale Site Plans

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 3:31 PM

Friedenbach and staff address the County Planning Commission in January. - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Friedenbach and staff address the County Planning Commission in January.
A controversial project that would have created a marijuana extraction plant near the Mad River at Glendale has been withdrawn, John Ford,  director of the County Planning and Building Department, confirmed this afternoon.

The project, which came before the Humboldt County Planning Commission in January, would have rezoned a parcel of land near the Mad River — currently used by Mercer-Fraser Co. as a gravel pit — to accommodate a new extraction facility that would have used butane, propane, CO2, ethanal and isopropanol. John Friedenbach, general manager of the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District, as well as several staff members, attended the Jan. 12 planning commission meeting to request the rezoning be denied, as they were concerned about the plant's potential to contaminate the majority of the county's drinking water, which is drawn from the Mad River near where the plant would go. When the commission voted 3-2 in favor of moving the project forward, the HBMWD appealed that decision.

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Stolen Succulents Replanted at Stone Lagoon

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 2:46 PM

One of the pilfered succulents replanted. - CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS
  • California State Parks
  • One of the pilfered succulents replanted.
More than 1,000 succulents pilfered for sale overseas in by what the California Department of Fish and Wildlife described as an “international conspiracy” were returned to nature on Tuesday by a team of volunteers who planted them along the bluffs at Stone Lagoon.

Those plants were among some 2.300 taken from near Trinidad by a trio of men busted earlier this month by CDFW officers who seized more than 1,000 in boxes prepared for shipping and the remainder after serving search warrants at the suspects’ hotel room. See previous coverage here.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Three Facing Charges for 'International Conspiracy' to Poach Succulents Near Trinidad

Posted By on Fri, Apr 6, 2018 at 3:31 PM

Succulent poaching is on the rise, CDFW officials say. - COURTESY OF CDFW
  • Courtesy of CDFW
  • Succulent poaching is on the rise, CDFW officials say.
The growing popularity of using succulents — here and abroad — for decorative plant arrangements is resulting in what state officials are calling a “rising poaching trend on the North Coast,” including the the discovery of an alleged international poaching ring.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials arrested Taehun Kim, 52, and Taeyun Kim, 46, both of Korea, and Liu Fengxia, 37, of China, near Trinidad for allegedly “poaching over 2,300 Dudleya succulent plants near Trinidad in Humboldt County.”


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Eel River Forecast to Crest at 19 Feet Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Apr 6, 2018 at 11:10 AM

Eel River forecast to crest at 19 feet, 1 foot below flood stage. - NOAA
  • NOAA
  • Eel River forecast to crest at 19 feet, 1 foot below flood stage.
The National Weather Service office in Eureka is forecasting the Eel River will reach “Action stage” by 5 a.m. on Saturday and crest in the afternoon slightly above 19 feet, causing “minor flooding.”

Flood stage is considered 20 feet, which was last hit and surpassed in January of 2016, when the Eel River hit 21.34 feet, according to the California Nevada River Forecast Center.

A flood watch is currently in effect for southwestern Humboldt, the Southern Humboldt interior, southern portions of Trinity County and much of Mendocino County.

According to the National Weather Service, the “heaviest precipitation will occur today and tonight while “moderate to heavy rain will persist through Saturday.”

“Small stream flooding is possible. Mainstem rivers are expected to see rapid rises,” according to the service’s hazardous weather outlook for the region. “Gusty south winds will impact the area Friday night into Saturday, mostly along exposed coastal areas.”

Stay tuned to the last forecasts by visiting the Eureka National Weather Service website here.
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Thursday, April 5, 2018

A Year Without Abalone

Posted By on Thu, Apr 5, 2018 at 12:43 PM

Urchins blanket a rocky reef. - CYNTHIA CATTON/CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
  • Cynthia Catton/California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Urchins blanket a rocky reef.
The North Coast’s red abalone are dying, starving really, the latest casualties in a literal sea change taking place off our shores due to what scientists are calling a “perfect storm” of ecological events.

As detailed in the Journal’s March 8 cover story, “The Plight of the Abalone,” large swaths of the region’s once lush bull kelp forests — the primary food source of the prized mollusks — have been lost in the last few years.


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