Until late last week, the City of Eureka and the Humboldt County Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District, the two agencies responsible for performing maintenance dredging, planned to dump the dredge spoils on a beach along the Samoa Peninsula, as they have for years.


EPA public affairs officer Bill Keener said beach dumping is not allowed because the sediment from the bay is primarily composed of fine-grain silts and mud, making it inappropriate for the surf zone on sandy beaches. Back in 1995 the EPA designated a disposal site for Humboldt Bay dredge spoils three miles offshore. It’s called the Humboldt Open Ocean Disposal Site (HOODS). “However, the 1998 permit for the Harbor’s dredging was inappropriately issued by the [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers allowing continued surf-zone disposal,” Keener explained.


“[The] EPA, the Corps, and the Coastal Commission all agreed to allow that permit to stay in force, in order to give the Harbor time to plan (and budget) for a different dredging operation after the permit expired in 2008.”


So when the City and Harbor District last dredged the marinas, in 2007, it was considered the last use of that 1998 permit. Keener said regulators were unambiguous on this point.


“[The] EPA (as well as the Army Corps and the California Coastal Commission) made it clear both in 1998, and at the time of the final dredging under the old permit in 2007, that the permit could not be renewed the same way.”


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