The Eureka City Council along with the Humboldt Bay Harbor District explored several options Tuesday evening for disposing of the dredge materials from Humboldt Bay.
Miles Slattery, Eureka Parks and Recreation director, said they are proposing to significantly reduce the amount of volume disposed on the beach by picking locations that will have less of an environmental impact.
“We’re looking at options that have the least environmental damage,” Slattery said. “We had nine different disposal options reviewed and depending on which one is chosen we can either start dredging in the summer or winter of this year.”
Slattery said if the council and harbor district decide on in-bay disposal, ocean outfall or an extension of a 1.5-mile long pipeline to the ocean, they would need to perform those in the summertime to avoid impacting the coho salmon coming into the bay. If they were going with a plan that disposes sludge on the beach, then they would start in the winter to take advantage of the high surf and tides that would carry the material out to sea.
During the public comment period, Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt said every alternative mentioned will require permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Coastal Commission at a minimum.
“City staff needs to meet with permitting agencies altogether within the same room,” Kalt said. “Pitting constituents against each other is not going to result in the quickest dredging. ... The idea of having multiple permits for multiple disposal sites seems like wishful thinking at this point because it’s been 10 years and they haven’t even come up with one solution.”
Kalt also said in previous dredging proposals in 2008, the Coastal Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency made it clear that they would not permit beach disposal again.
The earlier dredging project set to occur 10 years ago stirred up controversy with environmental groups about toxins within the dredge spoils. Those toxins, however, were not confirmed by tests. The EPA also objected to disposing of the materials on sandy beaches.
According to Humboldt Baykeeper in 2008, nearly 200,00 cubic yards of sludge was dumped on Samoa Beach, something the EPA and CDFW said would not be a viable option in future projects.
Surfrider Humboldt’s foundation chairwoman Delia Bense-Kang also said it was important to consider that nearly 50 to 100 people visit Samoa Beach everyday and that disposing of material on beaches was not a good idea.
Prior to commenting she asked the audience to raise their hands to show how many people were surfers who utilize Samoa Beach for recreation purposes.
“There’s been a lot of time for a better plan to move forward. Like I said, I was in middle school last time this was an issue. We need to work toward a long-term solution,” Bense-Kang said.
Eureka City Council members reacted to the dredging with concern but also agreed that something had to be done immediately.