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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Time for a Plan B.


Back in March, Eureka Parks and Recreation Director Miles Slattery outlined a plan for where to put the sediment that has accumulated along the bay floor at the Woodley Island Marina and Eureka’s public marina. Both the City of Eureka and the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District had agreed to pursue a plan to deposit the sludgy dredge spoils on a beach on the Samoa Peninsula. That’s where such materials have been deposited for decades, including last time the marinas were dredged, back in 2007.


But yesterday, in a conference call with staff from the Harbor District and the City, officials with the Environmental Protection Agency rejected that plan in no uncertain terms. 


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Dredging of Humboldt Bay has become an undeniably urgent matter, and Samoa Beach has been proposed as the best disposal option. We support dredging the marinas and agree that it is urgent, but dumping on one of our most popular beaches would impact public access and create visual blight. Attend this public meeting to support alternative options to dumping on Samoa Beach. 


May 3 at 5:30 pm at the Wharfinger Building, 1 Marina Way in Eureka.


Given the controversy over the City of Eureka and Humboldt Bay Harbor District’s plan to dump dredge spoils on Samoa Beach yet again, Humboldt Baykeeper has been getting a lot of questions about dredging. 


There are two very different types of dredging in Humboldt Bay. Dredging in the main harbor entrance channels is necessary for safe navigation for fishing vessels, fuel barges that deliver gasoline and diesel, the U.S. Coast Guard, research vessels like Humbolt State’s Coral Sea, and large ships that transport chips and logs (currently about six ships per year). 

Proposal: Regulatory agencies have yet to approve permits for disposal methods

Concerns: Humboldt Baykeeper as well as members of the public voice their worries


Maintenance dredging of public marinas, docks and boat launches in Humboldt Bay is set to take place this year, according to Miles Slattery of Eureka Parks and Recreation.

“This is still in the preliminary stages,” Slattery said. “The (Eureka City Council) said to move forward with a hybrid approach if it is approved by the regulatory agencies.”

The dredging proposals must still be approved by three regulatory agencies — the California Coastal Commission, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt said no level of dioxins is safe, but in 2007, the city was allowed to dump the dredge materials on the beach during an emergency dredging situation. She said the toxins are known to cause cancer and reproductive damage in both humans and wildlife.

“From what we know, the city and Harbor District have not applied for any permits related to dredge spoils disposal and they need to take a much closer look at possible alternatives,” Kalt said. “Contaminants, specifically dioxins and PCBs, were detected in some areas slated for dredging in 2007. Those areas were not dredged to avoid contaminating the beach disposal site.”

Kalt also said that although the Army Corps of Engineers dredge up to three million cubic yards every year, that their spoils from the dredging are dumped at the Humboldt Open Ocean Disposal Site, which is 3 miles offshore.

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