Clam Beach landed on Heal the Bay's list of California's most polluted beaches yet again this year, getting an 'F' for water quality on the 2021 Beach Report Card. This episode of EcoNews Report features Dr. Jeremy Corrigan, who has worked for years to answer the burning question: why does Clam Beach have such high levels of fecal indicator bacteria? Dr. J is the Lab Manager at the Humboldt County Dept. of Public Health, and recently published a paper based on genetic analysis of the most likely sources. His findings point to birds as the main influence at Clam Beach, while cattle appear to be the biggest source of bacteria pollution in the Strawberry Creek watershed. Tune in to find out what this means for surfers and other beachgoers. 

Once again, Humboldt County’s Clam Beach has been ranked as one of the state’s 10 worst beaches when it comes to water quality.
According to Heal The Bay’s 2020-21 beach report card, Clam Beach at Strawberry Creek is the seventh worst in the state. The environmental nonprofit’s Beach Bummer list ranks the state’s 10 most polluted beaches according to water sampling data.

Clam Beach has posted failing summer dry grades in seven out of the last 11 years Heal The Bay has published its report cards.

Humboldt Baykeeper director Jennifer Kalt said strong evidence indicates high levels of bacteria in the ocean waters can be linked to birds, as opposed to bacteria originating from cattle in the freshwater stream.

“Even though the levels of bacteria are high enough to get an F grade on the Beach Bummer list, the genetic analysis shows (the bacteria) is primarily from birds,” she said. “And so, in the ocean, you have the influence of birds because there’s so many birds at the beach.”

Kalt also pointed out the risk of bacteria from these sources is lower compared with bacteria coming from human sources, found in samples affected by septic runoff.

The number of bacteria coming from human feces is low in the streams.

“As far the freshwater goes in the creeks, there were very few human markers found, which means that (the contamination) is not coming from septic systems, which is what a lot of people think,” she elaborated.

Ginger recommends any beachgoers or concerned visitors stay safe from any potential danger by checking water quality updates at, as water conditions can improve or worsen throughout the day, and sampling is done weekly. He also recommends staying 100 yards away from the mouth of Strawberry Creek when in the water.

“We just want folks to be aware of that and be cautious of the creek mouth whenever they’re out there, that’s going to be the best way to protect themselves,” he said.

Four other Humboldt County beaches which the county monitors posted passing grades. Mad River Beach’s northern mouth was awarded an A+ grade, while Little River State Beach at Moonstone County Park and Trinidad State Beach at Mill Creek were both given B grades. Luffenholtz Beach at Luffenholtz Creek received a C grade after appearing on the Beach Bummer list in 2017 and 2018.

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The storage and handling of coal and petroleum coke on properties held by the city of Eureka will be prohibited, following a unanimous vote to introduce an ordinance barring these activities at its Tuesday night regular meeting.
The vote comes after an earlier discussion at the Oct. 19 regular meeting in which city council members received input on a possible ordinance regulating storage, handling and movement of coal and coal-related substances on city-held properties.
Because regulating the transport of coal involves the jurisdiction of several agencies at the federal level, and to avoid acting outside its jurisdiction, the city is focusing on regulating the act on property it can directly enforce on.
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Anyone who has ever driven south on U.S. Highway 101 between Arcata and Eureka during a storm at high tide can't help but notice how close the water comes to the highway. Sea level rise, which scientists assure us is now inevitable, will only make things worse. The only questions are how much worse and when. If and when the ocean covers the 101 corridor between Eureka and Arcata, nobody will be able to say the issue hadn't been on Caltrans' radar. Whether the agency will have actually done anything, however, remains to be seen.
Aldaron Laird of Trinity Associates says the Ocean Protection Council's 2018 sea level rise projections indicate planners should expect the waters along the U.S. Highway 101 safety corridor to rise a foot by 2030, 1.6 feet by 2040, 2.3 feet by 2050 and 3.1 feet by 2060. Some believe those projections are already outdated. The lowest point on the southbound lane of U.S. Highway 101, meanwhile, sits about 2 feet above peak high tide levels.

Hank Seemann, deputy director of environmental services for the Humboldt County Public Works Department, explained the intricate process of planning a workable project. Although the county does not own or operate the freeway — that is Caltrans' domain — it is responsible for several miles of adjacent land that are equally vulnerable to sea level rise. The two agencies will need to work closely together to find solutions that benefit both.

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Lessons learned during decades covering nuclear power and, now, its aftermath
The Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant was shut down in 1976 because, suddenly, 13 years after it came online, seismologists found it was built practically on top of the Little Salmon earthquake fault. Its design was not nearly strong enough to be retrofitted against potential shaking and if an earthquake broke open any critical part of the plant, the results could have been catastrophic...

The casks now holding the irradiated parts of Humboldt's old nuke are made up of three shells. An inner shell for containment, a series of thick steel intermediate shells for gamma shielding and an outer enclosure shell that houses the neutron shielding material, according to Holtec. The casks, in turn, are tucked inside a vault made of reinforced concrete between 3-feet and 7-feet thick. According to Holtec, the manufacturer, "Humboldt Bay became the first plant to feature subterranean storage, which is so unobtrusive and produces such a negligible [radiation] dose that the path to the beach runs in close proximity to the [storage site]!"

The casks are meant to "temporarily" hold the waste for 100 years or so. If the scientists who predict a 240,000-year toxicity are correct, that would leave 239,900 years, and for that, there's no plan. Yet, some local environmentalists are laying the groundwork to plan for site protection at least into the next century. They foresee a drowning bluff and an unsuspecting future generation.

"If the bay is our region's most important resource, the future integrity of the [storage] site, which sits 115 feet from the shoreline, across the mouth of the entrance to the bay, is a big deal," noted Jennifer Marlow, an assistant professor in Humboldt State University's Department of Environmental Science and Management. "For example, with 2 meters of sea level rise in Humboldt Bay, monthly and annual high tides could overtop the protective revetment wall protecting the bluff."

"According to the Ocean Protection Council's 2018 sea level rise projections, 2 meters of sea level rise could occur 'as early as 2076 under the extreme scenario, or by 2093 under the high-risk projection.' If either scenario comes true, it is likely that the spent nuclear waste will still be onsite. The California Coastal Commission has stated that, given the lack of an alternative permanent storage site, it 'must presume' that the spent nuclear waste will remain on site 'in perpetuity.'"

That phrase, "in perpetuity," underscores a heavy responsibility.

"It's unlikely that there will ever be a permanent national repository," said Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt. "Waiting for that is not realistic. Ultimately, there's no safe place for the waste. Moving it will be dangerous and controversial and expensive, but it needs to be moved farther from the bay, out of the sea level rise hazard area. We need to start figuring out a real plan. Otherwise, we're just leaving the problem for future generations to deal with."

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