The county released an initial study and mitigated negative declaration (MND) for the project earlier this year. The document was circulated between April and May and received 324 comments surrounding the aforementioned concerns in addition to impacts from greenhouse gas emissions from refrigerants and fluorinated gases, energy use and transportation impacts.

Byron Turner, senior planner with Eureka-based engineering firm LACO Associates, said it became clear that “a project of this complexity” would warrant an EIR “if for no other reason than to provide a pathway to respond to those comments.”

“There’s no requirement for response to comments in an (MND), so that was one of the main reasons why we shifted gears,” he said. “This is the first part of the EIR process; the scoping period where we inform the agencies and the public that we’re drafting this document and we’re listening to environmental concerns. This is the listening and information gathering stage of the process.” The notice of preparation for Nordic’s draft EIR will be available until July 6 for public comment. A copy of the document can be found at humboldtgov.org/2347/Major-Projects.

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A big announcement could see the North Coast open for wind farm bidding next year
After years of anticipation, the prospect of creating a floating wind farm off the coast of Humboldt County, generating clean energy and economic growth, took a significant step forward last week.
Gov. Gavin Newsom joined Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and other federal officials to announce an agreement that will allow for the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to offer a lease auction as early as next year for two stretches of California's coastal waters. The first is a 399-mile stretch on the Central Coast northwest of Morro Bay and the second an unspecified site about 20 miles off Humboldt Bay.
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Norway-based seafood company Nordic Aquafarms announced last week that it will pursue an environmental impact report (EIR) for its proposed onshore fish farm on the Samoa Peninsula in response to calls for further environmental analysis.
The Humboldt County Planning and Building Department released a mitigated negative declaration (MND) for the project last month but a coalition of environmental groups argued that the assessment didn’t go far enough.
Jennifer Kalt, director of Humboldt Baykeeper, said Nordic should have pursued an EIR in the first place.
“Such a massive project is not something where shortcuts can be taken in the environmental review process and we appreciate their willingness to just go straight into the draft EIR process rather than push it through (the MND) process and see how it goes,” Kalt said. “I think it’s just saving everyone a lot of time and effort to just agree to do the draft EIR right away.”
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In response to news from Nordic Aquafarms and Humboldt County that the county will pursue a full environmental impact report for the proposed fish farm, a coalition of North Coast environmental organizations thank the company and county for listening to community concern and their commitment to rigorous environmental review.
“Our organizations called for the preparation of an environmental impact report because we believed that this project—which is unlike anything seen before in Humboldt County or even the state of California — could benefit from more thorough environmental impact review and public participation,” said Jennifer Kalt, director of Humboldt Baykeeper.

“Process matters. Thorough environmental impact review does two things: it allows the public to better engage with a project, helping to better shape and mold the project to reduce impacts and it allows the public to see and trust that this is safe for Humboldt Bay,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of EPIC. “We are happy that the county and Nordic are moving forward in the right way.” Among the impacts that the coalition anticipate will be better studied and ultimately mitigated are greenhouse gas emissions and impacts to coastal communities and coastal access.

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In terms of sheer size, Nordic Aquafarms’ land-based aquaculture facility, slated for construction on the Samoa Peninsula, would be the largest development project Humboldt County has seen for decades, maybe since the heyday of the timber industry.

The facility’s five buildings — including two massive production modules where Atlantic salmon would be raised inside fully-contained recirculating tanks — would total 766,530 square feet, nearly an acre larger than the footprint of the Bayshore Mall.

It’s been more than two years since the Norwegian company announced its ambitious plans, and the environmental review period was scheduled to wrap up this week. The county, as lead agency, released its initial study last month: hundreds of pages of analysis capped by a conclusion that with mitigation measures the fish farm would have no significant adverse environmental effects. A 30-day period for the public to review the study and submit comments concluded Monday.

But in a surprise twist, Nordic executives this week announced that they will subject the project to yet more review, going above and beyond the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act. 
 
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