HCSDLast night, the Humboldt Community Services District voted 3-1 (with Frank Scolari opposed and Alan Bongio abstaining) to support an appeal by the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District of a zoning change adjacent to the Mad River that would allow a cannabis manufacturing plant near the wells that supply drinking water to 88,000 residents. HCSD purchases drinking water from the HBMWD, and distributes it to customers in Cutten, Mitchell Heights, and other neighborhoods just outside Eureka city limits. HCSD is the fifth drinking water supplier to support the appeal, following Eureka, Arcata, Blue Lake, and the McKinleyville Community Services District. 

2/7/18

The Eureka City Council on Tuesday evening directed city staff to draft a letter supporting an appeal against a proposed cannabis manufacturing facility near the Mad River in the Glendale area.

“The city maintains water rights on the Mad River,” Eureka Public Works Director Brian Gerving said.

The proposed 5,000-square-foot volatile and nonvolatile cannabis manufacturing facility is on a Mercer-Fraser Company-owned parcel adjacent to Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District collection wells that supply water for about 88,000 residents around Humboldt Bay. A gravel extraction facility has been operating at the site for decades.

In 2016 MCMP Humboldt, LLC — a business entity associated with Mercer-Fraser, Gerving said — submitted an application to the county to rezone the site of the proposed project from “agriculture general” to “heavy industrial with a qualified combining zone,” which included a special permit to develop and operate a cannabis manufacturing facility.

“It’s my opinion that we can’t take chances with 88,000 peoples’ drinking water supply,” Councilman Austin Allison said.

“This is too great of a risk for us to be willing to take,” Councilwoman Kim Bergel said.

“When it comes to our water, we want to be involved,” Councilwoman Heidi Messner said.

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2/6/18

Resolutions introduced in each state house by North Coast legislators Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) and state Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) formally oppose the Trump administration’s plan to allow new offshore drilling leases off the coast.

Both resolutions call on Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to remove California from the list of states that could be opened to new offshore drilling.

“The Trump administration continues to attack California on many fronts and now they are opening up our coastal waters to the environmental vulnerabilities of oil drilling, a coastline we have fought to protect for decades,” Wood said in a statement sent to the Times-Standard on Monday. “To ignore the environmental devastation done by oil spills and dismiss the critical importance of working toward independence from fossil fuels is irresponsible and, frankly, feels vindictive.”

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2/6/18

Eureka, Arcata and McKinleyville officials are set to discuss a controversial project by Mercer-Fraser Company to construct a cannabis manufacturing facility near the Mad River about 1,000 feet upriver from a water pump that provides drinking water to two-thirds of the county’s population.

The Eureka City Council will be the first to discuss the project this week, followed by the Arcata City Council and McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors on Wednesday.

The proposed Glendale cannabis facility has raised significant concern from the county’s main water supplier, the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District. District officials have said that the facility and proposed zoning change on the parcel could possibly contaminate drinking water for about 88,000 county residents the district serves. The district has since appealed the project to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, with a hearing expected to take place later this month.

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1/31/18

Two weeks ago, at a festive reception and awards ceremony in downtown Sacramento, First District Supervisor Rex Bohn was installed as chair of the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC).

Four of the county’s five supervisors were in attendance, along with several prominent local business leaders, some members of county staff, State Senator Mike McGuire and others. 

Some of these folks drove down to the state Capitol. But others traveled in private planes on flights donated by two local business leaders. One plane, a 2004 Pilatus PC-12, is owned by ACV Group LLC, a corporation whose CEO, Justin Zabel, is president of local construction firm Mercer-Fraser — a company with a controversial project currently pending before the Board of Supervisors.

Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg was on that flight, though he opted to pay for his seat (more on that later). A second plane, belonging to Shafer’s Ace Hardware owner Jack Rieke, carried Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell, D’Amico and Sheriff William Honsal.

Mercer-Fraser, as you may recall, is currently petitioning the county with a controversial re-zone request for property it owns along the Mad River near Glendale. The Eureka construction firm wants the zoning on its 13.5-acre parcel changed to heavy industrial so it can build a 5,000-square-foot commercial cannabis extraction manufacturing facility (a hash lab, effectively) onsite.

Now that cannabis operations are legitimate business in California, established business leaders like Zabel are getting in on the game. And they have friends in high places. Supervisors, Lee said, come into office with “a whole set of relationships in the community. It’s generally why they get elected.”

Bass made a similar point. “We all know each other in this community; we’re all friends,” she said. “A lot of us have been friends way prior to our political world.”

But Jennifer Kalt, director of Humboldt Baykeeper and a critic of Mercer-Fraser’s Glendale project, said personal relationships shouldn’t be allowed to influence public policy.

“I’m constantly shocked how people just shrug and act like the oligarchy of developers around here is just the way it is, like there’s nothing we can do about it,” she said. As for Sundberg’s flight to Sacramento, Kalt said, “I think it’s outrageous.”

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