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 BeachReportCard.com, 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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Op-Ed by Bruce Silvey, Humboldt Trails Council - Eureka Times Standard
As outlined by The Times-Standard article “Lawmakers Oppose Coal Plan” on (Times-Standard, Sept. 8), and the Lost Coast Outpost article “Aiming to Ship Coal Out of Humboldt Bay, Shadowy Corporation Makes Bid to Take Over NCRA Line” on Sept. 2, there appears to be a serious move to derail the Great Redwood Trail and replace it with toxic coal trains to run down the fragile Eel River Canyon to a terminal at Humboldt Bay. The goal is to ship millions of tons of this climate change-inducing product to Asia where it can be burned for energy before all the coal-fired plants are finally shut down.

To capture these eleventh-hour profits, a new railroad associated with the coal companies in Utah, Montana, and Wyoming plan to rebuild the dilapidated NCRA line for substantially less than the $2.4 billion NCRA estimates it will cost. Since private railroads can preempt state laws, they would not need to meet any of California’s environmental laws as they rebuild collapsed tunnels and washed out track along the unstable Eel River Canyon, or around Humboldt Bay.  According to the documents filed by their law firm with the Surface Transportation Board, they  have $1.2 billion in funding behind them, and they expect to have “high-volume shipments”.

Why Humboldt Bay, which would require major dredging and retrofitting to accommodate a bulk transfer terminal to load coal on huge ships? These same coal shipments have been blocked by six ports on the west coast between Coos Bay, Oregon and Bellingham, Washington. Their last appeal was against the Washington State Department of Ecology permit denial for an export dock on the grounds that it would cause “irreparable and unavoidable”  harm to the environment. The appeal of this denial was just dismissed by the US Supreme Court in June of this year.

A June 28 news release by the Washington Environmental Council announcing this Supreme Court Decision states “Multiple courts at the state and federal levels have now held that Washington State was within its rights to protect citizens from elevated levels of air and water pollution that would have come with transporting coal through its communities.” It further credited this accomplishment to “an unprecedented coalition of tribal nations, health, environmental, faith and community groups from across the Pacific Northwest and High Plains.”

The loss of the Great Redwood Trail would be a lost opportunity for the entire North Coast, including economic, environmental and health improvements. Coal on the other hand does “unavoidable and irreparable” harm to our environment, health and way of life. Imagine for a moment 100-car coal trains rumbling down the middle of First Street in Old Town Eureka multiple times a day, or conveyer belts dropping loose coal into bulk transport ships with carcinogenic coal dust in the air and on the water.

There is already a coalition of organizations pulling together that include environmental, transportation, trail and community groups. If you belong to an organization that can join in, please see that they do. The City of Oakland, California, passed an ordinance to prohibit the storage and handling of coal to block a coal terminal on their shore.

You can help advocate with the county, cities, and Harbor District to direct their legal staff to research ordinances or regulations that can block toxic coal before there is even a specific proposal, AND before they grab the Eel River Canyon out from under the NCRA. Visit links at https://humtrails.org to see other actions you can take to help stop this toxic coal rush.
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State Sen. Mike McGuire introduced new legislation to block a proposal to restore the defunct North Coast railroad in an attempt to export coal overseas from Montana, Utah and Wyoming through the Port of Humboldt Bay.
McGuire called the proposal “one of the largest environmental threats the North Coast has seen in decades.”

McGuire said, "This critical bill will ban any state funding from being invested to improve the rail line for coal shipments north of Willits and it bans any state funding to build out a potential coal storage terminal at the Port of Humboldt. No way, no how are we going to let this happen.”

SB 307 would “prohibit spending state monies for any new bulk coal terminal project, as defined, within the County of Humboldt,” according to the text of the bill. “California should do everything it can to put a stop to anything that supports the use of coal, and tampering with the plans for this trail, which will go through some beautiful North Coast country, is not welcomed,” said Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa).“California should do everything it can to put a stop to anything that supports the use of coal, and tampering with the plans for this trail, which will go through some beautiful North Coast country, is not welcomed,” said Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa).
 
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After discussing a plan by a newly formed Wyoming corporation to transport coal through the Eel River Canyon on long-abandoned and crumbling railroad infrastructure, the Ukiah City Council Wednesday approved moving forward with the last phase of a public trail still being built on the short section of tracks inside the city limits.

“We’re the first official segment of the Great Redwood Trail, which we’re kind of proud of,” Deputy City Manager Shannon Riley told the City Council during its Sept. 15 meeting, referring to State Sen. Mike McGuire’s plan to turn the railroad tracks into a multi-use trail that stretches from the San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay.

However, Riley said, “suddenly a corporation was formed in Wyoming under the name ‘the North Coast Railroad Company’ with an application that says they have over a billion dollars in funding and they’re going to revitalize the tracks and use them (likely) to transport coal that is mined in the Midwest and shipped somehow to the Bay Area, then put on trains and transported to Humboldt Bay, where it would be put on large barges and shipped to Asia. This was a surprise to many people, and there are so many unanswered questions. There is no public information about who the principals of this LLC are, and there is no proof of their financial backing.”

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