Forty-four feet isn't all that high. It's halfway up the tall side of the county courthouse. If you stacked Guy Fieri seven-and-a-half times on top of himself, his platinum blond hair would reach 44 feet high. Forty-four feet is also the height above today's sea level where 37 tons of radioactive waste from the former PG&E Humboldt Bay power plant is entombed in a concrete vault at the edge of the bay. A new coalition called, you guessed it, 44 Feet has brought together state agencies, federal and local political interests, scientists, a few folks with no titles at all and, to some extent, the nuclear plant's owner, PG&E. Like nanoplastics and deep-fried butter, most of us do not want to think about radioactive waste stored nearby, but 44 Feet is trying to plan for its future safety, even if that future is 100,000 years away.
PG&E's old nuclear power plant sat next to U.S. Highway 101 at King Salmon. It ran a brief and ignominiously leaky life from 1963 to 1976. Still, it produced high-level radioactive waste from the uranium fuel it used to create electricity. The radioactivity has cooled somewhat in the intervening years, but it will remain hot and toxic for more than 100,000 years.
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When our local officials fail to protect the general public interest, the Coastal Commission becomes the public’s last line of defense in protecting our shared environment from being harmed. Unfortunately, some developers (and sometimes city and county staff) have successfully cast the Coastal Commission as something to be overcome. 


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Almost a dozen local groups are calling for the resignation or removal of a Humboldt County planning commissioner after he used “racist and other offensive language” at a recent meeting.

The letter, addressed to 1st District Supervisor Rex Bohn and 1st District Planning Commissioner Alan Bongio, requests Bongio’s resignation or removal for his statements at an Aug. 18 Planning Commission meeting. At the meeting, Bongio made repeated statements insinuating the Wiyot Tribe, Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe and Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria were acting in bad faith when it came to working with the county to come up with appropriate permit conditions for a controversial Indianola home construction project.

“The Planning Commission represents Humboldt County and all of its residents,” the letter states. “Mr. Bongio’s conduct strains relationships between Humboldt County and sovereign tribal governments and trustee agencies, and makes government-to-government relationships more difficult.”

Jen Kalt, executive director of Humboldt Baykeeper, said it was imperative for a member of the Planning Commission to understand the laws protecting the coast and tribal cultural resources, and Bongio illustrated he cannot apply those laws to projects equally.

“To me, that is what’s most despicable, other than the totally racist remarks that he made,” Kalt said. “It’s the view that some people are above the law and this applicant has shown that he thinks he’s above the law many times.”

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Most of us know that what we call Humboldt Bay was part of the territory of the Wiyot people. And most us of know of the terrible mass killing that occurred in 1860 on what was called Indian Island.

But most of us do not know much more about the Wiyots and what has happened to their homeland over time. Here is part of that story.

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Progress often provokes a vicious response from those who wish to maintain the status quo... It is clear that the progress this community has made toward acknowledging the Wiyot peoples' rightful place on this land and in leadership is now provoking the anger of those who have become accustomed to holding power for generations — namely, wealthy landowners and developers. 

Bongio's tantrum at having the privilege of the developer class called into question by the California Coastal Commission and local tribes on the basis of completely legitimate concerns was best summed up by his parting words: "That was a waste of my fucking time." Classy.

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