The Nuclear Regulatory Commission called a meeting in Eureka this week to collect community input about the Community Advisory Board’s (CAB) efforts to assist with the Humboldt Bay Power Plant’s decommissioning. CABs typically consist of an organized group of citizens interested in safe decommissioning practices and spent fuel management, and are usually sponsored by the local licensee or mandated by the state legislature. Responsibilities may include reviewing decommissioning plans, providing feedback, serving as a forum for public education, making recommendations and considering plans for future reuse of the site.

 

Ultimately, after similar meetings across the country, the NRC will create a report for Congress to guide the development of future community advisory boards. Community members generally praised PG&E’s engagement, but called for better education of board members. “Any future CAB should have an educational framework,” longtime Humboldt Bay CAB member Mike Manetas said. “It’s such a complex and complicated issue.” 

 

Jen Kalt of Humboldt Baykeeper, CAB member since 2013 and longtime Surfrider ally, sent an email blast out prior to the meeting, noting that the underground casks containing the spent fuel rods and dismantled nuclear reactor were designed to last about 50 years, and the PG&E Decommissioning Fund is only funded through 2025. 

 

“What will happen after that?” Kalt asked. “What are the NRC's plans in case of an emergency?” At the meeting, she highlighted the risks posed by sea level rise, relaying how planners ignored the North Spit tidal gauge measurements when building the storage facility that would house the spent fuel. The readings spun so far above expectations that researchers assumed the gauge was wrong – and then further studies proved the opposite. Not only is the sea rising, but the lands around Humboldt Bay are sinking. “King Salmon is literally ground zero,” Kalt said. 

 

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The community advisory board that provides input on the decommissioning of the Humboldt Bay Power Plant has involved a diverse group of elected officials, experts and community residents comprised of school principals and members of environmental groups, said Jennifer Kalt, director of Humboldt Baykeeper. The main way that community advisory board, or CAB, could be improved is by including tribal representation.

 

That’s the main input locals gave representatives from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission at a meeting at the Wharfinger Building on Monday night. The representatives were seeking input on the best practices for establishing and operating community advisory boards for decommissioning nuclear power reactors.

 

“There’s a real need to broaden the stakeholder base in general,” said Jennifer Savage, of the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit that has been working to get nuclear waste off the state’s coast.

 

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Californians need to know if the fish they catch are safe to eat, so the state keeps spending money on testing fish for mercury. 

 

Cal EPA recently awarded another grant to Humboldt Baykeeper to continue its mercury testing program, this time on some species of fish that were not the focus of previous testing. 

 

Those earlier tests revealed that not all the fish on the North Coast are safe to eat all the time. 

 

Jennifer Kalt is Humboldt Baykeeper's director and our guest.  

 

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While Caltrans' project on the 6-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 101 that connects Eureka and Arcata is aimed at improving safety for motorists, the agency got an earful Aug. 7 from California Coastal Commissioners who felt it is ignoring a potentially far more dangerous threat: sea level rise.

 

"This is ground zero," said Chair Dayna Bochco. "We don't have a lot of time right here. The traffic is a terrible problem. The water is going to be a worse one."

 

The meeting — which saw commissioners ultimately approve a coastal development permit for the long-awaited safety corridor project — featured some dire warnings of the imminent threat of sea level rise to the low-lying areas of coastal Humboldt County, including the stretch of 101, which one commissioner said has been identified as the "most vulnerable" in the state. The discussion of sea level rise at the meeting was so foreboding, in fact, that one of the state's highest ranking planning officials walked away saying California needs to urgently come up with a multi-agency plan — and a lot of funding — to begin charting a course forward.

 

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The California Coastal Commission went against the recommendation of its staff Thursday and gave the Trinidad Rancheria the go-ahead — or a “conditional concurrence” — to build a five-story hotel on its property off Scenic Drive south of the city.

This means that the Coastal Commission, which is tasked by law with protecting the California coastline, will not stand in the way of the Bureau of Indian Affairs granting the Rancheria a lease and a loan guarantee so that the project can start. The “conditional” part of the concurrence means the commission is giving the Rancheria six months to come up with a reliable water source — either through an agreement with the city of Trinidad or by proving its newly drilled well has the capability to provide the 14,000 gallons of of potable water per day that the hotel will require without draining neighboring wells. According to Trinidad Rancheria CEO Jacque Hostler-Carmini, the well can produce 8,040 gallons per day. 

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