The Redwood Coast Energy Authority, with support from several private companies, is one step closer to developing the first offshore wind farm on the West Coast, according to its executive director Matthew Marshall.

 

The authority, along with Principle Power, Aker Solutions, and EDP Renewables, recently submitted a lease application to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. According to Marshall, if approved the lease would give the authority and its partners “site control” over an ocean area of approximately 70 square miles, meaning they have exclusive project rights to that area. This doesn’t mean the project will span 70 square miles, Marshall said, instead it defines the boundaries of where Redwood Coast could put the project.

 

The proposed wind farm would consist of 10 to 15 wind turbines, capable of producing 100-150 megawatts, according to Marshall.

 

“That’s enough energy for about 70,000 households,” Marshall said. “Offshore wind is the largest untapped resource we have.”

Jennifer Kalt, director of Humboldt Baykeeper, underlined the reality of the situation, saying that ultimately we “need to get off fossil fuels.”

“We don’t know a lot about the critters that live that far offshore,” Kalt said. “The first step is getting info from surveys they’ll be doing.”

 

She added, “Humboldt Baykeeper is cautiously optimistic because it’s a local government agency, the board is composed of elected officials who have exhibited concern and value on working with communities and stake holders.”

 

Emphasizing the importance of the ocean to Humboldt’s community, Kalt said, “we need to slow down the effects of climate change on the ocean. Sea level change and ocean acidification (caused by climate change) will affect this area significantly,” she said.

 

This project, Kalt said, provides an opportunity to “have a community scale offshore wind project that can be developed in a way that’s protective to bay and marine life. Working with different stakeholders that rely on the health of the bay is important and might be what ultimately makes or breaks the project.”

 

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An eight-year-old lawsuit filed against PG&E Co. for alleged releases of dioxin from stored utility poles into San Francisco Bay and Humboldt Bay has been settled, according to the environmental group that filed the lawsuit.

 

The Ecological Rights Foundation, based in Garberville (Humboldt County), alleged in its 2010 lawsuit that dioxin, a chemical that causes cancer and birth defects, was carried by storm water runoff from treated wooden utility poles, sawdust and wood waste into the two bays.

 

The wooden poles are treated with pentachlorophenol, a preservative that creates dioxin when it is manufactured. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has banned the preservative for all uses except on utility poles, and its website says it “is extremely toxic when ingested by humans.”

 

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John Shelter has been trying to provide homeless men and women with work in Humboldt County for decades, and his latest cleanup project has led to a contract agreement between Shelter’s New Directions program and Caltrans.

 

New Directions will clean up the areas under 10 bridges in Arcata and Eureka, including the Samoa Bridge and the Eureka Slough Bridge, so that Caltrans inspectors and work crews can perform required maintenance and inspections.

 

Shelter’s aim is to help homeless men and women turn their lives around.

 

“The philosophy is employment,” Shelter said on Friday. “Get them up and working, get them going and then address the mental health and addiction and you have a new direction. We change attitudes that change behavior.”

 

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jensamplingIn late 2017 Humboldt Baykeeper rode a tidal wave of Clean Water Act victories aimed at reducing pollution in California’s second-largest natural estuary, filing four court actions, and winning each time.

 

But despite Humboldt Baykeeper’s banner year, Jen Kalt bemoans the current lack of enforcement of environmental laws across the United States. For authorities to enable businesses to operate outside of those laws, she says, is “an injustice to the people who believe in running their businesses in ways that follow the law and protect the environment.”

 

Photo: Humboldt Baykeeper Jen Kalt collecting bacteria samples for a continuing source identification study. Photo by Todd Kraemer, Pacific Watershed Associates.

The Humboldt County Public Works Department is set to tell the Board of Supervisors that moving forward with the Humboldt Bay Trail Project is going to necessitate the removal of more than 200 eucalyptus trees along U.S. Highway 101 north of the old California Redwood Company mill.

 

While conceding that it received a host of comments urging preservation of the 90-year-old trees in the county’s California Environmental Quality Act review of the project, the department warns it will “recommend termination of the project if the northern group of eucalyptus trees cannot be removed.”

 

In an 11-page CEQA comment evaluation memo, the department makes the case that the trees would pose a danger to users of the yet-to-be constructed 4.2-mile segment of multi-use trail connecting Eureka and Arcata, as the trail would fall within 10 to 15 feet of the trees, between the railroad tracks and the highway.

 

“Trail users would be situated within the failure zone of many elevated limbs measuring 6 to 12 inches in diameter and weighing hundreds of pounds,” states the memo, citing the county’s Hazard Tree Plan and the Tree Risk Assessment, which apparently sets the national standard for such decisions.

 

The memo also includes newspaper accounts of several eucalyptus-related horror stories: the tree that fell on a wedding party, killing a 61-year-old grandmother, in Whittier last year; a woman seriously injured by a falling 10-foot branch while walking with her boyfriend in San Diego in 2013; and a 4-year-old girl killed on a playground in Highland Park by a falling tree limb in 1990. At least a couple of the stories include reports of resulting lawsuits.

 

In all, the department is recommending removal of 219 trees — or 42 percent of the entire row.

 

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