North Coast lawmakers have vowed to block a secretive plan to restore an abandoned stretch of defunct North Coast railroad to export coal overseas from Montana, Utah and Wyoming through the Port of Humboldt Bay.

State Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) called the proposed plan “one of the largest environmental threats” the North Coast has seen in decades.

North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) said there are several ways to halt the proposed project. “One of them is NCRA itself because the NCRA is faced with losing its right of way to a coal train,” he said. “I believe it would have the option of withdrawing the abandonment request and keeping (the rail line) in public ownership to at least have more time to work on a strategy.”

Huffman also urged community members to express opposition to the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District. Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, district executive director Larry Oetker said the possibility of a coal train is “not something that we are interested in.”

“We are focused on developing Humboldt Bay for an offshore wind terminal and that’s really all we’re working on,” he said. “… The port is not looking to bring coal into the harbor. 

We have been exclusively focused on are finding things to ship out of the bay that the community thinks is a good fit for our region. We are looking to be a clean, green port.”

When asked if the harbor district has participated in conversations with NCRCo. Oetker said, “No, I have not met with anybody looking to bring coal to the port.”

McGuire vowed to bring new legislation forward “to stop Big Coal in its tracks.”

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North Coast lawmakers and environmental groups are bracing for a battle to block a secretive plan to restore an abandoned stretch of North Coast railroad for high-volume coal shipments from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana to Humboldt Bay for overseas export.

A plan state Sen. Mike McGuire is calling the “toxic coal train” would allow transport of coal shipped through Utah and Nevada, west through Sacramento and Vallejo and through the North Bay along the SMART train tracks and beyond to the port at Eureka.

“We’re going to have to do our work and kill this thing,” Congressman Jared Huffman said Friday.

Lawmakers say the proposal, first reported by the Lost Coast Outpost, not only would run tens of millions of tons of coal along unstable ground past critical waterways, but would also extend reliance on coal as a global energy source, and contribute to greenhouse gas production at a time when fossil fuels should be abandoned.

“The train tracks are literally just feet away from the drinking water source for nearly one million Californians — the Russian and Eel River,” said McGuire, D-Healdsburg.

The plan also could mean lengthy waits at critical thoroughfares, as car after car of coal went past on track that cleaves Sonoma County cities. Coal trains in the Powder River Basin can be more than 100 rail cars long.

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Unidentified coal companies appear to be behind a new backdoor effort to acquire the North Coast Railroad Authority’s right-of-way between Eureka and Willits and rehabilitate the defunct railroad, all so they can export coal to Asian markets via the Port of Humboldt Bay.
State Senator Mike McGuire calls this development “one of the largest environmental threats to hit the North Coast in decades.”
On Aug. 16, a mysterious, newly formed corporation called North Coast Railroad Company, LLC, filed a pleading with the Surface Transportation Board. Ostensibly a proposal to submit an “Offer of Financial Assistance” to rebuild the line, the filing makes a number of surprising claims. 
First District Supervisor Rex Bohn said he met with some of the interested parties. About six months ago, he had dinner with a group of people who said they were interested in restoring the rail line. The group included Utah State Senator David Hinkins.
“They had some Native Americans they were partnering up with,” Bohn said. “I know that they met with the Wiyots quite a bit. They were talking about just opening the rail line. … They thought it’s usable. They had some freight ideas that they could get out of here.”
Asked if they identified what type of freight they intended to ship, Bohn said, “They held it pretty close to the chest, I thought. Rightly so.”
Told that McGuire and Huffman had identified the interested parties as coal companies, Bohn said, “They did talk about clean coal cars, you know, completely covered, completely domed and everything.”
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Eureka city officials caused a bit of a stir last week after alerting the community to a report spotlighting significant levels of COVID-19 in the city’s wastewater. The report indicated Eureka has higher concentrations of COVID-19 in its wastewater than nearly anywhere else in the United States.

While data is limited, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there is no evidence to suggest someone could become sick with COVID-19 due to wastewater exposure.“Recently, ribonucleic acid from the virus that causes COVID- 19 has been found in untreated wastewater,” according to the CDC website. “While data are limited, there is little evidence of infectious virus in wastewater. … Standard practices associated with wastewater treatment plant operations should be sufficient to protect wastewater workers from the virus that causes COVID-19.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, wastewater treatment plants treat viruses and other pathogens, including COVID-19.

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Press release from the City of Eureka:
The City of Eureka has been notified of a higher-than-average concentration of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in wastewater flowing to the City’s wastewater treatment plant. Samples from the plant, which serves the greater Eureka area including Myrtletown, Cutten, and Pine Hill, were collected via the National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS), a federal program designed to help public health officials monitor COVID-19 spread. Out of all samples submitted nationwide in the last six weeks, local wastewater contained concentrations higher than 99% of all samples.
This report coincides with last Friday’s Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services announcement that cited that the county experienced its highest single day case count of confirmed COVID-19 last week and yesterday’s subsequent announcement that more than 90 additional cases were confirmed since last week’s report.
To view the full biobot report, visit this link

For more information about COVID-19 conditions locally, including where to get vaccinated, visit this link.
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