Executives from Nordic Aquafarms were busy this week giving a series of tours out on the Samoa Peninsula, offering politicians, environmentalists, fishermen and others an up-close view of the dilapidated industrial site — home to the corroding remains of the Evergreen Pulp mill — where the company plans to build a large, land-based fish farm.

The draft environmental impact report for the project is still being prepared, so some of the details remain in flux. 

Jennifer Kalt, executive director of environmental nonprofit Humboldt Baykeeper, said her organization still has concerns about whether the project can be completed in a way that protects the ecosystems of Humboldt Bay and the nearby Pacific. But after touring the site on Wednesday, she said in a Facebook post that the project would include not only much-needed cleanup but also construction of a modern stormwater system. 

“As it stands today, every major rainstorm carries polluted runoff into the bay,” the post reads. “And the way our legal system works, it will stay that way until someone invests in the cleanup. Nordic estimates it will cost $10+ million to demolish and remove everything. Sure, the Harbor District can continue applying for EPA Brownfields grants, but at $250,000 apiece, it would take several lifetimes.”

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Humboldt State University is expanding and diversifying its seaweed research farm in Humboldt Bay to include bull kelp this summer. With the help of HSU students, researchers aim to inform future decisions about commercial aquaculture and conservation efforts.

Researchers will add 0.33 acres to its existing seaweed farm and create a kelp hatchery onshore at the Humboldt State Marine Lab. The farm, called HSU-ProvidenSea, sits in a permitted area just a few hundred yards off the shores of Humboldt Bay. Students will gain practical ocean farming experience, monitor the reproduction and growth of the bull kelp, track factors like water quality and temperature, and evaluate the cost of seeding and production.

After launching California’s first open-water commercial seaweed farm last year, researchers noticed that bull kelp was growing naturally on lines intended for dulse seaweed.

Kelp traps an outsized amount of carbon dioxide and reduces acidification, a byproduct of a rapidly changing atmosphere. Kelp can also be used for human consumption, animal feed, agricultural fertilizer, as sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic, and more.

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University of Nevada, Reno researcher to create predictive models to better protect pets and humans
While algae growing in our lakes, ponds and reservoirs can be quite visible, the algae in many of our rivers and their tributaries is often not so obvious, lurking on the bottom of the rivers, and clinging to rocks. Yet, some of these riverbed blue-green algae, referred to as “cyanobacteria,” can create algal blooms that produce toxins harmful not only to aquatic life, but also to pets, livestock and humans. University of Nevada, Reno Assistant Professor Joanna Blaszczak is conducting research to identify the specific conditions conducive to producing these blooms and their toxins, so that water managers can know when they are going to occur and take actions to better protect animals, humans and river ecosystems.

The research will be conducted through 2023, funded by almost $200,000 from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology. Blaszczak, in the University’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources, is partnering with several other entities to study three river systems in northern California – the Russian, Klamath and Eel – to research one type of these toxins in particular, a neurotoxin called anatoxin. She says the Mediterranean climate conditions in northern California, with long, dry summers, are partly what allows the “cyanoHABS” (cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms) to form.

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City seeks ruling from regional water board in August

For years, the city of Eureka sent treated wastewater directly into Humboldt Bay from its Elk River processing plant.
But five years ago, the North Coast Regional Water Control Board ordered the city to “cease and desist” and to move to ocean discharge by 2030. The city is now seeking a resolution that would allow wastewater to continue to be discharged into the bay. The water board will meet in mid-August to decide.

Whether or not the city is granted the exemption to continue, there are plans in the works to make upgrades to the Elk River wastewater facility.

Surfrider, Humboldt Baykeeper, and EPIC argue the city needs to stop sending treated sewage into the bay and comply with the water board’s order to move to ocean discharge.

“We think that a discharge exemption is putting the cart before the horse. They need to vastly improve the wastewater treatment system to clean up that effluent before it could be determined whether it’s reasonable to continue discharging it into the bay,” Jennifer Kalt, the director of Humboldt Baykeeper, told the Times-Standard.

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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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