In an accident that threatened the fragile ecosystem of Humboldt Bay, a fuel barge loaded with 1.68 million gallons of diesel collided with the South Jetty last month, damaging but not puncturing the vessel’s outer steel hull. 

The United States Coast Guard has opened an investigation into the June 20 incident, and Petty Officer Andrew Kistner confirmed that it did not result in a fuel spill. 

Leroy Zerlang, chair of the Humboldt Harbor Safety Committee, said that was a huge relief. 

“There was no spill, no loss of product — that was the important thing,” he told the Outpost in a phone interview earlier today. Zerlang used blunt language to convey the stakes of such an accident: “If something happened, this bay would have been fucked.”

Jennifer Kalt, executive director of environmental nonprofit Humboldt Baykeeper, agreed. 

“Fortunately, the barges have double hulls, but this is another reason to get off of fossil fuels as soon as we can — along with the planet being on fire,” Kalt said. “It’s a huge risk to Humboldt Bay.”

Recalling the 5,000-gallon oil spill that temporarily closed Humboldt Bay in 1997, Kalt added that it’s important for the community to have a good understanding of the plans in place for cleaning up a spill, should one occur. 

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A pair of rulings from last week’s meeting of the California Coastal Commission will reduce the number of illuminated digital signs allowed in Eureka’s coastal zone while also limiting how bright they can be.

Once the new rules are adopted by the city, which is scheduled to happen this fall, Eureka businesses that still want to erect digital billboards in the coastal zone will have to submit their plans to the city’s design review committee for approval at a public hearing.

Coastal commissioners, including Humboldt County Supervisor Mike Wilson, said these new restrictions will help to limit encroaching light pollution, and they urged city officials to go even farther to slow the spread of these bright, frequently animated digital advertisements.

During the public comment period, Humboldt Baykeeper Executive Director Jennifer Kalt urged the commission to prohibit these signs throughout Eureka’s coastal zone “to protect wildlife from night glare and protect public safety from distracted drivers on a very dangerous stretch of highway.”
She noted that digital signs, which contain thousands of LED lights, can be up to 10 times brighter than standard illuminated signs, contributing to light pollution and potentially affecting nocturnal wildlife’s eating, foraging and orientation behaviors.

Kalt urged the commission to follow the guidelines of the International Dark-Sky Association, which works to reduce light pollution and offers program guidelines for local governments. 

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Nordic Aquafarms founder and president Erik Heim and his wife, Executive Vice President/Commercial Director Marianne Naess, have unexpectedly parted ways with the Norway-based company.

Heim and Naess have been the faces of Nordic’s Humboldt County project since it was first announced, nearly three and a half years ago. 

Reached for comment over the holiday weekend, Naess emailed a statement to the Outpost, saying, “There is never a perfect time to leave a company, but this was the right time for Erik and me.”'

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Nearly a year ago, a company newly registered in Wyoming set off alarms and political outrage in Northern California with a filing at a federal rail agency.The proposal immediately ran into a wall of fierce opposition ‒ with federal, state and local lawmakers from San Francisco Bay to Eureka all dead set against it.
The federal agency that entertained the idea, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, which oversees rail rights of way including the 176 miles of defunct tracks between Willits and Eureka, put the brakes on the project in a procedural ruling earlier this month.
But as the tide goes out on the audacious and costly coal export scheme ‒ a political anathema in climate-concerned Northern California ‒ questions remain about exactly who was behind the North Coast Railroad Co. and whether it ever had the wherewithal to succeed.
But on the heels of the company’s most recent filing in June, Huffman and Thompson, who together represent the North Bay and North Coast in the House, and Padilla, California’s junior senator, accused Wight of submitting a falsified bank statement to the Surface Transportation Board.

“The (document) is not a valid statement from Self-Help Credit Union,” bank spokesperson Jenny Shields wrote in a June 21 email to The Press Democrat.
Justin Wight’s other business ventures also raise questions.
Wight’s bank statement showed financial transactions with two other limited liability companies. One is TerraNova Strategies, and the other is Twin Hawkes Development Corporation. Email addresses and phone numbers for the companies posted online also tie them to Wight.
Wight signed a November 2020 report with the Wyoming Secretary of State for TerraNova. Public information about that company’s work is difficult to come by. Its website states the firm operates in business development, government relations and commercial finance. The company also offered to help clients apply for federal COVID-19 small business loans during the onset of the pandemic.
The website lists offices as far afield as Belgium and New Zealand. No one responded to a Press Democrat request for comment submitted via an online form.

In 2016, the California Department of Real Estate filed a “Desist and Refrain” order against Wight and TerraNova Strategies for operating without a real estate license. Wight and his firm “solicited and negotiated a loan transaction” using a California property as collateral, according to Rick Lopes, a spokesperson for the agency. The type and size of the loan, and the type of property, were not immediately available, Lopes said.

Wight did not respond to a question about the desist and refrain order or about the nature and experience of Twin Hawkes and TerraNova.

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Moonstone Beach County Park was ranked as sixth in a list of beaches that received the worst summer dry season grades in California by environmental nonprofit Heal The Bay’s 2021-22 Beach Report Card. The beach receives pollution from the nearby Little River flowing into the ocean. A study of nearby Clam Beach, which made the list as one of California’s more polluted beaches from 2013 through 2021, found that the pollution can be attributed to fecal matter from birds, cows and dogs.
“The most important thing people around here can do (to reduce pollution) is people who manage cattle can fence them out of the creeks and put a water source for the cattle off the stream channel so that they’re not polluting the creeks with their feces,” Jennifer Kalt, director of local environmental group Humboldt Baykeeper, said.
For dogs, Kalt noted that while it might seem counterproductive to put their poop in plastic bags and throw them away, doing so is more environmentally friendly than allowing it to wash into storm drains and creeks, polluting the water.
Avoiding swimming in beaches and creeks within 72 hours of a rainstorm is important, especially for children, since all the waste and feces left on the ground runs into drains, which washes out into the water systems, according to Kalt. Going into the water during this time can make beach-goers sick.
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