On Thursday, the California Coastal Commission approved Humboldt County’s application to finish off the Humboldt Bay Trail South - the final stretch of a pedestrian and bike path that would link Eureka and Arcata, a project decades in the making.

If all goes well, the path should be open and ready to use for the public by fall 2023, said Hank Seemann, Humboldt County’s deputy director of Environmental Services. 

The project could open up a safer, faster way to travel from Eureka to Arcata and vice versa without a car, said Colin Fiske, executive director of local pedestrian advocacy group the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities.

“This is the crown jewel of the separated bike and pedestrian network for the county because it does connect the two main residential and job centers, where a lot of people commute back and forth and go back and forth for shopping, for recreation, and so forth,” Fiske said. “So I know there’s a lot of excitement for it, and count me as one of those people.”

The permit from the California Coastal Commission had 18 special conditions, included getting confirmation from other agencies and developing specialized plans, which can all be found on the commission’s website at coastal.ca.gov/meetings/agenda/#/2022/4.

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The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously today to conditionally concur with a federal determination that allowing energy companies and organizations to study a proposed offshore wind farm area on the Humboldt County Coast is consistent with the California Coastal Management Program.

The commission’s vote today does not approve the wind farms or the start of any construction activities — all of which would come back before the commission in the future for further review

Commission staff made clear in its report and presentation that while BOEM believes it is premature to analyze the full scope of environmental impacts of turning a swath of ocean waters off Humboldt Bay into a wind farm, such a transformation is a “reasonably foreseeable” result of today’s vote, so should be considered to the extent possible. Further, commission staff explained this consistency determination was a chance to lay a foundation for the commission’s role in the process moving forward as the state and federal governments continue to push for a more sustainable energy grid.

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A coalition of environmental groups has issued a letter to the county demanding additional mitigation measures for the North McKay Ranch subdivision, a large-scale mixed-use development approved by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors last month.
The organizations say that by approving the project’s Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), the county violated state environmental law by failing to adequately analyze project impacts and refusing to require the developer, Kurt Kramer, to implement feasible mitigation measures such as all-electric new construction.

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Humboldt Bay is leaving the past behind and moving into the future.
Last week, the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District’s Board of Commissioners made decisions that signaled it would not support the transportation of coal through the harbor, but was prepared to welcome renewable energy.
Jennifer Kalt, director of nonprofit Humboldt Baykeeper, said it was ironic the two items were on the same agenda but signaled the district is transitioning “from the 19th century to the 21st century.”
“All I can say is full steam ahead,” Kalt said.
The harbor district commissioners made the decision at its March 10 meeting to accept a $10.5 million grant to begin the preparatory work needed to transform the Samoa peninsula into a hub for offshore wind development. The commissioners also approved an ordinance to prohibit coal on any harbor-owned or -leased property.
“Coal is dead, baby,” 5th Division Commissioner Patrick Higgins said. “Leave it in the ground.”
The decision to prohibit coal on property owned or leased by the harbor district comes on the heels of decisions by other local jurisdictions to do the same because of a potential project that would attempt to transport coal by train through the area.
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Humboldt Bay is about to undergo a transformation that will turn the struggling port into a hub for offshore wind development.

On Wednesday, the California Energy Commission announced it was awarding $10.5 million to the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District to complete the preliminary work, like site surveys and environmental impact assessments, to renovate 168 acres from the Samoa Bridge to the former pulp mill on the peninsula. That includes a new heavy lift marine terminal and 600,000 square feet of new manufacturing space.

“Overall it’s a couple $100 million projects,” Larry Oetker, director of the Humboldt Bay harbor district, told The Times-Standard. “The initial $10 million will get us all the permits and all the environmental review. It will get it to the point where you could actually start building the terminal.”

The Humboldt Bay Offshore Wind Heavy Lift Marine Terminal would have the capacity to manufacture the towers that support the wind turbines and the floating platforms they would rest upon.

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