You may have noticed it: the bay seems particularly high this time of year. The extreme high tides of winter have a name: King Tides. And they can help illustrate the effects of rising sea levels.

Volunteers are needed to document the high tides and the way sea level rise will impact our bay. Sign up for Humboldt Baykeeper’s King Tides Photo Initiative!

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Two billboards that crumbled under strong winds in that powerful pre-Thanksgiving storm may be gone for good. The Humboldt County Planning Commission is expected to decide their fate at a public meeting sometime in the next two months. 

One of the two billboards face-planted on the north side of Hwy. 101 between Arcata and Eureka. When the tide was high this billboard’s footing was nearly submerged by the waters of Arcata Bay.

The other billboard was south of Eureka between Humboldt Hill and Elk River Road, on the east side of the freeway. It, too, sat close to coastal waters, near the confluence of Elk River and Swain Slough. 

Jennifer Kalt, executive director of Humboldt Baykeeper, has been among the most vocal critics of these roadside advertisements. She said the latest two to fall should not be resurrected.

“These billboards should never have been built in coastal wetlands and shouldn’t be rebuilt since the county code only allows them in commercial and industrial land,” she told the Outpost

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On Nov. 13, the City of Eureka held a public workshop to gather input on a new plan for the 101 Broadway Corridor. Described as a “Multi-Modal Corridor Plan” to increase safety for pedestrians and cyclists while decreasing traffic congestion, the City unfortunately began this public process by reviving controversial plans for a new road along Humboldt Bay. 

In 2012, the Eureka City Council voted to stop pursuing its proposal to punch a new road through the Palco Marsh. But for some inexplicable reason, the City has revived this impossible project, despite years of controversy. The Waterfront Drive Extension was rejected in 2012—and should be taken off the table forever—for several reasons.

The coastal wetlands at risk are protected by the Coastal Act, the City’s coastal regulations, and by conservation easements. The proposed road would plow through wetlands that were protected as mitigation for the Bayside Mall development. Since 1985, the City has received $1.5 million from the State Coastal Conservancy to acquire the Palco Marsh for wetland restoration and non-motorized public access.  

When the Waterfront Drive Extension was rejected by the City Council in 2012, the funding was allocated to build the Waterfront Trail, which has since become a popular area for enjoying the Palco Marsh and Elk River Wildlife Sanctuary. A road in this area would be not only disrupt wildlife habitat and coastal recreation, but it would also be vulnerable to flooding, liquefaction, rising sea level, which will inundate the area in the foreseeable future. 

There’s another reason that Eureka shouldn’t waste its money pursuing pie-in-the-sky road-building schemes, and it’s an important one. That money is desperately needed for real, feasible, effective transportation solutions. Between 2005 and 2009, the City spent more than $1.2 million dollars pursuing this project while knowing it would never be approved. Rather than throwing more money at a road that’s going nowhere, public funding should go into desperately needed safety improvements on Broadway.

“Broadway is trying to be both a downtown Main Street and a highway, and failing at both,” says Colin Fiske of the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities. “It’s a frustration for drivers and a death trap for bicyclists and pedestrians. The only thing that will make Broadway both safer and more pleasant is redesigning it to make it the kind of place where people want to be, rather than the kind of place people want to get through as fast as possible.” In other words, embrace its reality as a Main Street and stop trying to make it a highway.

There are lots of proven methods for improving the safety and comfort of a downtown streetscape like Broadway. Widen the sidewalks and narrow the road. Plant trees and install art. Build buffered bike lanes, bulb-outs, and pedestrian refuges. It’s not rocket science. 

You can join us in urging public officials to drop the plans for new roads west of Broadway and instead, focus on multi-modal transportation to reduce traffic congestion, including projects that will make walking and biking along and across Broadway safe. Have your say by going to the comment section at https://www.eurekabroadwaycorridorplan.com

The Arcata Wastewater Treatment Plant is one of the most important pieces of infrastructure at risk as the sea level rises, but it’s unlikely to be moved farther inland for at least another half century.

 

The treatment plant isn’t only at risk from rising sea levels potentially inundating it from the west, particularly during a storm surge, but also from rising groundwater and tectonic forces causing the land to sink, according to the 2018 City of Arcata Sea Level Rise Risk Assessment compiled by local sea level rise expert Alderon Laird. Laird has said to expect .9 feet of sea level rising by 2030, 1.9 feet by 2050 and 3.2 feet by 2070.

 

“The risk to wastewater infrastructure is ongoing,” the assessment states. “Based on existing conditions, exposure of wastewater infrastructure will become critical due to the combination of two feet of sea level rise and king tides that could result in three feet of sea level rise for several days a year.”

 

Man-made structures, such as dikes, are preventing Humboldt Bay from inundating the marsh and other low-lying areas, but those dikes get overtopped during storm surges. Building those dikes higher is complicated because of how land use is regulated along the coast, officials have said.

 

Arcata city officials said they are discussing moving the treatment plant to a different location in the future, but that’s too expensive to do right now.

 

“We have a plan for that,” said Mark Andre, Arcata’s director of environmental services, at a meeting on upgrades to the wastewater treatment facility at the Arcata Marsh Interpretive Center on Friday night. “But moving the treatment plant would cost three or four times what we’re talking about, and it would pretty much eliminate what we have, our wetland-based system, which is highly energy efficient.”

 

Instead, they’re making about $64 million in upgrades to the existing facility that will help it comply with state regulations and keep the city from being fined.

 

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Last night, the multiagency coalition that’s looking to create a master plan for traffic improvements in the south end of Eureka made clear to a crowd at the Wharfinger Building that it’s still considering a long-thought-dead scheme to build a whole new road through the city’s waterfront greenbelt in order to relieve traffic congestion on Broadway.

 

That plan – which had been known as the “Waterfront Drive Extension Project” — was las considered by the Eureka City Council in 2012, but had been burbling about government for many years before that. It would involve major road construction near or through the Palco Marsh and the city-owned “Parcel Four,” behind the Bayshore Mall, creating a north-south thoroughfare between Broadway and what is now the Waterfront Trail.

 

Many have been under the impression that strong opposition from the state Coastal Commission, and also from many local residents, had killed the project years ago. But last night, at the first public meeting of the new grant-funded coalition between the city, Caltrans and the Humboldt County Association of Governments to tackle Eureka’s Broadway Problem, it was back on the table – at least for argument’s sake.

 

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