The federal body that oversees the nation’s railroad rights of way indicated this week that it will consider the proposal from a mysterious Wyoming company to reconstruct defunct rail lines and ship coal out of Humboldt Bay to Asia.
The coal export proposal, widely regarded as unrealistic, is facing staunch opposition from local and state lawmakers, the tight margins of a declining coal industry and would need up to $2 billion to restore abandoned sections of track in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, according to previous state estimates.
But the decision by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board could complicate another North Coast venture: the proposed Great Redwood Trail, a 320-mile bicycle and pedestrian recreation route along former railways stretching from Eureka to San Francisco Bay.

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The federal government has completed an environmental review for developing a wind project 20 miles off the coast of Humboldt Bay. That review found developing offshore wind will have no significant impact on the environment.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Thursday released the final draft of its environmental assessment, which broadly examines how offshore wind activities in the roughly 207-square-mile Humboldt Wind Energy Area would affect the surroundings. Any specific project that is proposed in the future would still need to undergo its own environmental review.

“The completion of this Environmental Assessment represents an important step forward for ensuring that any future renewable energy development — should a lease sale occur — is done in a responsible manner,” BOEM Director Amanda Lefton said in a statement. “Working closely with tribes, state and federal partners and key stakeholders, BOEM remains focused on ensuring that such development is done in a way that avoids or reduces potential impacts to the environment and other ocean users in the region.”

The lease sales for offshore wind projects off Humboldt Bay and Morro Bay in Central California are expected to take place in September, and the completion of the environmental assessment is a major milestone.

You can find the final environmental assessment and more information about offshore wind development in Humboldt Bay at bit.ly/3FvvgjW.

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Coastal residents have come to expect endless weeks of fog from May through August. A few find it romantic; others mutter about how the apocryphal Mark Twain quotation ("the coldest winter I ever spent ...") is right on the money. In truth, we should be grateful for the blanket of mist around them. Its arrival marks the start of a great annual surge of life just offshore.

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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