Esteemed LA Times columnist and award-winning author Steve Lopez left his footprints in Humboldt County sand last weekend, the first of many stops on his road trip across the California coast. Ever since February, when the Coastal Commission fired executive director Dr. Charles Lester, articles have been flying off of Lopez’s keyboard in attempt to shine a light on the happenings of the powerful agency.



Now he is road-tripping the California coast from Oregon to Mexico to show, through personal experiences, the importance of the Coastal Act, and why we should all care about what is going on with the commission. Along the way he is talking with coastal stewards and visiting the Coastal Act and Coastal Commissions successes, failures and ongoing battlegrounds.



Jennifer Kalt, Director of Humboldt Baykeeper, was Lopez’s tour guide for the Humboldt leg of his journey. Kalt had the difficult task of deciding which stretch of Humboldt coast to take Lopez to, and decided on a hike through the Ma-le’l North Dunes. “I chose the area for its uniqueness and coastal preservation victory with Buggy Club,” stated Kalt.

During the summer of 2015, owners of the new McKinleyville Ace Hardware on Central Avenue illegally filled wetlands with gravel for a parking lot in violation of the Clean Water Act and Humboldt County ordinance. After winter rains turned much of the area into a seasonal duck pond, insult was added to injury when the wetlands were illegally drained into a ditch that discharges into Widow White Creek, a tributary to the Mad River that once supported coho salmon. 


Chemicals from former lumber mills found in high concentrations




Chemical leftovers from Humboldt County’s once booming timber industry could create costly delays for two Arcata projects near its marsh and wildlife sanctuary.



One project seeks to construct a dog park at the old Little Lake Industries lumber mill site on South I Street. The other would reuse dredged soils from the bay to create a buffer to protect city properties from sea level rise.



However, recent tests of Humboldt Bay sediment along the marsh found a “hot spot” of harmful compounds known as dioxins, according to Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt. Dioxins are found in a wood preservative once used by many of the nearly 100 mill sites near Humboldt Bay, which had either spilled or had been dumped into the bay over the decades, Kalt said. “It was so toxic that it was restricted in the late 1980s,” Kalt said. “It’s only allowed now to be used on power poles.”



For the third year in a row, McKinleyville’s Clam Beach appears high on a water quality watchdog’s list of worst beaches in California.



According to the annual Beach Report Card compiled by Heal the Bay, a Southern California-based environmental advocacy group that compiles information and grades beaches along the West Coast, Clam Beach is No. 2 on the list with an “F” grade. In 2014 Clam Beach had a “D” rating and was sixth on the list and in 2015 it received an “F” rating and moved to the No. 3 spot. The full report is available online at healthebay.org.



“The problem is something in the watershed of Strawberry Creek and that includes Patrick Creek,” Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services Supervising Environmental Health Specialist Amanda Ruddy said.


Humboldt Baykeeper and Pacific Watershed Associates are poised for genetic tests and analysis to pinpoint the sources of the fecal bacterium E. coli in six Humboldt waterways deemed “impaired” by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Corrective action hinges on the results of the new tests. They are aimed at finding the precise sources of the pollutant, although E. coli is known to originate in the guts of warm blooded animals (humans, livestock, dogs, horses, birds, raccoons etc.). Other sources are faulty private septic systems, leaking municipal sewer lines and transient encampments. The bacteria can cause humans severe gastrointestinal distress.