Heal the Bay, an environmental nonprofit, recently issued its annual report card for bacterial pollution at more than 400 beaches along the Pacific Coast.


During the dry days of summer last year, the vast majority of California beaches had excellent grades.


But winter was a different story. As record rainfall swept through the state’s cityscapes and pushed billions of gallons of runoff out to sea, water quality plummeted.


“It’s indicative of a water mismanagement issue in California,” she said. “If we were doing a better job of rethinking that runoff we could turn it from a nuisance into a resource.”


Humboldt County’s Clam Beach, which is fed by two creeks, was named California’s most polluted beach by Heal the Bay.


The problem there has vexed local environmentalists who cite a panoply of possible causes: bird poop, campground toilets, old septic systems, livestock and more.


“There’s no shortage of theories,” said Jennifer Kalt, the director of Humboldt Baykeeper, an environmental group.


Better understood is that bacterial pollution rises sharply immediately after a rain, then typically goes right back to normal. That’s why health experts recommend beachgoers wait three days to enter the ocean after a storm.


“I think oftentimes people think kids just get diarrhea or stomach aches for other reasons,” Ms. Kalt said. “But studies have shown that it’s often correlated with rainfall. If it rains one day and then the next day it’s sunny, people don’t really give it much thought.”


Read Entire Article

High bacteria levels in county watersheds trigger search for cause 


Every year environmental scientists for Humboldt County take samples from the mouth of Strawberry Creek where freshwater meets saltwater on Clam Beach. For the last four years, the beach has made an environmental group’s “Beach Bummer list,” but this year it’s the most polluted beach on the annual report.

Karen Vu, data analyst for Santa Monica-based Heal The Bay, said her organization receives data from the whole West Coast and that its annual beach report covers all the data collected over the last year.

Vu said high amounts of bacteria could be potentially harmful to swimmers, who she cautioned to be mindful when going into riverways, because poor water quality can lead to infections and if consumed can cause intestinal problems.

In the last three years, Clam Beach dropped in ratings from an “A” rating in 2013 to an “F” rating this year.




Nearly a decade ago, a lack of planning combined with a dire need for dredging in Humboldt Bay erupted into controversy. While everyone agreed the channels needed to be cleared, the proposed dumping of dredge material on Samoa Beach divided the community with fishermen on one side and recreational beach goers on the other.


Today we find ourselves in almost the exact same situation. Dredging of Humboldt Bay has once again become an undeniably urgent matter, and Samoa Beach has once again been proposed as the best disposal option. Unfortunately, despite having 10 years to find a long-term solution, the Humboldt Bay Harbor District and City of Eureka are just beginning to present to the public options for disposing of dredge spoils from their marinas.


Back in 2007, the Harbor District insisted on ignoring EPA guidance and instead asked to dump 200,000 cubic yards of bay sludge on Samoa Beach a popular surf spot and access point known as “Power Poles.” Due to the state of emergency the district had allowed to happen, the California Coastal Commission reluctantly approved the pumping of bay mud through a pipe over the dunes, where it spewed out onto Samoa Beach. But the Commission, along with the U.S. EPA and California Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, made clear that any future projects must be better planned and that a similar project would not be a viable option. In 2008, the Coastal Commission reasserted this stance (No dredge spoils on beach, agency insists – Eureka Times-Standard).


With so much disapproval from permitting agencies and the public last time around, why is Samoa Beach even being considered an option for dumping again? In his presentation to the Eureka City Council on Tuesday, Eureka Parks and Recreation Director Miles Slattery described Samoa Beach as being “the best option” for disposal due to the comparatively low cost, its ability to accommodate high volumes of dredge material and being the “least environmentally damaging feasible alternative.” He also briefly described other possible locations for the dredge spoils, including:

  • Using it as fill for wetland restoration projects,
  • Open ocean disposal at the approved site three miles offshore,
  • Flow-lane” disposal,
  • Ocean disposal through the Redwood Marine Terminal’s 1½ mile long outfall,
  • Upland disposal at one of two sites on the North Spit,
  • And the temporary outfall at Samoa Beach.

“Some progress has been made since 2007 – the Harbor District now owns a dredge and the ocean outfall at the former pulp mill. But much more needs to be done to develop a long-term solution,” said Jennifer Kalt, Director of Humboldt Baykeeper. “Putting forward a plan to dump spoils on Samoa Beach yet again was premature, since the permitting agencies have not yet been consulted.”


Read Entire Article

Proposal: Regulatory agencies have yet to approve permits for disposal methods

Concerns: Humboldt Baykeeper as well as members of the public voice their worries


Maintenance dredging of public marinas, docks and boat launches in Humboldt Bay is set to take place this year, according to Miles Slattery of Eureka Parks and Recreation.

“This is still in the preliminary stages,” Slattery said. “The (Eureka City Council) said to move forward with a hybrid approach if it is approved by the regulatory agencies.”

The dredging proposals must still be approved by three regulatory agencies — the California Coastal Commission, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt said no level of dioxins is safe, but in 2007, the city was allowed to dump the dredge materials on the beach during an emergency dredging situation. She said the toxins are known to cause cancer and reproductive damage in both humans and wildlife.

“From what we know, the city and Harbor District have not applied for any permits related to dredge spoils disposal and they need to take a much closer look at possible alternatives,” Kalt said. “Contaminants, specifically dioxins and PCBs, were detected in some areas slated for dredging in 2007. Those areas were not dredged to avoid contaminating the beach disposal site.”

Kalt also said that although the Army Corps of Engineers dredge up to three million cubic yards every year, that their spoils from the dredging are dumped at the Humboldt Open Ocean Disposal Site, which is 3 miles offshore.

Read Entire Article 



This was going to be an article about how our coasts and oceans are now more than ever, under threat due to our nations political leadership. But I think we already know that.


Instead, this is an article reminding us how much love there is for our coasts and oceans. This is a compilation of quotes and pictures from leaders in our community, stating why they work tirelessly everyday, to make sure our coasts and oceans are kept beautiful, protected, and open for all to enjoy. I hope this montage provides some inspiration and motivation, and reminds us how lucky we are to live on the North Coast, and how important it is to keep working together. 


“Half of the people in the world live within 50 miles of the coast, and far more than half here in Humboldt. I have lived most of my life within a few miles of the coast. People are drawn to coastal areas for a reason; they are beautiful and awe-inspiring, so full of life - and they are the best wild food sources on the planet, if we take care of them. We certainly need to do better, but there is a reason that anything that would harm the coast is the “third rail” of California politics. In the 1980s, it was offshore oil drilling; in 2003, it was a Liquified Natural Gas import facility. In 2015, it was gold ore processing. Whatever the future brings, we will protect our coast from further degradation.” - Jennifer Kalt, Director, Humboldt Baykeeper


Read Entire Article