On Thursday the safety committee of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District called for an emergency meeting to address the issue of shoaling in the bay due to severe winter storms.
The harbor district, responding to results of soundings performed by the Army Corps of Engineers that found the bay shallower than at any other point in its history, called for an emergency declaration. But the district does not have the authority to declare an emergency.
Among the greatest concerns related to the shoaling is the impact it could have on the weekly deliveries of gasoline, diesel and aviation fuels that are delivered by Chevron. On Friday morning, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office issued a news release addressing conditions on the bay, the emergency declaration and any impacts to fuel deliveries.
“Please note that under the California Disaster Assistance Act, the Humboldt Bay Harbor District does not have the authority to declare a countywide state of emergency,” the release stated. “Only the sheriff and the board of supervisors have the authority to make such a declaration. The hazardousconditions created by shoaling do not currently affect Chevron’s ability to bring fuel into Humboldt County and we are not currently experiencing a fuel crisis.”
There are two types of dredging performed on Humboldt Bay, and the most important dredging is to keep the main channel deep enough so that larger ships can cross the bar. To ensure commerce on the bay thrives, the channels must be kept clear enough to allow for the free flow of shipping and the latest series of winter storms have created a dangerous spot as ships enter the bay.
“There is no solution outside of dredging and it’s definitely affected our deep draft vessels,” said harbor pilot Tim Petrusha on Friday. “We probably won’t see any big ships for a while, no log carriers or chip carriers, they are not able to enter the bay right now. The corner where it’s shoaling is rougher than normal and that creates more hazardous conditions getting in and out and that’s for any boats, not just commercial boats.”
The county board of supervisors are well aware of the issues surrounding dredging on the bay and in January, the County Administrative Office issued a letter addressed to the Corps of Engineers requesting emergency dredging due to the shoaling.
First District Supervisor and board chair Rex Bohn echoed the need for urgency in addressing the shoaling because of the impacts it has on the commercial activity and ongoing commercial development of the bay.
“The declaration of an emergency goes through our office and I understand Larry (Oetker) is still new at the job and maybe he pulled the trigger a little quickly,” Bohn said on Friday. “No harm, no foul; shoaling has been a long-term problem and it’s been exacerbated by the winter storms. It’s something that must be addressed because our harbor has great commerce and getting goods in and out is key to that commerce. I have made multiple trips to Sacramento to plead with the Army Corps of Engineers and next week I’m going to Washington, D.C., and it’s at the top of my list of priorities.”