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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Coastal environments have been shown to improve our health, body and mind.

 

The benefits of “blue space” – the sea and coastline, but also rivers, lakes, canals, waterfalls, even fountains – are associated with many positive measures of physical and mental wellbeing, from higher levels of vitamin D to better social relations. 

 

An extensive 2013 study on happiness in natural environments prompted 20,000 smartphone users to record their sense of wellbeing and their immediate environment at random intervals. Marine and coastal margins were found by some distance to be the happiest locations, with responses approximately six points higher than in a continuous urban environment.

 

There are three established pathways by which the presence of water is positively related to health, wellbeing and happiness. First, there are the beneficial environmental factors typical of aquatic environments, such as less polluted air and more sunlight. Second, people who live by water tend to be more physically active – not just with water sports, but walking and cycling.

 

Third – and this is where blue space seems to have an edge over other natural environments – water has a psychologically restorative effect. White says spending time in and around aquatic environments has consistently been shown to lead to significantly higher benefits, in inducing positive mood and reducing negative mood and stress, than green space does.

 

People of all socioeconomic groups go to the coast to spend quality time with friends and family. Dr Sian Rees, a marine scientist at the University of Plymouth, says the coastline is Britain’s “most socially levelling environment”, whereas forests tend to be accessed by high-income earners. “It’s not seen as being elite or a special place, it’s where we just go and have fun.

 

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With five words, it became official — Duluwat Island is being returned to the Wiyot people, for whom it is the physical and cultural center of the universe, a sacred piece of land with the power to bring balance to all else.

 

“Unanimous yes vote. Motion carries,” said Eureka City Clerk Pam Powell, drawing a standing ovation from the hundreds of people who had filled the Adorni Center this morning to watch the city take the unprecedented step of returning 200 acres of land stolen generations ago to the Wiyot Tribe, which has called the North Coast home since time immemorial.

 

The emotional ceremony saw multiple generations of local residents gathered in the Adorni Center to witness the historic vote, many wiping tears from their eyes. 

 

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The Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District has appealed the permitting of a Glendale cannabis manufacturing complex, stating that project’s development on a former lumber mill site runs the risk of “contaminating the district’s drinking water supplies.”

 

Filed on September 19 and revised a week later, the appeal challenges the county Planning Commission’s Sept. 5 approval of the project’s permits. At the hearing, the project site’s uncertain groundwater and soil contamination status was raised as an issue and it’s one that concerned commissioners.

 

Located on Glendale Drive just east of the Route 299 Exit 4 onramp and off ramp, the site was used for lumber storage by the former McNamara and Peepe Lumber Mill. By the time the mill changed ownership in 1986 and became Blue Lake Forest Products, use of the toxic wood preservative pentachlorophenol (PCP) had been banned.

 

Interviewed after the appeal was filed, Kalt said Baykeeper “has been trying to educate the county” because the appealed project is the fourth one that’s been permitted on former mill sites with potential contamination.

 

“They’re just not listening,” she continued.

 

The DTSC’s documents are outdated, inaccurate and don’t mention the district’s intakes or critical habitat for salmon and other species, said Kalt.

 

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