Coastal Commission to discuss project at meeting in San Diego this week


As controversy over a proposed hotel in Trinidad comes to a head this week at the state Coastal Commission meeting, more than 1,300 people have signed a petition calling for more public input on the project.


The petition calls for a delay to the Coastal Commission’s public hearing for the project. At its meeting this week in San Diego, the commission is set to discuss the hotel’s consistency with California’s coastal policies.


The commission’s August meeting is set to take place at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka. And more than 1,300 people, at press time, have signed a petition asking the commission to hold off until then so that local residents can speak their mind about the project.


“What we’ve tried to do is provide a forum for people to learn about the issue and voice their concerns,” said Ted Pease of the Humboldt Alliance for Responsible Planning, the group that started the petition.


As it has in the past, the commission’s staff ahead of this week’s meeting has recommended an objection to the project’s consistency with state law. While most of the staff’s previous objections have been cleared up, staff members still report issues with the hotel’s height and water supply.


The Coastal Commission has lacked North Coast representation since the departure earlier this year of former 1st District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg, who is also a member of the Rancheria. With no local representation on the commission until a representative is appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Coastal Commission will now have to choose its stance on a project that has divided Trinidad.


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The Humboldt Bay Symposium was held on April 11 and 12 in Eureka. Featuring sessions on sea level rise, ecological restoration, ocean science, and economic development, the symposium provided the public an opportunity to learn about the latest developments on a variety of current Humboldt Bay issues.

If you weren't able to attend the Symposium, or if you just want to go back and see one of the talks again, they are now posted online via Access Humboldt HERE. For the full program, click HERE

The Trinidad Rancheria recently presented its revised concept of a 100-room hotel on the bluffs of Scenic Drive but it aroused little enthusiasm from the residents of Trinidad. 


David Tyson, CEO of the Trinidad Rancheria Economic Development Corporation (TREDC), gave the presentation during the March 13 meeting of the Trinidad City Council to an audience of about 40 people. Tyson said the Rancheria had reviewed the hundreds of comments received last October about the planned five-story Hyatt hotel and tried to address the concerns expressed. TREDC has hired a new developer, architect and hotel operator. Nonetheless, the plans still depict a five-story building, which is considerably larger than any other structure on the Trinidad coast.


The height of the building was reduced by about 20 feet, and the exterior now displays exposed timber and rock, which Tyson said is typical of northwestern architecture. 


Proposed water usage, which had been one of the most contentious issues, will be reduced to 3,500 gallons per day or less, Tyson said, because laundry will not be done onsite. This should also reduce the amount of wastewater entering the leachfield. The Rancheria also plans to use recycled graywater in the toilets, to help reduce water use. 


City Manager Dan Berman described the inherent uncertainties in studying the city's water supply. He described it as a puzzle consisting of three pieces. The first is how much water would be needed when all the land within the city limits is built out. The second is the capacity of the water treatment plant. 


"Even if the creek was infinite, how much water can we really pump and clean and produce on an ongoing basis out of our treatment plant? ... If we try to turn everything up 20 percent at our plant, does it still work right?" 


The third and most difficult piece of the puzzle is asking how much the entire watershed could support, especially considering climate change and drought. 


A government-to-government meeting between the Trinidad City Council and the Trinidad Rancheria Tribal Council was planned for the next day. It was not open to the public.


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Humboldt Baykeeper lauds that proposal is ‘directing action’


A bill introduced by a state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) that will address ocean acidification and water quality issues has been introduced and it’s being supported by a wide variety of stakeholders.


Senate Bill 69, authored by Wiener, is aimed at reducing landbased sources of pollutants, the restoration of wetlands and the sequestration of greenhouse gases and to protect wildlife and keystone species.


The bill specifically addresses timber harvest practices with an aim to limit the amount of sediment that flows into local rivers and streams and which then impacts the quality of water for bays and the ocean.


“This bill adds a layer of oversight that has been missing in the timber harvest plan approval process,” said Noah Oppenheimer, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association. He added the timber plans must be turned over to the local regional water quality control board but from there they have not been actively reviewed.


“The boards are required to review those plans but they often slip through the cracks,” Oppenheimer said. “This bill includes a provision to review those sediment management plans so we can close this loophole.”


Water quality issues are of paramount importance to the North Coast fisheries and aquaculture on the bay and one of the goals of the bill is to address ocean acidification caused by the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.


Shellfish, eelgrass, kelp and seaweed are all vulnerable to temperature changes and ocean acidification and any steps that can improve water quality, whether it’s a freshwater river or Humboldt Bay, would be welcomed by those who make a living on the water.


“We need clean water with no bacteria and we need healthy ecosystems and one of the keys there is some water quality stuff in this bill,” said Greg Dale, manager at Coast Seafoods in Eureka. “Shellfish and seagrasses are all good carbon fixers. They aid in alleviating some of the potential for acidic ocean conditions.”


Dale said one of the key reasons there is a thriving aquacultural base on the bay is due to the coordination and cooperation with local cities and the county, pointing out that the cities of Arcata and Eureka have been excellent to work with and both cities are focused on water quality that serves aquaculture.


“Eureka, Arcata and the county are all very proactive when it comes to water quality,” Dale said, adding the recent winter storms led to wastewater runoff into the bay that did impact oyster beds but that’s a part of their normal operations. “We know when we have big storms the systems can’t keep up, even the Eel River can’t keep up and we know what happens to the water quality. It’s fairly predictable because the agencies monitor the water and take great care when they do it. Coast Seafoods isn’t looking to expand on the bay but the industry would like to grow on the bay and all the work the municipalities do allow us to grow oysters.”


One of the key reasons the bill has gained the support of a wide variety of stakeholders is because it calls for action. The measure will require the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to implement new projects to improve Chinook salmon fisheries in the Central Valley and across the salmon fishing industry in the state, require timber harvest plans to be reviewed before approval and require the Natural Resources Agency to identify watercourses that will be listed on the California Endangered Rivers List.


“What I like about the measure is it puts things into actions. It’s not just plans and studies, it’s directing action. I’m tired of the plans that get made and then sit on a shelf,” said Jen Kalt, executive director of Humboldt Baykeeper. “One of the reforms is it will require timber harvest plans to adhere to Total Maximum Daily Loads. Timber practices are the biggest contributor to sediments in the streams and the goal is to reduce that sedimentary delivery and the Regional Water Quality Control Board is not doing anything.”


Kalt also pointed out local issues on Humboldt Bay are twofold. Dredging is definitely an issue because of heavy sedimentation in the bay and the dredge spoils, which can be used for wetland restoration, are prohibitively expensive to move from one location to another.


“Wetlands are incredible at sequestering carbon and when we dredge we get spoils that can be used for wetland restoration,” Kalt said, adding the cost to contain and dewater the spoils so that they can be used and then move it to an area in need of restoration is too high. “The evident solution is to use it for restoration, but there is just no money for that. The permitting is expensive and the Harbor District is operating on a shoestring budget.”


Kalt said the importance of wetland restoration is a key part of the bill because those areas play a key role in filtering pollutants and help protect the shoreline from storm damage and support fish and bird habitats.


“We need to stop pretending no net loss of wetlands is good enough,” Kalt said. “We need net gains in wetlands and this bill will do that.”


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The Center for Biological Diversity is hopeful its lawsuit filed over whale and sea turtle entanglements is nearing its conclusion after a federal judge suggested she may find the California Department of Fish and Wildlife liable for the entanglements, a center spokesman said.


“The judge said she was inclined to grant our motion and find the department liable for allowing these illegal whale entanglements,” spokesman Steve Jones said Friday after the hearing in United States District Court for the Northern District of California. “So the department’s lawyer asked her to delay that ruling for two weeks to see if our settlement talks can arrive at a remedy to the problem.”


The two parties have until March 13 to work out their differences and report back to the judge. If no settlement is reached, the judge will issue a finding.


The Center for Biological Diversity sued the state Department of Fish and Wildlife in October 2017, when the number of whale entanglements was skyrocketing. The peak came in 2016 when there were 71 confirmed whale entanglements.


The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations is a defendant-intervenor in the case and is not taking a position on the liability issue that will be decided in the coming weeks, but is a part of the ongoing talks.


“We are engaging on behalf of the fleet in other factual aspects of the case as they arise and in settlement discussions so we don’t lose any of the progress we’ve made, which has been substantial,” said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of the fishermen’s group. “Fishermen have been doing the hard work necessary to minimize entanglements and promote whale-safe fisheries through voluntary and regulatory measures.”


“To date, to my knowledge, there have been zero entanglements in the Dungeness crab fishery in 2018, the period since major regulatory changes were enacted via state law,” Oppenheim added. “This is a big deal because it indicates that the working group and its risk assessment and mitigation program is working. Throughout this whole process, we can’t lose sight of the fact that fishermen, scientists, and environmentalists came together and put together the most progressive science-based progress of its kind in the country. It would be a shame if we lose our momentum, or worse, were forced to throw all of this progress out the window because of the lawsuit.”


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