The Great Redwood Trail overcame a major hurdle late Thursday afternoon, when a federal regulator turned down the Skunk Train’s offer to buy 13 miles of track north of Willits. The Great Redwood Trail Agency, which owns the track, had asked the Surface Transportation Board, which regulates railroads, to allow it to abandon the track so it could start the process of converting it into a trail. The Board approved the abandonment, effective on June 19, unless it received a formal notice from an entity intending to buy part or all of the line. The Skunk Train, also known as Mendocino Railway, did so. Last Saturday, it filed its bid, known as an Offer of Financial Assistance, which the Board rejected within the five-day legal timeframe. The Board also lifted the hold on its authorization to abandon the line, which means that as of Tuesday, October 25, the entire 176 miles of track from Willits to just outside Eureka is officially an abandoned railway.

The Board agreed that Mendocino Railway “has not demonstrated financial responsibility.” Meanwhile, the Great Redwood Trail Agency has released its “Feasibility, Governance, and Railbanking Report,” which McGuire refers to as the “Master Plan.” He anticipates it will take two to three years to get through the details of construction, fire safety, and community engagement before trail building begins. There will be a virtual town hall about the master plan on Monday night at 6:30 p.m.

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The county is planning on mitigating the risks of sea level rise along a particularly vulnerable stretch of Highway 101 between Eureka and Arcata by restoring salt marsh.
Restoring about 17 acres of salt marsh along a 1.25-mile stretch of Highway 101 between Brainard and Bracut would reduce the risk of flooding and the erosion of the shoreline for at least a century, Humboldt County Public Works Deputy Director Hank Seemann told the commissioners of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District on Thursday.
“If sea level rise continues to accelerate, there would be some point in the future where the salt marsh could get flooded out, but our study concluded it would likely have benefits for several decades,” Seemann said.
The Humboldt Bay Natural Shoreline Infrastructure Feasibility Study, which was completed in September, illustrated the most feasible designs and what the shoreline is expected to look like once the project is complete.
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Sea level is rising more rapidly in the Humboldt Bay region than in any other place on the US West Coast. Cal Poly Humboldt’s Center for Sea Level Rise has been looking at the implications and last Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle gave us feature treatment.Sea level is rising more rapidly in the Humboldt Bay region than in any other place on the US West Coast. Cal Poly Humboldt’s Center for Sea Level Rise has been looking at the implications and last Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle gave us feature treatment.
Sea level rise became news in the 1970s. Studies were published and in 1988 the UN formed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was formed. Since 1993, satellite altimetry has provided a global picture of the rising oceans. The current estimate of average sea level rise is 3.4 millimeters (.13 inches) per year. There is no gray area here, it is a measured fact.
But the ocean isn’t a bathtub, and the rise is not uniform, rising more rapidly in some areas and dropping in others. How water level changes locally is a function of many variables. The three most important are thermal expansion, the supply of water, and deformation of the sea floor.
Water expands as it warms. A warmer ocean raises sea level with no additional water. Expansion rates are complex and depend on salinity, temperature, and pressure. There are seasonal changes and longer ones. Thermal expansion in strong El Niño years can raise the background tide levels by nearly a foot.
Added water comes from three main sources: valley glaciers, the Greenland ice sheet, and the Antarctic ice sheet. I called them the three dominos when I taught about sea level rise. Alas, the valley glaciers are nearly gone and much of their contribution is already in the ocean. Melting of the Greenland ice sheet is well underway and all eyes are now on Antarctica. It will be the primary driver of sea level rise over the next century.
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The proposed Nordic Aquafarms California fish farm project on the Samoa Peninsula lurched forward Aug. 28 as the Board of Supervisors, at the end of a nine-hour meeting, voted unanimously, with Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone absent, to reject an appeal of the project's environmental impact report and grant the company three necessary permits. But the board's action came with some conditions: The company must produce an annual "sustainability report" to track its greenhouse emissions — including those caused by fish food consumption and its fleet of delivery trucks — and it must hold an annual forum to discuss issues that have arisen during the year, while donating a minimum of $25,000 yearly to an "appropriate community project."
In addition, the project's construction must proceed in two phases, and the second phase cannot begin until the first — which includes cleaning and remediating the polluted site it will occupy — is satisfactorily completed.
Nordic is still a long way from breaking ground. It must get additional permits from the California Coastal Commission, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, the National Marine Fisheries and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before it can proceed.
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Anchored by the cities of Eureka and Arcata and known for its redwood forests, cannabis tourism and cool, misty beaches, Humboldt Bay also has an unwelcome distinction: It has the fastest rate of sea level rise on the West Coast.
Tectonic activity is causing the area around the bay roughly 300 miles north of San Francisco to sink, which gives it a rate of sea level rise that is about twice the state average. Compared to 2000, the sea in the area is expected to rise 1 foot by 2030, 2.3 feet by 2050 and 3.1 feet by 2060, according to California Ocean Protection Council.
Residential areas, wastewater treatment plants and a segment of Highway 101 that connects Eureka and Arcata are all at risk — especially when the frequent and intense storms associated with climate change trigger more flooding. There are even long-term worries about a nuclear waste storage facility on the bluffs. Yet the region also has become a test case for how to adapt to a problem that faces all of coastal California, including by restoring wetlands that were filled in for logging and farming in earlier eras.
“We say the bay is going to take back from us what we borrowed for the last hundred years or so,” said Jennifer Kalt, director of the nonprofit group Humboldt Baykeeper and a member of the Cal Poly Humboldt Sea Level Rise Institute.
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