Matthew Marshall, executive director of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, explains why a public-private partnership wants to build what could be the country’s first floating wind farm, in the Pacific Ocean.

The waves crashing along the coast of Humboldt County, California, make visible just how much energy exists offshore. If all goes well, within a decade the Pacific Ocean in Northern California will be generating electricity from the first offshore floating wind farm set to be built in the United States.

Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) is a joint powers agency in the city of Eureka, California, that aggregates electricity demand on behalf of the county, a water district and seven cities. RCEA buys much of its energy from various renewable sources on the West Coast, but executive director Matthew Marshall wants to obtain more locally generated electricity. To that end, RCEA announced on April 2 that it had selected a consortium of five companies for a public-private partnership to develop a 100–150 megawatt (MW) floating wind farm 30km (20 miles) off the coast from Eureka. The group consists of Principle Power, EDPR Offshore North America, Aker Solutions, H.T. Harvey & Associates and Herrera Environmental Consultants.

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Recent attempts to resolve local communities’ concerns of drinking water contamination by Mercer-Fraser Company’s proposed cannabis manufacturing facility in Glendale have been unsuccessful, according to a local official, with a local water supplier planning to continue with its appeal of the project.

The Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District — which provides water for about 88,000 residents in Eureka, Arcata, Blue Lake, and the McKinleyville, Manila, Fieldbrook-Glendale and Humboldt community services districts — is appealing the county Planning Commission’s January approval of the Mercer-Fraser Project because of its proximity to one of its drinking water pumps on the Mad River.

The district’s General Manager John Friedenbach said Friday that he thought they had reached a resolution with Mercer-Fraser after a March meeting, but said that resolution was not in place as of Friday.

As to what happened between then, Friedenbach declined to comment and deferred that topic to Mercer-Fraser Company.

Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt opposes Mercer-Fraser’s project and disagrees with the way the resolution talks have been handled.

“Apparently, there has been a lot of negotiations behind the scenes, but the public really deserves to know what is going to be the fate of our drinking water supply,” she said.

Friedenbach said he’d like the board of supervisors to take up the Mercer-Fraser project before the June primary election, in which Sundberg and 4th District Supervisor Virginia Bass are up for re-election.

Asked to elaborate why, Friendbach said, “We just would.”

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Aldaron Laird is well-known as a local sea level rise expert and environmental consultant, but his career began long before rising seas became a concern. I first began working with him on the Humboldt Bay King Tides Initiative in 2011, when he suggested that it would be a good way to turn the public’s attention to the bay during the annual extreme high tides that will soon be the norm.

An avid kayaker, hiker, and photographer, Laird is also known for his extensive knowledge of historical ecology and the complex regulatory framework that governs environmental protection and restoration. He is a long-time proponent of the Public Trust Doctrine, the ancient law adopted by California in 1850 that declared that no one can own the seashore, the air, the oceans, or navigable waterways—these public trust resources belong to all of us.

Laird began his environmental career as a tree planter after graduating from Humboldt State University in 1978. He was a founding member of the Northcoast Reinhabitation Group, a natural resources/forestry contracting and consulting firm based in Blue Lake. Among the Group’s work was some of the first watershed restoration projects in the Redwood Creek expansion area of Redwood National Park in the late 1970s. They also planted millions of trees in Humboldt and Trinity Counties to reverse the damage done by clearcutting, logging roads, and landslides.

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The council spent more than an hour debating what future digital signs may have in the city.
Community Development director Rob Holmlund explained the current regulations and the staff recommendation that digital signs be allowed in some areas; that there be restrictions on sizes; that there be restrictions on the amount of a sign that is digital; and the potential banning of digital billboards.

“I’d like to see a reduction in the size of all of our signs,” Councilwoman Natalie Arroyo said, adding that in her view most signs were like “visual noise.”

In the end, the council chose to move forward with the staff recommendation with some adjustments — the addition of amortization, having a design review committee review all proposed digital signs and looking at dimming requirements for signs between day and night use.

“The goal for the whole thing is to have is be in place by September or October,” Bergel said after the meeting.

She said a full ban on digital billboards is hoped to be in place by July.

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This year the Trump Administration announced an executive order to restart a five-year oil and gas leasing program that would impact the outer continental shelf of the United States, our coastlines. 

However, the U.S. Department of Interior faced some backlash over which areas were being considered for these new projects, including protest and opposition from Humboldt County officials and local environmentalist groups. The county passed a resolution to oppose offshore drilling last week. 

This included a brief explanation by Supervisor Mike Wilson at the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors meeting, as to why they should adopt a resolution and protect the North Coast's resources while also joining other communities across the West Coast. 

"It's not just a stand federally, we're currently doing our local coastal planning process and this stance will inform that process. This is a message to our planning department, as we move forward, and the community of where the Board of Supervisors stands on this and it should be reflected in our land use policies. It has more in it than just responding to the interior department," Wilson said. 

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