Humboldt Baykeeper: Big Lagoon Asphalt Plant; Humboldt Bay Fish Advisory

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Baykeeper Appeals County Permit for Big Lagoon Asphalt Plant

Humboldt Baykeeper is appealing the County’s Coastal Development Permit for an asphalt plant near Big Lagoon, a sensitive waterway known for its abundant fish, migratory birds, and popularity with kayakers and swimmers.

The County Planning Commission approved a five-year permit with a five-year extension for an asphalt plant just east of Big Lagoon. The County’s environmental review was limited to the impacts of the one-year temporary permit that was approved in 2017. The County failed to address many of its own coastal policies, including impacts to recreation, sensitive habitat, scenic views, and floodplain development.

The site is within the 100-year flood zone adjacent to Maple Creek on the site of the former Louisiana-Pacific lumber mill, which was dismantled in 2003. Potential industrial contamination at the site has not been analyzed, so the extent of soil and/or groundwater contamination is unknown.

The County permit would allow the asphalt plant to operate 24/7 with no conditions to limit light pollution, odor, and other impacts to a designated Coastal Scenic Area, Harry A. Merlo State Recreation Area, Big Lagoon County Park and Campground, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Big Lagoon Wildlife Area. Although the temporary permit expired in March, the asphalt plant remains on the site, and is visible from
Big Lagoon and Highway 101.

Big Lagoon is an important area for coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead and coastal Cutthroat trout, tidewater goby, migratory birds, and water-based recreation, including kayaking, fishing, sailing, windsurfing, waterfowl hunting, standup paddle boarding, and swimming.

If you recreate at Big Lagoon and/or Maple Creek, we want to hear from you! Tell us why you love Big Lagoon and how often you go there.

We will keep the public informed of the next steps, including future opportunities for public comment. If you are not on our email list and would like to be added, contact us at

State Issues Humboldt Bay Fish Advisory using Baykeeper’s Mercury Data

California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment's fish advisory guide for Humboldt Bay.
California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s fish advisory guide for Humboldt Bay.

In October, the State of California issued an official fish advisory for Humboldt Bay using data from Humboldt Baykeeper’s recent study of mercury in fish and shellfish. The advisory addresses eight species of fish, some of which are safe to eat up to seven times a week.

Only leopard shark is listed as unsafe to consume in any amounts. Lingcod is considered safe for children and women of childbearing age to eat one serving a week. An adult serving is eight ounces uncooked (four ounces cooked), while a child’s serving is half that size.

The state advisory also used studies of PCBs, DDT, and other contaminants in Humboldt Bay fish dating from 1990 to 2016 to develop the guidelines.

For coastal areas without site-specific guidance, the state issued a guide to eating fish from the California coast in 2016. You can find links to both advisories on our website.

Baykeeper sampled California halibut, clams, oysters, and other species that are not included in the state’s advisory. To download Baykeeper’s recommendations for eating fish and shellfish from Humboldt Bay, visit our website at The guidelines are also available in Spanish and Hmong.