News from the Center: Apr/May 2018

NEC logoAs we write this, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors seems unwilling to hear the appeal of Mercer Fraser’s controversial project on the Mad River before the June election. The Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District (HBMWD) appealed the January 11 Planning Commission decision to approve the rezoning and permits for Mercer Fraser’s project. The project is for a proposed chemical extraction facility for cannabis (a.k.a. hash lab) right next to the Mad River, near the intake wells that provide drinking water for two thirds of the residents of Humboldt County. The site is also in the 100-year floodplain and well under the high water mark of the 1964 flood.

By granting this zoning change, the Planning Commission permits Mercer-Fraser, or a surrogate, to construct a toxic chemical cannabis extraction facility too close to HBMWD intake wells on the Mad River.  In fact, rezoning this parcel to heavy industrial would allow a litany of other potentially dangerous uses to occur on this parcel. If this zoning change is allowed to stand, we say the county is required to do a full environmental impact report in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act. The NEC has joined with seven different public agencies, other environmental groups and the public at large in supporting HBMWD’s appeal of the rezoning of this parcel and ask the public to demand the supervisors hear this appeal in a timely manner before the June election. Please contact your supervisor. Click here for contact information.

This is not the only questionable project of this type. A similar permit was approved by the Planning Commission for a cannabis extraction facility at Big Rock on the Trinity River in Willow Creek, near the popular swimming hole and a few feet from the 100-year flood zone. It also includes the unpermitted use of public lands (Six Rivers National Forest) and is close to an elementary school.

These and other projects that are approved by the Humboldt County Planning Commission without appropriate environmental review and community notification reiterate the need for local environmental groups as watchdogs, like your Northcoast Environmental Center.

Enclosed in this issue of EcoNews is a Board of Supervisors Candidate Questionnaire, organized by the NEC. This questionnaire was sent to the two candidates in the fifth district, Ryan Sundberg and Steve Madrone, and the three candidates in the fourth district, Virginia Bass, Dani Burkhart and Mary Ann Lyons. All were given ten days to respond to the ten questions and a 100-word limit per question. Our goal with this questionnaire is for you to be informed regarding the position of the candidates on important environmental issues affecting Humboldt County. Don’t forget to vote on June 5!

The NEC continues to be on guard and closely watching the Trump administration’s multipronged attempts to exploit the North Coast’s natural resources. In particular focus at this time is the attempts to open up our coast for offshore oil drilling. Our best opportunity, considering the universal opposition to this folly on the North Coast, appears to be blocking any attempt to have onshore support facilities located in our region.  We strongly support the resolution sponsored by Supervisor Mike Wilson and  unanimously supported by the Board of Supervisors (click here for more). This resolution gives direction to incorporate anti-offshore oil policy into Humboldt County’s Local Coastal Plan (LCP) update.  As Supervisor Wilson points out, the current LCP (circa 1985) has over 1000 acres around Humboldt Bay designated to support offshore oil development. This includes onshore processing and constructing oil derricks for other places. This will require our vigilance and needs to be changed. The NEC will participate and keep you informed about the LCP update process to ensure that our beautiful coast is protected.

Because the U.S. Navy restricted areas to our south and greenlighted our offshore region as “Compatible with Navy and Marine Activities,” there are proposals coming forward for offshore wind projects. We will continue to review these as they are proposed, as well as any onland wind projects. When it becomes clear which of these projects are actually viable, we will keep our members informed as to possible environmental effects and benefits. For more information, click here.

In February, the NEC board of directors had a successful strategic planning meeting which helped reaffirm our previous decisions and the direction we need to continue on, like serving as a hub for environmental groups and as a gateway for getting young/new people involved in the environmental movement. We also will continue to engage with the next generation on local environmental issues by creating a youth council of high school to college age students. We will also improve our outreach via single-item email action alerts and an improved news section on our new website (coming soon!).

Our Spring dinner, dance and silent auction was a successful fundraiser—thanks to Kingfoot for the great music and to all who came out for a fabulous evening! Photos of the event can be found here on our website.

With summer right around the corner and another HSU semester ending, the NEC will be posting summer internships for GIS, Coastal Cleanup Day (Media and Planning), EcoNews Journalists and Special Projects. We’ll also be hiring a part time Office Assistant/Programs Coordinator as we’ll sadly be saying goodbye to Anne Maher as she focuses on the next phase of her career.  Be sure to check our website for these internships and job descriptions.

These successful and ongoing efforts wouldn’t be possible without you, our supporters.
Thank you very much!