News From the Center | August 2023

Larry Glass, NEC Board President
Caroline Griffith, NEC Executive Director

Forest Service Forms Northwest Forest Plan Federal Advisory Committee

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, on behalf of The US Forest Service, has created a new Federal Advisory Committee to provide recommendations on modernizing landscape management across the national forests within the Northwest Forest Plan area (Washington, Oregon and Northern California). The Forest Service must update the Northwest Forest Plan before it can proceed with the updates for the individual forests covered by the plan, so this advisory group has the ability to shape forest policy for years to come.

On July 7 the Forest Service announced the 21 members it appointed to this committee, and there are some familiar names. One is Jerry Franklin, PhD, a name that many forest activists are familiar with from the original Northwest Forest Plan There seems to be a diverse cross section of people appointed to this committee, but one fault we would point out is that with the 21 people selected there is nobody representing grassroots, on the ground, environmental activists. A number of well qualified activists applied but were not selected. That said, there are three people with environmental credentials that we are happy to see on the committee: a well known environmental lawyer, Susan Jane Brown; a representative from the national group The Wilderness Society, Mike Anderson; and director of the FireGeneration Collaborative, Ryan Reed. There seems to be a number of Tribal representatives as well, which is a positive sign. Along with these are members of academia and representatives of industry.

The committee is tasked with making recommendations focused on climate-informed amendments to the Northwest Forest Plan and updating management direction so that national forests are managed sustainably, adapted to climate change, and resilient to wildfire, insects, disease, and other disturbances, while meeting the needs of local communities.

The Northwest Forest Plan was first implemented in 1994. It was designed to protect old-growth forests and critical habitat for the northern spotted owl, while also providing for forest products, water quality, recreation and other uses.

According to a recent inventory conducted by federal researchers as required by President Biden’s Executive Order on Strengthening the Nation’s Forest, Communities, and Local Economies, the 17 national forests represented in the Northwest Forest Plan contain one quarter of the remaining old-growth forest on national forests and grasslands in the lower 48 states.

The NEC has joined with many other groups in a coalition that will make comments to the committee.

Harbor District Starts Environmental Review Phase of Wind Terminal Development

We’ve been keeping an eye on the prospect of offshore wind development for the past few years. Both the federal government and the State of California have big goals for offshore wind energy production by 2030 (30GW and 5GW, respectively), which will require port facilities to deploy the turbines from. With the Humboldt Wind Energy Area (approximately 20 miles offshore of our coast) as one of the first areas leased by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), our region is on-deck to be one of the first developed on the West Coast in service of the wind energy industry. This is going to be a lengthy process with multiple components (the actual turbines floating offshore, the transmission lines to bring the energy to consumers, the port facility in Humboldt Bay), and each of those components will be going through a different permitting process. Here at the NEC we’re ready to help people understand the process and how to have their voice heard.

On June 26 the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District issued a Notice of Preparation (NOP) of a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for what will be the first and most visible component of this process – the development of port facilities to support the industry. The deadline for comments has been extended to August 25. This is just the beginning of a long process, so if you miss this deadline there will still be opportunities to weigh in about this project.

The Humboldt Bay Offshore Wind Heavy Lift Multipurpose Marine Terminal Project, as the Harbor District is calling it, will be the largest development project on Humboldt Bay in decades. The proposal involves taking a 180-acre former-mill site on Samoa Peninsula and building a multi-purpose terminal capable of constructing 1000+ foot tall turbines and towing them out to sea. So what does that mean in terms of development? While we don’t want to ruin the fun of reading the full NOP, which you totally should do, we can tell you that the proposal involves building 3 new wharfs totaling a maximum of approximately 2,500’ along the shoreline, dredging the federal channel to ~40’ Mean Low Lower Water (MLLW) and one berth to ~60 MLLW, installation of high-mast terminal lighting, grading and relocating utilities, constructing approximately 650,000 square feet of buildings and more. 

Once the District receives comments from the public about what potential impacts of wind terminal development should be studied, it will embark on the process of developing the DEIR. Do you have concerns about impacts from dredging? Increased traffic? Impacts to wildlife? Sea level rise? Let them know. You can find information about submitting comments at yournec.org/wind-terminal-notice-of-preparation.