News from the Center – Apr/May 2019

2019 is starting out to have a much different feel to it than 2018 did. Following the fall mid-term elections, there is a widespread feeling of hope that we have a chance to begin to turn things around from the dangerous direction we’ve been headed in over the last couple of years.

We have a new progressive majority on the Eureka City Council; an ally and friend of the NEC as Mayor of Arcata, Brett Watson; and a strong new voice for the environment on our County Board of Supervisors, Steve Madrone. Steve has already had a big impact on the Planning Commission, with the appointment of Peggy O’Neill, Planning and Community Development Director for the Yurok Tribe, and having a hand in the appointment of Melanie McCavour. With these new members, the Planning Commission may no longer offer an automatic rubber stamp of approval for the powerful developers and HumCPR. At least on the local level, things are looking up.

Of course there’s always new challenges with every change of the tide. First on that list is Nordic Aquafarms. The owners requested a meeting with NEC representatives, which was well-attended. They conveyed lots of assurances and claims, but did not provide many supportive facts. This appears to be yet another pie in the sky proposal targeting the old pulp mill site, owned by the Harbor District, for development. These projects always promise lots of employment and no environmental downsides, but that’s not how things pan out. Be assured that the Northcoast Environmental Center and our member groups will be closely scrutinizing every detail of potential plans to supposedly raise steelhead, or some other type of fish, on the peninsula.

Second: the City of Eureka has come forward with a plan to reduce congestion on the 4th Street and Broadway corridor. There are some elements of this plan that seem straightforward and so obvious that one wonders why they weren’t done before—like eliminating parking along 4th Street at the northern entrance to Eureka, to create an extra traffic lane to reduce the bottlenecking effect as vehicles enter the city from the north.

However, another element of the plan looks like a complete nonstarter to us: the City is once again bringing back the discredited concept of punching 4th Street through the contaminated wetlands known as the Balloon Tract, site of the failed Arkley Marina Center project, and connect it with Koster Street. That project was appealed and litigated over ten years ago.

NEC Affiliate Member CRTP points out that adding a lane to 4th Street will make the street more dangerous for pedestrians and will encourage more people to drive, creating more tailpipe emissions. It’s also a misuse of funding that’s not supposed to be used to add capacity.

We’ll keep you updated as this moves forward.

• Wilderness bill •

We are eagerly awaiting the reintroduction of the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation and Working Forests Act, authored by Congressman Jared Huffman. The Congressman introduced this bill last July, followed by Sen. Kamala Harris’s introduction in the Senate in December. With the new congress, we hope for a coordinated reintroduction in the House with Senator Kamala Harris’s companion bill in the Senate. Given that Sen. Harris is on the presidential campaign trail that might be difficult, but either way we expect reintroduction in the Senate and House within the next couple of months. This is exciting news for all who have worked on this for the last five-plus years. This time, it will actually go through committees. As always, we’ll keep you posted!

• Humboldt Bay •

Once again we are witnessing Mother Nature trying to reclaim the entrance of the breached lagoon that we call Humboldt Bay. Vast amounts of sediment have always been delivered to the mouth of Humboldt Bay since the entrance was forced open over a 100 years ago, primarily due to extensive clearcut logging practices. Sediment continues to be delivered—in what appears to be increasing amounts—due to the heavy winter rains washing sediments from illegally-graded roads and unpermitted grow sites. This continuing set of circumstances dashes the unrealistic delusions of those who wish to portray Humboldt Bay as some sort of deep water port for industrial shipping.

The Harbor District has declared an emergency because of the current conditions. Without a modern, high-volume dredge dedicated to Humboldt Bay, it will be difficult to continue to keep the entrance of the bay open even for safe passage of our fishing fleet, let alone to keep the marinas deep enough to park boats. This would require the Army Corp of Engineers to invest in a dredge for Humboldt Bay. Under the current administration, don’t hold your breath.

• Comments •

So far this year, the NEC has submitted input calling for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Pacific fisher as threatened. We also submitted input to the State of California about its statewide vegetation treatment program. We agree with most of what has been proposed, but requested that chemical poisons not be used as part of the treatments. We also submitted comments in support of the Karuk tribe’s petition to protect Klamath-Trinity spring-run Chinook salmon under the California Endangered Species Act.

• New board members •

We want to extend a big welcome to two new at-large NEC board members who are well known in the community: Margaret Gainer and Jim Test. Margaret Gainer has joined the board to provide her zero waste and non-profit organizational expertise. Jim Test will be assisting the NEC’s Finance and Personnel Committees, bringing his decades of management and financial experience to the organization. Thanks Maggie and Jim!

• Internships •

We also want to welcome Reanne Lopez, an HSU Environmental Studies senior, as our Special Projects Intern, and Ryan Call, HSU History senior, as our EcoNews Archivist. We’re excited for their enthusiasm and assistance.

This summer we will have five intern positions open: Coastal Cleanup Day Media, Coastal Cleanup Day Planning, Special Projects, EcoNews Archive, and EcoNews Journalism and Production interns. If you know of anyone who might be interested, tell them about these opportunities! More information is also available on our website.

• April events •

We’ll be partnering with two HSU students to kick off April with a Pints for Non-Profits night on Friday, April 5 at Arts and Drafts in Old Town Eureka, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the NEC. We’ll also be celebrating Earth Day with a beach cleanup on Saturday, April 20. See the back page of this issue for more information.

• Birdathon •

This year will mark the Fifth Annual Tim McKay Birdathon, May 4-12. It’s not too early to start forming your team and soliciting donations! Simply sign up and take pledges for the number of birds spotted in a 24-hour period, from anywhere in the world. Proceeds from the Birdathon are split between Redwood Region Audubon Society and the NEC, so two great organizations benefit from your day of birding. Find out more information here:

• Thank you •

Last but not least, we want to extend big thanks to all who came out to our Spaghetti FUN(d)raiser in March! What a great event! The dancing was hopping, the silent auction was packed with local goodies, and the food didn’t disappoint. See photos and read more about it on page 3. If you missed this event, be sure to mark your calendar for our outdoor summer fundraiser on August 24. Details will be announced on our website and in future editions of EcoNews.