Solutions Summit | August 2023

Funding for Humboldt Habitat Improvement

Friends of the Eel River Press Release

On July 11 the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors authorized $543,000 in grant funding to 12 applicants for sediment-reduction projects in key salmon habitats. The Board also decided to, at a future meeting, allocate remaining funds to public works to complete additional high priority sediment reduction projects. This allocation is the final round for the Cannabis Mitigation and Remediation Grant Program established by the County as part of a 2019 settlement agreement with Friends of the Eel River (FOER).

The agreement was the result of a lawsuit brought by FOER in 2018. The group argued that the county had not yet done enough to mitigate watershed impacts of commercial cannabis cultivation in Humboldt’s easily eroded hills. “On behalf of Eel River salmon and steelhead, we are grateful to announce this agreement to reduce sediment impacts,” said Friends of the Eel River Executive Director Alicia Hamann in October of 2019. “This agreement won’t solve all the problems that have built up over decades, but it’s a great place to start.”

“A lot of the conversation around the impacts of the commercial cannabis industry has focused on water diversions and the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Those are important issues,” said Scott Greacen, FOER’s Conservation Director, in a press release about the initial settlement. “But overall, roughly 90 percent of the impacts of Humboldt’s pot industry on salmon and steelhead come from sediment – from too much dirt coming off our roads and getting in our creeks.”

Under the agreement, Humboldt County had to invest an initial $1.1 million in a fund to finance culvert replacements and road repairs in the Redwood Creek and Sprowl Creek watersheds. Through 2023, the fund will also receive 20 percent of fines and penalties collected by the county in cannabis enforcement. The fund makes grants to “sediment reduction programs associated with roads serving cannabis cultivation sites. Grants shall be awarded to fund improvements to public and private road improvement projects undertaken with the specific purpose of protecting water quality in streams, creeks and rivers. At least 80 percent of funds shall be used for actual road improvements.”

In addition to establishing the grant fund, the settlement required the County to prioritize enforcement actions on the most egregious violators and the most environmentally harmful sites. It included stipulations for improved communication with wildlife agency staff, increased transparency with annual reporting requirements, and allocation of an initial $500,000 to public works to complete prioritized sediment reduction projects on County-maintained roads.

There is still $287,008.00 left in the fund for qualified projects. According to Hamann, one option for the County, in order to keep this fund going and continue to reduce sediment in our watersheds due to cannabis cultivation, would be to apply for funding through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Cannabis Restoration Grant program. Working with CDFW could get more money for local watersheds, create jobs, help water quality and help the fish. “It’s a rare win, win, win,” says Hamann.

“Water diversions and fertilizer runoff from cannabis cultivation are certainly harmful, but in the Eel watershed by far the greatest impacts to salmon and steelhead are from sediment, much of it from poorly maintained roads and crappy culverts,” said Greacen. “Humboldt County’s history of laissez-faire policy left us with a mountain of problems to address. The investments in the future of our fisheries we’ve been able to make with this grant program are a good start, but it’s incumbent on County leaders to keep the momentum going.”

Building a Better Carbon Capture System

by Greg Basky of Canadian Light Source

Carbon capture has been hailed as a ground-breaking technology for cleaning the air. And it is, but there are some drawbacks – it’s expensive, and most technology requires the generation and application of heat, which creates emissions.

There had to be a better way, thought Dr. Haotian Wang, associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Rice University at Houston, Texas.

Wang and his team found it in a process of electrolysis they studied at Rice and collaborated on with the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan. They have devised a modular solid electrolyte reactor that, in time, will be usable everywhere, in industry but also for “household use, small business use, space station, submarine, any enclosed environment,” he said. Their study was published in the journal Nature.

“Our new approach is integrated capture and regeneration, which means that you can continuously concentrate the carbon dioxide from dilute sources into almost 100 percent purity.”

The reactor is divided into three chambers. Electrolysis, a process by which electric current is passed through a substance to effect a chemical change, occurs on two sides — one performing oxygen reduction and the other oxygen evolution. The oxygen reduction reaction creates an alkaline environment, which captures carbon and then releases it in the central chamber.

The carbon can either be stored underground or converted to valuable products such as alcohols, “which is also an important direction we are working on,” Wang said.

Crucially, no chemical inputs other than water are required and no side products are generated.

$2900 Raised for the NEC by Change 4 Change

Caroline Griffith, NEC Executive Director, received $2900 from Eureka Natural Foods in July 2023. Thank you!