This view may change. “I want a new name. I’m tired of calling it ‘the old pulp mill.’” – Harbor District Commissioner Mike Wilson
The death of the former Lousiana-Pacific pulp mill was about 45 years in the making. The birth of something new on the site is expected to happen far more quickly. To assist in determining exactly what should rise from the ash fields, the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District – which acquired the mill last August – turned to the community Monday afternoon.
Over 100 residents from Arcata, Eureka and beyond came, saw, mingled, shared thoughts, wrote comments and/or stayed for the presentations offered at the Harbor District’s special open house-economic development committee meeting.
The topic at hand was what to do with the property. Posters detailing the state of the site lined the room. Sticky notes suggesting various options dotted “Innovative Park Uses” boards. Ideas ran the gamut.
Many attendees suggested manufacturing of one sort or another.
“It’s kind of a mess,” Commissioner Greg Dale noted. “The whole thing is unfortunate… but I think for the first time in years, we feel things are moving forward.” Cleaning up the site is the first step, he continued, using it to generate revenue can then follow. “There’s all kind of ideas, from paintball to wrecking ships… I think there’s things out there that can make money, can make jobs, and I think we’re trying as a district to make sure that there’s lots of input, that we get everybody’s thoughts and ideas.”
Humboldt Baykeeper’s Jen Kalt interviews Harbor District Commissioner Greg Dale
Although, Dale added, referencing the dilapidated state of the abandoned structures, “I lean to, of course, a zombie apocalypse theme park.”
Zombies aside, business suggestions include the more serious research, renewable energy, aquaculture, manufacturing, shipping and, most surprisingly, an ethanol distillery. Teisha Mechetti wants to bring her experience working with E85 (a blend of 85 percent ethanol/15 percent gasoline) to the mill site in hopes of providing a “transition” fuel to Humboldt County. After all, jumping from gasoline to non-gasoline is difficult when the majority of people are still driving traditional cars, Mechetti explained. Using E85, she said, still reduces carbon dioxide, lowers smog and volatile organic compounds, and cuts down on greenhouse gases, she said. Her Moonlightning Fuels business plan focuses on using readily available biomass resources locally, thus minimizing use of valuable agricultural land.
Enthusiasm for what could be a nationally recognized marine research, energy and innovation park continued to run high through the afternoon and into the evening.
Commissioner Richard Marks, a Samoa resident who worked at the pulp mill for 30 years, offered high hopes and a historical viewpoint. “I’m very excited about all the people showing up,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of ex-pulp mill workers showing up wanting to know what’s going on with the site… The environmentally friendly projects that might come forward are a big move from what it was. As a harbor commissioner – and with my real concern about conservation – I’m glad we have the EPA and the Coast Guard strike force here leading with a cleanup.” The property should be clean “from the ground up” within a year, Marks said, and after that, “We’re going to start addressing the ground-down clean up.” That part is the responsibility of Lousiana-Pacific, the result of the company’s days of using chlorine and the resultant dioxin contamination. He views the Harbor District taking on the former pulp mill site as “the best thing that could have happened.” Otherwise, Marks said, proper cleanup would likely never have been done.
As far as what the new era might bring, “We’re not a timber industry area any more. We need to take advantage of what we do have… And that is aquaculture, aquaponics and whatever else comes forward with these different projects.”
- 1965 The pulp mill begins production under Georgia-Pacific.
- 1989 The mill’s reputation for pollution culminates in a consolidated Environmental Protection Agency/Surfrider Foundation lawsuit against both the L-P mill and the nearby Simpson mill. Together, the mills were discharging 40 million gallons of untreated chlorinated wastewater into the ocean daily. Not only did beachgoers complain of skin and eye irritation, nausea and other illnesses, but traces of dioxin and furan were found in fish and crab caught offshore.
- 1991 Ultimately, the mills settle the suit, agreeing to pay what was then the third-largest EPA fine levied under the Clean Water Act. Following the settlement, Simpson moves operations to Chile, but L-P opts to go chlorine-free, the first pulp mill in the nation to do so.
- 1990s L-P sells the mill to a group of investors and it goes through a series of owners.
- 2005 Lee & Man purchase the mill from Stockton Pacific under the company’s subsidiary Evergreen Pulp, making it the first Chinese-owned mill complex in the U.S.
- 2006 The Environmental Protection Information Center and Californians Against Toxins file suit against Evergreen Pulp over “significant and ongoing violations” of air quality.
- 2007 Evergreen settles, agrees to install air scrubbers.
- 2008 A freshly divested Evergreen Pulp closes the mill.
- 2009 Freshwater Tissue Co. purchases the mill.
- 2010 Freshwater Tissue Co. announces permanent closure.
- August, 2013 The Harbor District acquires the mill.
- November, 2013 EPA and Coast Guard efforts to clean up the site begin.
Further and detailed history can be found on Richard Marks’ blog.
And… oysters! Provided by Humboldt Bay Oyster Co.
Friday, March 7: 17 felonies, 13 misdemeanors, 0 infractions
Humboldt County Superior Court Calendar: Friday, March 7
1600 Mm36 (Humboldt office): Traffic Hazard
1600 Mm36 (Humboldt office): Traffic Hazard
Sacramento Bee: Manhunt for gunman who shot, wounded SFPD officer
Watch Paul: More Of What Lovelace Hath Wrought
Times-Standard Breaking: 3.0 quake hits near Rio Dell
The rain we’ll be getting this weekend is far too little and much too late for anglers hoping to fish certain stretches of local rivers and streams anytime soon. Yesterday, the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to adopt emergency closures of rivers up and down the state due to severe drought conditions. The move follows a recommendation from the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.
These emergency closures won’t officially take effect until they’re approved by the state Office of Administrative Law, which won’t happen until mid- to late-February, according to a press release. The closures listed below will be in effect until April 30:
- The main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road with the Eel River [that’s near Ferndale, right near the river mouth] to the South Fork Eel River.
- The South Fork of the Eel River downstream from Rattlesnake Creek and the Middle Fork Eel River downstream from the Bar Creek.
- The main stem Van Duzen River from its junction with the Eel River to the end of Golden Gate Drive near Bridgeville.
- The main stem Mad River from the Hammond Trail Railroad Trestle to Cowan Creek.
- The main stem of the Mattole River from the mouth to Honeydew Creek.
- The main stem of Redwood Creek from the mouth to its confluence with Bond Creek.
- The main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to the mouth of Patrick Creek (tributary of the Middle Fork Smith River); the South Fork Smith River from the mouth upstream approximately 1,000 feet to the County Road (George Tyron) bridge and Craig’s Creek to its confluence with Jones Creek; and the North Fork Smith River from the mouth to its confluence with Stony Creek.
“We can’t make it rain, but we can take action to relieve our beleaguered salmon and steelhead populations from any additional stress,” Commission President Michael Sutton said in the press release. “I’m proud that the fishing community supports this action as essential for the conservation of our precious fishery resources.”
UPDATE, 4:46 p.m.: Caltrans has issued a statement.
In response to today’s decision by U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White ruling in favor of Caltrans in a lawsuit that challenged construction of a highway bypass project near Willits, California, Caltrans director Malcolm Dougherty issued the following statement:
“Caltrans takes seriously its responsibility to preserve the species and habitats on these lands and we are pleased that the judge rejected this lawsuit. This project eliminates a chronic traffic bottleneck while enhancing fisheries and hundreds of acres of local wetlands.”
For the latest information about the environmental improvements and the Willits Bypass Project, please visit willitsbypass.wordpress.com.
Press release from the Environmental Protection Information Center:
SAN FRANCISCO— A federal judge ruled today that the California Department of Transportation’s environmental review and permits for the Willits Bypass were adequate and the agency can continue construction of a four-lane freeway around the community of Willits in Mendocino County. The disappointing ruling comes despite the fact that construction has destroyed and damaged sensitive wetlands, the headwaters of salmon-bearing streams, oak woodlands and endangered species habitats.
Earlier this year Caltrans began cutting mature oak forests and clearing riparian vegetation along critical salmon streams in Little Lake Valley, and began extensive draining and filling of wetlands, despite violations and improper issuance of federal and county quarry and fill permits.
“It’s disappointing that the court accepted Caltrans’ inadequate review and flawed rationale for the purpose and need of this project,” said Aruna Prabhala, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We disagree with the determination that the environmental impacts of the Willits Bypass project are not significant - Little Lake Valley is being devastated by the construction. Unfortunately this is just one of the irrational and expensive highway projects Caltrans is pushing throughout the state that will cause extensive environmental damage without solving traffic or safety concerns.”
“This is a painful lesson in how Caltrans operates with impunity to justify building unnecessary and oversized projects,” said Ellen Drell of the Willits Environmental Center. “Caltrans made false claims to permitting agencies and the courts saying that only a four-lane freeway bypass, with two enormous interchanges, would solve the traffic congestion in Willits, when smaller alternatives would have done the job.”
“The irregularities of the review and permitting process for this massive project have undermined the legitimacy of the Willits Bypass project,” said Gary Graham Hughes of EPIC. “It is a disappointment that the court did not hold Caltrans accountable for playing fast and loose with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act, two of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws.”
Conservation groups sued Caltrans and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May 2012 for violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act in approving the bypass project. Caltrans refused to consider two-lane alternatives and new information about lower traffic volumes, and failed to conduct adequate environmental review for substantial design changes resulting in more severe environmental impacts. Local residents have protested the destruction, occupied the construction site, chained themselves to equipment and sat in trees to stop the project.
Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration are pursuing a bypass on Highway 101 around Willits, supposedly to ease traffic congestion. The agencies insist on a four-lane freeway and have refused to consider or analyze equally effective two-lane alternatives or in-town solutions. The project will construct a six-mile, four-lane bypass including several bridges over creeks and roads, a mile-long viaduct spanning the floodplain, and two interchanges.
Although Caltrans documents show that traffic projected to use the bypass is not enough to warrant a four-lane freeway, the agency unilaterally discarded all non-freeway or two-lane alternatives. New information shows that Highway 101 traffic volumes through Willits are below what Caltrans projected when it determined a four-lane freeway was needed. Caltrans has used unrealistic traffic and growth projections in several projects around the state to justify large highway widening projects.
Bypass construction will harm wildlife habitat and biological resources in Little Lake Valley, including more than 80 acres of wetlands and more than 400 acres of farmland, and requires the largest wetlands fill permit in Northern California in the past 50 years. It will damage stream and riparian habitat for chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout in three streams converging into Outlet Creek, harm the rare plant Baker’s meadowfoam, and destroy increasingly scarce oak woodlands.
A statewide coalition of conservation organizations is challenging irresponsible and damaging highway-widening projects around the state by Caltrans, and calling attention to the agency’s pervasive refusal to consider reasonable alternatives to massive highway projects, shoddy environmental review, lack of transparency, reliance on flawed data and disregard for public input. The Caltrans Watch coalition aims to put the brakes on Caltrans’ wasteful spending, institutionalized disregard of environmental regulations designed to protect natural resources, and pattern of refusal to address local concerns.
Word from the beach is Bureau of Land Management rangers are gaining a new tool in their quest to stop speed demons out at the North Jetty. No, we’re not talking about the folks engaging in meth use – although Surfrider’s regular beach cleanups would suggest plenty of that is going on – nor is it a case of big-wave riders breaking the shred limit.*
What we’re discussing is the fact that too many people are driving too fast on the various roads leading from the BLM gate to the beach. Due to the number of complaints, the rangers are rumored to be acquiring radar guns to better enforce that 15 MPH speed limit.
So yes, the sunsets have been gorgeous and the end of the spit is a fine place for viewing them (from a safe distance from the deadly, freezing, shark-infested waves, natch) but take your time getting there.
*h/t Hank Sims
Earlier today, Earth First! Humboldt sent out a press release announcing that it would rally at tomorrow’s Board of Supervisors on plans for the McKay Tract Community Forest.
Earth First! Humboldt? Yes, it still exists.
An hour or so ago, your Lost Coast Outpost and KHUM’s Mike Dronkers spoke with “Ama,” a Earth First! Humboldt representative, on her background, the current state of Earth First! in Humboldt, and whether or not an Earth First! rally in favor of the community forest is really the most tactically sound decision:
From Earth First! Humboldt:
You’re invited to a rally and speak-out in support of the McKay Tract Community Forest at NOON on TUESDAY DEC 17th at the Humboldt County Courthouse in Eureka.
We call on the Board of Supervisors to purchase the MAXIMUM proposed acreage (1,415 acres) for the upcoming McKay/Eureka Community Forest. The Community Forest MUST FUND AND INCLUDE Phase 2, 866 acres which contains the mature 2nd growth redwood forest that was the focus of the 4 year long McKay Tract tree-sit campaign.
The original idea of turning parts of the McKay Tract into a Community Forest came as a result of Earth First! Humboldt’s 4 year occupation of a mature, 2nd-growth redwood forest that had been slated for clearcut by timber company Green Diamond.
Come tell the Board of Supervisors why they must include one of the oldest, most ecologically significant portions of McKay Tract forest in the final Eureka Community Forest plan. If the area is not included, it could be in danger once again.
This is the LAST public meeting before the Board of Supervisors decide the size and extent of the McKay Community Forest. See you on 12/17 at noon!
Tuesday December 17th:
NOON Rally (veggie lunch will be served) at Humboldt Co. Courthouse in Eureka
2 PM McKay Tract portion of Board of Supervisors meeting