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.
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Hank Sims / Friday, Feb. 7 @ 2:26 p.m. / Local Government
Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass kicked off her reelection campaign on the courthouse steps this afternoon, surrounded by dozens of supporters and well-wishers. (Possibly along with some non-supporters and ill-wishers, as the supervisor was later to hypothesize from the podium.)
Bass was introduced by Supervisor Rex Bohn, Eureka Mayor Frank Jager, Eureka City Councilmember Melinda Ciarabellini and former Supervisor Jimmy “Mr. Politics” Smith, the latter of whom set record levels on the Applause-O-Meter.
“Through my efforts, as well as the efforts of the other electeds and the very dedicated staff in the different entities, we’ve made significant progress, with our collaborative efforts, in making improvements in areas such as economic development, environmental protection and public safety,” Bass said, wonkishly, when she took the podium. “In the near term, through these very same collaborations, you can expect additional creative and proactive steps toward reducing homelessness, empowering the neighborhoods and providing access to those in the community who need access without closing the businesses who provide the very jobs we need in our community.”
Without saying it directly, she also took partial credit for forcing out former Community Development Services Director Kirk Girard. The line got mass applause from the appreciative crowd.
Video follows. Sorry: Bohn got a sentence or two in before your Lost Coast Outpost got its camera got rolling.
Ruth Lake Spillway.
The Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District just sent out the following press release, which talks about the state of their reserves during this time of drought. As you read, remember: This pertains only to the county’s major urban center — in and around the bay. The district has had a big surplus in the past many years, and so the drought doesn’t look to be as disastrous here as it will be elsewhere in the state.
Outside the district’s service area, though, it might well be a different and grimmer story entirely. If you missed it, you should go check Kym’s great drought roundup post from earlier this morning.
Press release from the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District:
With drought conditions continuing into the foreseeable future, the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District (HBMWD) is asking local residents and businesses to voluntarily reduce water use.
According to HBMWD General Manager Carol Rische, “Fortunately we are not in the same dire situation as the majority of California reservoirs. That said, the reservoir at Ruth Lake is low, currently 55% full, as opposed to the usual 90% at this time of year. However, when we compare levels historically, during the 1976-77 drought, Ruth Reservoir was only 35% full at the end of January.”
Rische added, “The District’s demands are significantly lower today than they were in 1976-77 as we no longer supply water to two pulp mills. That means even if we receive no additional rain this year, the District has ample supply to meet its municipal demand for the next 12 months.”
The National Weather Service Office shows Humboldt County’s rainfall from October 2013 through December 2013 at 12% of normal at Woodley Island, Eureka and 15% of normal at the Eureka/Arcata Airport. Similar conditions exist throughout Humboldt County.
The accompanying graph shows monthly rainfall totals at Ruth Lake during Humboldt’s driest years. From October 2013 – January 2014 Ruth Lake had less than 3 inches of rainfall, even lower than other dry years. Normal rainfall at Ruth Lake during this time frame is 24 inches. However, Rische said, “it is not uncommon to receive significant rainfall from February - April. A few good storms can recharge the reservoir. In fact, over the last 30 years Ruth Lake filled in February or March 30% of the time.”
According to the Climate Prediction Center’s one-month outlook for northwest California, there is an equal chance of wet or dry weather as opposed to just below normal precipitation, National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Garcia said. The three-month outlook indicates above normal temperatures and below normal rainfall. *
“We are hoping for the best in terms of more rainfall this season, but planning for the potential of very little additional rain,” said HBMWD board member Sheri Woo. “Earlier this month, HBMWD entered Action Stage 1 of the Water Shortage Contingency Plan.
Under Action Stage 1, releases from Ruth Lake were reduced to the minimum levels necessary to meet the District’s diversion and bypass flow requirements.” Woo indicated that this is a very rare step to take during the winter season.
While Governor Brown recently declared a statewide drought emergency and has urged residents to reduce water use by 20%, Woo said HBMWD is currently calling for voluntary conservation. “HBMWD provides water to the following municipalities: City of Arcata, City of Eureka, City of Blue Lake, Fieldbrook-Glendale Community Services District, Humboldt Community Services District, Manila Community Services District, and McKinleyville Community Services District. At this time we are closely monitoring water levels to determine if and when mandatory conservation is required. If we believe it is, HBMWD will work closely with our customers to help implement conservation.”
What can you do? Rische said there are a number of things individuals and businesses can do to conserve water. “Go to our web site, www.hbmwd.com and click the link to California’s Save Our Water web site. There are a number of suggestions on reducing both inside and outside water use. We appreciate our community’s willingness to work together to conserve water for the benefit of all.”
HBMWD is located at 828 Seventh Street in Eureka, www.hbmwd.com.
*Times-Standard January 23, 2014
Hank Sims / Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 @ 12:41 p.m. / Local Government
On Dec. 24, Judge W. Bruce Watson handed the City of Eureka some yuletide cheer by dismissing half of the lawsuit brought against it earlier in the year — the one that claims the city is violating the California Constitution by engaging in a couple of religiousy practices.
Watson’s Christmas Eve ruling told the City that the council may go forth with its practice of starting council meetings with an “invocation” — an appeal to non-specific sky gods asking that fortune smile on the proceedings to follow. Such invocations are perfectly lawful, Watson ruled, so long as specific gods are not favored over others.
But Watson’s narrow summary judgment in favor of the invocations leaves more than a few matters in the lawsuit — brought by local resident Carole Beaton and attorney Peter Martin — uh, up in the air, as it were. One: Did a Hindu religious leader cross the line into religious advocacy during one such invocation last year? What about that time someone used invocation time to sing “God Bless America”? Did those cross into (presumably illegal) advocacy? Watson leaves the question open for the nonce.
Secondly: What about Eureka Mayor Frank Jager’s “Prayer Breakfast,” which he has taken to holding every year at the (city-owned) Wharfinger Building? Did the mayor get the building at a discount for his Xtian activities? Did staff time go into promoting the event? Is that all OK, legally speaking, or no?
These questions remain open. But still: A win is a win. Was this Eureka Mayor Jager’s best Christmas present?
“I wouldn’t say it was the best I received all year, but it was good,” the mayor told the Outpost.
Read Judge Watson’s full decision here.
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