After narrowly rejecting Coast Seafoods’ planned oyster farming expansion and denying renewal of the company’s permit in June, the California Coastal Commission on Thursday reversed course and unanimously agreed to extend the permit through the end of the year.
If the commission hadn’t done so, Coast Seafoods would have had to immediately shut down operations on Humboldt Bay, Undercurrent News reports. The company plans to submit a revised expansion plan to the commission before the end of the year.
Coast Seafood had already received permit extensions from both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.
“The intent of these extensions is to ensure that Coast’s permits remain active while it considers and develops a proposal for its longer-term plans in Arcata Bay,” Coastal Commission Senior Environmental Scientist Cassidy Teufel told the Outpost last month.
Opponents of the previously planned 265-acre expansion, led by Audubon California, claimed it would damage eelgrass beds in the bay, impacting wildlife such as the local black brant population. Hunters, meanwhile, want the brant to remain numerous so they can more easily shoot some of them.
Advocates, meanwhile, say eelgrass is prevalent in Humboldt Bay largely because of the relatively pristine water quality, which is achieved partly through oyster farming operations (oysters being filter feeders).
In another major decision affecting local commerce, the commission unanimously approved a county proposal to loosen restrictions on the land surrounding the bay, the Times-Standard‘s Will Houston reports. You may recall that just over a year ago the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted to allow more types of businesses to temporarily set up shop around the harbor on land that’s zoned strictly for coastal-dependent industries.
The county currently has an overabundance of such land — about 1,200 acres of it, with only 50 or so acres currently being used for coastal-dependent purposes.
The issue took on extra significance for the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District after it took over ownership of the former Samoa Pulp Mill and developed plans to convert it into multi-use economic engine called the National Marine Research and Innovation Park.
While industries not directly tied to the water will now be allowed to locate along the bay, they must not obstruct the possible return of copious coastal-dependent industries down the line.