Earlier this week President Biden signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, H.R. 2471 – a big spending bill that includes $11.5 million in funding for community projects in Northern California, more than $6 million of which will go towards projects in Humboldt County.
“The projects we put forward address some of the most pressing needs facing our region — from climate resilience and increased affordable housing to critical infrastructure improvements and disaster preparedness,” Rep. Jared Huffman said in an announcement about the bill earlier this week. “After almost a year of advocating on behalf of California’s Second District, I’m excited to say this funding is officially on its way to being signed into law.”
Since Huffman’s announcement, the bill has officially become law, which means that several large-scale Humboldt County projects will soon receive the funding they badly need. The heftiest chunk of money – $5 million – will be used for replacing the Hammond Trail Bridge, something county staff has been pushing toward for a long time.
Hammond Trail Bridge Replacement
Hank Seemann, Humboldt County’s deputy director of environmental services, told the Outpost that the bridge – which serves as a segment of Hammond Trial and crosses above the Mad River, providing a non-motorized connection between McKinleyville and Arcata – has had multiple repairs to keep it functioning over the years, but the bridge is starting to deteriorate beyond repair. Originally a section of railroad, the bridge was converted into a pedestrian walkway in the early 1980s, something Seemann said was very innovative for its time. Unfortunately, the steel bridge has not been able to withstand the elements and, because of its close proximity to the ocean, is very susceptible to severe rust.
Seemann said that the county has applied for grant funding to replace the bridge in the past, but has been unsuccessful, adding that he was very thankful for Huffman’s hard work in helping to secure this funding. The $5 million isn’t quite enough to complete the entire bridge replacement, Seemann said, but it does get the project team very close. Seemann estimated that the project will cost at least $6 million to complete. The $5 million is a very good start though and Seemann said that this money can be used, at the very least, to fully fund the necessary technical studies and engineering components, and that will help the county to leverage the additional funding, most likely from the state.
As for when the community can expect a new bridge, Seemann told the Outpost it will probably be a while. “It’s going to take a little time to get the funding agreement in place and initiate the whole process,” he said. “It’s probably going to be at least two or three years before construction can happen.”
Burre Dental Center Expansion
Another project that will see some of this sweet, sweet federal funding is the Burre Dental Center expansion project. The dental center – a branch of Open Door Community Health Services – will receive $1 million, which will be used to add six additional operatories, hire two additional dentists and to train one additional dental resident each year, according to Huffman’s announcement.
With these expansions, the Burre Dental Center expects to expand capacity by 8,000 visits per year. “This additional dental capacity would be focused on children’s dental health improvement,” the announcement states.
Project Rebound — Humboldt County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy
Additionally, $218,000 will go toward Project Rebound - an effort to retool Humboldt County’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), which is a countywide plan used to help guide economic development.
Humboldt County’s current CEDS was adopted in 2018 and focuses on six industries that were identified and targets of opportunity: building and systems construction, diversified health care, investment support services, management and innovation service, niche manufacturing, and specialty food, flowers and beverages.
Of course, since the pandemic, the county’s economic needs and priorities have shifted. According to Huffman’s statement, the $218,000 will go toward Project Rebound’s community-wide effort to “deconstruct and rebuild the county’s comprehensive economic development strategy (CEDS) with an eye toward creating specific, measurable, and actionable economic strategies which emphasize economic recovery, economic self-sufficiency, and economic equity.”