The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District will welcome a new executive director at the end of this year. 

During tonight’s meeting, the Harbor District Board of Commissioners is slated to approve an employment agreement with the district’s Deputy Executive Director Chris Mikkelsen. If approved, Mikkelsen would take the helm at the Harbor District on Dec. 1, one month before the departure of the district’s current Executive Director Larry Oetker.

Larry Oetker | Contributed

“I’ve worked closely with Chris for the last five years and he’s been a huge part of our success at the Harbor District,” Oetker told the Outpost in a phone interview this morning. “Chris came to the district with a great deal of knowledge surrounding property management and private sector development … he brings a great deal of can-do spirit and knowledge to the district. … That’s really what we need right now to get these projects built. We believe he’s the perfect person for the job.”

Oetker is set to retire on Dec. 31 after six years with the Harbor District. During his time in the position, Oetker has overseen a “complete revitalization of the Port of Humboldt Bay.”

“To make Humboldt Bay into a port of regional and national significance is really what we charted out to do,” he said. “The port has been completely underutilized, from an economic development standpoint, since the collapse of the timber industry. So, over the course of the last several years, the board and [I] have charted out this pathway to work with the County of Humboldt, the town of Samoa and people out on the peninsula to clean things up and bring in a new wastewater treatment plant.”

The Harbor District has also “mostly cleared” the former Samoa Pulp Mill property of contamination to make way for new development on the peninsula, Oetker said, including Nordic Aquafarms’ land-based fish farm and the Humboldt Bay Offshore Wind Terminal Project. Both projects are expected to bring thousands of jobs to the Humboldt Bay region for years to come.

“We’ve been working with the Redwood Coast Energy Authority and the Schatz Energy Lab over the years and they really convinced the Harbor District that we should get involved with offshore wind,” Oetker said. “Based on those efforts, we came up with the offshore wind terminal and really worked closely with the Governor’s Office and the California Energy Commission with the belief that Humboldt Bay could be the main port on the West Coast to service the offshore wind industry.”

On top of that, in partnership with Cal Poly Humboldt, the Harbor District has helped bring in the world’s longest sub-sea fiber optic cable, stretching from Eureka to Singapore. The district has also worked with Cal Poly professors and the U.S. Geological Survey to bolster the region’s earthquake early warning systems.

When asked whether he had anything else to add about the future of the Harbor District or his upcoming retirement, Oetker said he has “never been more optimistic about the future of Humboldt County.”


The Harbor District Board of Commissioners will meet at 6 p.m. in the Woodley Island Marina Meeting Room, 601 Startare Drive, Eureka. Tonight’s agenda can be found here.