Conceptual rendering of the Humboldt Bay Offshore Wind Heavy Lift Marine Terminal. | Photo: Harbor District.


Private energy company Crowley Wind Services’s exclusive right to negotiate [ERTN] with the Port of Humboldt Bay – a partnership announced with great fanfare 16 months ago – will expire at the end of the month without the anticipated agreement enlisting Crowley to develop and operate a heavy-lift marine terminal on the Samoa Peninsula, the Outpost has learned.

Representatives for both Crowley and the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District say they remain confident about the future of the port development project, especially given the $426 million Department of Transportation grant announced in January, but the dissolution of a formal agreement between the two parties makes it unclear what level of involvement, if any, Crowley will have in that project.

“Crowley continues to support the Harbor District’s goal of an offshore wind terminal at Humboldt Bay that is sustainable for the long-term,” the company’s corporate communications director, David DeCamp, said in an emailed statement. “While the exclusive right to negotiate an agreement will expire in March, the evaluation and due diligence produced valuable planning insight into the next steps of a terminal project.”

The proposed Humboldt Bay Offshore Wind Heavy Lift Marine Terminal project aims to convert the Harbor District’s 86-acre Marine Terminal II property —formerly home to the Samoa pulp mill — into a state-of-the-art industrial site for manufacturing, assembling and exporting the massive blades, towers, rotors and other components of offshore wind farms along the West Coast. With a tentative completion date currently scheduled for 2030, the facility would be the second-largest wind terminal in the United States, according to the Harbor District. Now, however, it’s not clear who will build it.

Rob Holmlund, the Harbor District’s director of development, said there’s always a degree of uncertainty in negotiations of this magnitude, and he’s not concerned about the ERTN with Crowley expiring.

“It could ultimately end up being good for everyone, including Crowley,” he said. “They’ve been really valuable to the project. … It’s just, multi-hundred-million-dollar projects are complicated, and sometimes things don’t end up exactly the way you envisioned. But it doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing. So our relationship is evolving into a different thing, likely, but that’s not bad.”

Holmlund said the Harbor District may wind up issuing a new request for qualifications (RFQ) in the coming months in hopes of recruiting another company capable of building and operating the marine terminal.

“With that federal grant and the progress that we’ve made and all of the hard work we’ve put into it with stakeholders and Tribes, I think we feel very confident that we would get additional proposals and find a different operator partner, maybe somebody to join with Crowley,” Holmlund said.

Crowley Wind Services’ tenure on the North Coast hasn’t gone entirely smoothly. Late last summer the company abruptly parted ways with Vice President Jeff Andreini amid allegations that executives never directly addressed. Parent company Crowley Maritime, meanwhile, got embroiled in controversy over allegations of sexual assault and sex trafficking elsewhere in the corporation, and executives did discuss those matters in a sit-down conversation with the Outpost’s Izzy Vanderheiden.

In an opinion piece published by the Times-Standard, Yurok Tribal Chairman Joe James said the allegations pointed to “a rotten company culture” at Crowley, and he urged the Harbor District to reconsider its partnership given the ongoing Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) crisis.

In the near term, Crowley plans to retain the satellite office it opened in Eureka’s Carson Block building last year, with DeCamp explaining, “It serves as our office to support the future development of wind services in the region, state and the U.S. West Coast.”

Among the challenges now facing the Harbor District is the task of securing more than $400 million in private sector funds to match the massive federal grant announced six weeks ago. Per the terms of that grant, the Harbor District has roughly two and a half years — until September 2026 — to cobble together those funds.

Crowley previously agreed to help the Harbor District in that endeavor, but even if they depart from the project entirely, Holmlund said he’s confident that the district can secure the necessary matching funds from other sources, including private investors, another corporate operator and potentially the State of California, where legislators have proposed$1 billion bond act to help pay for port expansions to support the nascent offshore wind industry.

“Our project is critical to the state and federal governments reaching renewable energy goals, so we’re confident that we’re going to find a way to get the match one way or the other,” Holmlund said, adding that the district has until 2029 to obligate the funds from the $426 million federal grant.

In the meantime, the Harbor District is using a $10.45 million grant from the California Energy Commission and an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Marine Administration (MARAD) to complete technical studies, preliminary design and pre-permitting work.

“We’re making really good progress with special studies, design and permitting,” Holmlund said. He also noted that the district continues to hold regular meetings with the seven local Tribal governments, neighborhood groups and environmental organizations.