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Press
California Today: Surf, Sun and Bacteria
Written by Mike McPhate, New York Times   

6/27/17

 

Heal the Bay, an environmental nonprofit, recently issued its annual report card for bacterial pollution at more than 400 beaches along the Pacific Coast.

 

During the dry days of summer last year, the vast majority of California beaches had excellent grades.

 

But winter was a different story. As record rainfall swept through the state’s cityscapes and pushed billions of gallons of runoff out to sea, water quality plummeted.

 

“It’s indicative of a water mismanagement issue in California,” she said. “If we were doing a better job of rethinking that runoff we could turn it from a nuisance into a resource.”

 

Humboldt County’s Clam Beach, which is fed by two creeks, was named California’s most polluted beach by Heal the Bay.

 

The problem there has vexed local environmentalists who cite a panoply of possible causes: bird poop, campground toilets, old septic systems, livestock and more.

 

“There’s no shortage of theories,” said Jennifer Kalt, the director of Humboldt Baykeeper, an environmental group.

 

Better understood is that bacterial pollution rises sharply immediately after a rain, then typically goes right back to normal. That’s why health experts recommend beachgoers wait three days to enter the ocean after a storm.

 

“I think oftentimes people think kids just get diarrhea or stomach aches for other reasons,” Ms. Kalt said. “But studies have shown that it’s often correlated with rainfall. If it rains one day and then the next day it’s sunny, people don’t really give it much thought.”

 

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Clam Beach state’s worst
Written by Sam Armanino, Times-Standard   

High bacteria levels in county watersheds trigger search for cause 


6/17/17


Every year environmental scientists for Humboldt County take samples from the mouth of Strawberry Creek where freshwater meets saltwater on Clam Beach. For the last four years, the beach has made an environmental group’s “Beach Bummer list,” but this year it’s the most polluted beach on the annual report.

Karen Vu, data analyst for Santa Monica-based Heal The Bay, said her organization receives data from the whole West Coast and that its annual beach report covers all the data collected over the last year.

Vu said high amounts of bacteria could be potentially harmful to swimmers, who she cautioned to be mindful when going into riverways, because poor water quality can lead to infections and if consumed can cause intestinal problems.

In the last three years, Clam Beach dropped in ratings from an “A” rating in 2013 to an “F” rating this year.

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Dredging Options Stir Controversy
Written by Natalya Estrada, Times-Standard   

Proposal: Regulatory agencies have yet to approve permits for disposal methods

Concerns: Humboldt Baykeeper as well as members of the public voice their worries

3/10/17

Maintenance dredging of public marinas, docks and boat launches in Humboldt Bay is set to take place this year, according to Miles Slattery of Eureka Parks and Recreation.

“This is still in the preliminary stages,” Slattery said. “The (Eureka City Council) said to move forward with a hybrid approach if it is approved by the regulatory agencies.”

The dredging proposals must still be approved by three regulatory agencies — the California Coastal Commission, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt said no level of dioxins is safe, but in 2007, the city was allowed to dump the dredge materials on the beach during an emergency dredging situation. She said the toxins are known to cause cancer and reproductive damage in both humans and wildlife.

“From what we know, the city and Harbor District have not applied for any permits related to dredge spoils disposal and they need to take a much closer look at possible alternatives,” Kalt said. “Contaminants, specifically dioxins and PCBs, were detected in some areas slated for dredging in 2007. Those areas were not dredged to avoid contaminating the beach disposal site.”

Kalt also said that although the Army Corps of Engineers dredge up to three million cubic yards every year, that their spoils from the dredging are dumped at the Humboldt Open Ocean Disposal Site, which is 3 miles offshore.

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Dredge Dumping Redux! Samoa Beach Proposed for Sludge Disposal Once Again
Written by Delia Bense-Kang, Lost Coast Outpost   

 

2/28/17

 

Nearly a decade ago, a lack of planning combined with a dire need for dredging in Humboldt Bay erupted into controversy. While everyone agreed the channels needed to be cleared, the proposed dumping of dredge material on Samoa Beach divided the community with fishermen on one side and recreational beach goers on the other.

 

Today we find ourselves in almost the exact same situation. Dredging of Humboldt Bay has once again become an undeniably urgent matter, and Samoa Beach has once again been proposed as the best disposal option. Unfortunately, despite having 10 years to find a long-term solution, the Humboldt Bay Harbor District and City of Eureka are just beginning to present to the public options for disposing of dredge spoils from their marinas.

 

Back in 2007, the Harbor District insisted on ignoring EPA guidance and instead asked to dump 200,000 cubic yards of bay sludge on Samoa Beach a popular surf spot and access point known as “Power Poles.” Due to the state of emergency the district had allowed to happen, the California Coastal Commission reluctantly approved the pumping of bay mud through a pipe over the dunes, where it spewed out onto Samoa Beach. But the Commission, along with the U.S. EPA and California Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, made clear that any future projects must be better planned and that a similar project would not be a viable option. In 2008, the Coastal Commission reasserted this stance (No dredge spoils on beach, agency insists – Eureka Times-Standard).

 

With so much disapproval from permitting agencies and the public last time around, why is Samoa Beach even being considered an option for dumping again? In his presentation to the Eureka City Council on Tuesday, Eureka Parks and Recreation Director Miles Slattery described Samoa Beach as being “the best option” for disposal due to the comparatively low cost, its ability to accommodate high volumes of dredge material and being the “least environmentally damaging feasible alternative.” He also briefly described other possible locations for the dredge spoils, including:

  • Using it as fill for wetland restoration projects,
  • Open ocean disposal at the approved site three miles offshore,
  • Flow-lane” disposal,
  • Ocean disposal through the Redwood Marine Terminal’s 1½ mile long outfall,
  • Upland disposal at one of two sites on the North Spit,
  • And the temporary outfall at Samoa Beach.

“Some progress has been made since 2007 – the Harbor District now owns a dredge and the ocean outfall at the former pulp mill. But much more needs to be done to develop a long-term solution,” said Jennifer Kalt, Director of Humboldt Baykeeper. “Putting forward a plan to dump spoils on Samoa Beach yet again was premature, since the permitting agencies have not yet been consulted.”

 

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Eureka City Council agrees to move forward with dredging options
Written by Natalya Estrada, Times-Standard   

2/23/17

 

The Eureka City Council along with the Humboldt Bay Harbor District explored several options Tuesday evening for disposing of the dredge materials from Humboldt Bay.

 

Miles Slattery, Eureka Parks and Recreation director, said they are proposing to significantly reduce the amount of volume disposed on the beach by picking locations that will have less of an environmental impact.

 

“We’re looking at options that have the least environmental damage,” Slattery said. “We had nine different disposal options reviewed and depending on which one is chosen we can either start dredging in the summer or winter of this year.”

 

Slattery said if the council and harbor district decide on in-bay disposal, ocean outfall or an extension of a 1.5-mile long pipeline to the ocean, they would need to perform those in the summertime to avoid impacting the coho salmon coming into the bay. If they were going with a plan that disposes sludge on the beach, then they would start in the winter to take advantage of the high surf and tides that would carry the material out to sea.

 

During the public comment period, Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt said every alternative mentioned will require permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Coastal Commission at a minimum.

 

“City staff needs to meet with permitting agencies altogether within the same room,” Kalt said. “Pitting constituents against each other is not going to result in the quickest dredging. ... The idea of having multiple permits for multiple disposal sites seems like wishful thinking at this point because it’s been 10 years and they haven’t even come up with one solution.”

 

Kalt also said in previous dredging proposals in 2008, the Coastal Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency made it clear that they would not permit beach disposal again.

 

The earlier dredging project set to occur 10 years ago stirred up controversy with environmental groups about toxins within the dredge spoils. Those toxins, however, were not confirmed by tests. The EPA also objected to disposing of the materials on sandy beaches.

 

According to Humboldt Baykeeper in 2008, nearly 200,00 cubic yards of sludge was dumped on Samoa Beach, something the EPA and CDFW said would not be a viable option in future projects.

 

Surfrider Humboldt’s foundation chairwoman Delia Bense-Kang also said it was important to consider that nearly 50 to 100 people visit Samoa Beach everyday and that disposing of material on beaches was not a good idea.

 

Prior to commenting she asked the audience to raise their hands to show how many people were surfers who utilize Samoa Beach for recreation purposes.

 

“There’s been a lot of time for a better plan to move forward. Like I said, I was in middle school last time this was an issue. We need to work toward a long-term solution,” Bense-Kang said.

 

Eureka City Council members reacted to the dredging with concern but also agreed that something had to be done immediately.

 

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