Member agencies will now weigh in on model ordinance


The Humboldt Waste Management Authority's member agencies are one step closer to being able to weigh in on an ordinance that would ban single-use plastic and paper bags.

The joint powers authority board of directors last week reviewed and accepted the model ordinance and discussed ways to satisfy requirements set down by the California Environmental Quality Act, according to HWMA Programs Manager Brent Whitener.

HWMA is developing an initial study to see if a full environmental impact report is needed to satisfy CEQA requirements and protect the authority's member agencies from lawsuit, Whitener said. That process will take 90 to 100 days, he said.

”We want to be as thorough as we can,” he said.

Once the model ordinance is finished, the board members can take it back to their member agencies for review and a vote, Whitener said. The authority's member agencies, which include the cities of Arcata, Eureka, Blue Lake, Rio Dell and Ferndale and Humboldt County, can choose to adopt the model ordinance as it is written or modify it to suit their needs, Whitener said.

The model ordinance would implement a minimum charge of 5 cents for the purchase of a recycled paper bag, one that could be used for many trips, Whitener said. It would be up to each city and the county to decide if the ordinance should apply only to grocery stores or if it should also apply to large retailers and restaurants, he said.

The Board of Supervisors and city of Arcata asked the authority to develop an ordinance, recognizing that any work it did on an EIR or any other environmental documents could be used for any of the member agencies, said 3rd District Supervisor Mark Lovelace. Lovelace said he will let the Board of Supervisors know Tuesday that the authority board accepted the staff's ordinance.

Even though the HWMA board accepted the ordinance, it doesn't obligate any of its member agencies to pass a similar ordinance, Lovelace said.
”Plastic bag ordinances even five years ago may have been considered out there, but it's becoming very mainstream in jurisdictions like Los Angeles and San Jose,” he said.

Arcata City Councilman Shane Brinton said he was prepared to ask Arcata to move forward on an ordinance of its own but felt it would be better to have a regional approach to a potential ban on single-use plastic and paper bags. The reason, he said, is for HWMA staff to determine if a negative declaration of impacts or an environmental impact report would be necessary to comply with the CEQA requirements.

Brinton said he would be ready to bring the ordinance before the Arcata City Council for discussion and a vote once the CEQA study is finished.
”Because of lawsuits from the plastic bag industry, we thought it would be advisable to do some level of CEQA analysis,” Brinton said. “But we're ready to go whenever we have the environmental document completed.”

Rio Dell City Councilman Jack Thompson said he doesn't think the Rio Dell City Council will discuss an ordinance to ban single-use bags within its boundaries.

”The people of Rio Dell are being very considerate of plastic bags,” he said. “We will not be doing an ordinance, and if it becomes an issue, we would probably do a study session to educate the public.”


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