Time for a Plan B.


Back in March, Eureka Parks and Recreation Director Miles Slattery outlined a plan for where to put the sediment that has accumulated along the bay floor at the Woodley Island Marina and Eureka’s public marina. Both the City of Eureka and the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District had agreed to pursue a plan to deposit the sludgy dredge spoils on a beach on the Samoa Peninsula. That’s where such materials have been deposited for decades, including last time the marinas were dredged, back in 2007.


But yesterday, in a conference call with staff from the Harbor District and the City, officials with the Environmental Protection Agency rejected that plan in no uncertain terms. 


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Dredging of Humboldt Bay has become an undeniably urgent matter, and Samoa Beach has been proposed as the best disposal option. We support dredging the marinas and agree that it is urgent, but dumping on one of our most popular beaches would impact public access and create visual blight. Attend this public meeting to support alternative options to dumping on Samoa Beach. 


May 3 at 5:30 pm at the Wharfinger Building, 1 Marina Way in Eureka.


Given the controversy over the City of Eureka and Humboldt Bay Harbor District’s plan to dump dredge spoils on Samoa Beach yet again, Humboldt Baykeeper has been getting a lot of questions about dredging. 


There are two very different types of dredging in Humboldt Bay. Dredging in the main harbor entrance channels is necessary for safe navigation for fishing vessels, fuel barges that deliver gasoline and diesel, the U.S. Coast Guard, research vessels like Humbolt State’s Coral Sea, and large ships that transport chips and logs (currently about six ships per year). 

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

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


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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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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