City urged to consider environmental changes in future planning
On Tuesday, the Arcata City Council and the Arcata Planning Commission met jointly to hear about the risks sea level rise will bring to the city, and by extension the rest of Humboldt Bay.The appointed and elected bodies heard from local, state and federal sea level rise experts on how Humboldt Bay is expected to see three feet of sea level rise in the next 40 years, which will likely overrun the dikes and flood areas with key infrastructure such as U.S. Highway 101 and the city’s sewer treatment plant.“We really need to avoid putting any new things at risk in those areas. This was said before — sea level rise is not going to stop anytime soon,” Aldaron Laird, senior environmental planner at Greenway Partners, said. “It’s going to keep on going until we think we need to reduce what’s at risk and not put more development in areas that are vulnerable.”
The wind resource beyond Humboldt Bay is among the best in the United States, with strong, consistent wind speeds that are ideal for commercial development. There’s just one problem: electrical transmission.Getting the power from the floating offshore turbines to the shore is one thing; getting the power to communities throughout the region and across the state is another. Wind developers can run big, subsea cables from their offshore wind projects to land with relative ease, but once that power comes ashore it encounters an electrical grid that wasn’t designed to handle it.“This is going to take many years,” Rep. Jared Huffman told the Outpost in a recent phone interview. “Anyone who thinks that we are very close to manufacturing these huge turbines, getting the clean power onto the grid and adding these thousands of jobs might be disappointed. This is going to take close to a decade to really bring it all forward, but I’m hoping we can speed that up.”However, the development of offshore wind is completely dependent on California’s transmission capabilities. Those issues must be resolved before offshore wind can move forward, Huffman said.“The developers don’t know how many of these floating platforms they’ll even be able to install until they know whether there’s enough transmission to move the power onto the grid,” he continued. “To me, that’s by far the most important bottleneck here. Until you have all that figured out, you really don’t know a lot about the economics of the project. When you’re trying to negotiate community benefits and other things, you can begin those conversations now, but you can’t sign on the dotted line until you know how big the project is, how much it’s going to cost, how profitable it’s going to be. It all depends on all of these details that tie back to questions about transmission.”Read More
On Tuesday, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved forming two ad hoc committees to work on offshore wind-related issues, authorized the County Administrative Officer to execute a $851,500 grant agreement for offshore wind activity, and enacted agreements with the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation, and Conservation District, the city of Eureka and other local and tribal agencies to collaborate on port and wind development.Offshore wind in Humboldt County is still in a very early stage, though California North Floating LLC placed the winning bids for the area where turbines would be placed roughly 20 miles off the coast of Eureka. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is still reviewing the bids, but once the leases are granted, the site must be surveyed and a plethora of permits must be issued.“There’ll be a couple years of site assessments and surveys. After that, the concept of operation plan process will begin,” Scott Adair, Humboldt County’s director of economic development, said. “We are many years away from actual turbines being put into the water.”Read More
Only in two previous years — 2008 and 2009 — has California’s salmon season been shut down completely. That closure came as the numbers of spawning fish returning to the Sacramento River, the state’s main salmon producer, crashed to record lows.
Now California’s Chinook runs have collapsed again.
Just 62,000 adult fall-run Chinook returned last year to the Sacramento River to spawn, the third lowest return on record and only half of the fishery’s minimum target.
Runs on the Klamath River, in far-northern California, also have plunged, hitting 22,000 spawning adult fall-run Chinook last year, the fourth lowest return in 40 years. Native American tribes rely on the Klamath River’s salmon for traditional foods and ceremonies. What’s ailing the fish, scientists and state officials say, is a variety of factors, primarily in the rivers where salmon spawn. Large volumes of water are diverted for use by farms and cities. Combined with drought, this causes low flows and high water temperatures, which can kill salmon eggs and young fish. Vast tracts of floodplains and wetlands, where small fish can find food and refuge, have also been lost to development and flood control projects.
Chuck Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the quantity and quality of river water appear to drive salmon numbers. Eric Stockwell, a naturalist and ocean kayak fishing guide based in Humboldt County, said he wants a season closure even though it will put him out of work. He called it long overdue, given the recurring poor returns in the Sacramento and Klamath rivers. “It’s a shame seasons have been allowed even though we haven’t reached the minimum escapement spawning goals,” Stockwell said. Fishing, after all, has impacts on the salmon population, too. For many Californians, wild Chinook salmon is a rare treat. For members of California’s indigenous tribes, it is a core element of their culture and diet. In the Klamath River basin, the Karuk, Hoopa and Yurok tribes fish for Chinook salmon for subsistence. “The health of our people depends on having salmon,” said Bill Tripp, the Karuk Tribe’s director of natural resources and environmental policy. “Their survival in the basin is imperative. If they disappear, we could lose our ability to survive here.”Read More
Ecological relationships across the Pacific Coast that once guided annual expectations such as salmon returns are evolving as climate change disrupts long-standing connections. NOAA Fisheries researchers report these findings in their latest Ecosystem Status Report for the California Current Ecosystem.“We have seen profound changes underway in the last decade that have altered these relationships unlike anything we have seen in the historical record,” said Nate Mantua, landscape and seascape ecology leader at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Santa Cruz. One effect of the unsettled ocean is that some models scientists use to estimate fishing impacts may no longer work well in this new ocean environment.While the unraveling of familiarly strong connections is not ideal for forecasters, it can produce surprisingly positive outcomes. For example, anchovy continued to boom in the California Current Ecosystem in 2022, decoupling past patterns that linked anchovy numbers to cold ocean conditions rather than warm. These abundant schools of forage fish provided ample food for salmon, California sea lions, whales, birds, and other predators. However, with a rise in anchovy providing ample prey for salmon, we have seen the adverse effects of a uniform diet because anchovies carry an enzyme that breaks down vitamin B1 (thiamine) in anchovy predators and puts their offspring at risk.Read More