The small, coastal community of King Salmon in Humboldt County, California is likely at the highest risk of relative sea-level rise on the entire U.S. West Coast. Relative sea-level rise includes vertical land motion, in addition to changes in water level. King Salmon experiences rising waters at a rate nearly three times the global average because the land is sinking due to tectonic activity (earthquakes).

 
This community experiences flooding regularly, today. Like the rest of the world, it’s projected to get worse, and at an accelerated rate. In addition to water intruding from the Humboldt Bay, King Salmon also experiences flooding when groundwater rises with changing tides and storm surges. Plus there’s a nuclear plant there that ceased operations in 1976, where spent nuclear fuel is still stored on site, vulnerable to inundation. The average income within the community remains low, so many are unable to afford adaptation methods, multiplying the threat of rising seas. 
 
As part of my thesis research at Humboldt State University, I conducted personal interviews with the community to hear directly from the residents about their experiences with past flooding and their thoughts about future sea-level rise.Flooding in King Salmon is not a new phenomenon, but it’s being exacerbated by sea-level rise.
 
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Highway 101 through Eureka is one of California’s most dangerous stretches of road. Structurally, the road is bad for non-vehicular users: it is wide, fast, and crosswalks are too spaced too far apart, to name a few problems. Local agencies and advocates are looking for ways to make Broadway safer for people walking and biking.
What do wetlands, contaminated soil, and traffic congestion have to do with it? 
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Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to approve a $1.2 million-plus lease agreement with San Francisco-based RTI Infrastructure for the company to land up to four underground trans-Pacific fiber optic cables off Humboldt County’s coast, with the first arriving as soon as 2021. 
 
The cable will be launched from Singapore, cross the Java Sea and then bend northwards through the Banda Sea east of the island of Sulawesi and on through Micronesia. From there the cable will stretch across the Pacific Ocean and eventually make landfall just outside of Eureka off of Samoa Beach, specifically on the outfall from the former Evergreen pulp mill.  
 
Under the terms of the lease, each additional cable landing will earn the district $333,000. The lease lasts until 2046, after which the district would receive $333,000 for each 15-year renewal.
Harbor District executive director Larry Oetker said the cash influx the district is set to receive will immediately be used to pay off $700,000 in debt stemming from the $1.2 million loan the district took out to clean up toxic chemicals at the pulp mill site, a monthly $13,000 debt payment the district currently has.
The money will also go toward “creating a stable source of funding” for ongoing dredging of the Woodley Island Marina area according to Oetker, who added that the district will be able to complete a variety of differed maintenance projects including fixing the port.
Access Humboldt’s executive director Sean Taketa McLaughlin said he would have liked to have seen the Harbor District, rather than strike an allcash deal, gain some direct access to the high-speed cables for the community.
“Connectivity is more valuable than cash,” McLaughlin said. “I think we may have missed a unique, one-time opportunity.”
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Astronomical tides are expected to boost the sea level to approximatley 8.4' this weekend, according to the National Weather Service.
The peaks are expected between around 10 a.m. and noon Saturday and continuing through Monday, according to Eureka meteorologist Alex Dodd. He added the king tides will receive a boost from a storm system that is expected to arrive Friday.
He said with the aid of the storm system, the waters could rise closer to 9 feet, which could potentially spur a flood warning for low-lying areas.
The California Coastal Commission, which operates the California King Tides Project, states the events provide “a glimpse of what to expect as sea levels rise.”
A similar photo project is done locally by Humboldt Baykeeper.
“That will be the monthly high tide in 10 years,” Humboldt Baykeeper director Jennifer Kalt said of king tides. “… If we saw those levels of high tides once a month .. in 20 years, this is going to be a real nuisance.”
She noted that the king tides locally are about a foot higher than normal high tides.
“The projection is that in the Humboldt Bay area, sea level will rise 1 foot by 2030,” she said.
Kalt said that in 10 years, U.S. Highway 101 north of the Eureka slough will flood on a monthly basis.
To find out more about participating in the California King Tides Project, go to https://www.coastal.ca.gov/kingtides/ participate.html. To contribute photos to Humboldt Baykeeper, email images to KingTidePhotos@gmail.com.
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For years the City of Eureka, Caltrans and the Humboldt County Association of Government (HCAOG) have been working on the Broadway Multimodal Corridor Plan — a plan to fix the nightmare that is Broadway, proposing different possible ways to make the road less congested, more attractive and safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. 

 

And although a long-drawn-out proposal to build a new thoroughfare from Fourth Street to Herrick Avenue— once known as the Waterfront Drive Extension Project — is no longer on the table, proponents are still pushing options that would include developing new roadway through city greenbelts and wetlands. 

 

“The City of Eureka has been talking about adjusting Broadway for over a decade now and to consider plans that are going to take at least another decade to develop seems inappropriate, given how dangerous the roadway is,” Jennifer Kalt of Humboldt Baykeeper told the Outpost in a recent phone interview. 

 

Humboldt Baykeeper and the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities (CRTP) ardently support the southern corridor plans and would like to see planners pursue the same type of design for the rest of Broadway. 

 

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