The past is a sometime thing. Some dismiss it most of the time, others part of the time — or part of the past. Let’s face it, some live in it. As one who reads, writes and muses on the past, I float amongst all the above.

 

Certainly there are things I would rather not dwell upon. Others I revisit so often that friends and family run screaming from the room.

 

I try, as with good fortune I grow older, to limit the nostalgia to appropriate occasions. Mike McGuire’s proposal for a Great Redwood Trail is such an occasion.

 

State Sen. McGuire, D-Healdsburg, whose district includes the proposed 300-mile route of the trail, can get almost poetic talking about the beauty of it.

 

“I have to say,” he told me last week, “this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity … so few times in our lifetimes do we have a chance to see such a thing happen.”

 

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The bill that is proposing to create a trail system alongside North Coast Rail Authority tracks is propelling through the Legislature. It cleared its first major hurdle — passage in the Senate — in May and passed out of an Assembly committee in late June.

 

The bill proposes to dissolve the North Coast Rail Authority, a state-created entity that has overseen a 300-mile stretch of rail through Northern California since 1989, and create a new entity, the Great Redwood Trail Agency, which will oversee the trail system envisioned to snake along the same route.

 

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The company deemed responsible for nearly causing an environmental catastrophe on Humboldt Bay and the Samoa Peninsula may be walking away while public agencies pick up a more than $16 million price tag for the cleanup, according to local and federal officials contacted by the Times-Standard this week.

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has deemed Evergreen Pulp Inc. as responsible for allowing tanks filled with caustic liquors at the Samoa pulp mill site to deteriorate and fill up to the point where the next major rainfall could have caused the chemicals to spill into the nearby bay.

 

The EPA states it paid $15 million for the 2014 emergency cleanup — five times more than was first reported to the Times-Standard in 2014 — in which tanks containing the pulp liquors were drained and loaded into trucks bound for a Washington state pulp mill where the chemicals would be reused.

 

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Humboldt County is preparing to spend $1.3 million to prevent a slowly expanding plume of chemically contaminated groundwater it’s known about since the early 1990s from seeping into Humboldt Bay — if it hasn’t already — and to further examine the health risks thereof, which remain unknown.

 

County Public Works environmental analyst Todd Becker said the county, regional water quality control board and local engineering consultants will work during the next year to determine how far the groundwater and soil contamination has reached.

 

Recent groundwater tests indicate chemicals left behind by a former Eureka gas station and dry cleaning facility stretch about 700 feet northwest from the Humboldt County courthouse to an empty lot on Second Street. While Becker said there is luckily no concern about drinking water contamination because of there being no groundwater wells in the region, he said the potential for chemicals to leak into the bay could impact recreational users and local fisheries such as the bay’s shellfish industry if not addressed.

 

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While the front cover of this season's Vanity Fair bears the standard celebrity mug (Emilia Clarke, who plays Game of Thrones' dragon-riding queen Daenerys Targaryen), on pages 84 through 89 you'll find an article about efforts to preserve California's vibrant coast — and one familiar face.

 

Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt was interviewed along with several other Golden State water protectors highlighting sustainability efforts up and down the coast. In the article, which you can read here, Kalt discusses her promotion of sustainable oyster farming and the importance of zeroing in where you can make a difference.

 

“I know people feel really overwhelmed, but if they just focus on the one issue they really care about they can make so much of a difference,” says Kalt in the article, written by Bruno Navasky.

 

Reached for comment, Kalt added that it's "great" that the work of water defenders is getting national attention.

 

"We work at the local level to restore clean water but across the state, we have similar problems like mercury in local fish, E. coli at our beaches, polluted runoff, and struggling salmon populations," Kalt wrote in an email. "More than half of the rivers and streams in the country fail to meet one or more water quality standard. Bays and estuaries are in even worse shape. So now is not the time to be weakening federal protections for clean water — if anything, we need stronger protections than ever, especially at the state level. Being part of this network is critical for developing solutions, whether it's through science, statewide policy or citizen lawsuits."

 

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