Bill now headed to Assembly

Senate Bill 307 is on track for approval after clearing the state Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support Monday.

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), would block a proposal to restore the defunct North Coast railroad in an attempt to export coal overseas from Montana, Utah and Wyoming through the Port of Humboldt Bay by prohibiting the use of state funds for any new bulk coal terminal project within Humboldt County.

Earlier this month, the Eureka City Council unanimously passed an ordinance banning the transportation of coal on city property.

“Clearly, our council is not a proponent of bringing coal to the harbor,” said Eureka City Manager Miles Slattery. “They made it very clear through a resolution that they don’t want coal handled on city-owned property because of the environmental and potential health effects of that.”

Slattery underscored the city’s support for the proposed Great Redwood Trail and further development of the Waterfront Trail.

“Our elected officials are very much proponents of railbanking and we’re waiting for that to happen so we can extend our waterfront trails,” he said. “That’s been supported by our council since the beginning and we hope that the other state legislators are proponents of it.”

Read More

Scientists, speaking at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in New Orleans this month, reported that a critical section of the keystone Antarctic glacier, Thwaites Glacier, will likely collapse in the next five to ten years. The research, led by Erin Pettit of Oregon State University, predicts that the Thwaites ice shelf will break apart within the next decade because of startling increases in surface fractures and rifts.
Thwaites Glacier is one the largest Antarctic glaciers, comparable to the size of Great Britain or Florida. Meltwater from Thwaites alone is responsible for 4% of global sea level rise, leading it to receive a great deal of scientific attention in recent years.
The nickname ‘Antarctica’s doomsday glacier’ is given to Thwaites because if the ice shelf collapses, the glacier and the enormous volumes of ice upstream that funnel into the glacier will no longer be restrained from accelerating into the ocean. “It is the potential long-term effect on the rest of the grounded ice sheet that we need to consider,” explains Anne Le Brocq, a senior lecturer in physical geography at the University of Exeter. If the entire glacier were to melt then global sea levels would rise by 65 centimeters, or about two feet. If Thwaites Glacier, and other critical neighboring glaciers such as Pine Island Glacier, cannot hold back the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which holds the equivalent of 3.3 meters (10.8 feet) in sea level, then it could affect coastlines across the world.
Read More

The Eureka City Council returned once again to its previously discussed coal transportation and storage ordinance following amendments to the bill, ultimately approving the amended item’s introduction by an unanimous vote at this week’s regular meeting.

The new version grants the council the right to appeal any exemption requests granted by the city manager for the transport of coal in city-owned lands. The new appeal section of the bill also extends the category of people who can file an appeal to a city manager’s decision, including the public and individual members of the city council.

Public comment throughout the proposed ordinance’s time on the council floor has largely supported the item. This Tuesday’s meeting was not an exception.

“Thank the council and your staff for bringing this ordinance forward, clarifying the appeal issue and hopefully, passing it this evening. Thank you for your efforts and keeping our citizens and our environment clean and healthy,” said Karen Underwood of the Humboldt Trail Council.

Read More

Humboldt County released the draft environmental impact report (EIR) for Nordic Aquafarms’ proposed onshore fish farm on Samoa Peninsula Monday.
The behemoth report, which is roughly 1,800 pages long, found no areas in which the proposed farm would have a significant impact on the local environment. The minimal impact of some of the farm’s operations will have mitigating strategies in place, according to the document.
The Humboldt County Planning and Building Department released a mitigated negative declaration for the project in April, but after public feedback calling for a deeper, more in-depth report, Nordic Aquafarms initiated an EIR.
Jennifer Kalt, director of Humboldt Baykeeper, a local environmental advocacy group, previously advocated for a full environmental impact report, rather than a mitigated negative declaration. She said she had not finished reading the enormous report when the Times-Standard reached out Monday, but that she was glad it happened.
“It’s great that they did it. It’s hopefully going to be a much more thorough analysis than the initial study and I’m excited to read what changes they’ve made in their analysis because they did a more thorough job,” Kalt said.
The public comment period will end on Feb. 18, 2022. Comments may be submitted to the Humboldt County Planning and Building Department at 3015 H Street in Eureka or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Read More

With a final reading scheduled ahead of what appeared to be a quick adoption, Eureka councilmembers held off on making a final call on its proposed coal ordinance this week.

The ordinance regulating the transport by rail and storage of coal and related substances over city property was discussed initially at the council’s Nov. 16 regular meeting following the addition of a clause allowing a small allotted amount, defined at 25 pounds handled per 24-hour period for non-commercial uses.

Talk of an ordinance on the transport of coal comes after talk of potential interest looking to use Humboldt Bay as a port to ship coal to Asian markets. As part of these possible plans, rail lines could transport coal up the coast from the Bay Area.

Exemption clause B states any person who claims they are negatively impacted by the purpose of the ordinance can seek an exemption from the city manager, who has the final determination in a potential appeal case.

“So theoretically, and years from now, somebody could propose to ship coal (to Humboldt Bay) through Eureka and the city manager could grant that without coming to the city council?” Bauer asked.

City attorney Bob Black said that was the case, and that checks on that clause can be added.

“If you want it to come to the city council that’s certainly a possibility,” Black responded. “You could also include a right of appeal of any citizen from the city manager’s decision, and those would then probably end up in your lap which is fine if that’s the way you want to do it.”

“Because the threat, as nightmarish as it seems, is unfortunately real, I think you know the side effects of coal trains and coal exports would range from the health and safety impacts that are targeted by the ordinance,” said Colin Fiske, president of the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities. “It’s imperative that we do everything possible to stop that from happening.”

Humboldt Baykeeper director Jennifer Kalt said she supports the ordinance but found the waiver clause odd.

“I’m not sure why that would be included. It seems pretty draconian to go around the city council and just have a manager be able to make such a huge decision,” she said.

After some discussion of how to approach the issue, with striking clauses and adding public notices for appeals among the ideas being discussed, Black suggested reintroducing a version of the ordinance that is less vulnerable to legal challenges at a future date.

Read More