The Eureka City Council is set to consider a letter from the mayor to the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control, a subdivision of the California Environmental Protection Agency, regarding a potential water contamination hazard.

The letter expresses concern over the now-defunct McNamara and Peepe Lumber Mill site, as the department issued an imminent and substantial determination for the site in April 2008, with little progress being made in addressing the pollutants on site.

The letter urges action from the DTSC and other state agencies in cleaning up the site to prevent the water supply from becoming contaminated, as the money allocated by the department for the McNamara and Peepe Lumber Mill site will only be spent on investigating the site.

Brian Gerving, Eureka’s director of public works, said, “There hasn’t been any evidence of any contamination or any degradation of the safety of the city’s drinking water. We just want to ensure that (contamination) does not happen, and that’s why we want the DTSC to better prioritize the cleanup of the McNamara and Peepe site.”

The city of Eureka posted its last drinking water consumer confidence report in 2019, available at https://bit.ly/3bEBP58.

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Listen to the interview on KMUD News at https://soundcloud.com/kmudnews/state-moves-to-protect-humboldt-bay-area-drinking-water
A state agency is reinvigorating efforts to prevent dioxins at a former lumber mill site from reaching the Mad River and the drinking water supply of 88,000 county residents.
Of concern is potentially migrating dioxins from pentachlorophenol (PCP), a wood preservative that was used at the mill site prior to Blue Lake Forest Products’ ownership.
The old mill site is about a mile upstream from Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District intake wells and the contamination has been a lingering issue. The district has opposed the area’s industrial zoning and subsequent cannabis manufacturing permits.
Jen Kalt, Humboldt Baykeeper’s executive director, said the new round of testing will include a tributary of Hall Creek, which flows into the Mad River.
“The fact that the groundwater elevation has risen 15 feet since 2003 is really concerning, because that could be pushing the plume of dioxin contamination toward the Mad River,” said Kalt.
Results of the sampling are expected this spring. Timing of a clean-up remediation plan is uncertain but Kalt said Humboldt Baykeeper will press for action.
“It’s been a fairly long time that this site has been threatening the drinking water supply in the Mad River and there’s just no excuse for any additional delays,” she continued.
She added, “There are a lot of contaminated sites around the state but this one is the highest priority in Humboldt County at this point, because of the drinking water.”
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State Senator Mike McGuire held a town hall meeting on Thursday to discuss the Great Redwood Trail, which will eventually take its place alongside the likes of the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail as an iconic American trail.
The board of the NCRA, which will soon transition into a trail authority, directed its staff to submit the necessary paperwork to the federal Surface Transportation Board.
In December, McGuire introduced legislation to dismantle the supremely dysfunctional NCRA and create the nation’s longest rail-to-trail. Senate Bill 69, he said, “will officially, and once and for all, disband the North Coast Railroad Authority, which is a hot mess and is bankrupt.” In its place the bill would create the Great Redwood Trail Authority and empower it to construct and operate eponymous pathway.
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At a town hall meeting this evening on the Great Redwood Trail, a proposed 300 mile path that would stretch from Marin to Humboldt along a dilapidated North Coast Railroad Authority train line, Senator Mike McGuire announced that authorities are moving forward with the key step of “railbanking” the right-of-way, he also discussed the details of SB69, a bill in the legislature which will create the Great Redwood Trail Agency if passed, and highlighted 1.6 miles of trail in downtown Willits that are soon to be built.
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The Port of Humboldt Bay, once a bustling shipping hub for the region’s timber industry, may soon get a wholesale overhaul, complete with modern port facilities designed to support a major offshore wind energy project.

Granted, that project doesn’t exist yet. While the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) is pursuing a commercial offshore wind lease from the federal government, details for such a major development have yet to be proposed, much less approved.

But on Thursday evening, the Board of Commissioners for the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District will consider hiring local engineering firm LACO Associates to develop a conceptual master plan for a completely reimagined port — one with a modern, seven-acre dock capable of handling large cargo vessels and assembling offshore wind platforms, turbines and blades.

Of course, the offshore wind energy prospects are still far from reality. Any such developments would be subject to extensive public review. In community meetings held over the past couple of years, plenty of locals have expressed concerns about potential impacts to the environment and the region’s fishing industry. 

Reached Monday, Jennifer Kalt, the executive director of local environmental nonprofit Humboldt Baykeeper, said the Harbor District appears to be looking a ways into the future.

“I would say that this plan will be years in the making,” she told the Outpost. “Early and frequent consultation with various stakeholders, including tribes, commercial fishermen and environmental groups, will be critical for such a major project to succeed.”

Jennifer Savage, California policy director for the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation, noted that the district’s plans depend on unapproved projects as the anchor industry, and they call for further industrialization atop coastal dunes and wetlands that protect against sea level rise.

“We hope that in the pursuit of renewable energy to replace our dependence on fossil fuels, the Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District ensures its own plans are sustainable and supportive of the critical coastal habitat, recreational opportunities and existing economic resources in and along Humboldt Bay,” she said in an emailed statement.

While the main focus of this conceptual master plan is the potential offshore wind project, Harbor District Executive Director Larry Oetker said such planning will not go to waste. “If offshore wind doesn’t happen, we’ll look for the next compatible user.”

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