The National Weather Service in Eureka issued a coastal flood warning on Thursday in anticipation of anomalous high tides that hit early Friday. While there were few issues caused by the flooding, the king tides offer a preview of what future sea level rise could mean for Eureka and the rest of Humboldt Bay.
“This is about one foot higher than a typical high tide,” said Jennifer Kalt, director of the nonprofit Humboldt Baykeeper. “With one foot of sea level rise, what we saw today will be the average monthly high tide.”
In fact, the astronomical tide event was even higher than expected as it reached a peak of 9.28 feet in the North Spit. But other fortunate weather factors helped mitigate any risk of damage from flooding.
Only within the past decade are geologists realizing that the area around Humboldt Bay is sinking due to tectonic subsidence. The average sinking is at nearly the same rate that sea levels are rising, compounding the effect and doubling the relative sea level rise. In contrast, Crescent City appears to be on a tectonic uplift that would minimize the effects of rising sea levels. And for better and for worse, the science at the core if this issue is still fairly new; the theory of plate tectonics only came to be understood in the past 75 years.
“A lot of this science is advancing,” said Kalt. “10 years ago, no one knew that the Humboldt Bay area was sinking so rapidly due to tectonic subsidence.”
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Droughts and sinking groundwater levels due to climate change and water consumption have become a familiar worry in many parts of the world. But coastal California is poised to soon encounter a very different kind of problem: Levels of groundwater may rise. 

“It’s a concern,” said Ben Hagedorn, Associate Professor of Geological Sciences at California State University Long Beach. 

“What we see near the coast is that the rising sea level pushes up the saline groundwater,” he said. 

In the process, the fresh groundwater used for drinking gets pressed toward the surface as well since it usually floats on top of the heavier salty groundwater. This could make coastal regions more prone to flooding, but there are also more insidious consequences. 

As the rising fresh water seeps into surface soils, toxins such as cadmium and lead from hazardous waste sites, landfills and other contaminated areas could get flushed into drinking supplies, Hagedorn said. 

Rising levels of fresh groundwater could make this problem more widespread and also wash toxins from shallow aquifers into the deeper reservoirs that currently provide drinking water. And soluble pollutants aren’t the only concern. 

Hagedorn suggested water authorities should instead take a new look at hazardous waste sites that are currently considered remediated. Hagedorn suggested water authorities should instead take a new look at hazardous waste sites that are currently considered remediated. 

“There are a lot of older locations, some dating back to the 1970s or even the 1950s when remediation technologies were not what they are now, that may still contain a lot of contaminants,” he said. 

Additional remediation may be necessary to prevent these toxins from becoming mobilized as the water tables rise in the soil.

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On Monday evening, the Eureka City Council unanimously voted to approve water and sewer rate increases.
Over the next five years, water rates will go up by 8 to 10% each year, an overall increase of 58%. In the same timeline, sewer rates will jump from 4 to 10% per year for a total increase of 34%. The rate increases come in the wake of capital improvement program costs, and after some discussion, councilmembers more or less resigned themselves to approving the rate hike, citing a lack of other options.
Councilmember Scott Bauer noted that several cities, facing rate increases, privatized their water and sewer systems to disastrous effect.
“There is no good alternative, look at Flint (Michigan),” Bauer said. “It’s a bummer that the can has been kicked for decades, I feel like it has, but as Councilmember (Natalie) Arroyo said, water is life and sewer systems are critical to not having things like cholera and the diseases that struck cities centuries ago.”
Eureka Public Works Director Brian Gerving said, “If we were not to enact these rates or adopt some rate structure that is less than this, then the two alternatives would be either don’t incur the same capital expenditures, which in most cases is not a feasible option,” Gerving said. “In the case of wastewater, with the regulations that we’re facing and the consent decree that we’ve entered into with Ecological Rights Foundation, those are non-negotiable items. And on the water side, just from the standpoint of ensuring we safely deliver water to our customers, it’s also non-negotiable.”
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On October 27th Crowley Wind Services signed an agreement with the Port of Humboldt Bay to exclusively negotiate to be the developer and operator of a terminal to serve as California's first hub for offshore wind energy installations.

If an agreement is reached, Crowley will be the exclusive developer/operator of the wind terminal at Humboldt Bay.

In an interview with the American Journal of Transportation, Jeff Andreini, Crowley Wind Services's Vice President, described the future terminal, saying “heavy lift ships will be used for the construction of the terminals. There will be heavy lift cranes that will … be doing the actual construction of the turbine. So, the terminal will do the construction of the floaters. The floaters will actually be built in Humboldt Bay and not in a foreign country.


There might be materials that might come from Asia, but the pre-construction will potentially (take place) in either San Francisco or Los Angeles and would be shipped to Humboldt Bay where the actual buildout will take place.” 

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Oregon’s attorney general announced a nearly $700 million settlement Thursday with the biotech giant Monsanto for its alleged role in polluting the state over the course of decades with toxic compounds known as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.
“Polychlorinated biphenyls have caused and continue to cause devastating impact on the natural environment,” Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said during a news conference in Portland. “They threaten the health of the people that use and enjoy our state’s natural resources — our air, our water, our ground, our fish, practically everything in our habitat.”
From the 1930s to just before they were banned in 1979, Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of PCBs in the United States. Since at least 1937, the company knew they were harmful. The chemicals were distributed throughout the U.S. in a variety of products, including paint, caulking, and electrical equipment.
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[Humboldt Bay was designated as impaired by PCBs under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act in 2002, based on levels of PCBs found in fish tissue. PCBs have been demonstrated to cause a variety of serious health effects, including cancer and serious effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and endocrine system. For more info on PCBs and their health effects, click HERE].