A California bill would formalize what Humboldt County has been doing since 1989 — ban the use of weedkillers on state highways in counties that restrict the use.Assembly Bill 99 would require Caltrans to pivot away from chemical deployment and instead use other methods such as laying concrete, mowing and mulching to prevent overgrowth onto state highways.In 1989, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors entered into an agreement with Caltrans to stop spraying herbicides on state roads in the county.“In 1989, the Humboldt County Board of Supes was very conservative and it voted unanimously to ask Caltrans to stop, not spray, to continue the no-spray program, but there’s never been anything written, you can’t even find anything down at the county supervisors archives,” Patty Clary, executive director of the Arcata-based Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, said.“To get this bill passed would then formalize that agreement and make it permanent,” she added.On Monday, the state Assembly approved the bill, authored by Assemblymember Damon Connolly (D-San Rafael), with a 55-16 party-line vote, meaning it is headed to the relatively more left-leaning state Senate. Mendocino County has also suspended the use of herbicides on state roadways.420,842 pounds of the toxic substances were used to manage state highway roadside vegetation in 2022, according to a CATs news release.Read More
On Thursday, Humboldt County’s Lanphere and Ma-le’l Dunes in Manila became one of the dozens of sites in the state to be awarded a National Natural Landmark designation.The Lanphere and Ma-le’l Dunes stretch across 1.25 miles of coastline, featuring lush plant life, swamps, and as the dedication ceremony’s attendees quickly discovered, a vibrant mosquito population. They are the most pristine coastal dunes in the Pacific Northwest, said Bureau of Land Management assistant field manager Jennifer Wheeler, who spoke at the dedication ceremony.“Through leadership and strong partnerships, thousands of people including many of you here today have come together in service to this unique coastal landscape,” Wheeler said. “Collectively, we’ve protected cultural resources, restored native plant communities, habitat for native pollinators and other wildlife, restored physical and ecological dune processes and provided a window into an ancient natural landscape, and we’ve done it while providing for compatible public use and recreation, serving the needs and well being of individuals and families at the local, national and even global community level.”Read More
On Wednesday, a state government committee meeting in Sacramento featured several Humboldt County stakeholders to discuss the future of offshore wind power in the county.The meeting of the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, which North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire chairs, did not make any permanent decisions about offshore wind in the state, but several key players in Humboldt County were present in Sacramento to air thoughts on the pressing issues facing development. One particular concern McGuire addressed was Humboldt County’s electrical transmission lines, which would not be able to effectively transmit the power generated by offshore wind.“(The transmission lines are) antiquated. I will take a moment to say PG&E … if we’re looking at the Humboldt (County) call area, they have not kept up on their deferred maintenance, there is no way in hell that the current lines that we have available are going to be able to take on the additional load,” McGuire said.He noted that he is working with Cal Poly Humboldt and the Schatz Energy Research Center to develop a federal grant application to fund the research of transmission corridors. He also said that the only way to pay for improvements would be to pass the cost onto the ratepayers, a politically risky move due to the already high bills people pay to PG&E on the North Coast.McGuire expressed frustration with staffing levels and the budgetary ability to move quickly, citing the California Coastal Commission’s single staffer.“In all candor, there is no way this industry is going to get off the ground in the state of California, there is no way that we’re going to meet our green energy goals if we don’t step up the appropriate permit agencies. I mean, that’s the bottom line of it. The Coastal Commission can’t do it with this one staff (member). So I think we need to acknowledge that in budgets, our value statements, and if we value our climate, and we value that expediting and weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels, we’re going to invest in the people that are going to be able to get it done.”
I interviewed Jennifer Kalt of Humboldt Baykeeper last year while walking with her at the Arcata Marsh. My conversation with her touched on cleaning up Humboldt Bay, the Clean Water Act, and preparing for sea level rise in part one of two parts. I found her very informative and devoted to her work.Dana Utman: When it comes to sites around the Humboldt Bay that need to be cleaned up, do you have any idea how many there might be? Jennifer Kalt: There are dozens. There used to be over 100 lumber mills around the bay. For example, further up was a plywood mill, then there’s Beaver Lumber, and it just keeps going along Butcher Slough. There’s a lot of really complex site history. A lot of the mills changed hands many times and they reused the sites for different things, such as plywood, studs for building frames, or milling logs throughout different eras. But between the 1940s and the 1980s a lot of them used a wood preservative called pentachlorophenol or penta for short. It's still used it on power poles. There have been some recent lawsuits about that, and PG&E has agreed to stop using it. Luckily, the Clean Water Act has a citizen provision. If the government isn’t pursuing the laws, an organization can sue to enforce the laws that protect the waterways. A plaintiff in a lawsuit under the Clean Water Act can only collect attorney’s and expert fees. The money doesn’t actually go to the organization. People believe we oftentimes get all this money pursuing lawsuits, but we don’t. We get changes on the ground. It’s a big effort. Lawyers oftentimes do it on contingency, so they’re volunteering until you settle the case, and then they get paid after that. But the plaintiff doesn’t get any money. There’s incentive to do good, that’s why we do it. There is often a penalty, or SEP. It’s basically the money that goes to remedy some of the damage that was done, and that money will go off into another environmental group working in the watershed or it will go to a foundation, like Humboldt Area Foundation, that gives grants to other organizations working in the same watershed. But the plaintiff can’t apply for those grants.Dana Utman: How do you think the system can be improved?Jennifer Kalt: There could be a huge improvement in terms of other types of lawsuits and other types of environmental laws. Ultimately, what would be best, is if the government agencies would enforce their own regulations.
A gray whale carcass was found earlier this week on the beach at Bunkers, a popular surf spot in the Samoa Dunes Recreation Area.Researchers from Cal Poly Humboldt Marine Mammal Stranding Program responded to the scene Tuesday to collect samples, and according to Director Dawn Goley, this particular Eschrichtius robustus was a male juvenile measuring 27 feet long.“It was emaciated but showed no additional signs consistent with a ship strike or fatal killer whale attack,” Goley said in an email to the Outpost.Gray whales on the West Coast have had a rough few years. Since the start of 2019 they’ve experienced an elevated number of deaths and strandings, a trend that NOAA Fisheries has designated an Unusual Mortality Event. Between January 1, 2019 and February 8 of this year, 613 stranded gray whales were found between Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and the Chukchi Sea in northern Alaska, according to Humboldt Baykeeper.Read More