1/31/18

Two weeks ago, at a festive reception and awards ceremony in downtown Sacramento, First District Supervisor Rex Bohn was installed as chair of the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC).

Four of the county’s five supervisors were in attendance, along with several prominent local business leaders, some members of county staff, State Senator Mike McGuire and others. 

Some of these folks drove down to the state Capitol. But others traveled in private planes on flights donated by two local business leaders. One plane, a 2004 Pilatus PC-12, is owned by ACV Group LLC, a corporation whose CEO, Justin Zabel, is president of local construction firm Mercer-Fraser — a company with a controversial project currently pending before the Board of Supervisors.

Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg was on that flight, though he opted to pay for his seat (more on that later). A second plane, belonging to Shafer’s Ace Hardware owner Jack Rieke, carried Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell, D’Amico and Sheriff William Honsal.

Mercer-Fraser, as you may recall, is currently petitioning the county with a controversial re-zone request for property it owns along the Mad River near Glendale. The Eureka construction firm wants the zoning on its 13.5-acre parcel changed to heavy industrial so it can build a 5,000-square-foot commercial cannabis extraction manufacturing facility (a hash lab, effectively) onsite.

Now that cannabis operations are legitimate business in California, established business leaders like Zabel are getting in on the game. And they have friends in high places. Supervisors, Lee said, come into office with “a whole set of relationships in the community. It’s generally why they get elected.”

Bass made a similar point. “We all know each other in this community; we’re all friends,” she said. “A lot of us have been friends way prior to our political world.”

But Jennifer Kalt, director of Humboldt Baykeeper and a critic of Mercer-Fraser’s Glendale project, said personal relationships shouldn’t be allowed to influence public policy.

“I’m constantly shocked how people just shrug and act like the oligarchy of developers around here is just the way it is, like there’s nothing we can do about it,” she said. As for Sundberg’s flight to Sacramento, Kalt said, “I think it’s outrageous.”

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1/19/18

The Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District Board of Directors voted this week to appeal Mercer-Fraser Company’s proposed construction of a cannabis edibles and concentrate manufacturing facility that the district claims has the potential to contaminate drinking water for 88,000 county residents.

The district’s main concern, as brought up by its board members at the Planning Commission meeting, was not the construction of the cannabis facility, but a proposed zoning classification change that would allow the facility along with other industrial uses to be allowed along the site. The proposed zoning change would be from “agriculture general” to “qualified heavy industrial.”

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1/16/18

The governing board for Humboldt County’s main water supplier is set to decide Wednesday whether to appeal the construction of a Glendale cannabis edibles and concentrates manufacturing facility that would be located near one of its drinking water pumps on the Mad River.

Last week, several district representatives urged the county Planning Commission to reject the project and a proposed land use zoning change on the property because they have the potential of contaminating drinking water for about 88,000 county residents.

“It’s a simple question for us: Are there other properties where this facility might be better suited?” Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District John Friedenbach said Tuesday on why the district plans to appeal. “... This one is literally right on top of the drinking water source.”

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12/8/17

 

Former longtime Arcata Community Development Director and Eureka-based consultant Larry Oetker has been named the new executive director of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District.

 

The harbor district’s five-member board of commissioners voted 4-1 on Thursday evening — with 1st Division Commissioner Larry Doss dissenting — to appoint Oetker. Oetker is set to start in his new position on Dec. 20 and will receive an annual salary of $110,000, according to 4th Division Commissioner Richard Marks.

 

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11/9/17 

 

State and federal officials are engaged in an intensive planning process for the first auction of zones for development of giant wind farms in the Pacific.

 

But right before the first auction was to be announced, opposition emerged from an unexpected source: the U.S. Navy. After a year and a half of public hearings and outreach by a state-federal task force, the Navy suddenly signaled in August that it would veto the ocean area off San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties that was expected for the first wind farms. What’s more, the Navy claimed the entire offshore zone stretching from Los Angeles north to Big Sur, comprising 36,000 square miles, saying it is needed for military testing and thus is off-limits to wind farms.

 

State and federal officials are negotiating with the Navy to find a solution. But if the Navy refuses to budge, state officials will need to switch to their designated Plan B — a series of potential areas off Sonoma, Humboldt and Del Norte counties, where the Navy has raised no objections. Although interconnection to the grid would be more difficult in these areas, they would be suitable for initial wind farm projects while negotiations continue farther south.

 

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