The Trinidad Rancheria recently presented its revised concept of a 100-room hotel on the bluffs of Scenic Drive but it aroused little enthusiasm from the residents of Trinidad. 


David Tyson, CEO of the Trinidad Rancheria Economic Development Corporation (TREDC), gave the presentation during the March 13 meeting of the Trinidad City Council to an audience of about 40 people. Tyson said the Rancheria had reviewed the hundreds of comments received last October about the planned five-story Hyatt hotel and tried to address the concerns expressed. TREDC has hired a new developer, architect and hotel operator. Nonetheless, the plans still depict a five-story building, which is considerably larger than any other structure on the Trinidad coast.


The height of the building was reduced by about 20 feet, and the exterior now displays exposed timber and rock, which Tyson said is typical of northwestern architecture. 


Proposed water usage, which had been one of the most contentious issues, will be reduced to 3,500 gallons per day or less, Tyson said, because laundry will not be done onsite. This should also reduce the amount of wastewater entering the leachfield. The Rancheria also plans to use recycled graywater in the toilets, to help reduce water use. 


City Manager Dan Berman described the inherent uncertainties in studying the city's water supply. He described it as a puzzle consisting of three pieces. The first is how much water would be needed when all the land within the city limits is built out. The second is the capacity of the water treatment plant. 


"Even if the creek was infinite, how much water can we really pump and clean and produce on an ongoing basis out of our treatment plant? ... If we try to turn everything up 20 percent at our plant, does it still work right?" 


The third and most difficult piece of the puzzle is asking how much the entire watershed could support, especially considering climate change and drought. 


A government-to-government meeting between the Trinidad City Council and the Trinidad Rancheria Tribal Council was planned for the next day. It was not open to the public.


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Humboldt Baykeeper lauds that proposal is ‘directing action’


A bill introduced by a state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) that will address ocean acidification and water quality issues has been introduced and it’s being supported by a wide variety of stakeholders.


Senate Bill 69, authored by Wiener, is aimed at reducing landbased sources of pollutants, the restoration of wetlands and the sequestration of greenhouse gases and to protect wildlife and keystone species.


The bill specifically addresses timber harvest practices with an aim to limit the amount of sediment that flows into local rivers and streams and which then impacts the quality of water for bays and the ocean.


“This bill adds a layer of oversight that has been missing in the timber harvest plan approval process,” said Noah Oppenheimer, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association. He added the timber plans must be turned over to the local regional water quality control board but from there they have not been actively reviewed.


“The boards are required to review those plans but they often slip through the cracks,” Oppenheimer said. “This bill includes a provision to review those sediment management plans so we can close this loophole.”


Water quality issues are of paramount importance to the North Coast fisheries and aquaculture on the bay and one of the goals of the bill is to address ocean acidification caused by the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.


Shellfish, eelgrass, kelp and seaweed are all vulnerable to temperature changes and ocean acidification and any steps that can improve water quality, whether it’s a freshwater river or Humboldt Bay, would be welcomed by those who make a living on the water.


“We need clean water with no bacteria and we need healthy ecosystems and one of the keys there is some water quality stuff in this bill,” said Greg Dale, manager at Coast Seafoods in Eureka. “Shellfish and seagrasses are all good carbon fixers. They aid in alleviating some of the potential for acidic ocean conditions.”


Dale said one of the key reasons there is a thriving aquacultural base on the bay is due to the coordination and cooperation with local cities and the county, pointing out that the cities of Arcata and Eureka have been excellent to work with and both cities are focused on water quality that serves aquaculture.


“Eureka, Arcata and the county are all very proactive when it comes to water quality,” Dale said, adding the recent winter storms led to wastewater runoff into the bay that did impact oyster beds but that’s a part of their normal operations. “We know when we have big storms the systems can’t keep up, even the Eel River can’t keep up and we know what happens to the water quality. It’s fairly predictable because the agencies monitor the water and take great care when they do it. Coast Seafoods isn’t looking to expand on the bay but the industry would like to grow on the bay and all the work the municipalities do allow us to grow oysters.”


One of the key reasons the bill has gained the support of a wide variety of stakeholders is because it calls for action. The measure will require the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to implement new projects to improve Chinook salmon fisheries in the Central Valley and across the salmon fishing industry in the state, require timber harvest plans to be reviewed before approval and require the Natural Resources Agency to identify watercourses that will be listed on the California Endangered Rivers List.


“What I like about the measure is it puts things into actions. It’s not just plans and studies, it’s directing action. I’m tired of the plans that get made and then sit on a shelf,” said Jen Kalt, executive director of Humboldt Baykeeper. “One of the reforms is it will require timber harvest plans to adhere to Total Maximum Daily Loads. Timber practices are the biggest contributor to sediments in the streams and the goal is to reduce that sedimentary delivery and the Regional Water Quality Control Board is not doing anything.”


Kalt also pointed out local issues on Humboldt Bay are twofold. Dredging is definitely an issue because of heavy sedimentation in the bay and the dredge spoils, which can be used for wetland restoration, are prohibitively expensive to move from one location to another.


“Wetlands are incredible at sequestering carbon and when we dredge we get spoils that can be used for wetland restoration,” Kalt said, adding the cost to contain and dewater the spoils so that they can be used and then move it to an area in need of restoration is too high. “The evident solution is to use it for restoration, but there is just no money for that. The permitting is expensive and the Harbor District is operating on a shoestring budget.”


Kalt said the importance of wetland restoration is a key part of the bill because those areas play a key role in filtering pollutants and help protect the shoreline from storm damage and support fish and bird habitats.


“We need to stop pretending no net loss of wetlands is good enough,” Kalt said. “We need net gains in wetlands and this bill will do that.”


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The Center for Biological Diversity is hopeful its lawsuit filed over whale and sea turtle entanglements is nearing its conclusion after a federal judge suggested she may find the California Department of Fish and Wildlife liable for the entanglements, a center spokesman said.


“The judge said she was inclined to grant our motion and find the department liable for allowing these illegal whale entanglements,” spokesman Steve Jones said Friday after the hearing in United States District Court for the Northern District of California. “So the department’s lawyer asked her to delay that ruling for two weeks to see if our settlement talks can arrive at a remedy to the problem.”


The two parties have until March 13 to work out their differences and report back to the judge. If no settlement is reached, the judge will issue a finding.


The Center for Biological Diversity sued the state Department of Fish and Wildlife in October 2017, when the number of whale entanglements was skyrocketing. The peak came in 2016 when there were 71 confirmed whale entanglements.


The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations is a defendant-intervenor in the case and is not taking a position on the liability issue that will be decided in the coming weeks, but is a part of the ongoing talks.


“We are engaging on behalf of the fleet in other factual aspects of the case as they arise and in settlement discussions so we don’t lose any of the progress we’ve made, which has been substantial,” said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of the fishermen’s group. “Fishermen have been doing the hard work necessary to minimize entanglements and promote whale-safe fisheries through voluntary and regulatory measures.”


“To date, to my knowledge, there have been zero entanglements in the Dungeness crab fishery in 2018, the period since major regulatory changes were enacted via state law,” Oppenheim added. “This is a big deal because it indicates that the working group and its risk assessment and mitigation program is working. Throughout this whole process, we can’t lose sight of the fact that fishermen, scientists, and environmentalists came together and put together the most progressive science-based progress of its kind in the country. It would be a shame if we lose our momentum, or worse, were forced to throw all of this progress out the window because of the lawsuit.”


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The North Coast climate assessment warns of higher temperatures, prolonged dry seasons, more extreme weather events and a decrease in river streamflows. Tuesday morning, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will get an up close and personal look at the report.

The board will hear a climate change assessment coordinated by University of California Berkeley professor Theodore Grantham, a Eureka High School graduate, on the impacts climate change will have on the region. The assessment includes input from local cities and counties across the North Coast region as well as tribes and state and federal agencies.

Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson placed the climate assessment on the agenda and he hopes the report will better inform local governments and residents about the importance of addressing impacts from climate change.

“I saw this as an opportunity to bring this forward so more of the public can be aware of the information available,” Wilson said Monday. “The report has some modeling more specific to our area. We are continuing to update our General Plan process and our zoning maps with a focus on hazards like sea level rise and wildfires. This information is important.”

The potential for increased fire risks in local forestlands is a concern as is sea level rise that will impact communities and properties along Humboldt Bay and that sea level rise will have a direct impact on how local governments plan for future developments.

“Humboldt County has approved a number of flood plain developments where in essence we are saying ‘it’s OK to build on the plain as long as you build 2 feet above the 100-year flood level,'” said Jen Kalt, executive director of Humboldt Baykeeper. “We can’t plan for these things by looking in the rearview mirror anymore. We have to plan moving forward in a time of abrupt climate change.”

The assessment also points out residents might not see a change in the amount of rainfall the region gets but the nature and timing of that rainfall could change with periods of heavy rain during the winter months and then periods of extended drought during the drier months.

The heavier rains could lead to more erosion and then to landslides along with flooding. Streamflows will decline during the dry season combined with increased flows during winter.

“One thing is hard not to notice in the new report is the changes are happening faster than we previously projected and what we are watching for are the fastest changing patterns,” Kalt said. “Just from casual observation, our springs and falls are a lot drier and it seems we are getting the rainfall in a tighter window of the year. How does that impact inland streams where coho salmon spawn? If the rainy season is changing, what other impacts on the environment, the fish, the rivers will we see?”

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The California Coastal Commission approved a six-month extension on legalizing the commercial cannabis industry in the coastal zone at its monthly meeting on Friday in Half Moon Bay. 


Humboldt County commercial cannabis industry is still illicit in coastal zones simply because there have not been any regulations implemented. It could be another six months before those rules are put in place after the commission voted 9-1 Friday morning to extend the deadline by six months.


County Planning Director John Ford send a letter to the commission expressing frustration about the impending delay.


North Coast Commissioner Ryan Sundberg initially pushed Friday morning for a three-month delay, stating the county sought to move forward and noting the lack of rules puts local cannabis farmers in a tough position.


“The request I had from the county this morning was to do a three-month extension and not the one year,” Sundberg told the commission. “We’ve got people in Humboldt who have invested millions of dollars in projects and this keeps getting held up and held up. I understand where they’re coming with a sense of urgency because of many, many jobs and lots of money invested.”


Jack Ainsworth, executive director of the commission, shot down the idea. “I don’t want to bring something to you half-basked,” he said.


Jennifer Savage, who said she was representing Humboldt Baykeeper and Friends of the Eel River, spoke during the public comment period and backed the extension.


“The potential to degrade coastal resources is too great to rush forward without a local public hearing and we hope that lessons from the implementation of the inland cannabis ordinances will be fully incorporated with input from the local communities,” she said.


“And on a personal note, as a 21-year resident of Humboldt County, I know very well how all things cannabis are intertwined with all things Humboldt and I absolutely urge you to give the necessary time and allow the local community to weigh in as it takes to get this right,” she added. 


A motion was made, amended and ultimately approved 9-1 giving a six-month extension.


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