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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A cancer-causing toxic wood preservative found at the site of a defunct lumber mill in the Glendale area has a state agency looking into whether chemicals could seep into the nearby Mad River and affect local drinking water.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control certified the site in 1998, placing a concrete cap over soil that might have been contaminated. But in late December, the department announced it had determined rising groundwater is contaminated with a toxic chemical, prompting a change in plans.

The chemical, pentachlorophenol, was used in pesticides for logging practices until its ban in 1984. According to the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the chemical was listed in 1990 as a carcinogen under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. Meanwhile, the mill went out of business in 2002, and state taxpayers have funded chemical monitoring at the site ever since.

DTSC project manager Henry Wong said his team is still weighing options on how to proceed.

“It’s not like you won’t be able to drink the water next week,” said Jennifer Kalt, director of Humboldt Baykeeper, a local nonprofit that works to protect coastal resources. “But it’s something we really need to keep an eye on and make sure (DTSC) does the best job possible with, instead of cutting any corners.”

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On Tuesday, the Democratic members of the House Committee on Natural Resources elected Huffman to serve as chair for the newly established Water, Ocean and Wildlife Subcommittee.

The chair is the result of a long career championing environmental protections and, for Huffman, it’s both an honor and a welcome added responsibility.
“Offshore drilling is an obvious priority,” Huffman said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “The Trump administration has yet to unveil its new leasing plan and we know they are enthusiastic about drilling off California. We have to be vigilant on that and it’s not going to happen, and we know it’s not going to happen, but we may have to fight that fight.”

Huffman has coordinated closely with communities and tribes across Northern California on water issues related to the ocean and rivers. That coordination will continue as he works to protect salmon species and restore the health of the Klamath and Trinity rivers.

“I think we are running out of time to save our salmon populations and I am thrilled to be in a position to play some offense instead of playing defense,” Huffman said. “Rivers and fish are squarely within this committee’s jurisdiction. There are issues I have spent my entire career working and it’s exciting to hold the gavel and be in a position to make some real progress.”

Environmental groups on the North Coast, including Humboldt Baykeeper, applauded the election of Huffman as chair of the subcommittee, pointing out the health of rivers and oceans is key to our survival.

“The oceans really are at a critical point as far as current conditions (are concerned),” said Jennifer Kalt, director of Humboldt Baykeeper. “Oceans are suffering between decreasing pH and increasing temperatures and toxic algae blooms. We can’t sit around and wonder what it will look like in 10 years. Waterkeepers across the country are looking forward to working with Huffman.”

Kalt pointed out other projects, such as developing offshore wind farms to generate electricity, better protections for whales that get caught in fishing gear and a healthier ocean for commercial fishermen who are losing productive fishing grounds are key.

“It’s not a good time to be a commercial fisherman,” Kalt said. “We need somebody who understands the fishing industry and the biology involved. Trump is pushing to roll back the Clean Waters Act and that’s absurd; we have pollution and declining fisheries and we need to protect fishermen and marine life.”

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In the first months of 2014, running unopposed for his second term as Eureka's mayor, Frank Jager found himself doing a lot of reading. He was researching his grandfather, a member of the Pottawatomi, a Great Plains tribe that fought alongside the French in the French and Indian War in the 1700s. In the aftermath of the war, the tribe was removed from its historic homelands and relocated to Oklahoma and Kansas.

That got Jager thinking about the removal of the Wiyot from Tuluwat, and Humboldt County's own legacy of genocide and theft. As mayor of Eureka and the grandfather of two Wiyot girls, he thought he could offer a simple gesture to heal old wounds, so he spent a weekend in mid-March drafting a letter to the tribe.

"In February 1860, 154 years ago, citizens from Eureka participated in what has been described as a massacre of unfathomable proportions," the letter began, going on to describe the attack on "that winter night long ago" when women and children were slaughtered. "As Mayor of Eureka, and on behalf of the city council and the people of Eureka, we would like to offer a formal apology to the Wiyot people for the actions of our people in 1860. Nothing we say or do can make up for what occurred on that night of infamy. It will forever be a scar on our history. We can, however, with our present and future actions of support for the Wiyot work to remove the prejudice and bigotry that still exist in our society today."

The letter was released to the public before it underwent legal review by then City Attorney Cyndy Day-Wilson, which posed a problem. While many in the public found the letter a heartfelt and long-overdue apology to take responsibility and make amends for a more than century-and-a-half-old massacre, Day-Wilson saw a financial liability. While legal experts widely agreed that was nonsense — that apologizing for a crime carried out by unknown people 14 years before Eureka was officially incorporated would in no way expose the city to liability — the council followed Day-Wilson's advice and edited the letter, removing mention of who attacked the Wiyot that day or anyone being sorry for it.

Jager's letter had been gutted.

"Of all the things that happened when I was the mayor, that was probably the most disappointing," he said, adding that some weeks later he traveled south to the Wiyot Tribe's Table Bluff Reservation to address the tribal council and apologize to them as a private citizen.

Recollections of that meeting differ. Jager says he recalls apologizing and telling the council about how he hoped to see the city erect a monument on the island commemorating the massacre. But Hernandez, the Wiyot Tribal chair, says he recalls it differently.

"He apologized and said, 'What else can we do?'" Hernandez says. "We said, 'Return the island.'"

What's clear is that Jager's gesture with the letter opened the door for something more, pushing both the tribe and the city to rethink what was possible.

"For him to come to the tribe and to apologize, I thought that was courageous," Seidner says. "I was happy that evening."

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A series of zone reclassifications that would change what kinds of activities are allowed in various Humboldt County areas triggered significant pushback from locals last month, prompting the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to push zoning decisions on several areas to May.

"Rezoning" of areas in Willow Creek, Blue Lake, Glendale, and McKinleyville will be held for the time-being, partly to allow those individual communities to have a say in how the land is classified. 

"I really hope that people out there are going to re-engage and recognize this is their chance to speak up for the community and try their best to speak to the things that would benefit their community," said 5th District Supervisor Steve Madrone.

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