On last week’s KMUD Environment Show, Tom Wheeler of EPIC interviewed Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jen Kalt about the latest of the Nordic AquaFarms proposal to raise Atlantic Salmon at the former pulp mill in Samoa. Click HERE for a discussion on what is being proposed, issues and concerns, and the timeline for public input. In early 2019, the company announced its proposal to build a massive land-based fish factory on property owned by the Harbor District. In recent months, the proposal has begun to take shape. Humboldt Baykeeper staff, volunteers, and HSU interns have been gathering info and talking with experts and other stakeholders about various concerns. The County has released the Project Description, but other technical studies have not yet been finalized. We are expecting the public review and comment period to begin soon for the County's environmental review and other agency's permits. What is proposed: Nordic is proposing to raise Atlantic Salmon in buildings with partially-recirculating water that would be treated before discharging up to 12 million gallons/day (mgd) into the ocean through the 1 1/2 mile outfall pipe that was once used by the pulp mill. The ocean discharge will require an NPDES permit from the Regional Water Board and a Coastal Development Permit from the Coastal Commission, both of which will have separate public processes. The water would primarily come from a Humboldt Bay intake, which will also receive separate permits. Another 2-3 mgd will come from the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District through the industrial lines that once brought 65 mgd of "raw" Mad River water to the two pulp mills. What it is not: Nordic AF is not proposing to raise fish in open net pens in the ocean or Humboldt Bay. The company representatives claim they will not raise genetically-engineered fish; they are planning to raise "domesticated" Atlantic Salmon, although they have not yet applied for an aquaculture permit from the CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife. The project would be similar to Nordic's proposal in Belfast, Maine, but that site is very different; it proposes a new outfall pipe to discharge to an enclosed bay with eelgrass beds. Issues & Concerns:
- Impacts to the marine environment from the ocean discharge and the bay intake. We are reviewing all of the available information and discussing these concerns with experts and fellow stakeholders. The potential to exacerbate toxic algae like domoic acid is of great concern to Dungeness crabbers, and can have devastating effects on marine mammals and birds. The potential for diseases that could affect wild fish are also a concern, despite measures to help contain viruses.
- Fish feed. Depending on the ingredients and the sources, fish feed can have devastating impacts on ocean life and the communities that rely on them. If more fish is fed than produced, pound for pound, the result can be higher levels of mercury, PCBs, dioxins, and other toxic chemicals that are magnified by eating higher on the food chain.
- Energy and greenhouse gas emissions. Pumping, chilling, and treating all that water will consume a lot of energy: approximately 18-28 MW, which is between 10-20% of the electricity consumed by Humboldt County as a whole. The source of most of that energy has yet to be identified, although plans include a 3-5MW solar array. Plans also include 18MW natural gas backup generators and diesel "backup to the backup" - in case both the grid and natural gas lines are down.
Potential Benefits: The smokestack, boiler building, debris, and other remnants of the pulp mill would be demolished and removed. Soil contamination on the site has been thoroughly assessed and considered in plans for building stormwater filtration ponds. Contaminated groundwater on the site will continue to be the responsibility of Louisiana-Pacific.
As always, we will keep our members posted on opportunities to review and comment on this proposed project.