Ore Processing Proposal Withdrawn, Bay Shellfish Expansion, Three Billboards Legally Removed
Major Shellfish Expansion Proposed in North Bay
On March 7, U.S. Mine Corporation withdrew its proposal to pursue development of a gold ore processing plant at the former Evergreen Pulp Mill in Samoa. In a letter to Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation, and Conservation District Executive Director Jack Crider, Scott Dockter, President of U.S. Mine Corp, wrote, “In our final analysis of the proposal, we determined we could not accept the risk involved with the significant effort and substantial cost it would have taken to receive agency and public approval.”
On February 12, U.S. Mine Corp. had requested a 6-month agreement with options for extensions to explore the idea of building a facility to process ore from unspecified mines and use the waste to manufacture pre-formed concrete products.
The public raised questions about water and air pollution, with particular concerns for Humboldt Bay’s fragile ecosystem, wildlife, and fishing industries. Few questions or concerns raised by the public or the Commissioners were answered. The company’s representatives either did not know or were not forthcoming with specifics about its proposal, saying that they did not know what type of ore it would process, what chemicals would be involved, or even which mines it would serve.
Commissioners voted 4-0 (with Commissioner Greg Dale absent) for a 3-month agreement, giving the company 60 days to submit descriptions of the proposed development, site plans, and funding sources.
But after hearing public concerns about water and air pollution, the use of cyanide and other toxic chemicals, and risks to Humboldt Bay from earthquake and tsunami hazards, the company decided “we are unable to commit ourselves to this long and expensive process.”
Although U.S. Mine Corp’s president A. Scott Dockter characterized cyanide as “not that toxic,” cyanide processing was banned in 1998 by voter initiative in the state of Montana, when 85,000 gallons of cyanide-laced water leaked through damaged leach pad liners, killing all life in a 17-mile stretch of Colorado’s Alamosa River.
The Harbor District and U.S. EPA recently removed millions of gallons of caustic chemicals left behind by the previous operator, Evergreen Pulp, a Chinese corporation that was sold to a shell company in 2008. The cleanup has to date cost taxpayers $6 million and is expected to cost $10 million to complete.
Humboldt Baykeeper is relieved that U.S. Mine Corp realized so quickly that its proposal was not a good fit for Humboldt Bay. Thanks to everyone who spoke up for a healthy bay and against industries that would put Humboldt Bay at risk. We wish the District success in its search for environmentally-appropriate industries to use the former pulp mill site. Proposals currently under discussion include aquaponic food production, dry ice manufacturing, and oyster seed production.
Major Shellfish Expansion Proposed in North Bay
Two proposals for expanding shellfish production in North Humboldt Bay are currently under review by the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation, and Conservation District. Coast Seafoods, the largest oyster grower in Humboldt Bay, is proposing to expand its footprint from 296 acres to 910 acres. The Harbor District’s Mariculture Expansion Pre-Permitting Project proposes to add 550 acres of production, primarily for oysters, but also for edible native seaweed and Manila clams.
Both projects will require permits from the California Coastal Commission, Army Corps of Engineers, and Regional Water Quality Control Board. Resources agencies will also weigh in, including the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service. State and federal agencies have No Net Loss policies for eelgrass due to its importance to many species of fish and wildlife. Eelgrass is also thought to buffer the effects of ocean acidification, which lowers pH during upwelling events, interfering with marine organisms’ ability to form shells.
Humboldt Baykeeper and the Northcoast Environmental Center are reviewing these proposals and commented on the need to avoid or mitigate impacts to eelgrass, shorebirds, migratory waterfowl such as black brant, recreation, and cumulative effects of both proposed projects.
Three Billboards Legally and Permanently Removed
After many years of persistent calls for Caltrans to enforce its own regulations governing outdoor advertising, three billboards were legally and permanently removed from the Coastal View Area along Highway 101 adjacent to Humboldt Bay. Scenic views of the bay have been restored between the California Redwood Company and Eureka Slough.
These billboards have persisted on property owned by the North Coast Rail Authority for many years in spite of NCRA objections, including refusing to accept payment from the sign owners. In August 2011, Caltrans revoked the Outdoor Advertising Act permits for all three billboards, citing lack of landowner permission, which is required by the Act. The signs were never removed, and in June 2014, Caltrans inexplicably renewed the permits, leaving no paper trail for how this decision was made.
Last December, Caltrans was finally persuaded to revoke these permits once again. On March 1, the billboards were removed by All Points Signs without further delay.
Earth Day Cleanup and Hoedown, April 25
Love the Bay but frustrated by the deluge of garbage? Do your part to clean it up by kayaking out to Indian Island on Humboldt Bay for Earth Day.
Humboldt Baykeeper has partnered with the HSU Aquatic Center to provide you with all the gear for free to get out to the island. No experience needed! Have a kayak? Meet us down at the dock to paddle out. Meet at the Aquatic Center, 921 Waterfront Dr. Eureka, Saturday April 25th at 10 am for those without kayaks for a safety talk and vest fitting—10:45 am for those with a kayak and safety vest. We will return to the dock by 2 pm. Bring layers, sunscreen/hat, gloves, and water. As an added bonus, you are invited to a hoedown at the Friends of the Dunes Nature Center at 4 pm. Free for volunteers! Space is limited.
Sign up early! Call us at 707-825-1020 or email Jasmin at email@example.com