May 10, 2017

Update on Dredging! EPA Says NO to Beach Dumping!

As you might have heard, or seen, or experienced in person, Humboldt Bay needs to be dredged and as soon as possible. To be clear, we DO support this maintenance dredging and agree that it is an undeniably urgent matter.

What to do with the spoils has raised a lot of controversy in the past and in recent months because the City of Eureka and Humboldt Bay Harbor District – who are jointly responsible for dredging the bay – have been pushing to dump the dredge spoils on the Samoa Peninsula as they have done in years past despite protests from the public and warnings from the agencies charged with permitting this project.

The previous maintenance dredging was completed in 2007, at which time the Coastal Commission and EPA warned the City and District they would not approve beach disposal again.

So when they proposed dumping the spoils on Samoa Beach again a few months ago, this raised our concern because it would not only impede public access, and impact beach use, but we knew the Coastal Commission, EPA and other agencies were likely to deny the project, thereby delaying the badly needed dredging.

We were right. On May 3rd, in a conference call with staff from the Harbor District and the City, officials with the Environmental Protection Agency gave a clear “no way” to the beach disposal plan per their longstanding policies on ocean dumping. Proposing the beach disposal as the “best” option has not only delayed this process, but unfairly pit constituents against each other. Many of our members/you are also fishermen/women.

It is sad and frustrating to hear people say they are torn about “which side to pick” regarding this issue.There shouldn’t be a side. We all are working towards the same goal of a clean, accessible bay.

Now that beach disposal is officially off the table, there are still a number of other potential options for what to do with the dredge spoils. Moving forward, we would like to see the Harbor District and City work closely with the permitting agencies to identify the best immediate solution as well as long-term options, and then do meaningful public outreach around those options, bringing our community together so that our bay once again can be home to working harbors, as well as be a place for serious recreational opportunities that everyone can enjoy.

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