Wednesday, January 31, 2018

California Dredging issues addressed at CMANC.

I went to a California Maritime Affairs and Navigation Conference meeting in Los Angeles recently to talk about dredging issues. I am a director on CMANC and here was a quick synapse on what happened there:

Humboldt Harbor main channels are on schedule to dredged from May 20th to June 10th by the Army Corp of Engineers. It is estimated that 600,000 cubic yards will be moved by hopper dredge. Only the Channel Islands, San Francisco Harbor, and Oakland Harbor are scheduled for more. 

"Sea Level Rise" has now been replaced by" Sea Level Change" as the politically correct designation since lands in Alaska are rising and lands in New Orleans are sinking. Discussion was had about "Graceful Failure or retreat." 

Dredge Spoils is also on the way out. A 3,000 cubic yard "Strategic Placement of materials with Beneficial Reuse" components on pilot project using tides, spraying methods and other state of the art type processes is in the works. Maybe Moffett field on SF Bay.

Lt. General Todd Semonite of the Army Corp of Engineers gave an impassioned speech about  the Corps commitment to follow through on projects. I had a chance to talk to him and he was attentive.  

Smaller Marina in North San Diego has a cooper paint abatement project ongoing. Cooper is being replaced by new paints. This could have a dramatic affect in Humboldt. It is coming in the future.

Keith Merkel updated the Eel Grass conundrum. The concerns and issues are state wide. Humboldt has more Eel grass than all of the other harbors in California. Might be why we are the only "High Health" certified bay in California.  

Small East Harbor Marina in SF has 300 core samples checking for contaminants. 1 million dollars in costs. They may close the marina and that would eliminate about 300 boat slips.  

Superfund Maintenance Dredging the Willamette in 9.1 mile stretch on city front of Portland has a current price tag of 1 Billion dollars.

New Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District Executive Director Larry Oetker was able to spend quality time with other ports to hear issues and figure how they could apply to solution for Humboldt. Dredging is definitely on the forefront for the Harbor District.  

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

North Coast Rail Authority bits and pieces.

The North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) was created by the State Legislature in 1989 to ensure the continuation of rail service in north western California.  NCRA obtained ownership and/or right-of way to 316 miles of rail corridor extending from the national rail interchange at Lombard, south of Napa, to Humboldt Bay in the north.
NCRA was created without a dedicated source of funding but with considerable deferred maintenance and environmental cleanup issues.  NCRA operated from 1992 until 1998 when the line was shut down by FRA Emergency Order 21. Freight service resumed in July, 2011 on the southern 62 miles of the line from Lombard to Windsor.

NCRA is governed by a nine member board of directors. The Board of Supervisors of the counties of Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino and Humboldt each appoint two directors. The ninth director is appointed by the city/mayor selection committee of one of the counties.

The Rail Corridor
NCRA is currently responsible for oversight and maintenance of 280 miles of rail corridor from Healdsburg north to the Port of Humboldt Bay. The northern portion of the line is known as the Eel River Division and the southern portion is known as the Russian River Division. SMART is now responsible for maintenance on their operational segment, a distance of approximately 36 miles of the shared right of way.

Agency Financing

NCRA currently has two sources of consistent revenue: lease of rolling stock and revenue from leases, licenses and encroachment permits. In addition, periodic revenue results from the sale of property, equipment or one-time long term lease arrangements. Annual property revenues collected by the NCRA range from $300,000 to $500,000. 

Recent property sales proceeds have been dedicated to site development in an effort to create an additional source of long-term funding through commercial leases once property improvements are completed. The most recent example is sale of a 4.1 acre portion of the Ukiah Depot property to the Judicial Council of California for construction of a new Mendocino County Courthouse.

NCRA's liabilities include the outstanding RRIF loan, the loan from NWP Company, and outstanding amounts due to contract service providers for legal and engineering services.

In 2005 and 2007 NCRA sought assistance from the State legislature to allow NCRA to utilize State funds that were no longer required for repayment of a federal loan, and instead use the funds to address health and safety issues. In both 2005 and 2007 the legislature approved the requested legislation, but the bills were vetoed by the Governor.
Operational Challenges

NCRA was created without a dedicated source of funding but with considerable deferred maintenance and environmental cleanup issues. A lack of stable agency funding has hindered NCRA's ability to respond to maintenance and emergency issues, secure payment for use of NCRA property and apply for and secure grants.
NCRA has also been hindered by the historic choice to construct a rail line through the Eel River canyon, one of the most geologically unstable areas in the world. For example, the day the ceremonial spike was driven at Cain Rock in 1914, completing construction of the line from Willits to Eureka, a landslide prevented the inaugural train from completing the trip to Eureka. NCRA commenced operations in 1992 but was plagued from the start by line closures due to storm damage and slides in the Eel River canyon, with some closures lasting for months at a time. The entire line was shut down in 1998 by FRA Emergency Order 21 ("E021").

 NCRA, as steward of a 316-mile railroad line, is required to coordinate with the following regulatory or trustee agencies involved in coordination, permitting and other approvals:

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Federal Railway Administration (FRA)
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA)
United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFW)
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
United States Forest Service (USFS)
United States Coast Guard (USCG)
California Transportation Commission
Office of Emergency Services
California Department of Transportation (Caltrans Districts 1 and 4)
California Department of Fish & Game (DFG)
Regional Water Quality Control Boards - North Coast and San Francisco Bay Regions
Department of Toxic Substance Control
State Historic preservation Office
State Lands Commission
California Coastal Commission
California Public Utilities Commission
San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC)
15 Cities along the railroad right-of-way
6 Counties along the railroad right of way
Regional transportation planning agencies
Numerous private property owners encroaching on and neighboring the rail line
NCRA, with strong support from Humboldt County, led an effort that resulted in a broad based community consensus in the Humboldt Bay area regarding development of rails with trails. In accordance with NCRA's adopted rails with trails guidelines, multi-use trail projects have been constructed within the NCRA right of way in Healdsburg, Ukiah, Arcata, Eureka and Humboldt County. All of these trails have been intentionally designed to work in concert with rail service.

NWP Co., in conjunction with NCRA, has identified portions of the line where the return of freight service is economically feasible. NWP Co. is preparing a separate business plan which is expected to address the viability of freight rail in the following areas:

Several companies have expressed interest in shipping with NWP Co. on the Russian River Division north of Windsor, including Mendocino Redwood Company, Mendocino Forest Products, Reuser, Inc., All Coast Forest Products, Redwood Empire Forest Products and Syar Industries.

From South Fork to Eureka, Arcata, and Samoa, along with a tourist train. Shippers that have expressed interest include Humboldt Redwood Company, gravel operators and contractors, many of whom work with both the County and CalTrans, including Eureka Ready Mix, Mercer Fraser, Thomas R. Bess Inc. and Jack Noble.

The remainder of the rail line, from Willits to South Fork, including the Eel River Canyon, is less suitable for freight rail traffic. The area has a long history of landslides, flooding and heavy maintenance requirements that make it prohibitively expensive to maintain as a rail corridor. Estimates for the restoration of rail service through the Eel River canyon start at $600 million. There is currently no economic justification for making that kind of investment. 
Phase 1 - Windsor to Cloverdale
The portion of the rail line from Windsor (MP 62.9) to Cloverdale (MP 85.2) is currently planned by SMART for reconstruction to Class 4 with all new rail and track section using concrete ties. SMART also will be completing significant bridge and other infrastructure improvements to allow for 69 mile per hour passenger service. SMART is expected to complete the reconstruction of this portion of the rail line in 2021.

Phase 2 - Cloverdale to Ukiah
North of Cloverdale to Ukiah, outside the limits of the future SMART passenger service, the track rehabilitation is based on repairs to a level of Class 3 for freight with speeds up to 45mph. The repair cost includes $12 million in estimated repairs for the tunnel.

Repairs for the 5.3 mile Ukiah to Redwood Valley phase include bridge repairs, culvert cleaning and replacements, public crossing and signal repairs, private crossing modifications and track Upgrades for an estimated total of $5.1 million.

Repairs in this 21.5 mile phase consist of culvert cleaning and replacement, bridge repairs, drainage repairs to address geotechnical issues, public crossing improvements, private crossing modifications and track improvements estimated to total $19.2 million.

Phase 5 – South Fork to Eureka Rehabilitation
This 46.5 mile section is estimated to cost $47 million and includes vegetation clearing, upgrading of track, culvert cleaning and replacement, replacement of the Van Duzen bridge steel spans, timber bridge repairs, repairs to three tunnels and crossing signal and surface repairs and replacements.

Phase 6 - North Humboldt Bay Rail Corridor
Repairs for this 16.5 mile phase include track upgrades, brush cutting and vegetation removal embankment repairs, culvert repairs and cleaning, timber bridge repairs, crossing and signal repairs and upgrades for a total estimated $15 million.


NCRA is pursuing a course of action to accomplish the following:

Railbank a 120 mile portion of the right of way from Willits to South Fork, including the entire Eel River Canyon. Receive one time funding in exchange for railbanking to be used to retire debt.

Obtain dedicated funding to maintain necessary staffing and resources to manage the maintenance of those portions of the line that do not have freight service and are not yet railbanked.

Work toward obtaining grant and private funding to complete phased improvements to restore freight service from Cloverdale to Willits and establish a freight belt line and tourist train around Humboldt Bay.

Next move? Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

More Elitist golfers in Humboldt than Marin?

With the closing of the San Geronimo golf course in Marin County, the uber rich county now only has 3 public golf courses left for over 1/4 of a million people. Not enough patrons is the reason given for closure. In Humboldt county we have 6 public courses (Beau Pre, Willow Creek, Eureka, Redwood, Benbow and Shelter Cove) and 1 private (Baywood) to accommodate 135,000 residents .

Seems to me that we are well served in Humboldt when it comes to making duffers happy. Is it because Humboldt people have more time and disposable income? I doubt it, but don't have the answer. Personally, I am a hack, but just don't seem to have the time or patience to play enough to improve my game.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

How many Mills were in Humboldt in 1947? 170! Whoa!

Redwood Regional Economic Development Committee Executive Director Gregg Foster writes an intriguing  article for the Time Standard, "Then and now in Humboldt County." Some of the more interesting tid bits that caught my interest in comparing 1947 with now.

1. Because of the marketing boom for new houses after World War II, the need for lumber caused a boom in Sawmills, with numbers in Humboldt going from 49 to about 170! The worlds largest Redwood Mill was in Scotia.

2. Around 6,000 of the then 52,000 people living in the county worked in a mill. About 12% of the population. Agriculture nearly matched the mills in employment.

3. Timber production was at 730 million board feet in 1947 as compared to 232 million board feet in 2016.

4. McKinleyville only had 45 residents in 1947.

5. There were only 500 commercial fishermen in 1947.

Anyway, read the entire story which is linked to Gregg's name above. You will enjoy.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Five Burger Franchises Humboldt needs.

5. Farmer Boys: Also makes a great breakfast. You have to drive to Lodi if you want to experience some great burgers and ridiculous onion rings.
4. Arctic Circle: Yes. I know we used to have one. And the experience was so bad for the franchise they exclude all of California for expansion. I guess we will never find out what is in their "Special Sauce." Closest place to have one of their mushroom burgers or taco salads is in Newport, Oregon.
3. Habit Burger: Great Burgers, Grilled Sandwiches and Shakes. Closest one is in Redding.
2. Five Guys: Great big burgers and sometimes big lines. Many will argue that this is the best. Redding is home of the closest.
1. In n Out Burger: I am sorry that not everyone agrees, but I would guess that 80% of Humboldt residents prefer In n Out as their go to burger place when out of town. Ukiah is the closest to get your animal on.

Yes. I know we have many great local burger places in Humboldt and I will re-visit my top 5 soon.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Humboldt Progressive Democrats huge meeting tonight concerning Assemblyman Jim Wood.

The Humboldt Progressive Democrats will be deciding whether to with hold endorsing current Assemblyman Jim Wood because of his position on SB562. Former assembly-persons Patty Berg and Wes Chesbro are going to speak on behalf of current Assemblyman Jim Wood as will other local democrats. Lots of e-mails going back and forth the last few days. Will be interesting. Meeting starts at 6pm at 129 5th St. Eureka.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Humboldt Democrat Endorsed Candidates dominate local elections!

I know some people like to downplay the importance of endorsements and many pick on the local Democrats for their candidates, but you can’t argue with the record. Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee (HCDCC) endorsed city, county, community service district candidates and measures are 45-7 since 2008. 86.5% victories. Over 25 wins in a row! And I know I am missing some. Here is a list of endorsed winners:

Dan Kelley                                       2017             CR Trustee
Bonnie Deister                                 2017             CR Trustee
Mary Burke                                      2017              McKinleyville Community Service District
Estelle Fennell                                 2016              Humboldt County Supervisor
Mike Wilson                                     2016              Humboldt County Supervisor
Susan Ornelas                                 2016              Arcata City Council
Mike Winkler                                    2016              Arcata City Council
Austin Allison                                   2016              Eureka City Council
Measure P                                       2016              Eureka Wards
Measure V                                       2016              Rent Stabilization
Pat Higgins                                      2015              Humboldt Harbor Commissioner
Carol Vander Meer                          2015              Manila Community Service District
Carla Leopardo                               2015              Manila Community Service District
Jan Bramlett                                    2015              Manila Community Service District
Joe Mellett                                      2014               Auditor Controller
John Bartholomew                          2014              Tax Collector
Kelly Sanders                                 2014               Recorder/Registrar 
Sofia Pereira                                   2014              Arcata City Council
Mark Wheetley                                2014              Arcata City Council
Kim Bergel                                      2014              Eureka City Council
Natalie Arroyo                                 2014              Eureka City Council
Lisa Ollivier                                     2013              Eureka School Board
David Couch                                   2013              McKinleyville Community Service District
Mike Winkler                                   2012              Arcata City Council
Shane Brinton                                 2012              Arcata City Council
Linda Atkins                                    2012              Eureka City Council
Julie Fulkerson                               2012              Trinidad City Council
Mark Lovelace                                2012              Humboldt County Supervisor
Susan Johnson                               2011              Eureka School Board
John Corbett                                   2011              McKinleyville Community Service District
Garry Eagles                                   2010             Superintendent of Schools
Joe Mellett                                      2010              Auditor Controller
John Bartholomew                         2010              Tax Collector
Paul Gallegos                                 2010              District Attorney
Alex Stillman                                   2010              Arcata City Council
Mark Wheetley                               2010              Arcata City Council
Mike Wilson                                    2009              Humboldt Bay Harbor Commissioner
Richard Marks                                2009              Humboldt Bay Harbor Commissioner
David Couch                                   2009              McKinleyville Community Service District
Jimmy Smith                                   2008              Humboldt Supervisor
Mark Lovelace                                2008              Humboldt Supervisor
Linda Adkins                                   2008              Eureka City Council
Julie Fulkerson                               2008              Trinidad City Council
Shane Brinton                                2008               Arcata City Council

Mike Winkler                                  2008               Arcata City Council