I went to the Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation & Conservation District (HBHRCD) “Economic Development Committee” meeting tonight to hear the economic vision for the port. Woody Murphy was the only one who would flat come out and say how he felt. He said a publicly funded dock should not compete with a privately owned dock and he said his facility was not overbooked. He went through the history of his dock since 1986 and how they have tried to adapt to economic changes. At one time he was exporting logs until the spotted owl problem, and then in the 90’s he felt it ironic that he was importing logs for sawmills from New Zealand until EPIC shut them down for chemicals that the logs were treated with. He tried to bring in Cruise Ships and found out they do not want to be charged to dock. He even had potato chips go through his dock.
Dave Schneider said he was told over ten years ago to build a dock, “and they will come.“ And he did just that, building a class 1 dock at the old “A” dock in Eureka. He was not publicly harsh on the new dock, but pointed out all the improvements he had made and in the last ten years averaged 3 ships a year. “Docks are losers! They are in use only 5% of the time!” His dock does have the capacity to handle 600 containers.
Randy Gans said the Fairhaven terminal has all kinds of potential and is supportive of the Redwood Dock also. Randy is pro-growth and would like to see industrial growth to supply jobs for the local economy.
Steve Pepper of Humboldt Maritime Logistics gave a presentation on short term shipping using “green highways.” He said unloading can be done locally with a mobile harbor crane and he has a business plan utilizing Longview, Washington, Coos Bay, Oregon, Humboldt Bay, Oakland and Long Beach as ports of destination for products. He has a two year timeline. He is looking for money through the “Marine Highway Program” and public/private partnerships.
HBHRCD Commissioners Patrick Higgins and Mike Wilson co-chaired this process. Patrick was determined to keep the agenda moving, but the place was packed and questions were all over. HBHRCD CEO David Hull and Lacy Wilson tagged team a presentation of “Where they were and where they are going” that was convoluted and non specific. To shorten it up, dredging was done and completed by the year 2000 to stop shipping “Leakage.” (Boats leaving part loaded because of low waters) They did show that there are 235 parcels of land around the bay from the Samoa Bridge to Fields landing that are not developed. That caught my eye. I was also surprised to hear that our port is 2 days closer to Hong Kong than anywhere on the west coast, which is a $200,000 savings in shipping. They outlined many positives and few negatives. Lacy was asked to identify investors he said were inquiring to fund projects and in lands around the bay, but he said he could not. Pete Nichols of Baykeeper’s challenged Wilson’s pulp shipping projections, saying Freshwater Pulp had no intention of shipping pulp products.
This was just a quick glimpse of much discussion. I am sure we will hear more in the future.