Over 50 people showed up to the King Salmon Fishermen’s Channel Beneficial Reuse Dredging Pilot Project open forum tonight at the Woodley Island conference room. Not much elbow room. Pacific Gas and Electric representatives Kris Vardas and Loren Sharp were present as were Humboldt Bay Harbor 1st Division Commissioner Larry Doss, Deputy Director Adam Wagshcal and Executive Director Jack Crider.
Mr. Vardas outlined the scope of the project and some history. In 1952 PG & E purchased the property. They last dredged the Fishermen’s channel in 1982 and removed 21,000 cubic yards of material. They are paying for the permitting process to allow the Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District to dredge the Fishermen’s Channel. They did sampling of the channel in 2013 and realized that the Fishermen’s channel was basically not accessible. The Regional Water Board focused on allowing dredge spoils on the King Salmon spit that was created with spoils. The spit is considered Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area (ESHA) and the California Coastal Commission (CCC) would not approve the project dredge spoils in that location.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Services (USF&WS) came up with a Dredge Recycle Identity Plan that produced 30 soil samples from 3 general areas in the channel for a total of 90 samples that measured toxicity levels and predicted affects to animals and organisms in the channel. The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB) granted permission on Dec. 2nd 2015 for the project to move forward with mitigation measures for Eel Grass and longfin smelt. Dredging will be done from August 1st to October 15th 2016. Other agencies that were part of this process were the County of Humboldt, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Humboldt Bay Harbor, US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), North Coast Rail Authority (NCRA) and other regulatory agencies.
The project itself will remove 5,000 cubic yards of material from the King Salmon Fishermen’s channel and pump the spoils to White Slough near College of the Redwoods, approximately 2 ½ miles from the dredge area. (The white slough area is in need of 100,000 cubic yards of material for buildup of that area. The Harbor District needs to mitigate 1.2 acres of Eel Grass by removing 6,000 cubic yards of material in the form of dilapidated pilings and replanting and monitoring replaced Eel Grass for 5 years. (Even though Humboldt Bay has the most dense Eel Grass population of any bay in California, by many times.)
Some of the residents in attendance were not happy with PG&E’s agreement with the Harbor District and felt the residents should have received PG&E’s 2 million dollar “gift” to the Harbor District for taking on 30 acres of responsibility. They also argued that PG&E promised the residents that they would dredge the private owned channel fingers. Mr. Sharp said that he tried to do just that, but PG&E legal counsel said they could not do a public benefit gift to PG&E rate payers. Harbor Commissioner Larry Doss suggested the 88 King Salmon home owners create an association to have a voice in the process. They would need to organize and come to solutions for mitigating 3 acres of Eel Grass in the channel fingers, and apply for grants to help pay for the dredging process for the home owners. (This was also suggested 3 years ago with no success to the residents. This time multiple residents stepped forward to help organize. “United we Bargain, Divided we beg!”)
1st District County Supervisor Rex Bohn voiced his opinion that there should be one fluid motion of including the resident owned finger dredge spoils to the process and sending 10,000 cubic yards to White Slough while the pipe line is available. He felt the timing could work to pressure the multiple agencies working on the project now.
There were some gripes from the public but also many solution oriented suggestions and it was good to see the King Salmon community rise to the occasion. This was a positive process overall.