Ryan Burns broke the story on LoCO yesterday. Apex Directional Drilling, from Oregon abandoning its part the Martin Slough Interceptor project. The 35 year old tax payer financed boondoggle to bring sewer service to Cutten.

Apex blames the city and the engineering firm it hired — SHN Consulting Engineers — for allegedly misrepresenting the type of soil it would find at the project site. Expecting stable dirt, Apex instead found sand.

Apex claims that SHN Consulting Engineers “improperly designed the drill path” and violated “all accepted industry standards” in determining the soil profile at the site. And negotiations with the city have evidently failed.

This begs the question who is SHN? You’ve probably seen their Eureka headquarters on water front drive or you may know someone who works for them, but who are the Owners?

On December 12, 2013 the City of Rio Dell filed suit against SHN and Does 1 through 20 because the actual names of SHN’s principals were unknown to Rio Dell or to their attorneys Mitchell, Brisso, Delaney and Vrieze LLP.

So who the hell is SHN Consulting Engineers, really?




  1. :Pretending that SHN isn’t well-known in the community is a little desperate, isn’t it? Try Google.


  2. jtimmons88:

    I did Google SHN and found pictures of engineers doing productive things in the field and not one name attached anywhere on the site. In fact, in most of the pictures you can’t see a face. I mean, this is one really anonymous organization.

    I think the question of the article is who exactly owns and/or calls the shots at SHN? As an important (and regionally well known) engineering firm that does a lot of county and city work in our area it might be a question worth asking.

    After all, if we peek under the lid are we going to find interesting and familiar names? Do they get the business they get more for WHO they are as opposed to what they are qualified to do?

    Is it a good idea to do business with corporations completely sanitized from human responsibility?

    Especially since they (allegedly) screwed up big time on a major project.

    I see what got the City of Rio Dell mad at them… the city alleges SHN built for them a water intake system that did not work and was poorly placed in the wrong type of soil. Sounds familiar somehow.


  3. Keep in mind that so far we have one side of the story, from APEX, which is surely spun to their advantage.

    Not sure why SHN ownership matters, unless there is conflict of interest in elected officials awarding contracts to them


  4. I do want to call shenanigans on one point; the picture at the top of the article.

    It’s a bit misleading because (a) it involves a sewage leak and there has been none (reported) and (b) that leak was in San Diego, not around here.

    I realize the picture is supposed to be a representation of the problem and not meant to be literal. But the picture does leave the impression that this issue has led to pools of poop in our midst.


  5. SHN I believe stands for Selvage, Henderson, Nelson


  6. Aha!
    Walter White, senior surveyor


  7. billy bob:

    According to LoCO SHN has responded.

    They say (drum-roll please) it’s all Apex’s fault.

    As the LoCO points out; next stop, the courtroom.


    Thanks for the information. If Rio Dell reads this blog they will be able to fill in three of the John Does’ they are suing.


  8. Mitch:

    I have to hand it to you… you are much better than I at going over corporate home pages.

    I could have sworn I looked over the entire site but I was wrong. There are quite a few names there. I guess the City of Rio Dell has the same problem I have.

    Mea Culpa.


  9. MOLA:42,

    I googled “SHN Consulting Engineers CEO.” “ownership” might work also.

    For nonprofits, there’s a wealth of information available from Guidestar, which offers free accounts.

    Thank you for your efforts — I know I appreciate them.


  10. I’m just saying there are REAL coverups in this town. SHN is active in the community and has been for years. And yes, your efforts ARE appreciated.


  11. I hate to say, “I told you so” but this has been a questionable project from the start, Ten years ago TYSON WAS PUSHING HARD FOR THIS PROJECT, and hiring a local good old boy company, SHN, to make the job seem feasible. Tyson lives in Cutten and was getting pressure from county officals there to make it happen. Also at that time ‘annexation’ was a big topic.A new pumping station had to be built to take care of the increased flow of you know what. Big improvements were to be made to the sewage plant to handle all of Cutten’s stuff. The bill for all this was primarily being paid by the city. Now, no annexation, no pipe line and bad engineering by SHN., and the city has already paid out big bucks.. What else could go wrong?


  12. The ‘I told you so” refers to myself and others standing in front of council between 2006 to 2010 questioning how this project could actually be done. .Members of council at that time did a lot of questioning of staff on its feasibility. But there were not enough votes to table the project. The finance committee at that time could not see where the money would come from. But Tyson and staff (both county and city} were pushing hard. So you can now see where all that lead to this. Poor governance.


  13. Thanks Mitch, now we know who’s on the corporate board. It seems to me the point of this post was who OWN’s SHN. It may be the CEO, but maybe not. Also, what kind of pull do the owners have with the city? Those questions aren’t answered by the links provided.


  14. “The picture at the top of the article…is a bit misleading because (a) it involves a sewage leak and there has been none (reported)”.

    The reason you believe this is probably because local media fails to call the Regional Water Quality Control Board nor enter the Elk River Waste Water facility to review discharge reports that, in fact, are mere estimates of millions of gallons of illegal, dangerous and property damaging sewage spills resulting in warnings and fines dating back to 1980 when the Interceptor was first recommended.

    The entire Elk River and Martin Slough may soon be listed along with most other Ca waterways as officially “impaired” due to fecal contamination.

    Like many other self-censored local issues, mainstream media is incurious about the big picture, failing to connect the dots because they lead back to our same old Good Ol’ Boys accustom to having their cake and eating it too.

    For 40 years the development industry has received huge returns on their political investments to control this county’s housing policies and regulations to build beyond infrastructure capacity.

    The bigger the homes, built on cheaper property outside of town, the more profitable it is.

    It is the little taxpayers, lacking affordable downtown housing, that will be stuck with the $40 million Interceptor bill.


  15. yoDa’s momma:

    Good point; now I don’t feel quite so bad about being skeptical (perhaps cynical).


    I should have included you in my post to Mitch about what a knuckle head I am. You were right and I goofed it.


    Thank you for including information I did not know (but should have). My defense is at that time I still lived in Petaluma (the places one has to go to find work!).

    This whole mess may be a blessing in disguise… Eureka is already large enough and does not know how to deal with what it already has. Absorbing bedroom communities seems like adding a lot of liability with very little return.

    But, too much money has already been spent, it would be difficult to back out now.


  16. Anonymous 4:23:

    This isn’t my day.

    I’ve heard of Arcata’s sewage problem (too much bird poop since it was so successful in establishing bird habitat) but I have not heard word one about Eureka’s issues.

    Thank you for opening my eyes to this problem.


  17. JTimmons wrote:

    “:Pretending that SHN isn’t well-known in the community is a little desperate, isn’t it? Try Google.”

    I googled and they are very well known. Known for making a lot of money from the City of Eureka according to almost every quarterly report from the city. What isn’t so well know is who owns the company.

    I wonder why JTimmons is so bent about this article. She only seems to get upset about posts questioning the Cities funding of the Sequioa Park Zoo.

    Ohhhhhh…….Do I smell a Zoo connection here????? Big local business with lotsa city connections. Kind of like Security National, except less publicity with the owners. Does SHN or it’s mysterious owners bankroll the Zoo Foundation?

    I wonder, if Philip Morris was giving to the Zoo would JTimmons support big tobacco?


    • 1) I don’t post comments about every issue. ASSuming I don’t care about the rest is a mistake. 2) I do get upset when people pontificate about local issues when they don’t seem to know much about the local community. That’s all.


  18. Where there’s smoke there’s fire. According to the below link, SHN is owned by Tom Herman. You might remember him. He’s the former VP of Palco, friend of Rob Arkley, member of Arkley’s front groups (Hum CPR and HELP), and, shockingly…..former Humboldt county Planning Commissioner:

    Talk about Good Ol’ Boy/Crony politics. This guys the poster child. Here’s some history courtesy of the Humboldt Herald:

    There’s more out there, but I thought this should cover the bases. The only thing I couldn’t find was how much money he (or his family) gives to the Zoo. I’m sure some internet guru commenter can fill in the blanks on that one.

    Good job TE. This is shedding some light in those uncomfortable areas the local press won’t dare go!


  19. SHN originated from Selvage, Heber and Nelson – all engineers local to Humboldt. Jerry Selvage passed away, Duane Heber retired and Jeff Nelson is the remaining principal. I have worked with this firm for years and have always found them to operate with integrity, always keeping their client’s best interest in mind.

    There are two sides to every story.

    Stating that contract was awarded to SHN because of the “good old boy” network is bullshit to me. When consultants or contractors located outside of Humboldt are hired to perform work and/or services in Humboldt there are accusations of not hiring local people or of not supporting local business. When a local firm is hired it’s because of the “good old boy” network. It can’t be both ways, so pick one and stick with it. SHN and its management and employees have and continue to contribute to our local community in many ways.

    I’m sure SHN’s soils report is accurate and thorough, and I would bet good money that it was provided to the contractors bidding on the project. Dirt doesn’t typically move around randomly 10′ or more below grade – it does so only under extraordinary circumstances. Perhaps the contractor, in order to get the project with the lowest number, thought they had a better way to build the mousetrap and bid their project with their grand scheme in mind. Perhaps it didn’t work out the way they were hoping it would, and now they are stuck with a loser of project. Businesses facing significant loses tend to start throwing mud far and wide to see if they can get any to stick. Mud that sticks means there may be an opportunity to recoup some losses through lawsuits.


  20. Somehow we all knew there had to be an Arkley connection. A money pit this big is something he can’t resist.


  21. Hmmm and re:pete:

    I’d love to agree with you but with my batting average today you’d probably rather I didn’t.

    But I think we are getting closer to the problem here… who are local governments dealing with when they do business with SHN. That is the question I think legitimately asked by this article.

    But “Oh Hell No” does have one good point (at least): There are not that many engineering professionals around here and one is bound to see the same faces showing up again and again. And if local governments did go out of the area for engineering consultation; then there would be accusations of not supporting local business.

    Perhaps it’s all really above board. Perhaps SHN is completely in the right about what happened in the C of E and Rio Dell. Perhaps I should go take another look at that bridge I bought today.


  22. It’s surprisingly difficult to find ownership information. This is a good guide to places that can help. HSU might have subscriptions to some of the services, and maybe the county library has subs:

    The Sec of State database info on SHN is here:

    Tom Herman is indeed listed as “owner” on the page linked above but it’s not obvious to me at least that he is the sole owner. If the incorporation was done in Humboldt, the County Clerk’s office might have information about the primary stockholders — I don’t know. The old Herald articles are certainly intriguing.


  23. jtimmons88:

    I’ve never had a problem with your posts (less actually than many). You don’t post just to be heard and are selective in the subjects you do speak about. So consider that a vote of confidence of sorts.

    The second part of your post points up to the problem we all have here. This corporation (or any corporation according to the Supreme Court) has all the rights of a citizen yet few of the liabilities (I’m still waiting for Enron to spend even a day in jail for the massive fraud inflicted on the country). As for the Wall Street banks that destroyed the economy…

    It is difficult to figure out who is in control of these “persons”. Tom Herman may be the fellow calling all the shots. I didn’t know of his connection to Arkley until I read about it (here in the TE).

    Is there stock distribution? Tom Herman my be the owner of the corporation, but who own’s the stock? In short, who owns this “person’s” soul?

    You are right (in my case anyway) in that we do not know much about the situation. All I can do is read, sift the information and try to figure out where things come together. That is the value of this blog. Ideas and information are provided but we as the individual reader need to “separate the wheat from the chaff”.

    There’s the old joke which is still relevant: Journalists are people who separate the wheat from the chaff and print the chaff.

    As I had said previously: SHN’s relationship with regional governments could be completely above board and SHN is just hitting a rough patch causing questioning of said relationships; fair or unfair.


    • Appreciate your comment, Mola. SHN has been around so long I just think of them as part of the landscape. The law suit should be interesting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s