Eureka will never be a deepwater port

Guest Post by Bill Holmes:
Why do Jager and Brady and Tyson and Newman and Albin , why are these elected and appointed officials of Eureka promoting a plan that will develop a port outside of the city limits?  Eureka will suffer the ill effects of mega development but garner none of the tax revenues?  They have no good answer.
beached ship


The Powder River Basin is northwest of Cheyenne Wyoming.  You see where the rail net splits?  That’s the Great Salt Lake.

That’s one reason why Eureka will never be a deepwater port.  Simple geography.  It doesn’t matter if Eureka is a half day closer by ship to Asia, Eureka is a whole day farther by rail from anywhere, even if we did have a rail line.

So when they tell you that Eureka will be a shipping point for Powder River coal, they are lying to you.  They want some port infrastructure to ship hazardous materials, and they will try to sell it to you as economic development that will benefit the community, but it will never amount to a big deal in terms of international shipping.

Except for nuke waste and hazardous chemicals.  And munitions.  Remember the Port Chicago disaster in 1945?


There is this geographic feature of the North American continent called the “Great Salt Lake” which is approximately 600 miles due east of Eureka. All east-west transcontinental rail traffic must split east of the Great Salt Lake, and the northern route proceeds to Boise and then Seattle, while the southern route goes to Reno and then Oakland. The truth is that Redding is just as far from markets as Eureka is. So even if it is true that Eureka is a half day’s sea travel closer to Asia, it is at least a day farther from markets by rail. A half day or more would actually be lost by using the Port of Eureka, even supposing that a rail car could make it from Eureka to Redding to Oakland in one day. Most likely it will be two or three days.

There is nothing that we can do about this. So there you go, by accident of geography Eureka will never be a competitive deep-water West Coast port. … Then there are other issues. Could the railway to Redding actually be built? Yes, if you want to spend enough money. …You might be able to lay a new rail line across flat prairie or desert for $5 million a mile but not through those mountains. A half dozen tunnels and a half dozen bridges will cost $500 million all on their own.

This project, technically feasible will cost anywhere from $3 to $5 billion, minimum. The line would have to be heavily taxpayer subsidized or it could not exist and it will never be profitable, because of the geographical facts above.

If in some fantasy world this line was actually completed what would it haul? Although no Asian shipper of manufactured goods would use the port (because of the geographical facts above) shippers of dangerous, explosive or hazardous materials would like to have a lightly populated port to ship through. So we would get the nuclear waste, the caustic industrial chemicals and industrial acids, petroleum distillates, and military munitions. That’s your upside…

There’s your study.”




Seattle Port Trucker Strike Rally!Public Event · By Seattle Solidarity.

Monday, February 13, 2012.9:00am until 12:00pm.. E. Marginal Way and Hanford, under the viaduct

Over the last two weeks non-unionized short-haul truckers at the port have refused to work until they receive better treatment. For months they’ve been trying to build an association to fight back. These mostly immigrant workers face horrendous conditions on the ports – e…xtremely low pay, harassment from law enforcement and trucking companies, exorbitant fees charged by the companies that more than once have resulted in “negative” paychecks for the drivers.

Because of this they’ve stopped work, first at just one company, but it has since spread to many companies, slowing all traffic at the port. They’ve asked us to support them at a strike rally they’ll hold on Monday. We’ll be there with banners and flyers. Their situation is desperate, and it’s extremely important we show solidarity, we’re there to say “We support the Seattle truck drivers and their association.”

Depending on how their actions go there may be future ways we can help out. People from Occupy have also organized a food drive for the truckers – who aren’t making any money while they’re out. Please feel free to bring some donations of non-perishable food, diapers, baby wipes and etc – for the striking truckers and their families.




Oh well here’s the start of some links about the equally fanciful Eel River (NCRA) route:

General Lost Coast Geology:

9 thoughts on “Eureka will never be a deepwater port

  1. Thank you for supporting and publicizing the truckers’ stike!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. “Eureka will suffer the ill effects of mega development but garner none of the tax revenues? They have no good answer.”

    I thank you for revealing your perceptions of reality. Here’s the reality back at you:

    Number One, Eureka was already designated a deep water port by the dredging in the 1970’s and constant annual dredging by the Army Corps of Engineers dredge “Yaquina”, usually every April after winter rains have deposited silt in the channels from primarily Jacoby Creek and Freshwater Creek watersheds.

    Number Two, Eureka once had nine elementary schools, three junior highs and one high school at full capacity. Now there are only four open elementary schools and the Humboldt County Office of Education took over Franklin School as their bloated bureaucracy has needed room to grow.

    So you perceptions of any future mega development is way off base. Eureka in particular and Humboldt County in general has imploded with respect to growth. Apparently just the way you and your cohorts like it.


    • Wait…the bay is dredged? Rob Arkley said the bay was “self dredging”, so you must be wrong. Thanks for trying though.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Wow, I thought the main economic factors that helped our area “implode” was the decline of lumber and fishing mainly due to resource over exploitation in the past. You also see lots of communities with decreasing school enrollment numbers. Seems people are having less kids these days.
      Railroad east and this bay being used as a deep sea port are both a pipe dream and not based on common sense or the real economics in today’s world.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Jack Griffin:

      We’d love to have “growth,” we would love there to be good paying jobs for everyone willing to work.

      If you have something to sell that makes sense then I’d say nearly everyone here would be behind you. That’s the reality.

      The railroad (North South, East West) makes no economic sense. North South stopped making sense several decades ago… that’s why what infrastructure that is left is now rotting away unused.

      East-West NEVER made sense… even back in the days when building railroads was done almost on a whim.

      Interestingly, we do agree the Eureka City Schools administration has become bloated. But the lack of schools are due to the lack of kids… there are fewer of them despite our population remaining somewhat stable (as Old Sam has already pointed out).

      (Actually, another reason has to do with class sizes… we pack more kids into fewer classrooms than we did before… thus we don’t need so many schools, teachers, etc.)

      Yearly dredging is required to get into and out of the bay. Also, the small boat marinas of Eureka need to be dredged.

      Arkley’s bit of heaven may not need dredging… but he’ll never get any significantly large ship to stop there if the rest of the bay’s channels are not regularly dredged and more deeply dredged than they are now.

      In the end, the question has to be asked… if you manage to do all the things you want to do… then what do we do with it?

      I think the article did a good job of answering that question.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Uh,oh. It looks like Richardson Grove Redwoods can kiss their roots goodbye.


  4. When did the Powder River Coal shipping terminal finally get acknowledged?

    I thought that the backers of this Pie in the Sky plan were being cagey while all up and down the NW coast proposals for coal, oil, and gas terminals have been proposed and beaten down by the people that actually live there.

    I do think you are exactly correct that this line would be the dumping ground for all the dangerous materials also unwanted thru the larger population centers. Low level nuke waste to China, sure, why not, chemicals, bring em on. I guess no one wants the tourists here anyway, they get in the way

    You have totally left out the oil trains that are now substituting for pipelines from the oil fields across north america.
    They are actually explosive because of the products used to thin the oil enough to move it. The inadequate older tankers mostly used are dangerous and not designed for such dangerous cargo, yet are in widespread use.
    Backers will squeak about newer safer cars, great…where are they?…meanwhile guess what we’ll see here. These trains run thru all the major cites in the US already, are they going to give Eureka the best and newest, equipment? hell no, of course not.

    The train crash in the town in Quebec is the prime sad example of what goes wrong, there have been other spills of this type of oil product around the country, Wisconsin, Michigan, Maryland, NCarolina come to mind. The industry tries to shove this thicker more corrosive product thru old never maintained oil pipelines, and the results are also seen in spills across the country like the one that flooded that neighborhood in the south, Tenn iirc.

    I snarked in the last post about shipping coal with it’s coal dust losses per mile, mix that with the explosive contents of ancient inadequate tanker cars being used for oil and that is why I suggested it would help renew Old Town, by blowing it up, like in Quebec. And some people probably think that a good idea…

    This basic formula has been repeated everywhere….privatize the profits, send them elsewhere, dump the losses on the taxpayer chumps….just like the pulp mill property.

    If you liked the smell of the pulp mill in Eureka, you’ll love the coal dust which will be an air quality danger from the Bay to Fortuna and beyond, it’s a very dusty business. The profits of this whole operation would go to the not from around here Koch brothers and the like, not very many jobs, all the pollution, all the space and disruption…for a few local jobs. See the barticle about the Seattle port workers, their low pay…and think about applying that here. It’s like Walmart only different, the employees needing public assistance to go with their low pay.

    A train and shipping terminal and port improvements would also take massive federal and state tax money, and those would be dependent on that public money to appear in a steady timely fashion….so the profits can be sent to the out of state operators.
    We have seen the stalemate in DC, that would certainly happen with these proposals and the ongoing maintenance expenses as well.
    We have to dredge to let the Coast Guard in and out, but not for larger vessels that would be needed for this proposal to pay for itself in any possible calculation. The minimal dredging done now is a nightmare to get to happen and it’s required because of the Coast Guard presence. And only that I believe.

    You also didn’t factor in the cost of a permanent dredge and crew to operate and maintain it. This bay is barely adequate for the traffic it has now, narrow channels, a rough entrance and sandbars a plenty. An oil spill in the bay or entrance would bring needed jobs though, there’s that….those laid off but previously employed oyster farmers would be rolling in it.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. This is an excellent article, thanks for it, and it’s a great reference as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Important chance to stop the East-West Railroad in Weaverville March 9, 10am | Tuluwat Examiner

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