GREG DALE Age: 52 Resides in: Fortuna; Humboldt County resident for 25 years
Occupation: Shellfish farmer and operations manager for Coast Seafoods Company
Q & A for 2nd Division seat incumbent Greg Dale: compiled by Will Houston from The Times-Standard
Times-Standard: Why are you seeking another term as harbor commissioner? What experience do you have that you can use for the benefit of the harbor district?
GREG DALE: The harbor, bay and the Harbor District have played an integral part of my life for the last 25 years. I’ve fed and raised my family on Humboldt Bay, and I’ve been a constant participant in efforts to manage it the entire time. I see the bay as not only a great place to be and work, but as an economic driver for our community.
Prior to being on the commission, I participated in multiple Harbor District planning efforts and economic development plans that included diverse groups of stakeholders and advisers. Many great ideas came from those efforts. I am supportive of that past process and its continuance in the future. Many of the concepts vetted through these processes are moving forward today, like chip export and shellfish expansion. Other ideas, which I thought were good ideas at the time, didn’t.
Even in a down economy, we can thrive as a wood shipping port and through economic diversification.
I believe my experience in business allows me to be a rational and fair judge in assisting the District in choosing opportunities that bring about prosperity for the people in the region, improve our quality of life, and protect the health of Humboldt Bay.
Times-Standard: What has the district done, or has not done, that you feel would be vital to ensure it fulfills the goal of revitalizing the economic strength of the harbor and the industries that rely on it?
GREG DALE: In my 25 years on Humboldt Bay, I have paid attention to the Harbor District as it worked hard to identify and vet many potential opportunities.
Long before my election in 1999, the District deepened the shipping channel at the bay entrance to allow for larger cargo ships in anticipation of increased trade. However, the benefits of the deepening project were not realized because of the collapse of the world economy. Then the pulp mill closed in 2008. The Harbor District continued to market the port while losses mounted, and we nearly spent ourselves into financial ruin. We have now addressed most of the budget issues and are focusing on real projects that bring jobs and economic activity to our port based on markets that make sense.
There are smart businesses and financiers looking at our port. Our Redwood Terminal 2 project has much potential. Channel depth is a huge asset that needs to be maintained, year round, and we will continue to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to secure needed services. We have also recently acquired a dredge so we will be better able to maintain access at all times to our marinas and for the fishing fleet.
Times-Standard: What is your view of the district’s request to the city of Eureka to rezone nearly 18 acres of Woodley Island to increase commercial uses on the property?
How will you balance the concerns of the local fishing fleet on this proposal as well as the goal to expand the commercial uses of the island currently limited under the current zoning?
GREG DALE: The City of Eureka is going through a General Plan update, which makes it a good time for the Harbor District to identify areas that need to be updated to allow what is actually happening or for changes in the future consistent with the character of the island. Woodley Island Marina was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. The continuing losses were not sustainable. We started looking at where the money was going and, with input from staff and the public, generated suggestions for cutting expenses and augmenting revenue. Due to overly restrictive zoning, the District couldn’t do some of the revenue generating projects that nearly all other marinas can do around the country. Some fisherman were worried that these other uses may endanger their use of the island. We have listened to the fishermen and have enacted a Right to Fish Ordinance into our policies to protect any and all commercial fishing activity. The rezoning and projects proposed will provide additional service to fishermen as well as increase opportunities to them and the District, which in the end may allow us to decrease rates or surcharges. We are also improving infrastructure to support fishermen at Redwood Terminal 1.
Times-Standard: Are you satisfied with the way the district is approaching its Humboldt Bay Mariculture Pre-Permitting Project to expand the local oyster industry?
GREG DALE: I strongly believe in the concept and process of a regional permit held by the Harbor District for Humboldt Bay aquaculture.
We are supposed to provide infrastructure to allow businesses to thrive. The high cost of permitting activities in the natural environment frequently blocks the potential for new business opportunities and jobs they could create. I view this project as similar to channel deepening carried out previously by the Harbor District to allow marine commerce.
Aquaculture pre-permitting will allow for growth of the shellfish industry that would not otherwise occur.
The Harbor District can use a similar collaborative approach for maintenance of dikes and levees that will keep our farmers and industry in business, as we cope with climate change and sea level rise. Because I am in the aquaculture industry and employed by Coast Seafoods, I leave the room when there are Commission discussions about oyster leases, and do not participate on any related committees. I also do not participate as part of my employer’s negotiation team on the leases. I have worked hard and followed the advice of the Harbor District’s attorney to avoid conflict of interest, so I can continue to serve and create jobs and protect Humboldt Bay.
Times-Standard: How do you feel the district handled the Samoa pulp mill cleanup and efforts to bring new businesses to the facilities now owned by the district? Would you have done anything differently?
GREG DALE: The acquisition of the pulp mill was a very daunting and difficult decision we struggled with.
The risks were high and, although we did everything in our power to minimize them, it was frightening. Ultimately the liquors and the potential to harm the site and bay gave us no choice but to acquire the site and get funding to clean it up. I agreed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s assessment that it was a potential disaster for the ecology of Humboldt Bay, in fact they considered it one of the biggest potential threats on the West Coast. In the end, I think we handled it very well, but had lots of help from Freshwater Tissue, Humboldt County, the U.S. Coast Guard, the North Coast Regional Water Board, and Congressman Huffman, and they all deserve our gratitude. Today we have a clean and valuable asset for the harbor. We already have leased space and companies are investing money and creating jobs. Their willingness to do business on the site in turn is allowing us to access a New Market Tax Credit redevelopment grant worth $3 million. Things could have turned out much differently. I think we did a good job.