We supported Greg Dale in his re-election campaign and we think he’s doing a good job. But when it comes to tripling the size of Coast Seafoods (subsidiary of Pacific Shellfish Company, a subsidiary of the Pacific Seafood Group, Clackamas Ore) shellfish farming, we got to cast a critical eye.
We’re grateful there is going to be a full CEQA review on this gigantic project. Were extra thankful that then it will have to be cleared by the Coastal Commission. Too bad we don’t have this kind of scrutiny of the Cannabis Industry!!!
From Humboldt Baykeeper:
This Wednesday, Dec. 9, a town hall meeting will be held in Eureka to allow the public to voice their views on what is the largest proposed aquaculture expansion in Humboldt Bay in at least a decade. Coast Seafoods’ proposed expansion would triple its shellfish farming area from 300 acres to 922 acres in the northern and central portions of the bay. The Harbor District is leading the CEQA review, after which the project will go before the Coastal Commission.
From the Times-Standard:
A town hall meeting in Eureka this week will allow the public to voice their views on what is the largest proposed aquaculture expansion in Humboldt Bay in at least a decade, according to Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District officials.
Currently undergoing an environmental review, the Coast Seafoods Company’s proposed expansion would triple its shellfish farming area from 300 acres to 922 acres in the northern and central portions of the bay.
Harbor district Deputy Director Adam Wagschal said the proposed project will bring the bay’s aquaculture operations close to historic levels, which he said were about 1,000 acres for Humboldt Bay.
“There really hasn’t been anything like this for quite awhile,” he said.
But unlike shellfish farming in the 1940s and 1950s, the project requires review under the California Environmental Quality Act before it can get its permit. The project’s draft environmental impact review currently calls on the seafood company to mitigate potential impacts to the bay’s ecosystem and cultural resources. The Dec. 9 town hall meeting at the Sequoia Conference Center in Eureka will give members of the public a chance to submit verbal and written comments on the proposed expansion.
Coast Seafoods Southwest Operations Manager Greg Dale — who is also the harbor district’s 2nd Division commissioner — said that he does not believe the company’s current aquacultural practices have any significant ecological impacts on the bay, and said the expansion was designed in a way that “literally has no impact.”
“It’s hard to agree to mitigate something that you don’t feel you have an impact on, but we’re going to do it,” Dale said.
Director Jen Kalt of the local environmental organization Humboldt Baykeeper disagrees with the project’s scope and the proposed mitigation measures.
“I think it’s too big, especially in combination with the harbor district’s pre-permitting project where they’re proposing to expand to be able to lease out areas for small growers, which I think is a really good idea,” Kalt said. “I think Coast’s expansion is tripling their footprint.”
Dale recognizes the expansion is large and substantial, but said that the company has undergone an unprecedented environmental review and using as much peer-reviewed scientific research as they can to back it up.
“It’s pretty light touch as far as industry standards go,” he said of the impacts. “It sounds big, but it’s not as big as it sounds.”
Coast Seafoods currently owns about 4,000 acres in the Humboldt Bay area, with only about 300 acres being used for shellfish culturing of Kumamoto oyster, Pacific oyster and Manila clam, according to Dale and the harbor district. The expansion would add 622 acres of intertidal culturing area, which Wagschal said are areas primarily used to grow oysters into market size as opposed to the more submerged subtidal areas out on the channel where shellfish nurseries are located.
Kalt said operations in these intertidal areas have the potential to impact eelgrass beds, which she said is a “keystone species” that provides several benefits to local wildlife including fish and birds. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife had also submitted similar comments during the draft’s initial study.
“They have no net loss policies for eel grass,” Kalt said of the district’s mitigation measures.
Wagschal said that draft environmental review would require the company to change how they configure their culture sites, such as the cultch-on-long-line method in which oyster cultches are grown on a rope that is suspended above the sea floor.
“The mitigation measure in the current description is having the long line methods spaced at 5 feet between the lines rather than 2.5 (feet), which provides more space for eel grass to grow,” he said.
The company would also be required to monitor their oyster beds from December to March each day to determine if Pacific herring have spawned on the nearby eelgrass, culture materials or sands, and must postpone their activities until the eggs are hatched. The review notes that Humboldt Bay is “the most important spring staging site in California” for migrating black brant geese, which feed almost exclusively on eelgrass, Kalt said.
The review also found there to be less than significant impacts for bioaccumulation of harmful dioxins in shellfish meat, which Kalt and the report state were primarily released into the bay by timber and pulp mill operations and caused the bay to be listed as impaired by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Kalt said that if dioxins are consumed, they can cause cancer and reproductive damage, and they should be monitored due to the activities of the oyster industry.
“The dioxin binds with the sediment. Anything that stirs up the sediment has the ability to resuspend dioxin and spread it around the bay,” she said.
The public comment period for the district’s environmental review has been extended to Dec. 31 as opposed to its previous Dec. 10 deadline. Once the public comment period is closed, a final environmental review will be created based off the comments. Dale said they still have to obtain a permit from both the California Coastal Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which he said they have already began the processes for.
“Once those all of those are completed,” he said. “We get a permit that allows us to go ahead an start planting. We’re hoping to do it this coming summer.”
Coast Seafoods Company’s expansion town hall meeting
6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday
Sequoia Conference Center, Room Sequoia A, 901 Myrtle Ave., Eureka