Harbor plan too industry-heavy?

Harbor plan too industry-heavy?

by Hank Sims
The North Coast Journal

March 31, 2005

Humboldt Bay is many things to many people—a shipping terminus, an oyster farm, a pleasant place to kayak on a Sunday afternoon, or all of those things at once.

The fact that so many people use the bay, sometimes for wildly different purposes, can make managing it for the greater good terrifically complex. But after seven years of work, Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District officials believe they are on the verge of a long-term solution.

Earlier this month, the district released a four-volume, several-hundred-page draft version of its Management Plan, a document meant to guide the future of California’s second-largest natural bay. The document is the result of years of research, most of which was led by a 19-member volunteer group representing a wide variety of interested citizens.

But as an April 15 deadline for public comment on the draft plan approaches, a number of groups and individuals are scrutinizing the particulars of the plan — and some have concerns about what they are finding.

Christine Ambrose, a planning consultant who serves as “coastal advocate” for the Garberville-based Environmental Protection Information Center, said Monday that she perceived the plan to be stacked heavily in favor of industrial development of the bay.

“Humboldt Bay is a treasure in terms of natural resources,” she said. “Would it really be best served as an industrial port? And frankly, is it realistic? I’d like to see the harbor district take a wider, more open vision of what could be possible for Humboldt Bay in terms of appropriate, sustainable development.”

Ambrose also questioned why the district would only allow a few weeks for public comment on the plan, given its length and complexity.

But David Hull, the district’s chief executive officer, said there will still be ample time for the public to assess and question details of the plan in upcoming months, as he and his staff prepare required environmental reports ahead of the plan’s final adoption by the district’s board of commissioners.

“The process of collecting comments now is really sort of an extra step,” he said.

Hull added that he thought criticism of the plan’s alleged bias toward industry was unfounded. He said that the district is mandated by law to address all potential uses of the bay, and that issues such as recreation, aquaculture and environmental protection are each given adequate representation in the document.

“The bottom line is that it really is a balanced plan,” he said. “And it really is an unfair assessment to say that we only focus on the harbor.”

The nonprofit Humboldt Bay Stewards will hold an informational workshop on the management plan on Tuesday, April 5, between 1:30 and 5 p.m., at the Humboldt Area Foundation’s headquarters, 373 Indianola Road, Bayside.

The full plan is available for downloading at the district’s Web site, humboldtbay.org. Hard copies can be reviewed at the Eureka or Arcata libraries. In addition, the Bay Stewards have made a limited number of CD-ROM versions of the plan, which can be requested by e-mailing Mike Buettner at [email protected]

Comments on the plan can be mailed to the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District, P.O. Box 1030, Eureka, California 95502-1030.