350 Humboldt LookOut



Lead story


Arcata has taken the bull by the horns. The housing crunch in
Humboldt county–not to mention the entire state–has been dire for
quite a while with many people lamenting that their adult children
must go elsewhere to buy a house. Many others can’t find a
place to live that they can afford.

But where to build new houses? Trading agricultural land or forest
for more buildings and concrete equals more energy use and less
sequestering of carbon. We urgently need to reduce our emissions, but
as our homeless population can testify more piercingly than anyone
else, people urgently need a place to live as well. Infill seems to
be the only solution, but of course even that can be
controversial–especially if you’re one of the neighbors.

Dana Utman

Arcata’s ambitiously scaled infill proposal, called the Gateway Plan,
is to re-develop 106 acres of land on its west side, extending from K
Street to O, from Samoa Avenue to the high school. This area is
lightly populated and home to a variety of businesses and cultural
centers, including the popular Creamery. There are also open fields,
blighted areas and abandoned buildings.

The city envisions more than three thousand housing units in this area.
To achieve this density, mixed-use multi-story buildings–a few up to
eight stories high–would provide a range of housing
options from single-family dwellings to apartments, student housing,
studios, and deed-restricted affordable housing. This mixed-income
community would also include retail, services, offices, restaurants,
light manufacturing, plus art and entertainment centers.

The goal is a walkable community with ample green belts, daylighted creeks, tree-lined, calm
streets designed primarily for pedestrians and bicyclists, outdoor
gathering spaces, rooftop solar, and charging stations for EVs whose
owners can adapt to the limited parking. However, the projected high
density population points to an essentially urban plan.

After months of tours and public input, the official plan
was released on January 7th. Far from chiseled in stone, it will not
come up for a vote for a year. That gives Arcata residents a lot of
time to weigh in. So far, some of these residents are enthusiastic;
others not so much. Predictably enough, moving towards reducing the
environmental depredations of automobiles is a problem for those of
us who still depend on our cars. Other concerns include whether or
not the plan takes sea level rise enough into account and the impact
of a large population influx on Arcata’s infrastructure and schools.
The increase would happen over twenty to thirty years–the same
timeline as the development.

Change is difficult for those in its path, and development is
particularly so because of the inevitable environmental and social costs. If the
development is as green as possible and appealing enough, however,
perhaps a happy outcome is possible. Arcata is making a thoroughly
commendable effort.




In contrast to Arcata’s Gateway,
the North McKay Ranch Subdivision
gives us more of what we’re familiar with: Forest to be cleared away
to make room for 320 housing units, a new community dependent on cars
to get to jobs and services, and negative impacts to Ryan Creek and
its watershed. No affordable housing.

Its location in the Wilderness / Urban Interface increases the risk of
fire and was recognized as an unavoidable impact in the draft
Environmental Impact Report. The DEIR also labeled increased
greenhouse gas emissions as unavoidable impacts. Nevertheless, the
Planning Commission’s approval on January 6 was unanimous. The Board
of Supervisors will now get the last say.

The developer gave environmental concerns a few nods. 21 of the 81 acres are
slated to be preserved for greenbelt trails. The builders promise
energy-efficient buildings, rooftop solar, and EV charging stations
at commercial and multi-family units. Carbon offsets and other
mitigation measures are also in the DEIR.

The environment-friendly fringes of this project are better than
nothing, but it’s not the climate-resilient model we need for how
to provide new housing.


Speaking of climate resilience, the Hoopa Valley Tribe won a big victory for ecology, the tribe, the Trinity River, and salmon.
Fresno County Court put an end to Westlands Water District’s federal
contract for water. The district has siphoned Trinity water for at
least 80 years while refusing to pay for any environmental
restoration costs, despite a 1992 congressional mandate. The
Vice-Chairman of the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council summed it up nicely.
” . . . that transfer of wealth has generated billions for
Westlands and other CVP contractors, with devastating impacts to
Hoopa’s economy, culture, and community.”

For many years the Federal Bureau of Reclamation turned a blind eye
to important financial terms withheld by Westlands. In 2020 the tribe
sued the U.S. Department of the Interior to get its day in court and
eventual victory. The tribe expressed optimism that the river and
fish will fare better under the new Secretary of the Interior, Deb

Dana Utman


Oceanecosystems are also key to environmental health. Blue Revolution farmers emulate natural systems by raising seaweed and
shellfish. The food provided doesn’t require fertilizer or irrigation
and also sequesters carbon and cleans the water.

State University began farming red dulse in Humboldt Bay in
2020 and plans to raise kelp as well. That’s good, but it turns out
our harbor district is one of the few districts on the coast with the
authority to grant its own permits for aquaculture. Lucky us!
Everywhere else the aspiring seaweed or shellfish farmer must jump
through a multitude of state agencies, including the Coastal
Commission. The process involves spending lots of money and waiting
for many years in hopes of getting a permit. Maybe that’s why
California hasn’t granted one for 25 years.

treat permitting a new shellfish farm like a nuclear power plant,”
said one of those discouraged applicants who gave up.


Daniel Moqvist


about manufacturing wood pellets

in Humboldt county? An unclearly written paragraph from the minutes
of North Coast Unified Air Quality Management meeting on November 18
indicates that Supervisor Rex Bohn has been talking with Marubeni
America Corporation about manufacturing wood pellets in Humboldt
county. He seemed disappointed to hear from his fellow board members that the air pollution from
manufacturing wood pellets would exceed Humboldt county’s air quality

pellets are very popular right now as countries convert their power
plants from coal to biomass. Only problem is burning wood emits more
carbon than coal. The growing chorus of horror from scientists from
around the world has not yet gotten the message through that biomass
power is a step in the dead opposite direction from where we need to
go. Marubeni seems to be eyeing Humboldt to supply this growing
biomass industry.

Supervisor Bohn give up? I wouldn’t count on it.


Humboldt’s legislative committee
joined forces with 350
Silicon Valley for a meeting with Senator McGuire on January 5th to
discuss his backing for several possible climate bills, including a
draft from Dan Chandler and our refrigerants committee. It takes aim
at potent GHG emissions from the super-nasty chemicals used
for refrigeration and AC. McGuire agreed to consider co-sponsoring the bill if
another legislator would also agree to co-sponsor.

is also working on bills that would expedite transmission lines for
wind power on the north coast, bring money here for sea level rise
adaption and climate resilience, and require PG&E to bury 10K
miles of electrical lines. The last bill is most definitely a climate
issue considering that wildfire carbon emissions in 2020 were
estimated to equal those of 24 million cars. Wildfires also release a
lot more particulate matter than cars.


Core Hub, the new
environmental group in town
, is dedicated to fostering
collaboration between all of the agencies, tribes, and other
organizations–public and private–in Humboldt county that have
climate objectives. There are a lot of us, as pointed out by Jana
Ganion, a member of the Hub’s advisory committee and also the
Sustainability and Government Affairs Director for the Blue Lake
Rancheria Tribe. To “de-silo”
these “significant efforts” is necessary for
positioning ourselves for state and federal money coming our way
in the fairly near future.

influx of funding is a golden opportunity to make real progress on
de-carbonization. Exploring the many aspects of a potential offshore
wind project looms large on the Hub’s list of priorities. The
regulatory, economic, technical, social, and environmental factors
are formidable but could provide huge benefits.

primary goal is to “Optimize natural systems’ regenerative
carbon sink (sequestration) potential.” That may sound like a
clunky string of dull polysyllabic words to most people, but to the
climate activist’s ear, it’s music that hits all the right notes.
What other county besides Humboldt could be the first proven
carbon-sequestering rural region by 2030?


of the future
will be innovative
and flexible, but for now we’re stuck with PG&E. The embattled
corporation is threatening to throw cold water
all over rooftop solar in California. Why? Ostensibly because so many
people are installing solar on their rooftops instead of paying PG&E
for their energy that a shrinking customer base has to foot a growing
bill for maintaining the distribution lines. This seems like a
genuine problem especially if you accept the way PG&E does
business as an investor-owned, profit-oriented utility instead of an
agency that plans to lead us into the clean energy future.

“reform” is to drastically reduce the price they pay for
rooftop solar and to slap solar energy-makers with fairly hefty fees
to to help maintain the grid. No gratitude for how rooftop solar
helps them shave peak demand and reduce operation of expensive peaker

California Public Utilities Commission seems to be going along with
PG&E so far despite howls of incredulous protest from those of us
who think we need more rooftop solar, not less. And just to add an
extra layer of “huh?” to the issue, California isn’t
backing down on mandating solar for new houses even as CPUC
gives solar-powered homeowners short shrift.


all about the proposed Nordic Aquaculture Center

in the Draft Environmental Impact Report released on
December 20. It’s 1800 pages long, and no one has finished reading it
yet. This article
also has
a link to the report, plus previous coverage of the proposal.

to Wendy Ring’s latest episode
of Cool Solutions. Veganism
for the uncommitted omnivore helps us eat fewer methane-emitting
cows: https://coolsolutions.libsyn.com/new-years-pledge-helps-millions-eat-healthier

who’s championing solar power

in California more than our governor. This is embarrassing.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/17/opinion/schwarzenegger-solar-power-california.html

to build
renewable energy infrastructure
without trashing the
environment (although it doesn’t dwell enough on recycling): https://www.theenergymix.com/2022/01/18/metal-extraction-for-renewable-energy-boom-neednt-trash-the-environment/

of extreme weather
in US 2021 for your morbid curiosity: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/01/11/climate/record-temperatures-map-2021.html

rid of fossil fuels
will automatically reduce shipping by 40%
because guess what those ships are transporting? https://cleantechnica.com/2022/01/10/astonishing-things-you-never-knew-about-fossil-fuels-from-bill-mckibben/

it to the courts

Has it really begun? https://www.theenergymix.com/2022/01/12/big-oil-becoming-small-oil-as-european-fossils-begin-shift-to-renewables/

just in case
, coast dwellers, how do you feel about floating houses? https://grist.org/buildings/embracing-a-wetter-future-the-dutch-turn-to-floating-homes/