5th District Harbor District candidates in their own words

The Union invited the two candidates running for the Fifth District seat on the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Board of Commissioners to answer questions. Below are their unedited responses. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.


Susan Rotwein

 

SusanRotwein

Susan Rotwein

1. Who are you? Give us a mini-bio.

I’m a Public Health Nurse with a BA in Ethnic Studies/Transcultural Health Care, working most of my career for United Indian Health, managing community health programs over two counties, now doing contract work/consulting. My husband and I own and operate Cap’n Zach’s Crab House, celebrating our 20th season. We own/operate the commercial F/V Miss Phyllis. We have two children, a son at San Jose State, and a daughter at the University of Washington.

2. Do you support building an oyster bar on Woodley Island? What other, if any, developments should take place on the island?

I oppose any zoning change that will push our fishing fleet from its home. Bringing in another restaurant is nice but doesn’t solve our economic problems and moves away from the primary function of Woodley Island. Woodley Island is not Old Town. Woodley Island must remain dedicated to its original purpose: a port for ships and home to our commercial fishing fleet, to protect, maintain and support our commercial fishing fleet.

3. Is a railroad part of the harbor’s future?

Not in the foreseeable future. However, any responsible long-term plan should include that possibility. For now we should focus on Rails and Trails locally, a lunch/commuter train between Eureka and Arcata with bay tours for tourists is far more likely.

4. What’s your opinion on what’s happening with the old pulp mill site?

While cleanup is a good thing, the District has gone into debt $1.25 million – and counting – to clean it up. The public shouldn’t have had to bear the costs, and it is currently drawing resources (security/maintenance personnel) away from the marina itself.

I hope the public is able to realize as much benefit from the acquisition of this site as the private corporate big-money interests have gained by dumping this albatross on us.

5. Is the district adequately preparing for climate change and sea level rise?

Every entity should have a disaster plan and a vision for the future. Ours should include, and plan for, that eventuality and emphasize fortifying our levees, strengthening our docks and berths, which have the added benefit of providing good-paying jobs to do that work. It’s more important right now to focus on keeping the harbor/shipping channels dredged, open and safe.

6. How would you describe the district’s relationship with the fishing and oyster industries?

When it comes to the fishermen, the incumbent not only discounts their input, he cursed out members of the fishing community who tried to discuss issues with him. That disrespect for the public will not occur when I am elected. I will assure an open, transparent, inclusive and RESPECTFUL public process.

The district is working on the pre-permitting process for oyster aquaculture to streamline and kick-start the process so they can expand production.

7. What will you do if elected?

First and foremost, dredge on time, every time, and to the proper depth to ensure the safety of our fishermen and marine partners.

Second, call for a forensic audit/evaluate the overall operation of the district, both financial and administrative, get the District’s house in order.

Third, assure an open, transparent, inclusive and RESPECTFUL public process.

8. Is there any additional information, ideas or opinions that you would like to share?

It is imperative that the fishermen, and shipping operators, be represented on this board, in order to ensure proper balance. I intend to be a strong voice for the fishing community. Without me, it will be the first time since the commission’s inception that the fishing community is not represented.


Pat Higgins

 

Pat Higgins

Pat Higgins

1. Who are you? Give us a mini-bio.

I am 65 years old, a third generation California native, and a resident of Humboldt County since 1972. I have also been happily married to my wife Diane for 31 years. We love our home and garden on Dows Prairie in McKinleyville, which we have owned since 1990. I have been a consulting fisheries biologist with an office in Arcata since 1989, and am now the Managing Director of the Eel River Recovery Project.

2. Do you support building an oyster bar on Woodley Island? What other, if any, developments should take place on the island?

I support the idea of an oyster bar where people can watch the beautiful bay and its wildlife and enjoy the bounty of nature on their tables. I want to improve the quality of the wildlife habitat, especially for birds, in the preserve on the island, and am forming a committee to work on that. I am not in favor of an RV park on Woodley Island however a fuel dock is something to consider.

3. Is a railroad part of the harbor’s future? 

The industrial railroad is dead in our lifetime. I’ve walked and boated the Eel Canyon and have seen where mountains have obliterated the road bed. The Harbor District funded the BST and Burgel Group report that show the geology and topography of the area between us and Redding/Red Bluff precludes running a profitable railroad. It is time to build a trail on the rail right of way from Blue Lake to Arcata and Scotia.

4. What’s your opinion on what’s happening with the old pulp mill site?

The Harbor District is working to secure redevelopment funding to revitalize the old Samoa Pulp Mill site, which we call Redwood Terminal #2. The capital will be used to improve the property to make it suitable for ventures such as aquaculture, wood biomass export, and Humboldt State University. HSU is our partner in pursuing funding for a marine and alternative energy research center. This diversification will help bring more living wage jobs to our bay.

5. Is the district adequately preparing for climate change and sea level rise?

Since being elected to the Harbor District in 2007, I have pressed for us to take a lead in coping with climate change and sea level rise.  We need an inclusive planning process, including private land owners and the environmental community. When we reach agreement on a strategy as a community, I will work hard to get the resources for implementation so we can protect existing economic uses and increase the health of Humboldt Bay.

6. How would you describe the district’s relationship with the fishing and oyster industries?

Our commercial fishermen hold a special place in the community and the Harbor District passed a “Right to Fish” Ordinance that says no one can complain about noises or smells of their operations.  This makes sure our fishermen have a home for their boats and now we are expanding infrastructure that supports them at Redwood Terminal #1. We are obtaining a Humboldt Bay wide aquaculture permit that will allow prudent expansion in the North Bay.

7. What will you do if elected?

I will work on a bay side trail that extends south past CR to Fortuna and Scotia. I will continue to put energy into Redwood Terminal #2 so we can create more jobs. And I will continue work to assist North Coast regional marine fish collaborative monitoring to check effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas, prove fish stocks are healthy, and maintain our fishing access that is vital to our economic health and quality of life.

8. Is there any additional information, ideas or opinions that you would like to share?

Economic diversification is the key to success for small ports in the unpredictable and changing world economy.  Private investments in infrastructure for shipping of wood products will help us increase ship traffic, and the Harbor District maintains pilot services and works with the Army Corp to keep the entrance dredged.  In the long term we need to work on the Marine Highway so we can save fuel, reduce regional traffic and improve air quality.

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