Bay coastal development gets provisional OK

Paul Mann
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT — The state has authorized temporary, interim uses of 650-plus acres of Humboldt Bay coastal lands for a variety of civic, commercial and industrial purposes.

Cannabis cultivation is ruled out for the time being on the so-called Coastal Dependent Industrial (CDI) lands on Samoa Peninsula.

The term refers to parcels on or near the bay designated for industrial uses that depend on the harbor or are related to it.

The county won the approval last week of the California Coastal Commission to allow the future use of the largely vacant Samoa Peninsula in hopes of preserving and maintaining its infrastructure, now that the timber industry no longer dominates.

Although little demand has emerged since the timber decline, preservation anticipates potential development of, say, aquaculture, public docks, supply bases, oil terminals, marinas, boat repair, ship building or fish processing for human consumption.

Potential civic and commercial uses include public fishing peers, boat launch facilities, bait shops, marine hardware, parking garages, water treatment plants, government vehicle storage and public utility power plants.

Uses permitted on a temporary, interim basis would be subject to numerous performance standards, specified in amendments to the Coastal Zoning Regulations.

John Ford, Humboldt County’s director of planning and building, spelled out the reasoning for the interim-use initiative at a commission hearing last week in Calabasas, about 45 minutes from Los Angeles. He said the opportunity for re-use of the Samoa property should be kept open, subject to strict oversight to ensure no temporary operations infringe on traditional CDI development if it emerges in the more distant future.

Interim uses could serve as a revenue source for property owners to pay for upkeep and to maintain or enhance existing infrastructure for interim uses.  Conversely, the revenue would help prevent vacant or under-used buildings from deteriorating and falling into disrepair.

Temporary uses will require both a use permit and a coastal development permit. Terms will usually run 1-7 years. A development plan has to be submitted for approval.           Currently there are four shipping terminals on Samoa Peninsula:

• Redwood Marine Terminal 1, partially active for coastal-dependent uses (commercial fisheries), owned by the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation, and Conservation District

• Redwood Marine Terminal 2, partially active (aquaculture], owned by the harbor district

• California Redwood Company chip export dock, active with shipping of forest product exports, privately owned

  Fairhaven Terminal, currently inactive and privately owned

The majority of the affected 650-plus acres lie along the peninsula. Only 60 acres or a mere five percent are currently in active use as CDI land, for aquaculture, commercial fishing and shipping export operations, which include some timber-related products.   

In his remarks to the commission, which approved the interim use proposal on a unanimous voice vote, Ford hastened to acknowledge what he called the “vibrant discussion” in the county about how cannabis would be treated in the interim CDI ordinance.

There are those who absolutely support it and those who absolutely oppose it, he said, but the subject was not part of the draft language. “It was never considered to be general agriculture. That was not part of the discussion. This ordinance was really developed long before cannabis became an issue.”

He continued, “I’d also like to point out that Humboldt County is not currently approving cannabis permits within the Coastal Zone. We are awaiting certification of the county’s [separate commercial cannabis ordinance] by the Coastal Commission and we are currently working on responses to staff questions.”


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