Big Ideas Floated For Old Pulp Mill

Benjamin Fordham
Mad River Union

EUREKA/SAMOA – The public was invited to an open house and special board meeting of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District last Monday, Feb. 10, as the district seeks to repurpose the recently acquired Samoa pulp mill site.

THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER The old pulp mill site could be used for aquaculture, research, a kayak campground, businesses, shipping and so much more.             Photo from environmental assessment prepared by LACO Assoc.

THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER The old pulp mill site could be used for aquaculture, research, a kayak campground, businesses, shipping and so much more.
Photo from environmental assessment prepared by LACO Assoc.

The district is hoping to form a semi-cohesive community vision for the 72-acre site as it moves forward with cleanup and pre-permitting. Potential uses for the space include aquaculture, research facilities and manufacturing, among other things, and the district recently signed a lease with its first tenant, Taylor Shellfish.

The former Louisiana-Pacific mill was in the news lately as reports surfaced of caustic pulping liquors being stored in leaky tanks. The EPA took control of the site cleanup last September and has since stabilized the tanks, but there is still concern that a major earthquake could cause the liquors to spill into Humboldt Bay.

The district currently has plans to transport the liquors by barge to Longview, Wash., where they could be reused by the KapStone paper mill.

The open house session, held at HSU’s Aquatic Center in Eureka, provided interested members of the public with a comprehensive listing of the site’s assets, along with the challenges associated with its repurposing. Some of the site’s notable features include a water treatment system capable of handling 30 million gallons per-day, a 48-inch, 150-foot-long ocean outfall line, a “power island” with 20,000 kilowatt GE turbine, and over 200,000 square-feet of leasable warehouse and office space.

Some potential uses for the site were suggested by Virginia Bass, but “no one can do it alone.”

Harbor District Commissioner Mike Wilson explained the reasoning behind the district’s acquisition of the site, saying, “It became apparent that inaction was going to cost us more than action… this is an opportunity we have to seize right now.” Several speakers noted that the longer the site sits idle, the less value it has.

HSU and the Harbor District have proposed the concept of a National Marine Research and Innovation Park at the site, a combination aquaculture, renewable energy research and shipping facility that would take advantage of some of the area’s unique resources.

Professor Arne Jacobson, from HSU’s Environmental Resources Engineering Department, expressed optimism about the potential for wave energy research, citing the area’s abundant natural resources and mature technology being produced in California.

“That’s one of the fantastic opportunities associated with this site,” said Jacobson.

The site cleanup will be broken into three phases, the first being the removal of the liquors.

According to Harbor District CEO Jack Crider, the KapStone mill is currently testing samples of the liquors to see if they will be able to use them or not.

Phase two includes the removal of any remaining sludge, as well as the liquor tanks themselves.

Phase three involves the removal of all debris and contaminated soils. The estimated cost for the entire cleanup is approximately $7 million, with funding expected to come from the EPA’s Superfund and Brownfields Programs.

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