Harbor awaits relief; Samoa trails get support

Benjamin Fordham
Mad River Union

WOODLEY ISLAND – The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Commission heard the latest on shoaling issues in the harbor entrance, approved a letter that could lead to new bike facebook-like-buttonand pedestrian trails on the Samoa Peninsula and discussed the fate of its Shelter Cove operations during its March 26 meeting.

Dredging still on hold

Harbor District Executive Director Jack Crider, District Bar Pilot Tim Petrusha and First District Supervisor Rex Bohn met with the Army Corps of Engineers in San Francisco last week to discuss the shoaling, or sediment buildup, in the harbor mouth. Green photoDiamond Resource Company, which operates a chip facility on the peninsula, also had representatives present.

“It was kind of the first face-to-face,” said Crider of the meeting. The Corps is responsible for maintaining the Humboldt Bay shipping channel, but the federal dredge has been dry-docked in Portland due to litigation and is not expected to arrive until at least the end of July.

Crider said that the shoaling occurred when the Eel River reached six feet above flood stage in December, which was a 20-year high. “It was a unique situation this year,” he said. According to Petrusha, over one million cubic yards of material needs to be removed from the harbor entrance to bring it to the maximum allowed depth of 48 feet.

Samoa trails in works

The commission also voted at the meeting to approve a letter of intent supporting the county’s pursuit of grant funding for the Samoa Enhanced Trails Project. The project would construct a 3.8-mile trail network in the town of Samoa.

facebook-like-buttonThe Samoa Pacific Group, which owns the town, has pledged $53,000 annually towards the maintenance of the trail system, should the grant be awarded. The trail corridor easement must be held by a public entity such as the harbor district under the conditions of the grant, although the commission expressed hope that a Samoa community services district would be formed and eventually take over responsibility for maintenance of the trails.

The district’s involvement in the project was criticized at their last meeting, as some members of the public questioned whether the project fit the district’s mandate and raised concerns over the possibility of escalating maintenance costs.

However, Commissioners Patrick Higgins and Richard Marks, two of the more vocal proponents of the project, said the potential risks would be outweighed by the benefits to the community.

“Sometimes there’s a need for public entities like the harbor district not to be too fearful,” Higgins said. “Then nothing happens.”

Higgins also said that working trails around the bay have the potential to be a tourist draw, and could present a net savings to the community by promoting public health. “I think it’s a good deal all the way around,” he said.

Commissioner Marks said he feels the project falls under the district’s recreational purview, and that it could “spearhead further trails around the bay.”

“I think (the trail system) would be a great value-added thing for the community,” said Marks. “Let’s have trails.”

Shelter Cove

The district is also exploring the possibility of transferring of some of its Shelter Cove operations, which include maintaining the boat ramp, breakwater and fish cleaning station, as well as public restrooms and a picnic area, into the hands of the town’s Resort Improvement District.

According to Crider, the improvement district, which maintains the town’s utilities and emergency services, has shown interest in taking over some of the harbor district’s services, and the harbor district is willing to relinquish them.

“It’s been very expensive to maintain,” Crider said. “It’s been a real challenge.” He added that there has often been a disparity between the wishes of the community and the harbor district. “It hasn’t been a totally happy relationship.”

The commission agreed to set up a meeting with the improvement district to discuss the issue, and Crider said that the harbor district will still have involvement with the Shelter Cove community. “We’re still going to provide some support,” he said. “We’re not totally leaving.”

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