Harbor leaders want to attract cruise ships

Benjamin Fordham
Mad River Union

WOODLEY ISLAND – The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Board of Commissioners met Sept. 11 to discuss several issues that could have long-term implications for the bay and the surrounding area.

The meeting began with a closed session performance review of District CEO Jack Crider, whom the Commission rated highly and voted unanimously to support.

SCHNEIDER DOCK The 400-foot dock on the Eureka waterfront could be used by cruise ships.          Photo from HBHRCD website

SCHNEIDER DOCK The 400-foot dock on the Eureka waterfront could be used by cruise ships. Photo from HBHRCD website

During the open session, the Commission voted to allocate $10,000 towards retaining a cruise ship consultant, as well as $3,000 to join Cruise the West, a partnership of West Coast ports promoting cruise ship tourism. The City of Eureka and Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will vote in the coming weeks on whether to commit their own funds toward the consultant.

Crider, who previously served as executive director of the Port of Astoria, Ore., said at the meeting that he sees great potential for cruise ship tourism in the area, but the community must be organized to take full advantage.

“There is substantial excitement on cruise ship development in Eureka and within the county,” said Commissioner Pat Higgins via email. The commission has cited the Schneider Dock at 990 Waterfront Dr. in Eureka as a possible cruise ship docking point, which would allow passengers to disembark directly into Old Town.

The commission also discussed the possibility of applying for a New Markets Tax Credit, a program in which large investors provide funds for community development in exchange for tax credits. “It could potentially allow us to retrofit (the mill site),” said Commissioner Aaron Newman. “It’s very exciting.”

The program has not yet been fully funded for 2015, and the commission will make a decision within the next 45 days on whether or not to submit a 2014 application. According to Newman, the district is looking at two options which could provide either $9 million or $12 million.

The district recently reached a milestone at the site when the last of 3.5 million gallons of toxic pulping liquors from the previous owner were trucked to the Kapstone mill in Washington for reuse. The EPA will soon dispose of the remaining contaminated tanks and residue, allowing the District to move forward with commercial contracting.

“Now we’re looking at a variety of industries,” Newman said, including aquaculture and fuel pellets for international markets.

The commission discussed the dredging of the King Salmon Fisherman’s Channel at the meeting, which is currently in the planning and permitting phases. PG&E has provided funds for the project, which the district will use to purchase its own dredge, something that Crider has long prioritized.

While in need of some repairs, the dredge will allow the district to follow a lighter-volume, more frequent dredging schedule with less environmental impact, as well as saving on the cost of contracting with an outside firm.

The commission also heard from Adam Wagschal of HT Harvey Associates, an Arcata-based ecological consulting firm, who predicted that eelgrass impacts would be a constraint on many activities, including dredging and aquaculture, unless a bay-wide strategy was adopted. The commission voted during the meeting to contribute $10,000 towards the Humboldt Bay Eelgrass Management Workshop, which will be held this year in lieu of the Humboldt Bay Symposium.

Crider also suggested at the meeting some revisions to staff job classification descriptions, including changing his title to executive director, the addition of an assistant executive director and the consolidation and name change of some other positions.

Possible support for the Samoa Fire District, renovation of the Chevron Dock, expenditures related to the pulp mill outfall line and the equipment necessary to operate the Fields Landing Boat Yard were also discussed.

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