Letters to the Editor, March 24/31, 2021

Help stop the Arcata Bottom mega-grow

I urge all Humboldt County residents to participate in this Thursday's (April 1) planning commission meeting at 6 p.m. via zoom, to voice your opinion on the Sun Valley proposed 23 acre cannabis grow destined for the Arcata bottom just outside the city limit. This area is not conducive to grow a plant that requires hot and dry conditions.

The energy use for the lights alone will be more than 2 percent of the daily energy use for the entire county. Add on the fans, dehumidifiers, and heat and you've made a MASSIVE carbon footprint.

The reports submitted to the Planning Commission re: energy usage and water usage are deeply under estimated. One plant is estimated to require 26 gallons over its lifespan. Multiply that times 1 million square feet.

I am saddened that the Planning Commision and the supervisors will be so seduced by the possible tax revenue that they will decide to alter the future of Arcata's greenbelt FOREVER by handing it over to a corporate grow, undermining the small growers, and throwing the many neighborhoods under the bus.

It seems very odd that 10 people, only one of whom lives in Arcata, have the power to change Arcata's future FOREVER.

Please share your thoughts. Participate, if able, via Zoom. Write to your supervisor. Please visit savethearcatabottoms.com

Our voices count. We should have a voice in the future of our town, its greenbelt and its sphere of influence.
Joan Edwards

A good corporate neighbor

We Bottom dwellers do empathize with Ms. Puckett’s lament about the new hoop-houses and grow operation planned for the bulb farm. 

When we got our place 20-some years ago we loved the empty pasture next door and took pleasure in tossing apples to the big horned bull we dubbed Benito Del Torro. When our neighbor who owned this field died two years ago, we hoped to purchase it and keep it empty. Alas, the bank didn’t agree, so the field was sold to an eager young man who hopes to do things with it. Build a house probably and maybe more over time. We are old and appreciated the view. He is young and trying to build his future. Our bad luck? Not really. He is a nice fellow and, if the actuarial tables can be trusted, will be here longer than we will. It may not be a desired change for us but it will come anyway.

In point of fact, 23 acres may sound like a lot but isn’t very many in the context of the available bottom lands, maybe half of one of the big fenced fields. 

Now to her more specific complaints. Smells. sounds and the unscrupulous agenda of the land owner. 

Ms. Puckett can be glad she wasn’t here when many more operating dairies and many more defecating cows shared aromas to neighbors, many who kept back yard chickens, and adding to the mix pungent smells from gyppo mills (hot grease, stinky little fires, gas spillage) and the pig farmer next door who was only using land to help support the family. At a moment of economic madness the odor of two huge pulp mills was added, creating an aromatic soup, unavoidable and, well, generally horrendous. 

There were a dozen teepee burners on our side of town. The sky was perpetually filled with smoke and ash and sawdust. It gathered in the gutters and collected on laundry hung out to dry. Houses got covered in asbestos shingles to protect them from sparking neighbors. I could throw a stone from my yard into the yards of three little mills and one log pond. Yet a family lived here and grew and preserved food, sent sons to war, and lived out their lives before anyone ever thought of growing marijuana north of the U.S. southern border. Did they complain of noise and odors? Perhaps. But those were their employers and their friends doing that dirty work.

Before Ms. Puckett arrived – when the land where her house sits was a pasture – there were trains shifting up and back several times a day, and thru trains taking lumber and passengers south to the station in Eureka. Jake brakes could be heard in town when the trucks came down Fickle Hill or even the big hill into Blue Lake if the wind was right. There were shift whistles and machinery back-up noises. Kids exercised their loud exhaust systems on bottom straightaway all through the ’50s and ’60s. The town was an industrial symphony 24/7. Some of us miss those sounds you missed out on. 

Don’t worry, they will never return. The mill sites are a park, the trains have stopped, the moving trucks are delivery vans. Fan noise could become annoying, but if you tell Mr. DeVries, he will do what he can to alleviate your concern. Ditto his growing practices. He bought land with problems caused by prior owners and has worked hard to both alleviate, build and protect his soils. Cannabis can’t be sold if contaminated. 

We have always found Lane DeVries to be a good neighbor and upstanding businessperson of our town. We’ve come to trust that his interests and the interests of the town are often in sync. 

And the fundamental fact remains, Cannabis will be grown here, and become the commercial resource that carries our region as redwood once did. No amount of whining about loss of lifestyle will change that. Lifestyles come and go. There is never a guarantee that your neighbor won’t do something annoying. Not long ago several citizens saw the neighbor house go up in a fiery explosion.

So I don’t have a problem with the bulb farm’s expansion plans. I wish them well and hope, if there must be a corporate interest growing on a large scale, it is our good corporate neighbor and not someone from far away who doesn’t give a damn about what Ms. Puckett likes or dislikes. 

All the best, remember to mask.

P. Givins

Subscribe to the Mad River Union and enjoy online access to the full print edition for just $40/year!

Note: the following letter was submitted to David Loya, community development director for the City of Arcata. – Ed.

Let’s look at the data

I appreciated our phone conversation regarding Arcata Land Co. cannabis permit a little over a week ago and wanted to follow up with this email.

 As you know, the permit is outside the city’s boundary, but is within Arcata’s Community Planning Area, Sphere of Influence and the Western Greenbelt Plan. The county Planning Commission, and ultimately Board of Supervisors, will have the final say regarding the permit approval. That being said, the city of Arcata has tremendous influence with the county should you decide to oppose this project.

My background is in science and I can cite many reasons why the county should have proceeded with an EIR instead of a MND but that die is cast. What is important at this juncture is the health, safety and well-being of our community, especially for the 900 plus residents living within a half mile of the project where 40 percent live at or below the poverty levelparksforcalifornia.org/communities/?overlays=parks. The overwhelming evidence to the tremendous community opposition of this project can be seen in the county’s administrative record (application No. 12255) where the archive shows ~185 letters opposing (with an additional 31 sent from people that sent more than one letter), and 114 petition signatures in opposition (collected in just 4 days during this pandemic!). There are only 27 letters favoring the permit and 20 of the 27 letters in favor of the permit were from self-admitted Sun Valley employees. 

 The groundswell of opposition continues to grow with more letters and petitions. Due to the number of Zoom and phone in comments at the last County Planning Commission Meeting on March 18, 2021, the zoom software failed and there were over 100 callers not able to give their comments. A continuation of that meeting will take place on April 1. The tally of calls at that meeting showed 89 percent of callers were adamantly opposed to the Conditional Use Permit being granted. 

 The only reason the county is moving forward with this permit is because the parcel is zoned MH and does not have to comply with the community planning area. It is important to point out that the parcel has not been used as a heavy industrial site for 34 years and has been growing row crops (artichokes and grains) and flowers for decades. The county general plan for this parcel is AG as are all the other parcels here surrounding the few with the antiquated MH zoning.

Because this project, which will contain 22.9 acres of cannabis grown in hoop houses, is located in the Arcata Bottom, a cool, windy, damp environment, the growing area will have to be climate controlled. An equivalent area is more than 17 football fields: imagine putting a plastic bubble over that area and controlling the climate. Calculations from the initial study projects that the energy for just the grow lights will consume 1.9 MW or 2.4 percent of the average daily energy budget for the entire county (Redwood Coast Energy Authority via email communication with me). 

This calculation does not include the energy usage for dehumidifiers, fans for the 193 hoop houses (n= hundreds, possibly even thousands), dispersal equipment for odors, security lights, etc. In terms of carbon footprint, this project’s numbers are equally huge. The initial study states the use of three natural gas boilers that will generate 3million BTUs per hour. The loss of carbon sequestration from these 22.9 acres will also add to the negative carbon footprint. This project, according to the study will generate five tons of plastic a year that will be landfilled.

 Water usage is another reason to oppose this project. The stated use is 17 million gallons per year. According to several experts, this calculation is an underestimation and cannot be substantiated because the number of plants to be grown was not presented in the study. What are the impacts on the surrounding wells that depend on this aquifer for domestic uses, food production (we supply water for the seven-acre CSA farm next to this permit), dairy farms, and beef ranchers in the Bottom? 

If the pumping of the aquifer is excessive, then there is a real threat of a saltwater intrusion. Such an intrusion occurred during the cleanup of the old Simpson Mill site when two million gallons of water were pumped. Another issue related to water is the waste water treatment plant that will empty into Liscom Slough. Again, what are the impacts?

While I appreciate the county’s efforts to repurpose old mill sites, this site is too close to residential neighborhoods and located in the wrong environment. 

One last thought. There are cumulative effects that have not been considered or addressed. For example, the adjoining parcel to this one has filed a permit to grow ~4 acres (in addition to the 23 on this current parcel). Is this to be the future of the Arcata Bottom and Arcata’s Western Greenbelt? Acres and acres of plastic hoop houses filled with cannabis?

I implore you to investigate these issues and make a decision that will protect the bottom lands and the residents of Arcata and the Arcata Bottom community.

Jim Cotton

pro-grow Planco

I participated in the last Planning Commission meeting on March 18, hoping to voice my opposition to the planned mega cannabis grow by Sun Valley, just outside the city limits and right nearby multiple neighborhoods, schools, recreational settings, and churches.

How is it appropriate to PLAN a mega grow into a burgeoning neighborhood? I was shocked to witness a member of the commission give essentially an infomercial about this proposed project.

It is my understanding that the Planning Commission officials are hired to examine projects and proposals and to communicate with the local residents and cities most affected by the proposals to ensure that they are deciding on plans that represent EVERYONE’S best interest.

Correct me if I am wrong but it is not their job to SELL those projects to the public. Especially when they are aware of the massive public opposition. Those stake holders wishing to sell the proposal can do so on their own.

I have lost confidence in Rodney Yandell’s ability to examine projects with a neutral and objective eye and to remember he was hired to represent and consider all the citizens being impacted when he is reviewing new projects.

This project would change the green belt of Arcata FOREVER. And the City Council was not even consulted, and the vast majority of the neighbors were not even notified. Shame.

Joan Edwards

Thanks, whoever you are

On March 2, John Shelter’s New Directions was hired by an anonymous donor to pick up Valley West trash all day. 

They picked up 1,342 lbs of trash and 42 syringes along both sides of the fence line on the Giuntoli north off ramp. The fee for that was $186 for dumping and the donation was well worth it to his group.

Amazing how much trash and the amount of syringes were picked up just in one day. Thank you to the donor for paying for the job well done. 

People do care about the welcome mat being put out to the motels and businesses in Valley West.

Ginger Campbell

Language matters

I am writing to challenge the Union’s March use of the phrase “Valley West’s chronic hellholes” in the March 10th headline “Ahearn, APD target Valley West’s chronic hellholes for cleanup, fixup.” Over the last year, the broader Arcata community has turned significant attention to Valley West — a neighborhood in which residents, business owners, and advocates have been organizing around challenges largely unseen by other areas of the city for years.

How we speak about Arcata matters. Portrayals of our city and its neighborhoods can become feedback loops, and what is said shapes the way that residents’ collective identity is formed, experienced, and perpetuated. This headline, which implies with an apostrophe that Valley West has ownership over “hellholes,” avoids the responsibility that all of Arcata has for the spaces of our city. Furthermore, to describe areas in our community cluttered with trash from people living unsheltered there as “hellholes” does not align with the values of humanity and compassion that I see reflected in the Arcata community. The headline could have been both more accurate and less derogatory if “Piles of debris and broken fences” was substituted instead.

Journalism is a testament to the power of language and its ability to drive change. We all have opportunities to speak about Valley West in a way that highlights the many positive efforts happening there. There are also opportunities to follow supportive words with action.

If you are interested in aiding cleanup efforts in Valley West, the City of Arcata hosts a physically distant Clean the Sidewalk Day community trash pickup in Valley West on the first Sunday of every month from 9 to 11 a.m. Volunteers meet at the park on Hallen Drive. For more information, please email [email protected]

Gillen Tener Martin
Title: Fellow, City of Arcata
City of Residence: Blue Lake

Thank you, McKinleyville

I want to thank all of you who voted for me over approximately 18 years. I think I was the top vote getter in all my elections but if not certainly in most of them. You are owed a much greater thanks than that. 

The District has become what it is today because large portions were literally built by the citizens of McKinleyville. Since we don’t get general property tax revenue we depend on grants and citizens to provide increased services beyond sewer and water. 

When the old baseball field was being closed behind the Safeway citizens stepped up and built our baseball field at the Hiller Park. Then Hooven stepped up graded and built our soccer field at Hiller Park. Mr. Charlie Caldwell as part of a nearly two decade effort is getting the funds to build a state of the art skate board park. 

There is the police station and library run by the county but in buildings provided by Rotary. Ben Sheppard using soft diplomacy led the effort to expand the tax base for police programs. Support back from the Sheriff has been strong. We have gone from only on call officers to being fully staffed with officers. Ken Miller successfully led an effort to restrict pesticides and herbicides. 

When the community plan was made many years ago provisions were into it for the creation of a McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee. This provision languished for some time at the County. When the McKinleyville Community Services District sued the county over land use issues one of the conditions of the settlement was the County organizing the McMAC. 

The McMAC is planning our town center locally and participants more on county projects than any other county governmental except the county. 

 Maya Conrad as Chairman is creating an even more effective organization. A redwood community forest is coming. 

The Mad River Union gives excellent coverage to what is happening where most communities have dying local press coverage because of mergers. 

The citizens should be proud they have created a high quality of life in McKinleyville. 

It was an honor and pleasure to serve you by running as fast as I could to kept up with our great citizens. The current board and staff has on track shoes too.

John Corbett

Deserving Donna

What a pleasure to see the Humboldt branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) including Donna Hauser among this year’s honorees.

Donna is an indefatigible Election Day volunteer as mentioned in the release – amazing enough considering the long hours that entails. During the early months of the pandemic, Donna turned her quilter’s skills to making masks for any who needed one, family, friends, and strangers alike. She and her husband also keep this essential worker fed with her favorite comfort food, tuna casserole!

Donna’s an amazing woman and a true inspiration on how to live a life filled with caring, service, and family. Congratulations to her on her well-deserved honor.

Suzanne “Bones” Stafford

My Pete story

It had been one of those days. The kind that over shadows happy. I was in Arcata and stopped by Wildberries for a few groceries before heading back to Kneeland. As I was contemplating what brand of garbanzo beans I should buy, a voice at the end of the aisle spoke in a long, drawn-out sigh, “Ohhhhhhhhh.”

I turned to see a giant of a man. Putting the palms of his hands up to his cheeks, he danced toward me. He then placed one of his hands over his heart and said, “You are so beautiful.” And that was it. He gave a giggle, twirled around and headed back towards the front of the store. I remember other sightings of him after that; The Oyster Festival, Farmers Market.

Thank you, Mad River Union, for keeping us informed of his journey (Pete gravely ill in Ore., getting hospice care. March 10, 2021). Pete is a nostalgic character; an illustrious individual, who was once an icon in our community.

Little did Pete know our chance meeting at the supermarket that day shifted my reality. I’m sure a lot of ladies heard that same phrase from him in his travels. Yet-it was like he was at the right place at the right time. Uplifted and smiling, I placed my groceries into the trunk of my car and headed home.

Thank you, Pete, for the bright light you were in that moment when I needed it the most!

Mairead Dodd


Related posts