Editor's note: This article was corrected on Feb. 3. The previous version stated that Bonnie Neely was hired to market the pulp mill property. That was incorrect. Neely, working for her law firm, will clarify allowable uses at the site, which will be helpful in the marketing efforts.
Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District has agreed to retain the consulting firm of Nossaman LLC to clarify allowable uses at the old pulp mill site. Working on the project on behalf of Nossaman LLC is former Humboldt County Supervisor Bonnie Neely.
The pulp mill is being marketed for the harbor district by Scott Pesch of Coldwell Banker Commercial Pacific Partners.
During its Jan. 22 meeting, the district’s commission voted unanimously to retain Neely's law firm, Nossamon, LLP.
“I’m looking forward to helping the district, and I’m excited you bought the property,” Neely told the commission via a conference call during the meeting.
Neely previously spent 24 years on the Board of Supervisors and 12 years on the California Coastal Commission.
She also currently works as Humboldt State University’s coastal consultant. The commission agreed that Neely’s expertise and experience will help the district repurpose the pulp mill into a proposed eco-industrial park.
“I see this as absolutely essential,” said Commissioner Pat Higgins of retaining Neely’s services. “Bonnie certainly has the contacts and skillset to help us.”
According to commissioner Mike Wilson, Nossaman LLC will work with the Coastal Commission to get clarity on the allowable uses within the zoning as "coastal defendant industrial.
"More specifically this has to do with how the potential for wood chip and pellet production for export markets may or may not fit that zoning designation," Wilson stated in an email.
The commission also received an update during the meeting from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokesperson Chris Wheden, who reported the EPA is planning to remove the remaining toxic sludge from the pulp mill site in the coming months.
Wheden said that the EPA will be solidifying the sludge so that it can be legally transported to a disposal facility.
The EPA hopes the sludge will be able to be reduced, when solid, to a pH of above 12.5.
Anything below that and the sludge will have to go to a hazardous waste facility, which would “obviously be a lot more costly,” Wheden said.
Wheden also said that the contract worker who fell into one of the pulp mill’s holding tanks last November was able to avoid serious injury, and returned to work the next day.
“He’s doing fine,” Wheden said.
Timber Heritage Society purchase
The commission also voted to sell 8.3 acres on the Samoa peninsula to the Timber Heritage Society, something that has been in negotiation for some time. The acreage also includes some buildings and shops. The move was applauded by members of the public, and Commissioner Greg Dale said the move has been “a long time coming.”
During staff reports, bar pilot Tim Petrusha told the commission that there is some “pretty severe shoaling” in the harbor entrance, and that the dredge Essayon out of Portland will be unable to work until at least June due to a pending lawsuit.
Petrusha said that the California Redwood Company recently hired local engineering firm SHN to sound the depth in the entrance and found it to be between 37 and 37.5 feet, much shallower than the maximum dredge depth of 48 feet.
The California Redwood Company has five vessels scheduled to come into the bay this year, and Petrusha and the district’s Executive Director Jack Crider said the shoaling could impact the amount the vessels can carry through the harbor entrance. “Until this gets taken care of, they’re going to have to load less,” Crider said.
Director of Facilities Maintenance Alan Bobillot reported that CalFire work crews have finished removing the dilapidated wire deer fence from Woodley Island, and that the fence will be replaced with a more wildlife-friendly fence.
Bobillot said the old barbed-wire fence was dangerous, calling it “pretty much a livestock fence.”
The commission also voted to retain Commissioner Richard Marks as President, commissioner Higgins as Vice President, and Commissioner Dale as Secretary for another year.
“I’ve been honored to be sitting in this position this past year,” Marks said.