Mad River Union
SAMOA – The Nordic Aquafarms fish farm project is proceeding under a full environmental review and concerns about energy and water use, traffic and potential effects of water intake and discharge were raised during a public scoping meeting.
The county is the lead agency under an Environmental Impact Review (EIR) process for the project, which aims to produce 27,000 metric tons of Atlantic salmon a year in a land-based facility at the former pulp mill site on the Samoa Peninsula.
The county is preparing a draft EIR and the county held two virtual scoping meetings on June 10 to field comments on what should be in it.
Nordic is leasing a 36-acre project area from the county’s Harbor District and plans to build a $500 million, 766,000-square-foot facility in two phases.
As detailed by County Planner Alyssa Saurez, the fish farm will use Recirculating Aquaculture System technology in an enclosed system with multi-tier filtering at intake and before discharge.
The discharge of about 12.5 million gallons of wastewater is a concern but Suarez said Nordic’s proposed system will remove 99 percent of suspended solids, biological oxygen demand and phosphorous, and 90 percent of nitrogen.
The use of 10 million gallons per day of Humboldt Bay water is a concern due to the potential of two intakes sucking in fish and crab larvae along with the water.
But Saurez said screens will be installed on the intakes that are “designed to reduce entrapment of aquatic species.”
“Multiple barriers” will be installed within the facility to prevent fish escape, said Saurez.
The project is widely supported, including by Humboldt State University, College of the Redwoods and Eureka High School, which are planning aquaculture education programs.
But an initial, more basic environmental review process got more than 300 comments, prompting the county to go to the EIR level.
During the scoping session, the project’s 21-megawatt energy use was described as “massive” by Dan Chandler of 350 Humboldt. He asked for a reduced scale or use of “all-renewable energy” and expansion of the three to five megawatts of solar power Nordic proposes.
Warning of sea level rise, Chandler said his group believes transportation and utility infrastructure is “likely to be underwater by 2060 or before” and the EIR should include alternatives taking that into account.
Jesse Misha of Humboldt Surfrider said the group’s members are “genuinely concerned about environmental impacts” and impacts on coastal recreation.
Truck and employee traffic “obviously has the potential to impact the recreational experience,” she said.
She added that the outfall pipe discharge is “in the vicinity of some of the most popular surfing areas of Humboldt County” and surfers and beach users are “naturally concerned” about it.
Elaine Astrue said additional vehicle traffic from the project should be carefully evaluated, particularly for impacts on bicycling conditions.
Caroline Griffith said project’s eventual 150-employee base will result in “an awful lot more traffic into the area.” She asked that the EIR consider alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles.
Jake McMaster of the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association said use of bay water intakes is a “major concern for us.”
Juvenile Dungeness crab and fish are plentiful in the bay and “it’s hard to see something that can keep them from not getting sucked into the intake.”
He added that the temperature of discharge water could be “a vastly giant problem” due to the potential for algal blooms.
A final commenter, Darcey Evans, asked for more information on Nordic’s importation of fish eggs, such as their source and level of pathogen screening.
A scoping session for state and county agencies was held earlier that day.
Their staffers asked questions about how floor-based drainage will be routed, monitoring of outfall discharge, the possibility of larvae intake, and emissions from emergency back-up generators.
Planning Director John Ford said county planners will do outreach to “make sure that we’re adequately addressing the things that have been brought up” and will “make this an EIR that adequately identifies what the potential concerns and impacts are and develops a good set of mitigation measures.”