Humboldt Bay harbor district eyes fish farm

Monday meeting set to OK 30-acre lease; 80 local jobs foreseen

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Hundreds of millions of dollars and 80 jobs are coming to Humboldt Bay, according to recent announcements from the harbor district and a Norwegian-owned fish farm company.

The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Board of Directors at a special meeting Monday is set to consider leasing 30 acres on the Samoa Peninsula to California Marine Investments, a subsidiary of Norway-based Nordic Aquafarms, for use as a land-based aquaculture facility.

“This site meets all of our criteria for building a safe, clean, and sustainable fish farm,” Nordic Aquafarms CEO and president Erik Heim said in a Saturday press release, “and we have been welcomed by local authorities who are excited about the many benefits this project can bring to the area.”

Harbor district executive director Larry Oetker said in the release that he hoped to get the project under way as soon as possible.

“We have been looking for an anchor project that will be a catalyst for attracting and developing an aquaculture cluster,” he said, citing properties on the Samoa peninsula previously permitted by the district for aquaculture.

Nordic is considering raising salmon or steelhead at the proposed facility, pending negotiations with local permitting authorities. The company plans to submit permit applications by spring 2020, according to the release, which also highlighted local government support for the project.

“Humboldt County is a leader in the fisheries industry, and our community recognizes that it must continue to build on these strengths in order to achieve further economic success,” said Humboldt County Director of Economic Development Scott Adair in the release. “This project fits well with that strategy. Nordic Aquafarms is an innovator within their own industry. Their project will create opportunity to improve local job quality and career potential, add to the overall vibrancy of the community and enhance quality of life for our residents. We are very excited for the potential of this project.”

Division 4 Harbor Commissioner Richard Marks wrote Saturday, sharing reports that the project would bring 80 jobs to the area and produce 22,680 metric tons of fish annually, that 600,000 square feet of new construction “will bring many hardhats to the area and then many high-end fishery jobs for biologists from Humboldt State.”

A Friday press release from the harbor district further highlighted the project’s economic benefits.

“This project is a significant advancement of the District’s revitalization strategy for the property, and will include the removal of all remaining deteriorating buildings and unutilized infrastructure, and the construction of a modern facility that will create local living-wage jobs for the next 30-50 years,” the harbor district press release said. “The project is expected to result in the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in the local economy.”

Contacted Saturday by the Times-Standard, Jennifer Kalt, director of the Arcata-based environmental nonprofit Humboldt Baykeeper, said she had met with project proponents.

“They seem to have considered a lot of the major issues,” she said. “They aren’t going to be using nonnative fish, growth hormones or genetically modified fish.”

Kalt said she was “cautiously optimistic” that this is the type of project that can be developed in the bay and be respectful of coastal resources, contrasting Nordic Aquafarms’ plans with a previous proposal by the US Mine Corporation in 2015 to build an ore processing plant at the Samoa pulp mill site — a proposal that the company ultimately withdrew after encountering strong community concerns at a packed harbor district meeting.

“We’ll be looking very closely at what they’re proposing to discharge,” Kalt said of Nordic’s proposal. “They’ve said it’s a closed system, but it would discharge up to [6] million gallons [of water] a day” into the ocean, she said.

If you go

What: Special meeting of the Board of Directors of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District

Where: Woodley Island Marina Meeting Room, 601 Startare Dr., Eureka

When: Closed session, 12:30 p.m, Monday, with open session to follow at 1:30 p.m.

The agenda is available online at http://humboldtbay.org/sites/humboldtbay2.org/files/Agenda%20Special%20Meeting%2002-11-19.pdf.

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