Larry Oetker, executive director of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District, explains his push for offshore wind energy. (Shomik Mukherjee — The Times-Standard)

Off-shore wind energy companies have spent the past several months touring Humboldt Bay for potential development sites as a local agency looks to secure the harbor’s economic future.

The harbor has been successfully dredged out of major sediment woes, but as it enters a new decade, Humboldt Bay will need strong economic stimulation to continue bringing revenue to the region, a working group associated with the harbor agreed Wednesday.

Larry Oetker, executive director of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District, said he expects to see around $750,000 in property tax revenue over the next five years from a cluster of offshore wind businesses.

“They are multinational companies, with around 25,000 employees, that have come around and toured our facilities,” Oetker told the Times-Standard, adding that the most recent tour took place last week. “We feel pretty confident, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to secure the plant.”

Some of that work includes infrastructure upgrades across seven acres of harbor land, namely on an industrial water line, storage tanks, docks and a sewer mainline that extends from the Fairhaven community to the Samoa Peninsula’s wastewater treatment plant.

“If we don’t fix it now, we’re past the point of no return,” Oetker told working group members on Wednesday at the Samoa Cookhouse, where the group convenes monthly.

Overall, the district is targeting $3.4 million growth in property tax revenue in a five-year project Oetker presented to the group. About $2 million of that revenue would emerge from Nordic Aquafarms, a massive aquaculture venture currently looking to obtain permits to build at the Samoa Peninsula.

Oetker said the harbor would ideally have multiple aquaculture ventures in addition to the Norway-based Nordic.

There was some skepticism at Wednesday’s meeting over Oetker’s bold offshore wind goals, including some grumbling about how the reliance of wind turbines on piers would coincide with the possibility of future railroad construction.

“At this point, the multi-purpose dock we’re working on is not rail-dependent,” Oetker said. “It’s really the large industries that we’re focused on.”

Large, stable revenue streams are also a must-get for the cash-strapped harbor district. At a meeting last year, the district’s board approved a budget projecting hundreds of thousands in deficit.

Offshore wind energy has been on the harbor district’s radar for some time. At another working group meeting more than a year ago, Oetker told the working group that the harbor could provide needed facilities to wind energy companies. He also expressed hope for rebooting the shipping industry.

But the year that followed ruined any plans for the latter. Last winter, the harbor declared a state of emergency over shoaling, or sediment buildup, in the harbor’s main shipping channels, rendering them dangerously shallow.

By the end of the summer, the emergency was lifted after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent the summer dredging the harbor.

Shomik Mukherjee can be reached at 707-441-0504. 


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