Monthly Archives: January 2013

GPU: Stakeholders Clarify Future Work

From the 1.23.13 issue


By Daniel Mintz

Press Reporter


The role of a General Plan Update stakeholders group is continuing to gain definition, as its representatives have said that workloads will probably be streamlined and a facilitator may be hired to guide their meetings.

The ad hoc group is working with the Board of Supervisors to review the Planning Commission’s draft of the update. Formed last November, the group has just finished its first piece of work, editing policies in the update’s relatively non-controversial Circulation Element.

The group’s future has been described as uncertain but at a Jan. 14 update hearing, Bob Higgons, one of its representatives, told supervisors that most of its members want to work on other elements.

Fourteen elements remain but Higgons said the group is considering a focus on the controversial ones and insight’s been gained from what’s been done so far.

“We’re learning each other’s thinking patterns, we’re learning how to operate within a collaborative process – that took a little bit of time,” he said, adding that the “learning curve is not as steep” now.

“I think that means that future element review could go faster,” said Higgons.

Supervisors strongly encouraged the group to continue its work, with Supervisor Estelle Fennell describing it as “invaluable” and Supervisor Virginia Bass crediting it for being a “refinement of the process.”

Board Chairman Ryan Sundberg also praised the group and said he’d heard that it’s seeking help with administration of its meetings. Connie Stewart of the California Center for Rural Policy (CCRP) is a leading member of the group and she said that no public funding or help from the county is being sought.

Stewart’s agency and the Humboldt Area Foundation (HAF) have been involved in moderating the ad hoc group’s meetings but a private facilitator seems to be needed. “At the pace we’re going, it’s been hard for HAF and CCRP to keep up,” Stewart said. “We’ll figure out how to bring somebody else in and figure out, privately, how to raise the funding for it.”

One challenge is determining “who the group will feel comfortable with, having as an additional facilitator,” said Stewart.

After supervisors reviewed some of the group’s recommendations and planning staff’s comments on them, they asked Jen Rice of the HAF, another stakeholders representative, about scheduling future hearings.

Rice said the group supports moving at “a clip,” and future work will be tailored to the board’s bi-weekly update hearing schedule. Controversial elements will be prioritized, she added, “So it may be that there are some elements that we don’t need to take time to address.”

Winnowing the workload will give the group time to “get into a click with staff,” said Rice, as rushing to keep pace on the Circulation Element “wasn’t optimal for anyone.”

The goal is to enhance communication with staff and “give everyone more lead time, public and board, for review,” Rice continued.

The ad hoc group’s main recommendations for the Circulation Element include creation of a countywide transportation plan outside of the update and adjusting roadway and transportation infrastructure design to neighborhood standards.

Other circulation policies aim to reduce auto congestion by locating residential and commercial areas close to each other and increasing public transit opportunities.

Supervisors will hold the next update hearing on Jan. 28, to continue work on the Circulation Element and possibly begin work on the Economic Development section.




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McK CSD supports airport name change

From the 1.23.13 issue


By Jack Durham

Press Editor & Reporter


The McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors supports changing the name of the local airport to the Redwood Coast Regional Airport.

The board voted unanimously last week to send a letter to the Board of Supervisors in support of changing the name of McKinleyville’s airport, which is called the Arcata-Eureka Airport.

“This is long overdue. Great idea,” declared Director John Corbett.

However, before the board voted on the name, there was an effort to include “Humboldt” in the name. MCSD President Dennis Mayo suggested “Humboldt Redwoods International Airport.”

That didn’t sit well with Director Helen Edwards.

“I don’t want ‘Humboldt’ in there,” she said, noting that the word has negative connotations as a result of the area’s No. 1 agricultural product.

Without Humboldt in the name, “how will Kimmel find us?” asked Director Mayo. He was referring to comedian Jimmy Kimmel, who recently made fun of Humboldt State’s Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research on an episode of his TV show “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” In response, HSU has invited Kimmel to visit the college.

In its letter to the County Board of Supervisors, the MCSD argues that the new name is an inexpensive way to promote more travel to the area.




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Name Change Afoot for Airport

From the 1.23.13 issue


By Daniel Mintz

Press Reporter


An effort to re-name the county’s main airport is gaining momentum, with the Board of Supervisors pursuing it and inviting residents to submit suggestions.

Re-dubbing the Arcata-Eureka Airport was discussed by supervisors at their Jan. 15 meeting. The facility’s name references the county’s well-known cities but residents of McKinleyville, where the airport is located, make a point of describing it as “the Arcata-Eureka Airport in McKinleyville,” which supervisors duly noted.

But soon, those descriptors might be replaced by the words “Redwood” and “Humboldt,” which were highlighted as optimal name ingredients during the meeting.

The day after, the county issued a press release asking residents to submit their name change ideas and explaining that “one of the goals of this project is to make the airport easier to find for those interested in coming to Humboldt County.”

The release narrows down the re-naming options, stating that the Board of Supervisors is “requesting that the airport’s name include the terms ‘redwoods’ and ‘Humboldt.’”

The county invites suggestions via an email address, and has set Feb. 26 as a deadline for submissions.

During the supervisors meeting, Public Works Director Tom Mattson said a name change would need to go through a federal process that would cost $20,000 in staff time plus new signage expenses. He said a region-oriented name is a worthy idea to consider.

“We’re Northern California’s regional airport, basically,” he told supervisors. “It makes sense, if we want to move to a regional name, to brand our area.”

If a name change is done, the airport’s code – ACV – will remain the same, Mattson added.

The idea of a name change has been advanced by the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission, which has proposed Redwood Coast Regional Airport as a name. Don Ehnebuske, the commission’s executive director, said redwoods are the area’s trademark.

“For people who are willing to bring tourist dollars to see the redwoods, how do we make sure they come to this area as opposed to some other area?” he asked. The answer: “By branding our airport as the Redwood Coast airport in some way,” said Ehnebuske.

Supervisor Rex Bohn agendized the discussion and he emphasized that it’s important to mention the county itself in a new airport name. “It’s Humboldt county’s airport,” said Bohn. “We brand ‘Humboldt Made,’ we’re proud of the name and it’s got a historical link to it.”

He added, “You can wear a sweatshirt outside of this area and put Redwood Coast on it and they’re gonna ask you how you like Santa Cruz.”

Bohn had proposed holding a contest to pick a name but that idea seemed to have fizzled sometime before the meeting. Supervisors said they’re interested in having residents suggest names, however, which led to the subsequent press release.

Supervisors unanimously approved Bohn’s motion to “explore the name change of the Arcata-Eureka Airport in McKinleyville to a more suitable name to attract tourism and commerce.”

Supervisor Virginia Bass said it’s also important to “get buy-in” from the cities of Arcata and Eureka. Mattson agreed, adding that when one adds McKinleyville to the name mix, all three locations are affected “because you’re taking their names away.”





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Front page 1.23.13

Here’s the front page.



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McKinleyville pursues massive sewer upgrade

From the 1.23.13 issue


By Jack Durham

Press Editor & Reporter


McKinleyville is embarking on the biggest sewer upgrade since the town’s collection system was installed 32 years ago.

At its meeting Jan. 15, the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors voted unanimously to hire an engineering company for more than $1 million to design the sewer plant upgrades.

The project, which is estimated to ultimately cost $8.5 million including engineering and construction, will convert the Wastewater Treatment Facility at Hiller Park from a low-tech pond system to a mechanical sewer plant similar to what can be found in larger cities.

The purpose of the upgrade is to improve the treatment process so the sewer system can continue to meet state standards and regulations, which will ratchet up in the coming years.

One of the biggest problems with current system is “acute toxicity” in the wastewater effluent, which is discharged into the Mad River during winter months when river flows are high enough. During the summer, or when river flows drop, the wastewater is used to irrigate pastures at the MCSD’s Fischer Ranch at the corner of School and Fischer roads.

This toxicity in the wastewater is caused by excessive amounts of ammonia, a naturally occurring chemical found in wastewater. In order to remove the ammonia, and generally increase the quality of the treatment process, the MCSD plans to build mechanical aerators and clarifiers at the plant.

Major change

The upgrades will fundamentally change the way McKinleyville treats its wastewater, something the unincorporated community has wrestled with for decades.

Prior to 1978, the town relied on individual septic tanks. There were multiple septic tank failures, with raw sewage seeping into the ditches that lined Central Avenue at the time.

“As far as the ditches along Central Avenue, yes it was a mess. In the summer it was smelly to say the least,” stated former MCSD board member Ben Shepherd in an email interview.

“All of McKinleyville was on septic systems and the level of failure was incredible,” stated Shepherd, who was first elected to the MCSD board in 1979.

The year before Shepherd got on the board, sewer lines were installed in town.

Initially, the wastewater was pumped through a pipeline that crosses the Hammond Bridge and dumped into the City of Arcata’s treatment plant.

“We were sending the wastewater to Arcata and were discussing the future of the Humboldt Bay Wastewater Authority, which planned to build a regional wastewater treatment plant with direct ocean outfall,” Shepherd stated. “That is the reason for the Fisher Road pump station, which would have pumped all of McKinleyville’s wastewater to the regional plant. HBWA fell apart because the City of Arcata and others became concerned over the impacts of the plant and a raw sewage line from Arcata across the bay to the proposed regional plant in Samoa.  Also the cost of the regional plant would have been huge. We began the process of identifying our own options for treatment and eventually settled on the system at Hiller Road.”

In 1983, the MCSD built the Wastewater Treatment Plant at what’s now Hiller Park, the town became self-contained.

The existing treatment plant is a low-tech pond system. The wastewater circulates through a series and ponds and marshes, which remove solids and destroy bacteria before the water is chlorinated and then disposed of in either the Mad River under the Hammond Bridge, or on fields at Fischer Ranch.

The new plant will contain a new headworks, aerators and clarifiers, which filter, screen and stir the sewage, thereby cleaning it up.

The project will be built within the confines of the existing sewer plant and won’t spill out beyond the chain-link fence which encircles the facility.

To accomplish this, the MCSD will remove sludge from a portion of its ponds and fill the area in to provide a foundation for the new sewer structures.

At last week’s MCSD board meeting, it was noted that the existing pond system was built without any plans for the removal of sludge. Solids in the wastewater settle to the bottom of the ponds. The break down somewhat, but over time the sludge builds up.

In order to build the new plant, some of the sludge will need to be removed, In addition, the MCSD plans to have a system in place for disposing of sludge in the future,.

MCSD Interim Manager Greg Orsini said that the district is looking at all options for sludge disposal and will be “thinking outside the box.”

Some companies compost the sludge and sell it as fertilizer. Having such a company take the sludge would be cheaper than trucking it over Highway 299 to a disposal facility in the Central Valley.

The MCSD board’s decision last week grants a contract not to exceed $1,013,502 to the engineering company of Kennedy/Jenks.

The company will design the upgrades over a period of a year and a half. Construction would begin in 2015.



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More details on fatal collision

From the CHP:

On 01/21/2013 at approximately 6:25 PM, William Wolf, age 52, of Mckinleyville, was driving his 2010 Kia Forte northbound on US 101, south of the Sunset Overcrossing in the #1 lane at approximately 65 MPH. Party #2, (name withheld pending notification of next of kin) was wearing dark clothing and for an unknown reason was crossing US-101 from east to west. Mr. Wolf suddenly saw the male pedestrian directly in front of his vehicle and was unable to react in time to avoid a collision. The front of Mr. Wolf’s vehicle then struck the pedestrian. The pedestrian suffered fatal injuries as a result of the collision.

This collision is still under investigation by the California Highway Patrol.


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Fieldbrook Family Market to close

I just became aware of this via the market’s Facebook page. This is really sad news. It’s bad enough when a business closes, but the Fieldbrook Family Market is more than just a store. It’s a community institution. It’s a gathering place for the people who live and work in the Fieldbrook area. Below is the posting that appeared on the Facebook page. – Jack

From FB:
The Fieldbrook Family Market is saying farewell. As of February 2nd we will be closing our doors. We hope to be opening up again soon, but as for now we are reaching uncertain territory with no guarantees. The past seven years have seen their share of ups and downs, with the ups far outweighing the downs. It has been an incredible pleasure and immense honor to serve this amazing community and for that reason we plan on going out with a bang. We will be having events through the weeks of January 21st til February 1st(our final day) to celebrate our all too brief time together. Our closing week hours will be 8am til 4ish with extended hours on event days. We will have music on both of those Fridays(the 25th and the 1st) and be open til 10pm. Thanks for the memories, everybody…they were pretty cool.


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