By Mandy Sackett | Published 2017/07/19
June Coastal Commission Hearing
The California Coastal Commission’s June agenda lasted only two days and boasted few high-profile items. The Commission met in Arcata, in far Northern California, an undeniably beautiful part of the state, yet challenging to get to and drawing a smaller than normal crowd. One proposal did bring in people from Sacramento and elsewhere: an attempt by Coast Seafoods Company to renew its permit and expand its oyster-growing infrastructure within Humboldt Bay. Coast sought to add 256 acres – in two phases – to its existing 234 acres of shellfish farming and culturing in northern Humboldt. The company also proposed removing over 60 acres of its existing cultivation to mitigate for loss of eelgrass.
On Wednesday, Commission staff recommended that the Commission only approve 165 acres of expansion and attached several conditions to address concerns about potential impacts to ecologically significant eelgrass, wildlife and recreational uses of the bay. These conditions, according to Commission staff member Cassidy Teufel, represented a necessary, significant and unique response to the proposal, in which Coast Seafoods sought to place infrastructure directly on eelgrass beds – the California Fish and Game Commission normally requires any aquaculture to be located at least 10 feet away from any eelgrass beds, he added. These conditions would have required Coast Seafoods to monitor eelgrass impacts over a five-year period and to reduce potential disturbance of migratory black brant geese that feed on the eelgrass. The Coast Seafood expansion was opposed by Audubon California and the California Waterfowl Association, a hunting organization, and was supported by Humboldt Baykeeper.
While most of the controversy over the project had to do with the potential impacts to and protection of eelgrass in Humboldt Bay, another concern for some commissioners was the lengthy addendum submitted by staff the evening before the meeting.
Commissioner Mary Shallenberger motioned to deny the project, calling it, “too big” and Humboldt Bay “too important,” which led Commissioner Ryan Sundberg to defend the project, citing the local environmental support, and stating his hope that the motion to deny would fail. Ultimately, Commissioners Mary Luévano, Donne Brownsey, Carole Groom, Aaron Peskin and Stephen Padilla joined Shallenberger in voting against the project permit. Commissioners Sundberg, Effie Turnbull-Sanders, Dayna Bochco, Erik Howell and Roberto Uranga voted in favor of the project. Coast Seafoods is expected to submit an application for a reconfigured project prior to the August meeting, when its permit runs out.