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Lawsuit challenges Humboldt County’s environmental impact report for North Aquarium Project; Five appeals have been submitted to the Coastal Commission

Lawsuit challenges Humboldt County’s environmental impact report for North Aquarium Project; Five appeals have been submitted to the Coastal Commission


Computer-generated terrestrial fish farm Nordic Aquafarms plans for the Samoa Peninsula.

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Nordic Aquafarms may have taken a “huge step forward” in late September when the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approved development permits and Environmental Impact Report (EIR) certification of the company’s plans to demolish a dilapidated pulp mill and build a $650 million land-fish farm in the The island of Samoa, but it has not yet swim in the clear waters.

An unofficial group of locals calling themselves the Citizens Protecting Humboldt Bay has sued the county and the Board of Supervisors alleging that the county, as a lead agency, violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that the Environmental Impact Report — which was prepared by an engineering firm GHD on behalf of the county — “failed to identify, assess, and/or request the mitigation of all significant direct and cumulative environmental impacts that the project would have.”

The Environmental Impact Report concludes that with mitigation measures, the project will not result in any significant environmental impacts. Litigators don’t buy that.

“On the contrary,” the lawsuit says, “substantial evidence shows that the project will have many non-mitigating environmental impacts…. Furthermore, the record shows that the county violated CEQA’s information disclosure provisions in several respects, and failed to respond adequately.” Enough on public and agency comments on the EIR draft, and otherwise failed to move forward in the manner required by CEQA.”

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the board met behind closed doors to consider the lawsuit, and when they showed up about an hour later, the county counsel reported that the board had unanimously agreed to hire Sacramento-based environmental law firm Remy Moss Manley to defend it. the suit.

The petitioners are seeking a warrant ordering the county to disqualify the effective interest rate along with its approval of the project. They also ask for costs and attorneys’ fees “together with any other compensation deemed necessary and appropriate by the court.”

Who exactly are the citizens who protect Humboldt Bay? The lawsuit defines them as an “unincorporated association of voluntary homeowners, residents and business owners who live and/or work in Humboldt County.” Elsewhere, it says members include Blue Lake resident Scott Fraser as well as Daniel Chandler, who is a member of the environmental group’s 350 Humboldt steering committee. Both men wrote or co-wrote letters critical of the EIR, and the Chandler Group was among the appellants to formally challenge its approval by the Humboldt County Planning Commission.

Chandler, reached by phone, said Fraser asked him to add his name to the lawsuit, even though he (Chandler) didn’t pay any money. He also said he doesn’t have high hopes.

“I have no sense that it will be successful,” he said of the lawsuit.

Chandler has higher hopes of success in the five appeals that have so far been submitted to the California Coast Commission, including an appeal from the 350 Humboldt. Other appellants are Fraser, Allison Wylie, an Elk Grove resident, the Salmonid Restoration Federation, and the Audubon Society of Redwood District. All five appeals challenged the province’s issuance of the coastal development permit.

According to Noakie Schwartz, deputy director of communications, environmental justice, and tribal affairs at the Coastal Commission, commission staff are currently reviewing the appeals and working to establish a timeline for submitting them to the commission.

Meanwhile, staff are reviewing two other applications for a coastal development permit for the project. The first, provided by Nordic Aquafarms, is to use the project site’s existing downstream pipeline to discharge treated wastewater into the ocean, a mile and a half offshore.

The other application comes from Humboldt Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District. It is to install and operate a seawater intake system (or “sea basin”) that would supply water from Humboldt Bay to the proposed salmon farm.

“We don’t have a specific date for the hearing, but we are tentatively planning for the spring of next year to submit these requests to the committee,” Schwartz said in an email.

Chandler said the committee doesn’t necessarily have to grant a hearing on the appeal. He noted that the county’s local coastal plan, which dates back to 1982, does not include any mention of greenhouse gas emissions, which provides the basis for the appeal. In other words, he said, “What we appealed about is not appealable.”

But the appeal says the county was remiss in not updating its local coastal plan, and therefore 350 Humboldt should not be prevented from challenging the permit.

Coast Committee Also remiss because they didn’t tell the county that they had to come up with an acceptable plan,” Chandler said.

Accessed by email, Nordic Aquafarms Director of Public Relations Jackie Caseda said the company is confident the EIA is a “robust, comprehensive and complete analysis of the potential environmental impacts from the project.”

She went on to say the company is reviewing the lawsuit and the five appeals and is working with the county and port district to determine next steps.

“We are sure that the result will be positive for the county of Nordic and Humboldt,” Cassida said.

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