Capdiamont\’s Weblog

28 Feb 2008: Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District meeting: Passes 3-2
Thursday 28 Feb 2008, 08:19
Filed under: Humboldt, NCRA, Railroad, THA

It is on.

Ronnie Pellegrini made a motion to put on another agenda to declare the Samoa Shops/Roundhouse surplus property and donate it to the Timber Heritage Association. Seconded by Mike Wilson I think.

Sorry about not many updates. Been trying to figure out how to stream audio. Frustrated so far.

Port plan B passes 3-2, usual split.

21:12 Meeting adjourned.

Update, ER has the 1st article: Harbor District launches business plan to look at rail-dependent shipping

A majority of Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Board of Commissioners gave their vote of support Thursday night for a venture that envisions Humboldt Bay competing regionally as a container shipping port.

The matter to choose which harbor revitalization path to pursue was brought before the Harbor District as part of its ongoing efforts to expand jobs and modernize its aging Redwood Dock and adjacent property that it acquired in the past few years.

As was the case during a previous meeting on the matter in December, supporters and opponents of the controversial plan packed the Supervisors Chambers in an emotionally charged discussion.

After hearing about an hour of public comments, the commissioners voted 3-2 in support of developing a business plan for that Option B, which aims for a multi-purpose shipping terminal with a long-term expansion of the facility as a new gateway for rail-serviced markets that would take an estimated 10 years to implement.

But the favored Option B hinges on a railroad connection to the national railway system that many residents and two of the commissioners said is unlikely to ever be realized, based on the high costs of reviving the North Coast Railroad Authority’s defunct railroad line, which runs through the seismically active Eel River Canyon. Estimated costs of repair range from $150 million to more than $600 million.

Option A envisions a stand-alone multipurpose berth serving local barge, project cargo and bulk cargo shipments and cruise shipping lines that would take an estimated five years to implement.

An approximately $32- to- $38 million investment would be needed to upgrade the aging dock and build new infrastructure for even the most modest shipping terminal facility, according to the consultants.

TranSystems consultant Dennis Sheridan stressed that any development would be subject to California Environmental Quality Act laws and he sees the district building a “green terminal,” that would reflect a port industry trend to implement new technologies to reduced environmental impacts.

Cruise ships are identified as one of the leading money-making users of a terminal facility that consultants said could bring in 10- to- 20 cruise ships and up to 30,000 visitors to the area each year.

TranSystems said the port is not restricted by its draft limitations and could allow ships, up to 950 feet in length, to support a wide array of ships across a variety of markets.

Commissioner Ronnie Pellegrini, who voted in favor of the plan, called the port revitalization venture an opportunity to create an environmentally friendly and state-of-art terminal facility, which would help the fishing industry by keeping the federal dredging in place that makes the dangerous bar channel safe.

Board president Dennis Hunter and commissioner Roy Curless said they voted in favor of the port revitalization because it offered a chance for more jobs.

But voting against the plan was commissioners Mike Wilson and Patrick Higgins, who said they weren’t swayed by the information presented.

While he said all the commissioners want to see more jobs, Wilson said the disagreement among the board members was over the analysis of the data used by the consultant’s report he said overestimates the opportunities and understates the challenges.

In addition to the shoaling problem at the harbor’s entrance, Wilson raised asked the consultants whether there were any guarantees that a shipping company would want to bring 900-foot lengths ships into the port.

Sheridan told Wilson that the study was based on an analysis of the general criteria of that existing fleet.

“It is a reasonable benchmark for stating that Humboldt Bay can handle vessels of that size,” Sheridan said.

Nolan Gimpel, the lead consultant on the study for TranSystems, said shipping companies are not shy about identifying what their needs are and those issues would be addressed in the business plan.

Commissioner Patrick Higgins said neither option was feasible, but added Option B hinges on the highly speculative notion that the railroad will ever come back.

Higgins said he wanted to see the $100,000 slated for the business plan to be spent on other Redwood Dock options, including a museum or other light-industry businesses.

“With large-scale shipping — we can’t compete,” Higgins said.

But in defending the study and comments from Higgins, Gimpel said the future of the port potential is up for grabs.

“Clearly if you do nothing in terms of development, nothing will happen,” Gimpel said.

Bill Bertain, an area attorney and rail and port advocate, offered his support of Option B based on what he said was a great potential for a revived railroad and cargo shipping on the bay.

“You are preserving options,” Bertain told the commissioners.

If the railroad never came back, the consultants said that portion of the process under Option B could be curtailed.

But in committing to Option A, the consultants said the railroad-served option would be precluded if those lands were dedicated to other uses.

John Macevoy, a local resident and 33-year veteran of the West Coast port shipping business, said it was “absolute idiocy” that a container shipping port could be developed in Humboldt Bay.

But, countering those arguments, was area union representative Sid Berg who offered his support for the project, which he said was not “breaking new ground” since shipping has been a part of the bay’s history for nearly a century.

The consultants said after the meeting that they will coordinate with the district soon to begin work on the business plan that will explore funding options, new shipping tariffs and contract provisions for the port project.

Update TS Has their own article, a day late. Notice though, the majority of the comments were for the more expansive development. Democracy. You won’t here that at the other blog.

Port officials ask for business plan on terminal project
John Driscoll/The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 03/01/2008 01:27:24 AM PST
Humboldt Bay commissioners voted 3-2 on Thursday to proceed with a business plan for a public marine terminal in Samoa.

The split decision came after significant controversy over the concept, which would require the restoration of rail service to Samoa to become fully developed. Three public hearings addressed the matter, and drew dozens in support and in opposition to the shipping, container and cruise ship berthing and service facility proposed for the Redwood Dock acquired by the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District in 2006.

”We see the district developing a green terminal that is environmentally friendly,” said Dennis Sheridan of TranSystems, the consultant that will do the business plan.

TranSystems looked at two possibilities for the Samoa property as part of a feasibility report. The first considered a limited development centered on a multi-purpose berth, while the second considered a multi-purpose berth and facility that could be expanded onto adjacent property.

That more expansive option will be examined by TranSystems in the business plan, which will cost $100,000. Asked how TranSystems envisions the facility — estimated at $32 to $38 million for the first phase — would be paid for, Sheridan said he expects revenue bonds, private sector investment and new tariff and lease structures would be created.

The public has been deeply divided over the idea, although Sheridan said that the majority of public comments received on the study were in favor of the more expansive development.

Commissioners Ronnie Pellegrini and Roy Curless spoke in favor of the second option, saying it had potential to boost the economy and provide jobs while protecting existing industries and the environment. Pellegrini said that ship traffic helps keep Humboldt Bay a priority for dredging, which keeps the harbor entrance safe for all vessels, including fishing boats.

”We have had ships in Humboldt Bay for a long time,” Pellegrini said. “This is not a new concept.”

The two most recently elected commissioners, Mike Wilson and Pat Higgins, strongly questioned the wisdom of moving forward with a terminal plan, especially one that hinges on reviving the decrepit North Coast Railroad. They also raised concerns about whether further dredging would need to be done to accommodate large ships, and whether the port could actually attract shipping business.

”I would recommend we use the $100,000 for other strategies for the Redwood Dock,” Higgins said.

But Commissioner Dennis Hunter said that he’s concerned that if the district went for the more limited option, it could stymie opportunity in the future.

Eureka attorney Bill Bertain said the Headwaters Fund money used to fund the feasibility study was well spent, and could eventually result in high-paying jobs. Something is needed to reverse the economic decline the area has realized, he said.

”It’s been a sad thing to watch,” Bertain said.

Others questioned if jobs would ever materialize from the project. Former commission candidate Carlos Quilez said it is a waste of time and energy.

”We’ve so far created one job — a marketing director to sell a port that doesn’t exist,” Quilez said, regarding former Port of Oakland official Wilson Lacy hired last summer.

John MacEvoy, who said he was a former maritime administrator who saw the beginnings of the Port of Long Beach’s container operation, called developing a container facility here is “absolute idiocy.”

Sid Berg, Chairman of the Humboldt-Del Norte Building and Construction Trades Council, said the port is at a crossroads, and that commissioners should act to create something that would help the economy.

”This is the last spot left on the bay,” Berg said.

John Driscoll covers natural resources/industry. He can be reached at 441-0504 or

Box: On the Web: The TranSystems feasibility report is available on line at


1 Comment

Looking at ‘heraldo’ – I get the feeling Wilson is being told to sit tight on the Harbor Commission, and forget running for Supervisor. They went to alot of trouble to get Higgins on there with him and they don’t want to go back to just one vote… is that how it looks to you?

Comment by Rose

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