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2010 was a difficult year for most people I know, and for me personally.  I was sick, our car was stolen right out of our driveway, I lost a beloved cat to illness,  I had unexpected (and unentertaining) expenses, work has been very slow, etc.  I stopped writing on my blog early in the year, and we might as well count 2010 as a write-off in terms of blogging.  Even on my more personal journal I hardly wrote anything except to share a few links.  So here’s to hoping 2011 is better for all of us, especially all my unemployed or underemployed friends.

A couple of good things did happen, particularly my starting to teach at Humboldt State University’s Environmental Resources Engineering Department again.  I taught a Solid Waste Management class in the fall, and I was lucky to have a very good group; I really loved my students.  The days I was teaching became the days I most looked forward to in the week.  (But I’ll tell you, teaching brings in very little money for the amount of work it requires.)

Still, I enjoy it and it provides for diversity of income.  I was offered two classes for the spring semester, and I lucked out again by being offered two of my favourite topics.  I will be teaching an Environmental Impact Assessment class and a Water Quality and Environmental Health class, both of which I am very familiar with.  It’s going to be a great big load of work, but what great subjects!  I thought I would take the opportunity to blog about some of the issues we cover because I think they are of general interest.

I’m also going to try to vary my approach to lectures.  I’ve been relying a lot on slides, handouts, prepared lecture notes, etc., but I would like to try more discussion and less “bullet points”.  So I’m revising the notes I’ve used before; the material is still fine, but I want to present it more dynamically.  That said, I will still post the occasional slide presentation for discussion.

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Received from the Humboldt County Planning Division yesterday; if you’re interested in commenting, note the date of the public hearing, which is tonight in Eureka.

This is a revised version from the draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that was prepared in February and circulated in April.

According to its introduction, the Supplemental EIR was needed in order to make additions and changes in order to “comply with new State laws, such as the requirement to evaluate the project’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and to respond to new information such as the Humboldt County Health Assessment, prepared in 2007. There are also new policies in the Project (2009 Housing Element update), such as recommendations to implement Housing Opportunity Zones“.

It’s being recirculated to respond to comments received on the previous version, so the main new material should be found in Chapter 6 which presents the list of comments and commenters, and the responses to these comments.

NOTICE OF AVAILABILITY

RECIRCULATED SUPPLEMENTAL DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT

FOR THE DRAFT HUMBOLDT COUNTY HOUSING ELEMENT

SCH #2009022077

The County of Humboldt is in the process of updating the Humboldt County Housing Element, a required Element of the General Plan. The update is necessary to comply with State Law regarding Housing Elements, and to adopt local policy options to meet the documented housing needs. The project requires consideration and certification of a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). The County prepared a DEIR for the 2003 Housing Element and proposes to supplement the findings in this document with a Supplemental DEIR. An initial draft of the Supplemental DEIR was circulated in April, 2009; a revised draft of the Supplemental DEIR is now available for public review.

Project Description: The Housing Element describes housing needs of residents of all income levels, and includes discussion of housing needs of specific groups as well, such as seniors, owner-builders, disabled persons and the homeless. The findings that emerge from analyzing the housing information direct policies and programs which are a commitment to implement new measures to meet the County’s housing needs as well as to maintain the most effective on-going programs. The Housing Element contains policies that affect the kinds, locations and intensities of land uses and new development within the unincorporated areas of Humboldt County.

Identified Impacts: Policies and programs in the Element as well as other existing requirements administered by public agencies are sufficient to reduce potential impacts to a level of insignificance for hazards and hazardous materials, land use and planning, noise, recreation, and utilities and service systems. Implementation of the Element is expected to cause significant and unavoidable impacts to aesthetics, agriculture resources, air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, geology/soils, hydrology/ water quality, public services, transportation/traffic. The project will also likely result in significant unavoidable cumulative impacts. These impacts are similar those evaluated under the 2003 Element.

Project Location: This project will apply to all unincorporated areas of the County.

Review Period: Public comment will be accepted until August 2, 2009

Lead Agency: Humboldt County Department of Community Development Services

Direct Comments To:

Michael Richardson, Senior Planner
County of Humboldt
Department of Community Development Services, Planning Division
3015 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501
EMAIL: mrichardson@co.humboldt.ca.us

Public Hearing: On the Draft Housing Element by the Humboldt County Planning Commission, June 18th @ 6:00pm, Humboldt County Courthouse

Copies of the Supplemental DEIR are available on the internet at www.planupdate.org. Copies are also available for review at the main branch of the County library at 1313 3rd Street Eureka, California ( (707) 445-7284), and at Humboldt County Community Development Services, 3015 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501. Information or copies can be obtained by contacting Michael Richardson at (707) 268-3723 or email at mrichardson@co.humboldt.ca.us.

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Switzerland-Italy border
Thanks to global climate change and the resulting world-wide glacier meltdown, Switzerland and Italy now have to redraw their border. The draft law has already been endorsed by the Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, and is expected to become law before the end of April; Switzewrland has already agreed to the new border.

The current border between the two countries was established in 1861, and is very convoluted as it follows the Alps’ ridgelines and glaciers. The glaciers are now retreating and that retreat is accompanied by landslides, laying havocs with reference points. The edge of glaciers would be mostly moving up, toward Switzerland, and the landslides are moving down, toward Italy.

The redrawn border may move by as much as 100 meters in some spots, but no communities will be affected as this is an area of high altitude, remote and cold. The most famous location in the affected area is the picturesque, 4,478 meter-high Matterhorn (by its Swiss name), or Cervino (as it is known in Italy).

Links of interest:

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According to the recently released U.S State of the Birds 2009 report, a study prepared under the Bush administration by 13 major agencies and conservation organizations, almost one third of the 800 species of birds found in the US are “endangered, threatened or in significant decline”, particularly due to the influence of human activity, loss of habitat, and global climate change. The problem is particularly acute in Hawaii.

“At least 39% of the U.S. birds restricted to ocean habitats are declining,” the report says. But there are some good news, as wetland birds are rapidly recovering in places where habitat has been restored.

Links of interest:

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Last Monday, March 9, the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) released a draft environmental impact report (EIR) disclosing the expected environmental impacts of reestablishing freight train operations on the Russian River Division, a 142-mile stretch of the Northwestern Pacific (NWP) line between Lombard in Napa County and Willits in Mendocino County.

This signals the start of the comment period under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The NCRA will then address written comments received from the public, agencies and stakeholders, and prepare a final EIR.

NCRA chairman Allan Hemphill says that the draft EIR indicates that “trains will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, take trucks off of 101, save energy and provide a cost-effective means to ship goods in and out of the North Coast.” The most significant impacts expected to result from restarting freight trains are related to noise and safety.

The line has been unused for freight since it was damaged by the winter storms of 1997/1998, except for a brief period in 2001 when trains rain between Lombard and Penngrove (Sonoma County).  Since then, disrepair has only worsened.

After repairs, the NCRA proposes to restart freight rail service from Lombard this fall, starting with three round-trips a week to Windsor with 15-car trains.  The service would increase as commercial conditions allow, to two round-trips a day, six days a week, from Lombard to Willits, with one 25-car train round-trip and one 60-car train round-trip per day.

The draft EIR is massive, a 750-page, 279-megabyte PDF file. The executive summary section alone is about 57 pages long.  And since the PDF is scanned, not print-generated, it’s not searchable and it doesn’t allow copy-paste operations.  Welcome to the finest technology of the 1980s.

A public hearing on the draft EIR will be held on April 15 at 6:30 pm at the Petaluma Community Center. Comments on the draft EIR are due by May 1.

Links of interest:

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The Crescent City Daily Triplicate announced on Saturday that an appropriations bill that just passed the U.S. House of Representatives included $1.6 million for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge Crescent City’s harbour. The bill stills needs to pass the Senate vote and be signed by President Obama before the Corps officially gets this money.

The project would allow the Corps to improve critical spots in the navigation channel, making it safer for commercial and recreation vessels. Dredging is something that needs to be done periodically in this and other harbours, to keep the deeper parts of the navigation free from the silt and sediment carried off by streams and runoff. A large proportion of the sediment is mobilized by spring melt, carried off into streams and all the way to the sea. There is also the effect of currents which can keep moving the harbour bottom sediment.

Naturally, dredging also has impacts on the ecosystem and natural communities that populate the harbour floor. Specific programs are in place to streamline the environmental review; it’s different, for example, to maintain an official navigation channel, from proposing a project that would require the dredging of natural areas not normally impacted. In essence, some of the known impacts of dredging the channel are already studied and accounted for, and the environmental review for a specific project is made more straightforward by addressing only what is new and site-specific.

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usslincolnThe comment period for the Navy’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Northwest Training Range Complex (NWTRC) has been extended.  It was originally closing on February 11, but has been prolonged to March 11 — instead of April 11, as the Oregon congressional delegation had requested.  A hearing was recently held in Eureka on February 2.

The proposed expansion of the NWTRC would dramatically increase the amount of training in this range, which encompasses more than 122,440 square nautical miles — about the size of California — and stretches from Washington State to northern California.

Print copies of the Draft EIS are available for public review at the following libraries:

  1. Humboldt County Library, 1313 Third Street, Eureka, CA
  2. Jefferson County Rural Library, 620 Cedar Avenue, Port Hadlock, WA
  3. Kitsap Regional Library, 1301 Sylvan Way, Bremerton, WA
  4. Lincoln City Public Library, 801 SW Highway 101, Lincoln City, OR
  5. Oak Harbor Public Library, 1000 SE Regatta Drive, Oak Harbor, WA
  6. Port Townsend Public Library, 1220 Lawrence St., Port Townsend, WA
  7. Timberland Regional Library, 420 Seventh Street, Hoquiam, WA

And the document is available online.  Alas, the site seems to have bandwidth problems, so don’t get discouraged but try again if you get an error message.

To comment on the draft EIS, submit your thoughts by March 11, 2009 via the Web using the Navy’s automated system, or by mail to:

Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest
1101 Tautog Circle, Suite 203
Silverdale, WA 98315-1101
ATTN: Mrs. Kimberly Kler – NWTRC EIS

by downloading or printing and filling their MS Word comment form.

Links of interest:

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