West Coast
Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District.

CA - Humboldt Bay harbor district responds to report on sea-level rise

Sep. 13—The harbor district largely agrees with the findings of a grand jury report on the risks posed by sea-level rise, but officials say work is already being done to mitigate or adapt to the situation.

"We are actively working on this constantly," said Larry Oetker, executive director of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District.

The harbor district's Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a response to the Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury report "The Sea Also Rises," which the district worked on with Humboldt County and the cities of Eureka and Arcata. Division 5 Commissioner Patrick Higgins was absent.

The Grand Jury report pointed to research indicating the Humboldt Bay area will experience 2 feet of sea level rise by 2050 and 3 feet of sea level rise as early as 2070, and that it's important for local agencies to begin collaborating and preparing for these changes now.

The grand jury recommended the commissioners vote to affirm their commitment to adapting to and mitigating the risks from sea-level rise and directing staff to prioritize it in their planning efforts. The report also recommended forming a sea-level rise steering committee with senior officials from other local agencies that can focus on determining the best regional approach to sea-level rise.

Rob Holmlund, the district's director of development, said district staff agreed with those recommendations and that some of this work was already going on with Planning and Building Director John Ford when he was with the city of Eureka and Oetker was with the city of Arcata.

"Even the previous director of the harbor district was involved," Holmlund said. "So a similar type of committee has been on and off for quite a long time — six, seven years — so this is recommending that something is formally reestablished by the end of this year."

The only finding that the district disagreed with was that the four jurisdictions needed to agree to share the cost of staff salaries and operational overhead to address sea-level rise.

"We can accomplish what they're seeking without intermingling our budgets," Holmlund said. "It creates unnecessary complexities that would get in the way of the ultimate goal."

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