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Eureka-Based Mercer-Fraser Seeks Special Allowance for Floodplain Cannabis Lab Jennifer Kalt, Director On January 17, the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District Board (HBMWD) voted unanimously to appeal the Humboldt County Planning Commission’s approval of a cannabis extraction and manufacturing facility just upstream from the intakes for the drinking water supply for 88,000 Humboldt County residents.

The decision ultimately rests with the Board of Supervisors, which will consider the appeal and the rezone on February 27 or soon thereafter.

Floodplains are for Flood Waters and Fish

Developing floodplains is poor planning for a variety of reasons. Paving floodplains constrains flood waters, leading to more severe flooding and erosion downstream. Reducing natural floodplains jeopardizes salmon, steelhead, and other protected species by Drinking Water for 88,000 People at Risk restricting access to low-gradient spawning, resting, “Water quality is critical to this community. and rearing habitat. The potential for accidental We have got to err on the side of protecting this volatile chemical spills and other damage during water,” said Director Bruce Rupp, who represents floods is of great concern for the river and fish as well constituents in Eureka and Cutten. The HBMWD as our primary public drinking water supply. supplies water to the cities of Eureka, Arcata, and The Mad River is considered critical habitat for Blue Lake, as well as the Community Service Districts coho salmon, which are threatened by development of that supply drinking water to Cutten, McKinleyville, fl oodplains and riparian areas that, when undeveloped, Manila, Samoa, Glendale, and Fieldbrook. fi lter pollutants and slow down runoff. Floodplains The District also voted unanimously to oppose provide migration corridors for juvenile and adult the rezoning of the Mercer-Fraser property to “Heavy coho salmon. Because of their importance to coho Industry,” since that change would allow a wide range and other salmonids, major efforts are being made to of industrial manufacturing. The county maintains restore floodplain habitats all over the North Coast that other industrial activities would require a in an effort to prevent the coho from going extinct. Conditional Use Permit—cold comfort from an The County General Plan adopted last October agency that rarely rejects development and too often includes a policy of protecting floodplains from fails to enforce its regulations and conditions of development for these very reasons. The General permit approval. Plan also notes The site of Mercer-Fraser’s proposed cannabis extraction facility is in the Mad River floodplain along that “areas not Highway 299 between Blue Lake and McKinleyville. Base map from Humboldt County Web GIS ( served by urban services are not suitable for a broader range of industrial uses.” The property does not have public water or sewer services, so the cannabis factory would rely on a well and a septic system in the floodplain. Furthermore, the county has a very sensible ordinance on the books, which


prohibits “storage or processing of materials that are in time of flooding buoyant, flammable, explosive, or could be injurious to human, animal or plant life.” Yet the Planning Commission recommends changing the zoning from “Agriculture General” to “Heavy Industry” to allow cannabis extraction using volatile chemicals. Heavy industry simply does not belong on floodplains, no matter how safe a developer promises to be. The Supervisors should approve a change in zoning to allow the gravel processing to continue without allowing cannabis manufacturing and other heavy industry. Otherwise, we can be sure that floodplains on every river in the county will be at risk of industrial development. Eureka-based Mercer-Fraser Co. is a paving contractor, gravel mine operator, and owner of the property in question. Mercer-Fraser Vice President Justin Zabel is also an officer of McMp LLC, the developer of the proposed cannabis extraction facility.

Tell the Board of Supervisors

Please reject this project and the rezoning to protect our drinking water, the Mad River, and salmon! Send an email to Board Secretary Kathy Hayes, (she will forward your comments to all five supervisors); or call and/or email supervisors directly: Rex Bohn, District 1: 707-476-2391 Estelle Fennell, District 2: 707-476-2392 Mike Wilson, District 3: 707-476-2393 Virginia Bass, District 4: 707-476-2394 Ryan Sundberg, District 5: 707-476-2395 Thank the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District for protecting our drinking water and the Mad River! Stay informed! To be added to Baykeeper’s action alert list, email us at alerts@humboldtbaykeeper. org and follow Baykeeper’s Facebook page!

Feb/Mar 2018


EcoNews Vol. 48, No. 1 - Feb/Mar 2018  

EcoNews is the official bi-monthly publication of the Northcoast Environmental Center, a non-profit advocacy and educational organization. T...

EcoNews Vol. 48, No. 1 - Feb/Mar 2018  

EcoNews is the official bi-monthly publication of the Northcoast Environmental Center, a non-profit advocacy and educational organization. T...