Harbor Commission to Fill Vacancy Thursday, Oysters Not on the Menu

Eelgrass, one of the sensitive species involved in the Harbor District’s planning process. [Photo by Elias Elias]

The Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District has chosen a bigger venue for this Thursday’s meeting to decide which of the three top contenders will fill new County Supervisor Mike Wilson’s recently vacated 3rd district seat on the commission. The appointee will serve until an election is held in November to fill the regular full 4-year term.

The meeting will be held at Arcata’s D Street Neighborhood Center which has a seating capacity of 300. After the standing-room-only crowd spilled into the streets January 19 when Coast Seafoods’ expansion project was voted down by a 2-1 margin with two in favor, one opposed and one recusal by Greg Dale who is both a commissioner and an employee of Coast Seafoods, the Harbor commissioners wanted to be sure that there was ample room for all members of the public wishing to attend and participate.

One of the issues facing the new commissioner will be to decide on how to proceed with Coast proposal. Harbor District executive Director Jack Crider says that legal counsel will be consulted before another vote is taken to determine the proper procedural steps to open the question again. While no questions about the Coast project will be entertained at this Thursday’s meeting, the candidate selected will eventually be wrangling with the issue.

This Thursday, the three candidates will be questioned by the commissioners in open session as the final round of the selection process. A vote will be taken at the conclusion of questioning to decide on the selection. The candidates will answer questions from the commissioners on various topics in turn. The public may submit questions in writing on forms supplied at the meeting.

The three contenders are Casey Allen, Stephen Kullmann and David Narum. A brief summary of their resumes with comments about the Oyster project follow.

Casey Allen is a Bayside resident who worked as a Contract Administrator and Construction Manager for AT&T from 1974 until retirement in 2011. He has also worked as a freelance outdoor writer and photographer. He currently serves on the Humboldt County Fish and Game Advisory Council and the Humboldt Harbor Safety Committee. He volunteers for Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers and has served as President, Director, and Public Information Officer for the organization. He has hunted and fished for 46 years on Humboldt Bay.

A self-described frequent defender of the harbor district whose work he feels is not always well understood, Allen says he will bring sensible leadership to the commission and use his writing ability to portray a more positive image of the commission’s work. He is in favor of looking into innovative solutions to problems, including with Coast Seafoods’ proposed oyster cultivation expansion.

He  says the recent vote that failed to certify the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the project is an indication that the plan must be modified before it can be approved. “I’d like to see the district appoint a committee to include all of the stakeholders and address the concerns raised so that we approve something the Coastal Commission will agree to.” He does not feel the current EIR adequately answers issues brought up by the various state agencies who weighed in during the commenting phase of the process.

“We can’t just have a winner and a loser, we need to work to find consensus.” Allen would like to investigate the possibility of using existing but no longer used structures in the bay for oyster growing as is done in other bays elsewhere the country. He is open to looking into other methods that would address agency and public concerns. “I will do the right thing for the bay.” If Allen is not appointed Thursday night he will run for the full term seat in November.

Stephen Kullmann is a Blue Lake resident and for the past decade was employed as the Natural Resources Director for the Wiyot Tribe. He currently Community Development and Resilience Director for Blue Lake Rancheria. He holds a Master of Science degree in Environmental Systems from Humboldt State University. He serves on the Humboldt Bay Harbor Safety Committee, the Eelgrass Management Plan committee, the Sea Level Rise Response Committee, and several other local government committees and councils.

“I am someone with a history of work on Humboldt Bay. I believe in open communication and listening to all sides. I think if we are to work open-mindedly we can come to solutions that might not be everyone’s ideal, but can serve the greater good of all parties,” said Kullmann regarding his general approach to solving problems.

Regarding the Coast expansion project he commented “I would like to see some additional restrictions placed on the proposed expansion, but do not think it is an incompatible use of the Bay. Mariculture serves as a business that relies on high water quality and can be an overall force of protection on Humboldt Bay. We need to judge impacts holistically and come to the best conclusions that we can.”

To address these concerns, Kullmann is “in favor of using scientific data collection to answer some of these questions, and so I like that the proposed project includes many studies to quantify the effects of potential expansion. I think some of the metrics used are difficult to understand, because the total footprint of the proposed expansion does not equal the total impact of the effect on eelgrass due to the low density of development.”

He credits Coast with coming a long way in addressing concerns but acknowledges some legitimate concerns remain.

“I am a believer in protecting the Bay for all beneficial users, which includes the hunting and fishing communities as well as mariculture, so there needs to be a
balance.”

David Narum is an Arcata resident who is employed as Project Manager for the Department of Energy and Technologies for the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribal Government. He is also an Adjunct Professor and Research Associate for Humboldt State University’s Environmental Resources Engineering Department. He also does private consulting in a number of community and environmental fields.

He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Madison-Wisconsin in Environment and Resources and a Master’s Degree from the same institution in Energy Analysis and Policy. He has published extensively on a variety of topics.

Locally he has worked over the past 16 years on community development projects through Planwest Partners and Greenway Partners. He feels his broad-ranging areas of expertise will bring an ability to strike a balance between the many “economic, social and environmental concerns” in the district.

Regarding Coast’s expansion plan he says he has not been asked for his opinion on the FEIR and that “there are a number of factors involved with any decision a Commissioner makes on any issue. I see the decision task as one of balancing among contributing factors (environmental, economic, and social, among others) using the best available evidence, listening to all stakeholders, and striving to be consistent with the District’s goals as articulated in its Strategic Plan.”

 

 

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7 comments

  • This will be interesting.
    Casey has already done a lot for the Harbor District and see the need to improve its image. Some of the work includes bringing forward and promoting the use of artificial reefs that would benefit fish and fishermen.
    He has spent a lot of time on the bay fishing and hunting. That translates into a lot of thinking and understanding bay functions and the importance of a healthy ecosystem.
    Casey wants to make sure the oyster expansion plan can actually be approved and is an innovative thinker. He also has nearly 100 letters of support from a wide range of people. “Unprecedented” according to one of the fellow Commissioners.
    He knows how to ask questions and get things done.
    The other guys I am sure a nice people but no one is as committed as Casey.
    Hopefully the Commissioners recognize the opportunity before them.

    • Casey’s artificial reef project is a blatant kick in the nuts to our local commercial crab fleet. He insists that the only place to put it is right smack in the middle of the most popular crab fishing ground in the area. There’s close bottom fish access out of Trinidad, Shelter Cove, and Crescent City and world class epic fishing down near Cape Mendocino. The salmon fishing out of Eureka is far better than anywhere else in the state partially because the commercial fleet is banned from the area until so late in the season that the fish are gone. The Pacific Halibut allocation to California has increased over %400 in the last few years and the recreational fleet was just granted a legal fishing depth extension from 20 to 30 fathoms. Sport fishermen in northern California are very well off while the commercial crab fleet is suffering under the new demoic acid problems and price gouging by the processors. The last thing the crab fleet needs is an artificial reef screwing up their most utilized fishing grounds. This has been brought to Casey’s attention and he completely blew it off. It would be good to have a representative of the fishing industry on the commission but not one so bias toward the recreational side. The only reason Casey got so many letters of support is because he put out a mass email to the many thousands of HASA members begging for them. The other candidates are running on their positions and ideas rather than trying to turn the whole thing into a childish popularity contest. Kullmann operates with integrity and a deep respect for the bay and is bay far the best of the 3 for the job.

      • The reef structures are designed to prevent crab gear problems. I would think you know that.
        Asking for letters of support are what one does when seeking public office. Are you suggesting that should not happen?
        You seem to be grasping at straws. Who is your choice? And why?

      • We should probably replace Pat Higgins with Susan Rotwein if we want a rep of the Crab fishery.
        I would be all for that!

  • Thank you for the fair and balanced article. I just wish to correct the statement that the FEIR was voted down by a 2-1 margin. Two Commissioners voted in favor and one against, with one recusing himself for obvious reasons. To pass, it would have needed a majority of the entire Commission, or three votes in favor.
    I also want to make it very clear that none of the Commissioners or anyone involved in the appointment has asked me to state how I would vote in this case.

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