Coastal Commission to Decide on Oyster Expansion Wednesday at HSU
The modifications suggest that the Commission took seriously the concerns raised by wildlife biologists and various agencies as well as local recreational users of the bay who claim the science in Coast’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is inadequate to support the expansion as proposed.
The Commission will be holding its monthly meeting this Wednesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. on the Humboldt State campus in the Kate Buchanan Room upstairs in the University Center. The Coast project report is on the commission’s Agenda for Wednesday under item 13.
Clicking on the agenda item will bring up the commission’s staff report as well as exhibits and correspondence pertaining to the issue. The public is invited to participate in the meeting, and speakers will be asked to fill out a form stating their intention to speak.
Meanwhile, various agencies and organizations have weighed in on the commission report, with US Fish and Wildlife, Audubon California, and Pacific Birds (a coalition of agencies and NGO’s addressing bird conservation along the entire Pacific coast), as well as numerous wildlife biologists stating in letters to the commission that the report does not go far enough in scaling back the expansion. Some would eliminate the expansion altogether.Audubon California’s Marine Program Director Anna Weinstein provided a statement summarizing the requests being made by those objecting to Coast’s expansion:
In light of the known negative effects of Coast’s existing aquaculture in the bay on public trust habitats and species, and the numerous uncertainties in regard to the impacts to these resources of further expansion, the report should be amended to recommend permitting Coast’s operational footprint of 300 acres. If any expansion is permitted, this area should be limited to the approximate 45 acres required to carry out the scientific studies focused on better understanding the impacts of aquaculture on brant, eelgrass, and other species and resources.
Monitoring and adaptive management plans related to a potential constrained expansion must be subject to outside peer review and public review, and the expansion areas should be removed if the results fail to meet performance criteria for brant, eelgrass, and other threatened resources.
Finally, operations should be completely removed from the East Bay Management Area and consolidated into the west side of the bay in order to protect Pacific herring, waterbirds, shorebirds and other species.
Under the existing boundaries of 300 acres, Coast’s gross revenues from shellfish cultivation on Humboldt Bay outpace all of its other operations and have grown from $7.4 million in 2014 to $10 million in 2016. Given this steady growth, some are questioning Coast’s statement at the time of airing its proposal to the Harbor District that operations would become unsustainable without an expansion.
The public is encouraged to join in the debate this Wednesday as the Coastal Commission attempts to balance responsible stewardship of the bay with economic interests.