HUMBOLDT – The county’s Harbor District has begun an environmental review process on developing port facilities to assemble and haul out the gigantic turbine structures that will generate offshore wind energy.
In late June, the district gave notice that it’s preparing a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on a “heavy lift multipurpose marine terminal project” slated for a 180-acre area adjacent to the town of Samoa.
The notice opens a 30-day public comment period, ending on Aug. 3, on what the scope the DEIR should be.
A private company, Crowley Marine Services, is leasing the project site from the district and will develop and operate the marine terminal.
The scoping notice opens a process that’s already getting a lot of commentary.
In an opinion piece for the Lost Coast Outpost news website, representatives of four locally well-known environmental groups – Humboldt Baykeeper, the Environmental Protection Information Center, the Northcoast Environmental Center and the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities – urged development of a “green port facility”
The group reps acknowledged the environmental benefits of offshore wind energy production but warned of potential impacts of building and transporting huge offshore turbines.
“Unfortunately, these types of heavy-lift terminals have a mixed track record for communities,” they said. “On land, port equipment such as terminal tractors, forklifts, yard trucks, cranes and handlers commonly run on diesel.”
They added that most of the “heavy-duty cargo ships and tugboats” used for infrastructure transport “also run on diesel or heavy fuel oil, polluting the air” and “even burn fuel while docked at the terminal to maintain a base load of electricity.”
There’s concern that “communities surrounding these ports often suffer from the effects of air pollution.”
The groups support a “green port” drawing energy from “electrification and other zero-carbon energy sources, such as green hydrogen.”
An initial scoping meeting on the port plan was held July 12 at Eureka’s Wharfinger Building. Commentary on a range of impact concerns was fielded by Harbor District officials but responding to them isn’t part of the scoping process.
That will be done through the DEIR, with a final EIR due for completion sometime next year. Construction is expected to begin 2026 to 2027 at the soonest.
Supporting offshore wind energy will involve a variety of conspicuous and potentially impactful activities.
The ships bringing in turbine parts and hauling out assembled turbines are up to 270 feet long.
The turbines themselves will be 500 feet tall, not including wind blades or foundations.
In an information video, Rob Holmlund, the district’s development director, said their floating foundation platforms will be “larger than a city block” and more than 100 feet tall.
Humboldt Bay is home to a sometimes struggling but still vital fishing industry and Holmlund said towing out turbines will necessitate short-term “rolling closures” within the bay.
“We’re trying to find ways to minimize impacts to fishermen but that is a possibility, that this will impact fishermen to some degree,” he continued.
Running power cables from the offshore areas to land, light pollution and increased channel dredging also have potential impacts.
Lighting and increased channel dredging also have potential impacts.
There are plenty of benefits.
“We’re gonna be a leader in energy decarbonization, developing a vast diversity of jobs, redeveloping a blighted site and stimulating other projects around the bay,” said Holmlund.
The marine terminal will also generate revenue for the district, which will fund other work, including recreation and conservation projects, he continued.
The “opportunity to create a green port” is included in the district’s list of project benefits.
Updates on the project’s progress, public meetings and the environmental review will be posted online. “Keep your eye on the Harbor District’s website,” Holmlund advised.