Humboldt Bay Harbor District Acquires Old Pulp Mill Site

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The Northern California Humboldt Bay Harbor District recently acquired a seventy acre former pulp mill site in order to proactively address environmental concerns, preserve important infrastructure assets and develop the property for commerce, renewable energy research and aquaculture development.

Humboldt Bay Pulp Mill Property

“Huge sites like this are often the legacy of old industries...improvements will lead to more jobs, and greater property values and tax revenues,” Jacqueline R. Debets, Economic Development Coordinator for the County of Humboldt

The Northern California Humboldt Bay Harbor District recently acquired a seventy acre former pulp mill site in order to proactively address environmental concerns, preserve important infrastructure assets and develop the property for commerce, renewable energy research and aquaculture development.

The district acquired the property at no cost but did assume responsibility for cleaning up much of the hazardous waste left on the site after the mill closed. According to District CEO Jack Crider, contaminates including mixed liquors, a caustic chemical produced during the pulping process, at the vacated site remained insecure, leaving the bay vulnerable to a spill in the event of an earthquake or tsunami.

“The District has a responsibility to be a steward of Humboldt Bay,” noted Harbor District Commissioner Mike Wilson. “We believed that ultimately, inaction would have cost more than action. We are excited about the development possibilities but the cleanup is our first priority.” That effort is expected to cost about $3 million and the EPA has already launched the first phase.

“The health of the bay is important to our whole community. We are relieved that the EPA recognizes the threat these contaminants pose to Humboldt Bay and that they are taking steps to finally get this site cleaned up,” said Greg Dale, Harbor Commissioner and Southwest Operations Manager for Coast Seafood, one of the several shellfish growers whose industry relies on the bay’s reputation for clean water.

While removing the danger of environmental hazards was a driving force behind the acquisition, the possible loss of aging assets and development potential were also factors. Humboldt Bay is the state’s second largest natural bay and only deep-water port between San Francisco and Coos Bay, Oregon. The property includes 250,000 square feet of warehouse and shop space, 30 million gallons a day inflow of freshwater, a one and one-half mile outflow pipe and dock structure. This infrastructure could eventually support a variety of business interests as well as the bay’s use as a transportation link in the Pacific Northwest.

"Our Schatz Energy Research Center is very excited about this acquisition and potential opportunities to explore alternative energy generation,” noted Humboldt State University President Rollin Richmond, adding that the University’s fisheries program has also expressed an interest in collaborating with the Harbor District.

While future uses of the site could include water and biomass export, wind and wave energy research, innovative aquaculture development and more, the environmental cleanup comes first. “Fortunately there are still valuable assets on the property that can be sold to offset some of the cleanup costs,” noted Crider. The pulp mill 23 Megawatt recovery boiler and generator, for example, could be sold as is or repurposed for energy generation elsewhere. “There has been interest in these assets from places like the Philippines and some other pulp mills, so we’re hopeful,” Crider said.

According to Jacqueline R. Debets, Economic Development Coordinator for the County of Humboldt, the clean-up removes the most significant barrier to future site development. “Huge sites like this are often the legacy of old industries and can be challenging for the private sector to turn around alone. With this acquisition and clean-up, we are optimistic that the improvements will lead to more jobs, and greater property values and tax revenues from the area,” she said.

Please visit http://www.humboldtbay.org to learn more or view the RFP for the Chemical Recovery Boiler and Turbine Generator.

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