Point of Focus: Part II- Humboldt Opposes Offshore Drilling

Mar 5, 2018

This year the Trump Administration announced an executive order to restart a five-year oil and gas leasing program that would impact the outer continental shelf of the United States, our coastlines. 

However, the U.S. Department of Interior faced some backlash over which areas were being considered for these new projects, including protest and opposition from Humboldt County officials and local environmentalist groups. The county passed a resolution to oppose offshore drilling last week. 

The Eel River Basin, according to environmentalists, could be a target for the Trump Administration's offshore oil leasing programs, which were relaunched in January this year.
Credit By humboldthead [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This included a brief explanation by Supervisor Mike Wilson at the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors meeting, as to why they should adopt a resolution and protect the North Coast's resources while also joining other communities across the West Coast. 

"It's not just a stand federally, we're currently doing our local coastal planning process and this stance will inform that process. This is a message to our planning department, as we move forward, and the community of where the Board of Supervisors stands on this and it should be reflected in our land use policies. It has more in it than just responding to the interior department," Wilson said. 

Afterwards, some public speakers, like Vivian Hallowell, of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman's Association and the Institute for Fisheries Resources, showed support for the resolution and agreed with the county's stance on the issue. 

“So even if you don’t fish for food, fun or money, the value of seafood land in California and the port of Eureka provides immense contribution for our economy and provides jobs for millions of people," Hallowell said and concluded that federal policies have been defeated in the past on a local level. "[In] 1987, lease sale 91. [There were] days of hearings in Fort Bragg and here at the Red Lion and we got it shut down 30 years ago. So we want to unite and protect all our abundant and fragile shores here.”

Additionally, local  and state groups like Humboldt Surfrider and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) also weighed in on the importance of keeping our shores and resources out of the Trump Administration’s agenda. Both Tom Wheeler of EPIC and Jennifer Savage of Humboldt Surfrider agreed that local efforts to oppose offshore drilling was helpful, especially in areas of the North Coast that could peak federal interest.  

“President Trumps offshore oil plan called for two new offshore oil leases here in Northern California. So this region is approximately Del Norte to Mendocino County. That means that they're going to try to give two offshore oil leases in our area," Wheeler said. "We have, here in Humboldt County, a offshore oil bed, called the Eel River Basin that runs from about the mouth of the Eel River all the way up to Del Norte County, so that is probably one that they would target." 

Jennifer Savage also added that hundreds of thousands of species along the coast could be put in jeopardy.

“We have one of the most bountiful offshore water regions that exists. There’s whales, there’s dolphins, there’s eels, there’s sea lions. We’re on the Pacific Flyway, there’s hundreds and hundreds and thousands of seabirds that travel up and down or live here permanently. So the impact when an oil spill would occur would be absolutely devastating," Savage said. 

Other local governments, like the Yurok Tribe, have also opposed offshore drilling and traveled to Sacramento this year to state their position against the policies.