Conservation Programs

Humboldt Bay provides a kaleidoscope of wildlife offering residents and visitors alike a unique encounter with nature's most precious creatures. On the Pacific Flyway, Humboldt Bay provides a haven for over 250 species of birds with major migrations during the fall and spring. You can experience both the sights and sounds of the migrating birds in and around Humboldt Bay's diverse habitats. Thousands of acres around Humboldt Bay foster rich habitats for a variety of other animals including the marsh shrew, coast mole, river otter, gray fox and black tailed deer.

A careful balance is required for the Humboldt Bay Harbor District to promote commerce, fisheries, navigation and recreational uses of the bay and protect Humboldt Bay's vast natural resources. Planning and management for the wise use of bay natural resources to prevent overexploitation, destruction or neglect is the key to maintaining this balance. The Humboldt Bay Management Plan was adopted by the Harbor District’s Board of Commissioners in August 2006. This important document provides a comprehensive framework for balancing and integrating conservation goals and economic opportunities in a cooperative manner for the management of Humboldt Bay’s resources. The planning effort incorporated stakeholder input while promoting interagency coordination on issues in and around the Bay. This Plan serves as a management guide, planning tool, policy strategy, and reference document to help guide new projects around the Bay. It is a long-term strategy to provide direction, facilitate partnerships and promote stewardship of Humboldt Bay.

In addition to these important planning and research efforts, the Humboldt Bay Harbor District maintains a number of specific conservation programs including maintaining the most extensive bilge water recovery system on Humboldt Bay; implementing the first ballast water exchange program on the west coast of north America; managing several wildlife areas; participating in or coordinating many natural resource research projects; and participating in or sponsoring many bay awareness educational events. Specifically, these conservation programs are as follows:
SeaGrassNet – Eelgrass Monitoring: The Harbor District is the local lead for the international SeaGrassNet monitoring program. SeagrassNet is an expanding, worldwide monitoring program that investigates and documents the status of seagrass (Zostera marina in Humboldt Bay) resources and the threats to this important marine ecosystem. The program started in 2001 in the Western Pacific and now includes 110 sites in 30 countries with a global monitoring protocol and web-based data reporting system. The ultimate aim is to preserve the valuable seagrass ecosystems by increasing scientific knowledge and public awareness of this coastal resource.

Collaborative Fisheries Research: In partnership with Humboldt State University, and with funding from the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, the Harbor District is currently conducting collaborative fisheries research in near-shore coastal waters. The research is being conducted from commercial passenger fishing vessels out of Noyo Harbor, Humboldt Bay, Trinidad and Crescent City Harbor. The overall purpose of this research is to assess how certain fish communities differ at varying distances from ports, with the hypothesis that increased fishing pressure closer to ports has resulted in differences in the fish communities. The research proposal and preliminary data regarding fish species and lengths that has been collected thus far can be viewed here.

Control of the Non-native Species Cordgrass (Spartina densiflora) Non-native invasive cordgrass has come to dominate an estimated 90% of salt marshes in the three adjacent estuaries of Humboldt Bay, the Eel River Delta, and the Mad River Estuary. Cordgrass displaces native vegetation, substantially reducing salt marsh biodiversity. In partnership with the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the State Coastal Conservancy, the Harbor District is actively removing cordgrass within Humboldt Bay, while simultaneously planning for the complete eradication of this species from the North Coast. Removal of cordgrass is being done using an innovative technique that involves cutting with a steel-bladed brush-cutter, thus eliminating the need to use herbicides for control.

Woodley Island Marina: The Harbor District's Woodley Island Marina is the largest marina in Humboldt Bay. In order to protect the bay, Woodley Island Marina was built with one sewage pump-out station and a bilge water collection system that is available within easy reach of each of the 237 slips. Since 1981, this system has kept thousands of gallons of oily bilge water from being pumped directly into Humboldt Bay. This system has also been used to recover oil spills from vessels that have sunk in their slip. In addition, the marina has two oil recycling stations making it easy for marina tenants to recycle used engine oil, filters and oil absorbent pads. With help of the Humboldt County Hazardous Waste Task Force, the Harbor District developed and distributed educational information on the proper use of the bilge water system and proper oily waste disposal.

Pilotage: Safety of navigation in Humboldt Bay is paramount to maintaining both active waterborne commerce and protecting natural resources. Pilots are individuals experienced in the navigation of large ocean going vessels within Humboldt Bay. Their experience with Humboldt Bay's many channels, strong currents and sometimes large swells is essential for safe navigation of these ships in and out of the Bay. In general, Pilots are required on all vessels over 300 gross tons. The Pilots are employed by the Harbor District and are required to maintain critical skills and training as required by the Harbor District.

Oil Spill Co-op Coordination: The Oil Spill Co-op is set up as a mutual aid first responder between the Humboldt Bay Harbor District, City of Eureka, Englund Marine and Renner Petroleum. With Humboldt Bay's strong currents, quick response is essential to minimize damage done by the occasional oil spill. The co-op's main role is to quickly contain any spills at these facilities with pre-staged materials and trained personnel. Once contained, cleanup can occur. The Harbor District coordinates training and updates response material lists for the co-op.

Ballast Water Exchange Program: Based on input from the 1996 Humboldt Bay Symposium, the Harbor District created the first ballast water exchange program on the west coast of North America. Ballast water is water that a ship will use to achieve a proper balance when traveling with less than a full load. Ballast water is typically pumped into a ship at one port, then discharged at another port as cargo is taken on. The potential exists for the ballast water to transport larval marine animals, plants or seeds from one port to another. In this way, species not native to a particular port may invade and outcompete the native species. Humboldt Bay's ballast water exchange program involved requiring ships to exchange their ballast water far out at sea before entering Humboldt Bay. This technique significantly reduces the chances of introductions of exotic marine organisms into Humboldt Bay. The Humboldt Bay Harbor District's program was replaced by a State-wide program established in 2000.

Wildlife Area Management: In addition to the Harbor District's ongoing conservation programs, the District also manages and maintains three wildlife areas in the Humboldt Bay area. These include the Gerald O. Hansen Wildlife Area on Woodley Island, the Park Street Marsh and the King Salmon Beach in the community of King Salmon.

Development Regulation: The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Act empowered the Board of Commissioners to grant permits, franchises and leases. Any individual, agency, association or corporation proposing a development within the jurisdiction of the Harbor District, must obtain a permit, lease or franchise from the Harbor District. The Harbor District's regulatory jurisdiction includes all of Humboldt Bay up to the mean higher high water level except for Indian, Woodley and Daby Islands where the Harbor District jurisdiction is up to the mean high water level. In addition to the Harbor District's ability to issue development permits for activities within Humboldt Bay, the District also has the ability to issue Administrative Permits and Emergency Permits. In many cases, the Harbor District is also "lead agency" for development projects with regard to compliance with the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and routinely works with other permitting agencies on the environmental assessment of proposed projects. In most cases, the Harbor District permit will be issued before the California Coastal Commission Permit and the US Army Corps of Engineers Permit.

Information Gathering and Database Development: A variety of information sources are required for the Harbor District to meet its broad scope of responsibilities. The Harbor District continually coordinates with other agencies to either develop new information or to update existing information. The Harbor District continually works with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to update the Humboldt Bay Navigation Chart (18622) and to update the current survey and Coast Pilot. The Harbor District works regularly with the US Army Corps of Engineers on collecting and distributing navigation channel survey data and information necessary for updating current velocity and erosion modeling. The Harbor District has also worked with the Humboldt Bay Shellfish Technical Advisory Committee collecting information on water quality in Humboldt Bay and with CA Sea Grant studying eel grass distribution and density in Humboldt Bay. In order to make these and other types of information accessible to other regulatory agencies and the public, the Harbor District has lead an effort to create a GIS-format database with more than 20 layers of physical and biological information on Humboldt Bay. The core of this database was developed cooperatively between the Humboldt Bay Harbor District, US EPA, CA Coastal Conservancy, Humboldt State University Foundation, Chico State University Research Foundation and CA Department of Fish and Game. This information is constantly being updated and is available through this website.