The Humboldt Bay Harbor Working Group’s meeting last Wednesday (Feb 24) was not well-attended. They had missed their connection with the Times-Standard again so there was no publicity and the attendees were those like myself who mark our calendars for the last Wednesday on the month. There were less than 20 of us including Dan Hauser, Karen Brooks, Nick Angeloff, Marian Brady, Dave Hull, Richard Marks and the ever-affable Leo Sears.
(Background/Disclosure; I served on the 2012 Prosperity task force that recommended a study be done of the feasibility of an East-West railroad. It WAS done but hope springs eternal and the folks on the task force who disagreed with its finding that the E-W route was impractical sort of morphed into the Harbor Working Group which is also a descendant of the old Committee for Port Development. Pay attention, there will be a test. Personally, I’m an advocate of spending a billion or so to rebuild the north-south route through the Eel River Canyon with passenger-grade rail. This is an investment that would pay off many times over but I can’t get anyone interested.)
So those of us gathered at the Samoa Cookhouse heard from a knowledgeable gentleman named Bill Carlson who works for the USDA in Oregon and knows a lot about agriculture and its markets. He considers PHB (an acronym for Port of Humboldt Bay) to be the “most underdeveloped deep-water port on the West Coast”. Grays Harbor, WA, near Aberdeen, ended up with a giant shipping and transfer facility run by the shipping giant PASHA, for which PHB was one of the competitors. PHB lost out because of not having rail access. One of Grays Harbor’s big customers is a Midwest soybean co-op.
Currently agricultural products from the Central Valley are shipped south to Oakland for transfer. This includes a lot of alfalfa and hay to Japan. Almond hulls and walnut shells are shipped for use as abrasives (!) All these could be shipped out of PHB, along with rice to Japan. The whole conundrum of the E-W scheme is: what is there to ship? There is a Walmart distribution center in Gerber, where Union Pacific has 20 acres available for development as a ag hub.
The most striking assertion, to me, was that a route from Gerber to PHB could be patched together using existing rail lines which would only require 12 miles of new rail. That’s a lot different and a lot cheaper than building a 200-mile stretch of rail from scratch.
I hope that the Group will make Mr Carlson’s presentation available on its website HERE as it used to do in the past but the website looks like no one is paying it much mind. Still, you should pay attention to what these folks are up to. They just might be on to something. 12 miles??
I’ll be posting the meeting notices from now on. Last Wednesdays!