By Todd Wels
Triplicate staff writer
Work on the Rowdy Creek Enhancement Project started up again Wednesday, after a more than two-week shutdown.
That shutdown was imposed by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which had concerns over the project, which was designed to shore up the creeks banks with rip-rap boulders and provide additional fish habitat. The concerns stemmed from a plan to dam the creek, diverting the water downstream via a 400-foot culvert so work crews and equipment could work inside the creek bed, dumping rock in from the east side. NMFS was concerned that doing so could damage both the creek and its fish population.
Therefore, NMFS has required workers from John N. Peterson Construction to work from the west bank of the creek, which requires them to operate heavy equipment inside the Rowdy Creek Mobile Park.
On Wednesday and Thursday alone, workers removed 15 maple and alder trees from the park in order to gain access to the bank for their heavy equipment.
They destroyed more than 70 percent of the canopy, said park owner Don Frosini, noting that he did not blame Peterson employees for the damage, but rather NMFS officials who made the decision to relocate the project onto his property.
Both he and County Supervisor Chuck Blackburn, who was on-site Thursday, pointed out that the trees being removed provided a great deal of shade for the creek, thus lowering its temperature. They questioned the impact that would have on salmon in the creek.
In addition, working from the west side of the creek has caused a large amount of silt to be deposited into the creek bed.
Thats fish-killing habitat, said Frosini.
Blackburn was quick to point out that the silt problem would have been cleared up by diverting the water. He added that, as a result of not diverting the water and the fish living in it downstream, there are now salmon fingerlings being endangered by the dirty water.
Frosini said Blackburn said these factors lead them to believe NMFS is not acting in the best interest of fish in the creek.
This is about power, Frosini said. It is not about fish habitat.
Blackburn was part of a Sept. 11 meeting with NMFS official Ian Gilroy, in which Gilroy had allegedly committed to allowing the project to go ahead as scheduled before changing his decision upon his return to Humboldt County.
Blackburn said he shares Frosinis frustrations with NMFS.
Theyve got that much power that they can tear up that mans property, and the local elected officials have none, he said.
The Daily Triplicate attempted to contact the Arcata office of NMFS, but received no reply.
Much of the additional $45,000 budgeted for the project at Tuesdays Board of Supervisors meeting will go into repairs to Rowdy Creek Mobile Park.
Builders will now have to re-vegetate the area along the bank, as well as repaving a more than 100-foot section of pavement that has been damaged by heavy equipment.
Park resident Claire Golan said the construction has damaged the parks aesthetics for her.
I wanted to put a tarp on my trailer to protect it from dust, she said.
Also at issue for Golan is the amount of noise created by the construction.
That construction was scheduled to be complete by Oct. 15, but that was before the NMFS-imposed delay.
Will workers be able to get it done before the deadline?
Itll be real close, said Superintendent Wes Nally of John N. Peterson Construction. If the weather holds out, I think well make it.