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The Pacific Gas and Electric Company is giving the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District $2 million to buy a dredge, which will be more economically beneficial than continuing to contract one, said Eureka Director of Public Works Bruce Young.

PG&E previously agreed to complete the dredging of the Fisherman's Channel. Once dredged, its ownership would have been turned over to the district. While working on the project, it became clear to those involved that the area would benefit from a more long-term solution, versus continually importing a dredge from out of the county, said PG&E spokeswoman Jana Morris. The company agreed to the purchase the dredge in exchange for the district taking ownership of completing the channel dredging.

”The King Salmon residents were a great partner while the Humboldt Bay Power Plant, which is what the generating station was previously called, used the channel. The station no longer uses the channel,” Morris said. “The district owning a dredge is better for everyone in Humboldt County in general.”

Jack Crider, the district's chief executive officer, said the district will own the dredge, but the city will use it, which will help offset the costs of operation and maintenance. Silt fills in places where vessels dock in the harbor, which makes them more shallow and unusable. Dredging helps remove the build up and was typically done every eight to 10 years in the area before the district was promised money to buy a dredge of its own, Crider said

”By having our own dredge, we'll not only be able to take care of both marinas, but private dock owners will also be able to use it,” Crider said. “Right off the bat, buying our own dredge eliminates the mobilization cost of bringing one here. Our average cost of dredging before was somewhere between $12 to $15 a cubic yard and we should be able to dredge for maybe half that price or better now. In 2007, it cost $3.2 million to dredge both the Eureka Public and Woodley Island marinas and $600,000 of that cost went to importing the dredging equipment into the area.”

Crider said the district is trying to establish an annual dredge cycle. There's already a dredge surcharge for those who keep their vessels at the Woodley Island Marina.

”The fees we collect every year should cover the cost of dredging, and we hope Eureka begins to include a dredge surcharge fee for their vessels too,” Crider said. “Our goal is to be dredging a small volume, 30 to 50 yards, of sections that are shallow and causing problems every year and over a 10 year period we should all be in pretty good shape.”

Young said Eureka is very excited to have a new way to deal with the dredging issue that will have less of an overall cost.

”We're thinking it will be a wonderful tool to have moving forward,” Young said.

PG&E will hold a community meeting to discuss the dredging of the Fisherman's Channel this Wednesday at the Humboldt Bay Generating Station Assembly Building. To get there, enter at the paved “Parking Lot B” entrance and take the first left into the parking lot.

Jillian Singh is a reporter for the Times-Standard. She can be reached at 441-0509 or Jsingh@times-standard.com

If You Go:

What: Fisherman's Channel dredging community meeting

When: Wednesday, March 19 at 6 p.m.

Where: The Humboldt Bay Generating Station Assembly Building, 1000 King Salmon Ave., in Eureka