Volume XIII, Issue 37: April 22, 2016

Coming Distractions …
May 6-8 – District 5130 Conference – Marriott Napa Valley Resort & Spa
May 29-June 1 – RI Conference in Seoul, South Korea 
June 11 – RISE EVENT – Rotaract Color Run
June 18 – RISE EVENT – 26th Arcata Oyster Festival – providing beer to the thirsty
July 4RISE EVENT – Independence Day on the Plaza – volunteer at the RCAS Family Comfort Station
July 9RISE EVENT – Friends of the Dunes’ Sand Sculpture Festival

RISE = Rotary Involvement Strengthens Everyone 

Sunriser Shorts

  • President Howard reminded us that our April 29th meeting will feature a brief presentation by Chuck Dominick of the Arcata Noon Rotary, our District’s Youth Protection Vetting Officer. Chuck will focus on Youth Protection Awareness, and his talk will serve to “vet” those of us who attend. We are each required to be vetted before participating in Rotary activities that bring us into contact with young people under the age of 18. For Rotarians who will be in one-on-one situations with young people, a more involved process – Youth Protection Awareness – is required . This includes taking a test, providing three personal references, and having your fingerprints scanned. Please be sure to attend this important meeting.
  • There will be more information to follow, but Saturday, May 14th is the 24th annual Letter Carriers’ “Stamp Out Hunger” Food Drive. Food for People, our partners in the Backpacks for Kids program, will be involved in the effort.

Sophia’s Stories
Exchange Student Sophia Waern-Bugge is enjoying living with Host Parents Chris and Lisa Hemphill. She traveled to San Francisco during the recent Spring Break, and had a great time. She also likes going to the Farmers’ Market.

From Arcata to the Arctic
Greg Gaiera, who teaches fourth graders at Union Street Charter School, gave a short presentation last Friday. Last year, Greg was awarded a Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship by the National Geographic Society and Lindblad Expeditions. 

Greg and the other Fellows traveled in the Arctic in the company of Sam, the stuffed bear mascot from Greg’s classroom. Sam was featured in many of the photos Greg showed. “I got to see some pretty amazing parts of the world,'” he said, ” and … I got to bring that back and share it with the kids in my classroom.”

He traveled to Norway, and spent one day in Oslo before flying to Svalbard. That is “an archipelago that is about 600 miles from the North Pole.” The group spent five days traveling around Svalbard, exploring the islands by kayak and hiking. 

They then traveled across the Greenland Sea, and followed the ice pack along Greenland’s eastern coast. The ice was too thick for them to make a scheduled stop in Scoresbysung, a Greenland port, so they moved on to Iceland. They spent six days on Iceland’s northern shores, visiting small villages. 

Greg was one of 35 Fellows chosen out of about 3,000 applicants. He received the honor in recognition of his commitment to environmental education. “I like to get kids outside to connect with their natural surroundings,” he said. He felt that he was able to communicate that passion for nature to the National Geographic Society, which led to the award. 

And he’s telling his students and others what he saw – “an amazing variety of wildlife.” He described Svalbard as a pretty, yet desolate landscape. “Sixty percent of the archipelago,” he said, “was covered with ice, and only ten percent had vegetation.” But, he noted, that ten percent held “an explosion of life”. Seabirds flocked to these areas to feed. The group also saw walruses, puffins, and humpback whales.

Greg also said that they encountered polar bears. He described on instance when the ship’s captain, without the aid of binoculars, noticed a different color of white among the ice from a great distance. He pulled the ship to the ice pack and killed the engine. Greg said, “Over the course of the next hour, this polar bear wandered to us.” The captain surmised that the bear was intrigued by the smell of the breakfast that had just been served.

Greg Gaiera

The group traveled on the National Geographic Explorer, Lindblad’s flagship. Greg described it as a 5-star accommodation. Suites on the ship for the voyage that carried the Grosvenor Fellows were priced from about $3,000 up to $25,000 for the sailing. He was able to meet people from all over the world, especially at meals. The five-deck ship includes a workout facility, a library, and you are even welcome to visit the bridge and talk with the captain.

Greg said that his visit was to short to see any evidence of climate change, but he said that Tom, one of the naturalists on board, has been going to the Arctic for 30 years. Tom said that he has observed many changes that have been taking place over time, including loss of polar bear habitat.

Greg has been working to bring his experiences to his classroom and to the community. He and his students recently completed a six-week Arctic study, which included an “Arctic Night, which featured art, stories, Viking boats, and displays that showed the breadth of their research. And Greg told his story, with slides that included Sam the Bear, who was something of a surrogate for the students. Many of the artwork and stories were displayed for a month at HealthSport, to help further connect the community.

Planning for Sea Level Rise
Our Featured Speaker was Aldaron Laird of Trinity Associates. He is the Adaptation Planner for the Humboldt Bay Sea Level Rise Project, a regional collaboration among various entities that is funded by the Coastal Conservancy. Aldaron has been an environmental planner for 22 years.

The goal of the project is “to support informed decision-making and encourage unified consistent regional adaptation strategies to address the hazards associated with sea level rise in the Humboldt Bay region”. 

Aldaron Laird

The first step they took to accomplish this was to create an inventory and map of the bay’s shoreline, to identify areas that are vulnerable in the face of sea level rise.

In the 1870s, the bay was about 60% open water and 40% salt marsh, ringed by a 60 mile shoreline. Over time, much of the salt marshes have been reclaimed and converted to agricultural use. This has given the bay a new look – it is now about 90% open water and only 10% marshland, with a shoreline of 102 miles.  

What allowed this transformation was the creation of what Aldaron calls “artificial shoreline”, consisting primarily of dikes that hold back the sea water and the railroad bed that runs along part of the bay. Currently, about 75% of the shoreline is artificial.

The planners have determined that 59.0 miles of the shoreline is highly vulnerable to sea level rise. Another 28.3 miles are considered moderately vulnerable, and there are only 14.0 miles of low vulnerability shoreline.

Aldaron said that, after finding these vulnerabilities, they calculated the impact of the failure of the dikes with existing sea level. Much of the low-lying areas near the bay would be inundated. Some breaches have occurred over the last decade, including an event in August 2014. He showed a map that showed that much of the lowlands on the east side of Highway 101 would be flooded if the dikes failed today. The highway would become a causeway, with the bay on both sides. The footprint of the bay would increase by about 50%.

The danger will increase as the sea level rises. From 2012-2013, the project developed a Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Planning report. “We wanted to include site-specific inundation maps, Aldaron said, “for Humboldt Bay, not just general ones for the West Coast.” They also wanted to bring together all of the entities on the bay to work as a group to address sea level rise. 

The project is serving as a national model. In part, this is because the size of Humboldt Bay is managable for this type of analysis. San Francisco Bay is so large, for example, that identifying its vulnerabilties would be a mammoth undertaking. In addition, our bay’s relatively small size also means that fewer entities are seated at the table, allowing ideas and plans to be implemented more quickly.

In addition to the dangers of inundation, the project identified the problem of saltwater intrusion into wells and sewers and rising groundwater as sea levels rise. Aldaron also noted that our area is subject to a “double whammy” – local seismic activity has caused much of the land to subside as the sea levels are rising. And it appears that the rise may be happening faster than previously expected. 

The land protected by dikes around the bay contains significant infrastructure that may be damaged or lost if the dikes fail or prove inadequate. The water transmission lines for the City of Eureka are at risk, PG&E gas lines are in the inundation area, and there are power lines there as well. Unfortunately, the entities who own the infrastructure that is endangered are not the ones charged with maintaining the dikes.

The Shoreline Inventory and Vulnerability Assessment can be accessed online by clicking here. For more on the Sea Level Rise Project, there are several links on the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation, and Conservation District website.   

Flash Recognitions

  • Steve McHaney was recognized for his entry in last year’s Kinetic Sculpture Race. He said that the “Tri-Lo-Bike”, which won the Engineering Award last year, is being retooled and improved. He hopes to take the Grand Championship one of these years …
  • Thanks and congratulations to Lisa and Chris Hemphill for being Sophia’s new Host Parents! 
  • Thanks to everyone who attended the previous weekend’s collaboration between the HSU Rotaract and the Lost Coast Rotaract – the Food and Wine Festival.

Vocational Moment
Rebecca Crow provided a quick Vocational Moment to close our meeting. She is a Civil Engineer at GHD in Eureka (formerly Winzler & Kelly). “They’ve been there 60 plus years,” she said, “and I’ve been there 15 years next month.”

She does a lot of water and wastewater projects, working with many of the communities in Humboldt County. She does a lot of grant writing and reporting, especially helping the small cities in the area. 

She noted that Steve McHaney is her boss at GHD, and she said that she really enjoys working with him. She also got to work with Aldaron Laird a few years ago. “I appreciate the variety of projects I get to work on,” she said. And she likes working with all of her local clients. Rebecca told us, “It’s really fulfilling to be able to actually see something go from a plan on a piece of paper to … construction stuff on the ground.”