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HUMBOLDT BAYLabor deal in works for port development

  • Aug 18, 2022

The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District is working on a collective bargaining agreement for laborers who will be working on preparing the port to support the state’s nascent offshore wind industry.

On Monday, the harbor district’s Board of Commissioners gave Executive Director Larry Oetker direction to work on a project labor agreement for the development of a new heavy lift marine terminal. Jeff Hunerlach, district representative for Operating Engineers Local No. 3, told the commissioners that the agreement can be molded to help the community.

“We really look forward to having that partnership,” Hunerlach said. “ … With that partnership comes commitment.”

President Joe Biden issued an executive order Feb. 4 requiring all agencies receiving $35 million or more in federal funds for large-scale construction projects to develop project labor agreements to avoid project delays resulting from labor disruptions. The harbor district is anticipating applying for a $50 million grant for port infrastructure development, which would trigger the requirement for a project labor agreement.

Oetker said the district would have been moving forward with a project labor agreement even if the president had not issued the executive order because they benefit the community as a whole.

“We’re more likely to get the federal money if we … do a project labor agreement,” Oetker said. “We’re also more likely to get the labor that we need in order to build the new terminal and have more people hired locally if we have a project labor agreement.”

This project labor agreement is specifically for the port developments, Oetker said. Other agreements will have to be forged at different aspects of the project. If manufacturing comes online, that would need its own agreement, as would the operation of the terminal and the maintenance of the wind farm.

“We should really think about the project labor agreement not as being a one-size-fit-all,” Oetker said. “But really the first of several project labor agreements that are likely to take place over the course of the project.”

This fall, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is planning on auctioning leases for offshore wind development approximately 20 to 30 miles off the coast of Humboldt Bay and further south off Morro Bay. The state set targets of 2 to 5 gigawatts of offshore wind development by 2030, which could mean a partial buildout of the Humboldt wind energy area. Developers have expressed plans for at least a community-scale offshore wind project by that time.

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0504.

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