Our mission is to protect the habitat of Puget Sound tidelands from the underregulated expansion of new and intensive shellfish aquaculture methods. These methods were never anticipated when the Shoreline Management Act was passed. They are transforming the natural tideland ecosystems in Puget Sound and are resulting in a fractured shoreline habitat. In South Puget Sound much of this has been done with few if any meaningful shoreline permits and with limited public input. It is exactly what the Shoreline Management Act was intended to prevent.

Get involved and contact your elected officials to let them you do not support aquaculture's industrial transformation of Puget Sound's tidelands.

Governor Inslee:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

SEPA Decision on New Geoduck Farm in Eld Inlet - Were Adjacent Farms Considered?

Were impacts adequately considered?

Comments Due By: 4PM, May 30, 2013
CONTACT: Scott McCormick, Associate Planner
(360) 754-3355 x6372 or mccorms@co.thurston.wa.us

Northwest Shellfish Co. has applied for permits for a new geoduck farm in Eld Inlet on a tideland parcel owned by William and Marie Staley. Thurston County has issued a tentative "Mitigated Determination of Non-significance" (MDNS) SEPA determination. Comments on this decision are due by May 30. Decision documents are available by request from the county. A general overview is available here, but it does not appear adjacent operations were considered.

Was accurate information provided by the applicant?
Were existing farms considered in the determination? Aerial photos from 2006 to 2012 from Thurston County's GIS site show clearly that aquaculture was occurring on the adjacent tideland parcels south of the proposed farm. Surveys done for Taylor Shellfish show geoducks apparently encroaching on the Staley property. It does not appear the application or determination considered the adjacent farms.  Could the county have made a meaningful determination?
Aerial view of proposed farm.
(see below for higher resolution)

Existing shellfish farms
The proposed site is adjacent to where existing shellfish farms were located, one apparently in front of a parcel owned by the Hittmeier family and another seemingly in front of a parcel owned by Thurston  County (Frye Cove County Park). It is unclear who owns the tidelands in front of the Thurston County parcel and who the shellfish operation there belongs to.

2006 Aerial photo of farm adjacent
to Thurston County parcel.
Taylor Shellfish Survey
The only indication of operators is found in a survey done for Taylor Shellfish of the tidelands in front of the Hittmeier family. That survey shows geoducks planted on the tidelands adjacent to the Hittmeier's upland parcel had encroached onto the Staley parcel by 2'. The survey does not indicate ownership or location of the farm appearing to be adjacent to Thurston County's parcel.
2009 Survey for Taylor Shellfish
of tideland parcel adjacent
to Hittmeier parcel, between
Staley and Thurston County.

Expansion of farming in front of the Hittmeier's parcel.
Comparing the 2006 aerial photos above to the 2009 aerial photos shows aquaculture activity on the parcels, one having expanded. The tideland parcel appearing to be in front of Frye Cove County Park also shows activity having occurred, possibly harvesting.
2009 aerial photo showing the farm
in front of the Hittmeier parcel
had expanded.
Expansion of activity in front of Hittmeier parcel.
From the 2012 aerial photo below it is unclear whether farming on either of the tideland parcels continued. What is clear is there is a continued need for surveying before any permits should be approved, both to ensure private property is protected and to help show how the incremental approval of shellfish farms creates further the need for cumulative impacts to be considered in permitting. What is also clear is the SEPA determination does not indicate consideration of any past or present farming in the area was considered. Would it matter if all farms were harvesting at the same time, some when the tide is out and some when the tide is in, or on a schedule of perpetual cycles? Would it matter if the density of shellfish planted in Eld Inlet reached a scale where native species no longer had the resources necessary to survive? It would matter if the Shoreline Management Act and Thurston County's Shoreline Master Program were to be considered as they should be.
2012 Aerial photo
A larger picture of existing farms.
(click to enlarge)
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