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:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

SHB Reverses Approval and Denies Subtidal Geoduck Farm Permit Issued by Pierce County

[Update/correction 4/23: Ms Meaders is no longer employed by Environ.]

"There is a balance inherent in the [Shoreline Management Act], its associated regulations, and the [Pierce County Code] that, while seeking to encourage aquaculture, also seeks to prevent damage to the shoreline environment, and avoid interference with recreational use."

"...Pierce County's issuance of SSDP No. 35-05 is REVERSED, and the Permit is therefore DENIED."

Area of proposed sub-tidal
geoduck farm in Henderson Bay

Permit approval is reversed and denied
The SHB has denied a permit issued by Pierce County for the subtidal Detienne geoduck farm based on "...the presence of eelgrass at the Farm Site, the proximity of known herring spawning locations to the Farm Site, the specialized recreational use of the area for windsurfing, and the Farm Site's location on a shoreline of state wide significance." Following are brief highlights of the SHB decision.

Eelgrass buffer inadequate
Studies relied upon by Environ's Ms. Meaders provided "...unpersuasive scientific support for the smaller eelgrass buffer at this Site." "The Board finds these studies do not provide sufficient scientific support for [Environ's] Ms. Meaders' opinion that the buffers imposed will adequately protect eelgrass at the Site, and thus finds Ms. Meaders' opinion on the protectiveness of the smaller buffer unpersusasive."

"Overreliance on monitoring and adaptive management"
The use of monitoring and adaptive management has been used by the shellfish industry for years as a form of mitigation to overcome concerns about environmental impacts. Reliance on industry created processes has been accepted by permitting agencies as adequate when, in fact, there is a clear conflict. Only one known shoreline permit has required independent monitoring, Seattle Shellfish's 300' long rafts used as a geoduck nursery. In the case of the Detienne farm there is no condition in the permit at all requiring changes in the buffer if monitoring shows impacts.

Nothing regulates how many dive harvesters
may be harvesting at the same time.
(image created to show multiple barges
and multiple divers operating simultaneously)

"...the Board finds the Applicants cannot limit their assessment exclusively to on-site (on-property) impacts to eelgrass, but must look at impacts to eelgrass off-property as well."
Dive harvesting disturbs large amounts of sediments which become suspended in the water column, along with whatever else is contained in those sediments. The Applicants did not consider impacts to eelgrass on adjacent properties, only whether eelgrass on the Detienne owned property would be impacted. It is akin to ignoring the impact on downwind properties from pollutants discharged from an industrial smokestack.

Herring stock not protected
The Purdy stock of herring is considered to be the largest herring population in Pierce County. Given the use of eelgrass by herring for both spawning and protection, its protection is of critical importance. "The Board finds that, because the Permit fails to adequately protect eelgrass, it also fails to adequately protect herring, which depend on eelgrass for spawning habitat."

Recreational use of the area is unique
"The Board finds that the recreational use in this area, and in particular its popularity for windsurfing, makes this proposed Farm unique from past geoduck farms reviewed by the Board." Yet, Pierce County's permit contained no conditions to address the impact this operation would have on that use.

Cumulative impacts
The SHB recognized the lack of cumulative impacts considered. Both the unique placement of this farm in the subtidal area as well as the additional permit applications nearby and throughout Pierce County were recognized as not having been considered and of importance. The SHB noted: "The careful review required for this shoreline of statewide significance weighs in favor of requiring a cumulative impact analysis of the impacts that might result from granting the first subtidal geoduck farm permit in Henderson Bay - in particular to assess the potential for longer term impacts to fragile resources like eelgrass, as well as unique use of the area by recreationalists like wind surfers."

Shorelines protected for all
The SHB has recognized the importance in protecting Puget Sound's shorelines for all of its citizens. While it was true that aquaculture was a preferred use of its shorelines in 1971, this industry has evolved far beyond what it was then. Impacts from that evolution and the processes used has been recognized by the SHB. All counties must now abide by that fact in their permit decisions.

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