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, August 14, 2014

Pierce County Planning: If you ignore them they will go away.

"There is no record of what they [Taylor Shellfish] are authorized to do.  It is apparent to the several hundred residents living along the shoreline of the Lagoon that what is happening now is far in excess of what used to be happening under the previous operations." Burley Lagoon to Pierce County Planning
"Taylor believes they are authorized to be in the Lagoon."
Pierce County to Burley Lagoon resident 
Copied below is a letter sent to Pierce County council members challenging them on what seems to be an inability to answer a very simple question: What exactly is Taylor Shellfish authorized to do on Burley Lagoon? Based on the lack of response, Pierce County appears to believe that if you "ignore those complaining and they will go away." Pierce County is mistaken.

Ned Quistorff
P.O. Box 624
Fox Island, WA 98333

12 August 2014
Pierce County Executive Ms. Pat McCarthy
County-City Building
Room 737
930 Tacoma Ave. S.
Tacoma, WA 98402-2100
Dear County Executive McCarthy:
The ecological health of Burley Lagoon is being systematically ruined, with no regard for future environmental consequences. We have watched this process go on for over a year, and for over a year we have made repeated attempts to get a Pierce County official, any official, to tell us what it is that Taylor Shellfish is authorized to do in the Lagoon. We do not believe that what they are doing is in compliance with State and County law. Therefore, as we have been unable to get any kind of response from any official, we, in desperation, look to you for an answer.
Over a year ago, Burley Lagoon residents living along the shoreline became aware of an increasing volume of activity around the old oyster floats at the south end of the Lagoon by employees of Taylor Shellfish, which had leased the whole Lagoon from Western Oyster Company. There was also an increase in the size and number of crews that were working on the Lagoon bottom, scraping away shells, sand dollars and other materials, loading them into large wire mesh crates and moving them away to an undetermined location. In some cases, the crates were left on the Lagoon bottom awaiting then next tide, but in being there were potential navigation hazards during the tidal flow. Significant portions of the Lagoon bottom were also being covered with nets. None of this was similar to what Western Oyster had been doing.  
One resident wrote to the Pierce County Director of Planning and Land Services requesting a clarification of what was happening, and on 29 May 2013 received a response which contained a copy of a letter and a site plan, issued in 1988 by Pierce County to Eiichi Yamashita of Western Oyster. The 1988 letter advised Mr. Yamashita that his "floating oyster culture" was eligible for "grandfathered" status, but that any additional activity would require him "to obtain all required permits and approvals." 
The PALS Director went on to state to the Lagoon resident that the 1988 letter and site plan showed the extent of the "granted non-conforming rights." However, in reading the 1988 letter, it only grants "grandfathered" status to the "floating oyster culture," and not to any activity on the rest of the Lagoon. The 1988 letter is very specific that any additional activity in the Lagoon beyond the "floating oyster culture" would require shoreline permits and approvals.  
We were advised that the only way to get a determination from the County of what exactly Taylor Shellfish was authorized to do was to file a complaint with Pierce County Responds (PCR). We did so beginning on 16 September 2013, and it was officially received by Pierce County Public Works on 25 September 2013. The description we provided in the complaint described Taylor's increased activity and materials removal, and contained the following statements:
"There is no record of what they are authorized to do. It is apparent to the several hundred residents living along the shoreline of the Lagoon that what is happening now is far in excess of what used to be happening under the previous operations."
A meeting was held with the PCR investigator on 1 October 2013, at which time we delivered to him all materials we had managed to locate which pertained to the Burley Lagoon situation. We had not located anything which indicated that any permit had been granted to any party for aquaculture. Two geoduck raising applications were filed on 26 April 2011, but they were withdrawn on 11 September 2012, and no new application for any sort of activity has been filed with PALS until 29 May 2014. On that date, Taylor Shellfish submitted an application to establish a 25 acre geoduck operation in the Lagoon.
It should be noted that, in early March 2012, Taylor Shellfish signed a 20-year lease with Western Oyster for the use of the whole Lagoon. They also announced publically their intention of using the Lagoon to grow geoduck clams. It is therefore possible to conclude that the dramatic increase in activity since Taylor Shellfish took on the lease was directed at preparations for installing their geoduck facility. However, Pierce County Code Title 18.140.030 specifically forbids engaging in any regulated activity before receiving an approved permit. Taylor Shellfish has been engaging in a regulated activity without a permit for more than one year.
Between October 2013 and June 2014, we maintained contact with the Pierce County Responds investigator with regular requests for the status of the investigation. In virtually every one of our dozens of communications, we repeated the phrase "What exactly is Taylor Shellfish authorized to do on Burley Lagoon?" We have never received an answer, or even an acknowledgement of the question, from any of the several Pierce County officials with whom we have raised this issue. The closest we have heard to an explanation for what they are doing there is "Taylor believes they are authorized to be in the Lagoon." It is not clear how whatever a private company believes could be a substitute for a specific legal County government authorization, but that is exactly what appears to have happened.
Regrettably, throughout the nine-month investigation, the primary critical question was ignored. The investigator refused the participation of Lagoon residents in his initial meeting with Taylor representatives, residents who could have told him how much different the activity has become. Every attempt was made to turn the investigation into seeking an answer to "is what is happening now the same as what was happening when Western Oyster was in operation?" The fact that there is no existing County authorization for any of the sea bottom modification activities was never addressed. Consequently, Taylor Shellfish continues to operate in the Lagoon without any apparent permit or known authorization from the County government, other than what they believe.
Pierce County Responds issued their report on 10 June 2014, in which the investigator concluded that there had been no violation of Pierce County Code in any of the activities they had examined. In no place did the report attempt to determine if Taylor Shellfish had ever been authorized to be there in the first place. The only action taken on reports of navigation hazards or netting placed on the sea bottom was to indicate that the information had been forwarded to other agencies. The report also concluded that there was no evidence that Taylor Shellfish intended to plant geoduck clams in the Lagoon, and then immediately acknowledged that Taylor had submitted an application to do just that.
As you may have noted in our earlier e-mail (Record of Meeting: 28 July 2014, forwarded to your office on 12 August 2014) we have already raised the issue with the Pierce County Council, in order to make them aware of this situation. We had also earlier raised the issue with Planning and Land Services, but were advised that PALS only dealt with reviewing and issuing permits, and that Pierce County Responds was the appropriate office for addressing our question. Since the answer we have been given by the PCR investigation report is inadequate, we are left with no alternative than to appeal to you for assistance in answering the question:
What has the Pierce County Government authorized Taylor Shellfish to do in Burley Lagoon?
Over the past year, we have participated in several aspects of the shoreline permit review process, including public hearings and appeals. We have always been impressed with the rigor and expert attention to critical details that has been exhibited by the various staff members involved in reviewing and approving the shoreline permit applications. Thus, we do not understand why, after a year of trying, we have still not been able to get a response to the question of what Taylor Shellfish is authorized to do on Burley Lagoon, from the very organization responsible for issuing shoreline development permits.
Thank you for your help.
Ned Quistorff
Councilmember Dan Roach
Councilmember Rick Talbert
Councilmember Joyce McDonald
Councilmember Jim McCune
Councilmember Stan Flemming
Councilmember Douglas Richardson
Councilmember Connie Ladenburg

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