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:

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Taylor Shellfish Mussel Farm Monitoring: Thurston County Passes Responsibility to DNR

Where is Thurston County lacking expertise?
Is this a good hand?
Thurston County's not sure, folds, 
and will let DNR play its hand.

Cumulative impacts analysis not required but you will have to monitor specific parameters (Shorelines Hearings Board reversal of permit denial for Taylor Shellfish 58 raft mussel farm)
In June of 2013 the Shorelines Hearings Board reversed Thurston County's denial of a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit for a 58 raft mussel farm to be operated by Taylor Shellfish. The county's hearing examiner had denied that permit application based on a lack of information, thereby requiring a cumulative impacts analysis.

Taylor Shellfish appealed that decision to the Shorelines Hearings Board which reversed the denial, approving the SSDP but adding a condition which required the development of a plan to monitor very specific items (e.g., dissolved oxygen and mussel fall-off below the rafts) and what Taylor Shellfish would be required to do if problems were found (see below for the specific condition, or click here for the decision which has Condition 2 on pages 33/34).

Taylor Shellfish agrees they will monitor, what they want to monitor and when
Taylor Shellfish took issue with what it was supposed to monitor and provided alternatives which it felt better represented impacts (see Taylor's draft alternative here). The County and Taylor Shellfish were unable to come to terms with the differences between what the SHB had in its condition and what Taylor Shellfish felt was more appropriate, resulting in a letter to the SHB stating future negotiations would be "fruitless" (see letter here).

Those threats of litigation by Taylor Shellfish cause Thurston County to admit they do not have the expertise, believing DNR does
After that letter and the threat of further litigation the County chose instead to turn over the monitoring to the Department of Natural Resources. It would be made part of the lease between Taylor Shellfish and DNR, something none of the other mussel farms Taylor Shellfish has in waters leased from DNR are required to do and which in large part caused the hearing examiner to originally deny the permit and require a cumulative impacts analysis.

Does DNR have a better hand
to play against Taylor Shellfish?
Thurston County thinks so.

Thurston County relies on a draft Aquatic Lands Habitat Conservation Plan
The original "Condition 2" would be replaced in its entirety by one paragraph, seen below. The monitoring plan would be based on undefined "conservation measures" and  undefined monitoring requirements developed by DNR. Thurston County felt a draft of the Aquatic Lands Habitat Conservation Plan they reviewed was comforting enough to turn all over to DNR. This draft is something the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services has just finished accepting comments on, December 4 (click here for the Public Notice from FWS). Why Thurston County felt something currently in its draft stage could be used as a framework by an agency already (DNR) dependent on revenues from similar current leases which do not require monitoring is somewhat of a mystery.

Expertise lacking - in what? Creating a monitoring plan, or pushing back on Taylor Shellfish being unwilling to monitor their mussel farm as the SHB required it to do?
In announcing the agreement, Thurston County stated they lacked the expertise to develop and monitor a plan which would ensure the waters of Thurston County are not adversely impacted by aquaculture. Nobody expects the county to have the expertise in everything. But in this case, to simply give up and replace a condition from the SHB which required specific parameters to be measured and replace that condition with a single vague paragraph, hoping a draft Habitat Conservation Plan would result in an equivalent plan, suggests expertise is lacking in other areas. It also puts in question whether they should be issuing SSDP permits at all.

One paragraph replacement, followed by the original SHB condition

Newer and better?
2. An additional condition shall be added to the approved SSDP as follows:

Prior to operation of the NTI Farm, the permittee shall submit to Thurston County Resource Stewardship Department (TCRSD) a copy of (1) conservation measures, and (2) monitoring requirements approved by Department of Natural Resources in relation to permittee’s lease application for use of state-owned aquatic lands, Authorization Number: 20-013608. The conservation measures, and monitoring requirements shall be incorporated into and attached to the permit. All reports submitted to DNR as a result of the approved conservation measures and monitoring requirements shall also be sent to TCRSD within 10 days of completion.

Original Shorelines Hearings Board Monitoring Condition
2. An additional condition shall be added to the approved SSDP as follows:

Prior to operation of the NTI Farm, the permittee shall submit to Thurston County for approval a monitoring plan consistent with the Taylor Shellfish Farms Environmental Code of Practice (which needs to be incorporated into and attached to the permit issuance). The plan, at a minimum, shall include:

A. Annual benthic sampling under the mussel farm rafts to determine whether any impacts to the benthic flora and fauna in excess of those anticipated in the EIS have occurred.

B. Annual vertical profiles of the water column adjacent to mussel farms to measure potential changes in dissolved oxygen concentrations for an extended period in excess of those anticipated in the EIS.

C. Provisions for the periodic inspection and removal of mussel fall-offs and all unnatural and non-biodegradable materials that accidently fall from rafts and work areas onto the seafloor, as well as periodic inspection and immediate removal of any Beggiatoa that forms around any of the mussel rafts.

D. The plan shall also include specific measures designed to remediate unanticipated impacts to the benthic community identified through the implementation of the monitoring plan.
E. Monitoring shall include surveys that measure at a minimum the following parameters: sulfides, REDOX potential, total volatile solids, sediment grain size, presence or absence of gas bubbles, Beggiatoa, pseudofeces, feces, farm litter, and benthic and infaunal biotic samples.

F. The monitoring plan shall address what actions TSF will be required to take to minimize risks to aquatic life and habitat in excess of those anticipated in the EIS.
All required monitoring shall be conducted by TSF or its consultants consistently with accepted scientific standards and at a scientifically appropriate number of sites to be determined in the approved monitoring plan that are located directly underneath, adjacent to NTI Farms, and at least 1 km away from the actual NTI site.

TSF shall provide the results from the annual monitoring and surveys to Thurston County Resource Stewardship Department (TCRSD) within 10 days of completion. Thurston County shall review the information, and if it determines that the aquatic habitat of Totten Inlet may be at substantial risk of adverse impacts on the benthic community in the vicinity of the mussel farm or with respect to changes in dissolved oxygen concentrations in excess of those anticipated in the EIS, based on the surveys or other reports and analysis, Thurston County may impose additional conditions on the operation of the NTI Farm. If the County determines that the annual reports indicate no adverse impacts with respect to the monitored parameters and conditions for five or more consecutive monitoring years, it may allow TSF to modify the plan to allow for monitoring once every five years, rather than annually.

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