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:

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Taylor Shellfish Withdraws Lockhart Water Quality Certification Application

Taylor Shellfish has withdrawn its Water Quality Certification application for the "Lockhart" geoduck farm, located in the tidelands in front of 9000 Libby Road, in Henderson Inlet.  Instead they will focus first on trying to obtain the county Shoreline Substantial Development permit which Taylor and Arcadia Point Seafood had originally discussed in 2009.

In early 2010, believing no permit should be required, Taylor and Arcadia appealed and eventually lost in Superior Court.  Their actions delayed the process for almost 2 years.  (See November 1, 2011 post for the Superior Court decision denying their appeal.)

Perhaps Taylor Shellfish is hoping NOAA and the Governor's Shellfish Initiative will have fewer conditions next time they apply.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Driving a Car With the Rear View Mirror and Losing Your Social License

At the Senate Energy, Natural Resources and Marine Waters Committee Bill Dewey with Taylor Shellfish was asked where current shellfish farms are located in Puget Sound.  His answer, "That's an area that we are lacking."  This from an industry who touts their having been operating in Puget Sound's tidelands for over 100 years.  They don't know where their farms are but want to expand?  Expand where and onto what?

See how Connecticut has prioritized their information on shellfish farms and tidelands:
http://clear2.uconn.edu/shellfish/ Layers you can open are on the right side. Included are current shellfish farms, eel grass, tideland sediment types, wetlands, and sewage outfalls. Washington's shellfish farms? "That's an area we're lacking."

How can an industry go rushing to the Governor claiming they need to expand their operations when their awareness of their current location "is lacking"?  It's the equivalent of using the rear view mirror to drive your car.  It's in part why three top geoduck farmers were found to be trespassing on state lands, in one case for over a decade.  Paul Taylor's response in November of 2008 to the latter was "I never looked at the deed.."

Taylor Shellfish spokesman Bill Dewey's response more than 3 years later to where current farms are located?  "That's an area that we are lacking."

Before the Governor and the shellfish industry drive head-on into a wall promoting the need to expand, she and the agencies involved might consider that sound decision making requires basic and accurate information, like where current farms are located.  Like how many tidelands there are.  Like how many of those tidelands are private and how many are public.  And whether the public even supports expansion of an industry transforming the tidelands of Puget Sound. 

People lose their driver's license for driving with their rear view mirror.  A company's Social License can just as easily be lost.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Step Children of the Shellfish Initiative

Grays Harbor County and Pacific County shellfish companies seem to be considered the step children in Washington's Shellfish Initiative. The Governor's policy advisor telling them "The basic information (from the Shellfish Initiative) is of use on the coast" doesn't seem to make up for the fact that none of the $4.5 million dollars being spent is available to them.  The industry being the largest employer in Pacific County and recreational razor clams bringing $22 million to the coast seems not so important now.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SB6279 - Senate Hearing Summary

Senate Bill 6279's hearing today focused primarily on the "cap and trade" aspect of the bill in which an undefined Nitrogen credit for a shellfish would be sold, which in turn could be used to meet a Nitrogen output requirement of a waste water treatment plant.  The idea did not stand up well to questioning.

The complexity of implementing the idea quickly became apparent when information on what programs and information existed. A new program in Sweden has just begun but clarity on how it would apply here in Puget Sound was lacking (e.g, cost assumptions; Lysekil being located on a coast line, not in an estuary like Puget Sound; Nitrogen loading amounts etc. are most likely not applicable in the Puget Sound basin).  Another in Quatermaster Harbor is still gathering data.  More difficulties arose when Senators asked why the shellfish industry should be paid for something they are already doing anyway - growing shellfish.  Additional clarity from Ecology was asked, who simply responded "more record keeping would be needed." Lack  of clarity was fogged more so when the example of wetland mitigation banks was brought up.  Why allow credits to be created in one area (e.g., Hammersley Inlet) to mitigate waste water outflows in an area far away (e.g., Samish Bay).  It wasn't clear whether the "bag of clams in an aquarium" demonstration helped.

There was some humor when the question of mussel "poop" was brought up and what it should be called.  While glazed over, it is a very real problem under mussel farms which concentrate 25,000 pounds of shellfish under a 30'X34' raft.  In Spain (ironically brought up by a shellfish farmer testifying) large dead zone exists under concentrated mussel rafts (Dead Zone in Spain).  The same has been seen in Totten Inlet. More humor arose when a geoduck farmer began to speak about how three years ago he was going to sue Washington State to make a point about shellfish removing Nitrogen.  After hiring a Seattle Public Relations firm and meeting with an attorney he was apparently convinced the shellfish industry didn't need to file another lawsuit just to make a point.

Perhaps of most interest in all this are these numbers:  south Puget Sound has an estimated 6.2 million pounds of Nitrogen introduced annually.   2 million pounds from waste water treatment plants and 4 million from the surrounding water shed (see Ecology report here).  According to a shellfish farmer testifying today 20 million pounds of shellfish are harvested annually from south Puget Sound.  Mussels and oysters have been calculated to have ~1.4% Nitrogen.  That's 280,000 pounds of a 6.2 million pound total.  Does that justify streamlining permitting to expand shellfish farming?

In the end, everyone agreed clean water was important to Puget Sound.  Apparent from emails received there wasn't agreement that industrial commercial aquaculture and associated structures were the best way to achieve that goal, or for that matter even had a meaningful impact.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Senate Hearing on SB6279 - Is Shellfish Aquaculture Critical to Puget Sound?

Wednesday, January 17, 1:30 in Senate Hearing Room 4
The Senate Environment Committee will begin to accept public input regarding Senate Bill 6279. The public is welcome to attend in person or - if snow bound - watch live over TVW here:

Comment:  Instead of: "The legislature finds that shellfish are critical to the health of Washington's marine waters and the state's economy. Shellfish aquaculture and commercial and tribal harvest of wild shellfish resources are water-dependent uses that rely on excellent water quality."

Why not incorporate the opening line from the Shoreline Management Act : The Shoreline Management Act from 1971 declares that the interest of all of the people shall be paramount in the management of shorelines and waters of statewide significance.  In continued support of that paramount act, the purpose of this act is to require a report on the progress of implementing elements of the governor's clean water initiative as they relate to improving water quality.

Drop the "oyster cap and trade" idea; drop the idea that shellfish are "critical" to Washington's economy and Puget Sound (showing a bag of 60 clams cleaning a gallon of water proves nothing except a bag of clams can clean a gallon of water); and focus on improving Puget Sound's water quality - for all the people, not the profit of a few.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Senate Bill 6279: Are shellfish critical to Puget Sound?

Senate Bill 6279, introduced recently by Senator Nelson of the 34th Legislative District, opens with this line: The legislature finds that shellfish are critical to the health of Washington's marine waters and the state's economy.  (Note: 1st Public hearing January 18, 1:30.  Call (360) 786-7406 for location.)

Really? Are shellfish "critical" to the health of Puget Sound? Are shellfish "critical" to the state's economy? Edible shellfish are certainly indicators of how healthy Puget Sound is, and a healthy Puget Sound will support a regulated shellfish industry.

Another part of the bill considers whether an "oyster cap and trade" formula can help clean the waters of Puget Sound.  Really?  Current methods result in dead zones below mussel rafts; PVC pipes in the tidelands; acres of grow out bags smothering sediments; geoducks are air-freighted on a 747 to China.  Carbon neutral? 

Another part of the bill tells Ecology if a study's results affects a discharge permit they have to then show the precision and accuracy of the data collected - before they are released.  Really?  Isn't that something a scientific study does prior to its implementation in order to ensure no outside pressures try to "massage" the results before release?

Finally, is digging shellfish at midnight in the dark of winter really a "family" job critical to the state?  Rural counties need help to improve their economic problems.  Is this really the best way to help the next generation aspire to higher levels?

In this election cycle, before rushing head long into elevating shellfish to being "critical," consider Lake Washington. In the 1960's it was not "filter feeding" from shellfish which cleaned the 2nd largest body of fresh water in Washington. It was controlling what went into the water in the first place.  It wasn't shellfish.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Taylor Shellfish: "What Washington shellfish farmers need is regulatory support."

[Not said:  "Unless it restricts our ability to expand our commercial operations."]

Taylor Shellfish submitted this comment to the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board  (WSNWCB) as part of the shellfish industry's successful attempt to have Japanese Eelgrass declared a noxious weed - if it's on a commercial shellfish bed.  Prior to January 2011 it was considered a Priority Habitat Species.

The Washington Deparatment of Fish and Wildlife submitted this comment:  "WDFW strongly opposes the listing of Z. japonica as a noxious weed in Puget Sound. Chinook and chum salmon, steelhead trout, and three species of rockfish are listed under the Endangered Species Act in Puget Sound. All but steelhead juvenile life history stages of these species are widely known to use eelgrass as cover from predation, as migration corridors, and to seek food resources."

Who did the WSNWCB listen to?  It was not WDFW nor the many others who commented against it.

Efffective January 16 this year the application of herbicides in Puget Sound and Willapa Bay's waters to control what had been until early 2011 considered a Priority Habitat Species may begin.  This is the shellfish industry's idea of "regulatory support."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Another Viewpoint on the Shellfish Initiative

The recent guest columns in The Olympian and the Shelton Mason County Journal, written by Bill Taylor of Taylor Shellfish, promotes the recently announced Shellfish Initiative as a means to address what Taylor Shellfish and the Governor have described as a "quagmire" of permitting regulations preventing expansion of the shellfish industry. What Mr. Taylor fails to point out is that for six years the shellfish industry was directly involved in the public process that created these permitting requirements. Industry lobbying along with public, tribal and agency input helped create a federal, state and local permitting system that regulates their developments within the tidelands and waters of Puget Sound. Now that this regulatory framework has begun to take hold, the shellfish industry has apparently decided it does not like what it helped to create and through closed meetings with a federal agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Governor Gregoire, it is attempting to minimize the process in order to expand operations without public input.

Ironic in this effort is the shellfish industry's willingness to use regulations and create Shellfish Districts in Oakland Bay, along Henderson Inlet's shoreline, perhaps Samish Bay and the Nisqually Reach--all for the industry’s direct benefit, helping open tidelands for production. In Oakland Bay alone, immense resources have been expended since the Shellfish District's 2007 creation to correct problems that can be traced back to "streamlined" permitting, no permitting or a lack of resources to enforce the regulations that are in place. As a result, high levels of Dioxins and elevated levels of fecal coliform exist in Oakland Bay. The entire Oakland Bay watershed and every business and citizen are impacted, as are state and federal taxpayers whose tax dollars are being diverted to support this effort. Yet when the shellfish industry is asked to apply for permits for their developments it is a problem.

Much of the lag time that Mr. Taylor cites is, in fact, due to the shellfish industry’s inability to follow the permitting process. In 2007, after the industry spent two years of lobbying the Army Corps to approve existing shellfish farms through the Nationwide Permit program, the Army Corps received hundreds of permit applications that greatly overstated acreage and species cultivated on existing farms. Months later, after realizing the significance of the problem, the Army Corps and the Department of Ecology (DOE) asked the industry to resubmit the applications, this time with accurate information, a process that had to be completed before any consideration could be given to new operations. This problem was created by the shellfish industry, stretching the process of determining what farms actually qualified well into 2010.

At the same time, in April 2007, Governor Gregoire signed into law House Bill 2220, which was focused on structures and impacts from geoduck farming in Puget Sound. This bill was also the direct outcome of industry lobbying and public input, helping to create a regulatory framework to guide the tideland development this activity involves. DOE was tasked with crafting guidelines to be used by counties in development of their Shoreline Management Programs. The University of Washington’s Sea Grant was  tasked with initiating long-term studies on what impacts geoduck farming may have, because no studies existed at that time. Through open and transparent meetings the public, tribes and industry were all involved in the creation of these guidelines. This has helped to ensure that the industry’s tideland developments taking place in the Puget Sound tidelands are for the benefit of everyone, as mandated by the Shoreline Management Act of 1971, and not just for the profit of a few.

Taylor Shellfish and others in the industry have caused additional permitting delays through appeals and lawsuits after being told permits would be required for their tideland developments. In 2009, Thurston County told Taylor Shellfish and Arcadia Point Seafood that shoreline permits would be required for new geoduck farms. Rather than submitting permit applications to the County, they chose instead to argue that permits should not be required. When the hearing examiner agreed with the county, the companies appealed the decision to the county commissioners, where they were subsequently told the same thing. The companies then sued in Superior Court and lost, being told the use of PVC pipes, netting, and rebar is in fact a tideland structure and that these developments require a shoreline development permit.

The judge’s November 2011 decision went further. It stated an Attorney General Opinion in 2007, which is often cited by industry as the reason no permits at all were needed, and which was incorrectly made part of DOE's guidelines, is legally flawed and should not be used. Had the companies simply applied for a permit, they may have found themselves today with approved permits. Instead they have no permit and DOE’s guidelines are now in question. This is a problem they created.

Mr. Taylor’s statement that the permitting of new farms has not occurred for over five years is misleading. In Mason County, Seattle Shellfish proposed a large geoduck nursery operation in Spencer Cove. While appealed by Case Inlet Shoreline Association an agreement was reached and permits were issued for placement of geoduck nursery rafts nearly the length of a football field. Taylor Shellfish applied for and was granted permits for a new, albeit smaller, geoduck nursery in Totten Inlet. These operations involved an open and transparent permitting system which included input from the public, tribes and agencies.

There is no question that there are important components of the Shellfish Initiative. These include restoration of native Olympia oysters, both over-harvested and killed off due to pollution; financial assistance to shoreline owners and dairy/cattle farmers to help bring fecal coliform levels down; and improving access to the few public beaches which remain for shellfish digging and enjoyment by the public. But these are minor when compared to the long-term objective the shellfish industry has of minimizing permit requirements and consideration of alternative uses for Puget Sound's tidelands and waters.

Puget Sound is a resource of national importance that extends far beyond its ability to grow shellfish commercially. Regulations and permitting through the Shoreline Management Act and the Clean Water Act have created a well-structured regulatory framework controlling development along its shores, on its tidelands and in its waters. They have prevented profits alone from driving decisions. Closed meetings guided by NOAA, the Governor and the shellfish industry should not be allowed to undo this regulatory framework.

Jules Michel, 3rd generation tideland and shoreline property owner in Mason County

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Wizard of Oz and the Shellfish Industry

Welcome to 2012. 
Bill Dewey with Taylor Shellfish received great chuckles from the audience at the Shellfish Initiative press conference when he described Christine Gregoire being "dressed down" at a meeting with the shellfish industry. This clip from the Wizard of Oz came to mind.
(click arrow to play)
Governor Gregoire has awoken in a land where the shellfish industry Wizard is claiming the only thing that can save Puget Sound and the economy is the expansion of commercial shellfish farming. Through the levers and buttons of the political process the Wizard is trying to convince agencies and politicians that having to apply for permits is preventing that from happening.  Through booming rhetoric the Wizard is trying to convince the public that restoring a mere 100 acres with native shellfish and improving access to the few remaining public tidelands is worth undoing regulations developed through an open public process over the past four years.  Through meetings held without public notice or the public's involvement the Wizard is hoping to remain hidden behind the curtain.  It's time the curtain be pulled back and the Shellfish Initiative be exposed for what it is.

For another analogy of the Shellfish Initiative, see here: