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:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Drakes Bay Oyster Company is Granted an Injunction

Drakes Estero is Not

Invasive Tunicates on DBOC oysters
will continue to be spread in Drakes Estero.
(click to enlarge)
(Heidi Schumann for The New York Times)
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) an emergency injunction allowing it to continue commercial operations until May. How the California Coastal Commission acts on its separate cease and desist order remains unknown.
What is known is DBOC's commercial operation is allowed to continue to spread the invasive Didemnum vexillum tunicate throughout its 1,000 acres of operation in Drakes Estero and beyond. Colonies growing on DBOC's non-native oysters break loose when harvested and float freely for weeks throughout Drakes Estero until settling onto a suitable substrate, whether they be native shellfish, or the non-native Pacific oysters grown (as seen in the picture above) or any other suitable substrate. This issue was of special concern in the recent cease and desist order issued by the California Coastal Commission.
It was weakly argued before the California Coastal Commission that Dv "is everywhere." What is not everywhere is the surface area for it to attach to and grow. More importantly is the movement of colonies throughout Drakes Estero which this commercial operation, and others like it, provide. National seashore or not, commercial shellfish operators do not currently believe their activities make a difference in the growth and spread of Dv. They do and it is significant, whether in Drakes Estero, Puget Sound, British Columbia or elsewhere.
Dv growth on aquaculture gear
in Okeover Inlet, British Columbia.
Dv growth on Taylor Shellfish mussels
in Totten Inlet, Puget Sound
Dv spreading on subtidal areas of Georges Bank
Didemnum vexillum colonies alter marine habitats and threaten to interfere with fishing, aquaculture, and other coastal and offshore activities. The colonies shown here [seen above]  are found on hard substrates that include dock structures and floats, wood and metal pilings, moorings and ropes, steel chain, automobile tires, polythene plastic, rock outcrops, gravel seabed (pebbles, cobbles, boulders), and ship hulls. They overgrow organisms such as tunicates, sponges, macroalgae, hydroids, anemones, bryozoans, scallops, mussels, and oysters. Where these colonies occur on the seabed, they likely cover the siphons of infaunal bivalves and also serve as a barrier between demersal fish and benthic prey. The colonies have been found at water depths ranging from intertidal to continental shelf depths of 65m (213 ft).

Monday, February 25, 2013

Fin Fish Net Pen Aquaculture: "A Handful of Gimme and a Mouthful of Much Obliged"

Salmon Net Pens
are not
Water Dependent

Upland fish farm facilities exist,
eliminating "water dependency."

Enclosed systems exist, eliminating
open nets and the spread of sea lice.
The Olympic Peninsula Environmental News questions what the Department of Ecology (DOE) has become, bringing in Fred Neil's song, "A Handful of Gimme," to describe the current challenge Jefferson County is going through in developing its Shoreline Master Program (SMP). [click here for entry

February 25, 6PM: Mason County Shoreline Master Program Update

Call (360) 427-9670 ext. 282 to confirm.
When: February 25, 6PM 
Location: 411 N 5th Street, Building 1
Topics: The role of the Planning Advisory Committee and General Regulations

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Seattle Shellfish - Going to the Bank

Revenues from geoduck
planted on trespassed state lands
slated to begin coming in.
February 13 the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued a Mitigated Determination of Non-significance (MDNS) SEPA decision on a proposal by Seattle Shellfish to harvest geoduck from state lands they were found to be trespassing on in 2009. The determination will allow Seattle Shellfish to harvest a claimed 17,000 pounds (~11,000 geoduck) from a planted area which would normally be expected to produce >33,000 pounds, or >22,000 geoduck (>1 per square foot).*
Estimated gross: $238,000.
Comments are due by February 27.
(* For a comparison of acreage yields, in 2008 and 2009 Arcadia Point Seafood reported 68,000 pounds having been harvested from the Myer "farm" of 25,000 square feet. See survey below for areas.)
Arcadia Point, Totten Inlet
Seattle Shellfish and Arcadia Point Seafood Trespass
(click to enlarge)
(Note probable sediment plume from harvesting
of Myer parcel to the south of the trespass area.)

In 1998 Seattle Shellfish leased tidelands owned by the Lachine family with the intention of planting and cultivating shellfish, including geoduck. The Broehl's and Myers tidelands, to the south, were leased by Arcadia Point Seafood's Steve and Vicki Wilson. After the first harvest of geoducks the Broehl and Lachine tidelands were replanted, followed later by the Myers. After complaints of probable trespass were made to DNR, a survey in 2009 showed that in fact most of the tidelands used for planting geoduck on were owned by the state.
2009 Survey showing trespass at Agate Point

After the state had determined there had been cultivation and harvesting of geoduck on state owned tidelands the Attorney General and Seattle Shellfish entered into negotiations. Those negotiations resulted in a settlement which allowed Seattle Shellfish to retain ownership of the geoduck planted on state lands and a financial payment to the state. Separate trespass settlements with Arcadia Point Seafood and Taylor Shellfish (to the north, in Pickering Passage) resulted in a similar agreement.

Settlement Agreements
Seattle Shellfish agreed to pay $75,000 upon harvest, Arcadia Point's Steve and Vicki Wilson agreed to pay $117,000, and Taylor Shellfish agreed to pay $225,000. None would be permitted to use the tidelands after harvest was completed. (Note: These are separate from Taylor Shellfish's trespass settlement on the Thurston County side of Totten Inlet.)
[click here for Seattle Times article]

Financial Benefit
Assuming Seattle Shellfish's number of 17,000 pounds is accurate, and their geoducks are of #1 grade, at $14/pound they will gross $238,000, less the $75,000 fee to the state, leaving them a net of $163,000, less relatively minor labor and material expenses. Assuming the previous "crop" was the same amount, Seattle Shellfish will have ended up netting over $300,000 for the use of state tidelands.

Comment: Lawyers Are Not Inexpensive
With current legal bills from Seattle Shellfish's law suit against the Army Corps being incurred these funds will no doubt be appreciated by its owners. [click here for papers filed against the Corps] Most likely Arcadia and Taylor will also find their geoduck revenues generated off of state lands helpful as their legal expenses rise with their permit appeals and the fairness of Shoreline Master Program updates coming into question.

Citizens do not have the luxury of geoducks to finance their efforts in protecting Puget Sound's tideland habitat, only passion and time. Numerous groups are currently involved in trying to contain the expansion of the shellfish industry. APHETI (APHETI@gmail.com) , Case Inlet Shoreline Association and Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat (the latter 2 at info@caseinlet.org) are all heavily involved.  Friends of Burley Lagoon is now becoming organized, aligning itself with the previous two. You can make a difference, like those who helped create the Shoreline Management Act in 1971 did.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Politics Can Be Messy

"Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made." John Godfrey Saxe, 1869
 Representative Brian Blake
(D) 19th Legislative District
Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Chair

February 21, a hearing on House Bill 1894 before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Representative Blake, was in part like watching sausage be made. It was not inspiring.

"My finger is on the button controlling the sausage machine."
As Chair of the Committee listening to testimony for and against House Bill 1894, Representative Blake is able to control what testimony is heard and recorded and what is not. Should he feel testimony is straying too far from addressing the specific bill he is able to "stop the sausage machine" by turning off the microphone in front of whomever may be testifying, preventing that testimony from becoming part of the public record. The machine did not run smoothly on the 21st.

Representative Seaquist
(D) 26th Legislative District
Sponsor of HB1894

House Bill 1894 
[click here for HB1894 bill digest]
[click here for complete bill]
House Bill 1894 is the result of Representative Seaquist having had numerous concerns expressed to him by residents on or near Burley Lagoon over the proposed expansion of shellfish operations both within and nearby the enclosed bay. Included was feedback from the shellfish industry, including Taylor Shellfish who had leased the ~300 acres contained within the lagoon. Politics is messy. HB1894 is in part focused on promoting the shellfish industry and in part focused on expanding research to address the growing and evolving shellfish industry's methods and structures used. [click here to hear Representative Seaquist's presentation before the committee] Washington taxpayer funds would pay for most of it. Many taxpayers testifying did not feel they should fund programs which, on the surface, appear to benefit the shellfish industry who pays little in the form of taxes.

Property taxes paid in the south half of Burley Lagoon
Tideland: <$400
Upland: >$120,000

Who pays for what?

Citizen testimony on proposed bills is rarely refined.  [click here for video of citizen testimony which was cut off] (Note: If TVW.ORG is busy you may have to click on the "refresh" button.)
In a perfect world citizen testimony before a committee addresses specific portions of a bill and reasons why they are for or against it, with possible solutions, followed by the committee chair thanking them. Reality is quite different, something Representative Blake has no doubt seen many times. Whether what Representative Blake did was reasonable is subjective. Whether the frustration his actions created was warranted is also subjective. It was certainly a messy part of the hearing and not particularly inspiring for anyone.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

California Fair Political Practices Commission Investigates Koch Brothers

Politico has reported that the California Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating the Koch Brothers. While not specifically related to Cause of Action's legal support for the Drakes Bay Oyster Company it does shine a brighter light on where the funding for Cause of Action is coming from. [click here for complete article]

Charles and David Koch

In the article, "Koch World reboots", Politico notes:
The California investigation is trying to unmask the original source of a mysterious $11 million donation that was funneled through a key Koch conduit in the weeks before Election Day to a California political committee boosting a 2012 ballot measure to restrict union political activity and opposing a separate ballot proposition to raise taxes.
In the larger picture it describes the Koch brothers having called for an audit after having "spent hundreds of millions to win the White House and the Senate — and came up empty." Demonstrating the severity of concern, most likely from large donors who didn't get what they wanted and whose anonymity is now threatened with exposure, "they’re not waiting for the final report for heads to roll."

Dan Epstein

Specific to Drakes Bay Oyster Company, Cause of Action has refused to disclose who its donors are. Headed by Dan Epstein, a former staffer of the "Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation", COA is leading the legal fight in support of DBOC being allowed to continue its commercial operation in the only wilderness shoreline area on the Pacific West Coast.  [click here for East Bay Express article on the Koch connection

It may very well be the Koch Brothers are not supporting Cause of Action who is paying the legal fees incurred in the support of Drakes Bay Oyster Company, begging the question, if they are not, who is? The East Coast Shellfish Growers Association's Vice-President is DBOC owner Kevin Lunny's cousin. The Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association has previously allocated funds to pay for legal fees from their attorney and lobbyist. Shellfish growers who are members of PCSGA certainly have the money, generated from geoduck farming.

Perhaps the California Fair Political Practices Commission should be sure to include the mysterious Cause of Action, Dan Epstein, and its support for Drakes Bay Oyster Company in its investigation.

Monday, February 18, 2013

California Coastal Commission Has Acted Appropriately Against Drakes Bay Oyster Company

(Editors Note: Sometimes a response to an Op-ed piece is better made by commenting directly within the article.)
Background: In the February 16, 2012 issue of the Marine Independent Journal is a "Guest op-ed" by Phyllis Faber, a co-founder of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust and a creator/former commissioner of the California Coastal Commission. It is copied below with comments on her thoughts. Ms. Faber is respected and has devoted most of her life to the preservation of open spaces through conservation easements, and through the California Coastal Commission (CCC), helped control developments on shorelines. That said, Ms. Faber does the CCC and the Wilderness Act a disservice in her well intentioned but misplaced support for the continued operation of the commercial shellfish farm in Drakes Estero.
Ms. Faber
Photo, Marine Independent Journal
California Coastal Commission uses distorted information to condemn oyster farm, 2/16/13, Marin Independent Journal
Comment: Drakes Bay Oyster Company was not condemned by the California Coastal Commission (CCC). It was brought before the commission to address past violations it did not act on 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Representation without Taxation: Who is paying for what?

"The legislature declares that the interest of all of the people shall be paramount in the management of shorelines of statewide significance."
Shoreline Management Act

Send the county a "matrix" on how regulations are preventing us from becoming what we want.
Federal, county, state agencies, and taxpayers creating a regulatory framework to control the growing number of structures and developments on Puget Sound's tidelands supporting shellfish aquaculture have experienced first hand the immense amount of money being paid to attorneys to craft regulations in their favor. Every county has had their Shoreline Master Programs read through and commented on by shellfish attorneys.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Facets of National and State Aquaculture Initiatives Questioned by United States Representative and Washington Business Groups

NOAA's Involvement in Aquaculture Questioned
United States Representative Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts running for Senator Kerry's seat, is urging the Commerce Department [NOAA] not to expand its jurisdiction to regulate aquaculture at a time “when it is failing its core fisheries mission to restore wild stocks, like cod, haddock and flounder.”

Representative Markey

In an article in the  Gloucester Times it states "Under outgoing NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco, the agency has begun emphasizing aquaculture in the U.S., which is a bit player, producing less than $1 billion in product value in a $70 billion global market."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Shellfish Politics, Shellfish Initiatives, and the Shoreline Management Act

"The public has no idea how rapidly technology is reshaping aquaculture in the U.S." April 2010 email from shellfish consultant Jack Rensel to NOAA.

Shellfish Initiatives do not have a role in the Shoreline Master Program Updates.
Recent comments from attorneys representing the shellfish industry have claimed many times that NOAA's "National Shellfish Initiative" and the "Washington Shellfish Initiative" are clearly an indication of the importance of the shellfish industry. It adds that Washington's Shellfish Initiative clearly indicates shellfish aquaculture should be prioritized in any Shoreline Master Program update, no matter what the method, no matter where the location. In a letter to the Olympia City Council it states "revisions are also necessary to ensure the SMP Update is consistent with" the National and Washington Shellfish Intiatives. This is fundametally wrong and not what Shoreline Master Programs are supposed to consider.

Look a little deeper.

Oops, didn't I mention that?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Drakes Bay Oyster Company Told Science Showing Adverse Impacts is Sound and Appeal of Decision is Denied

It's Time for DBOC to Cease Operations

An internal watchdog government agency has said the science showing that Drakes Bay Oyster Company's commercial shellfish operation is having an adverse impact on Drakes Estero is sound. They found no fraud, waste, abuse or misrepresentation of data by researchers showing operations were having impacts on Harbor Seals. [click here for article]

February 11, 6PM - Mason County Shoreline Master Program Update Meeting

Mason County's Planning Advisory Commission will hold its 2nd of 3 workshops to discuss the update of their Shoreline Master Program on February 11 at 6PM. The third will be held February 25, also at 6PM.

Date/Time: February 11, 6PM

Location: 411 N. Fifth Street, Shelton in the commission chambers.

February 11 topics: Aquaculture, boating facilities and shoreline stabilization/modification.
Of interest will be how the county addresses their concerns about docks and bulkheads and whether the growing number of structures used by the shellfish industry covering a far greater square foot area (PVC, predator nets, grow-out bags, floating aquaculture facilities) will come under the same level of scrutiny.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Shellfish Growers "Adamantly Oppose This Bill" (Jim Jesernig,February 6)

Or: Representation without taxation - how much more does the shellfish industry want from taxpayers?

[UPDATE: With shellfish lobbyist Mr. Jesernig's argument that tidelands growing geoduck are small farms - an owner's choice of "current best use" - perhaps county assessors will begin to assess these tidelands converted to aquaculture (geoduck or otherwise) at their true value instead of shifting the expenses incurred by the state to support the shellfish industry onto other taxpayers. At the very least, Thurston County Commissioner Valenzuela (who testified in favor of HB-1437) should consider asking her assessors why an acre of tideland producing over $1,000,000 in revenue every 5 years is only assessed between $2,000 to $8,000 per acre.]

[Updated and clarified - land under the residential structure may be appraised at the "current use" value]
February 6 shellfish lobbyist Jim Jesernig testified before the House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee, stating shellfish growers would "adamantly oppose this bill" [HB 1437] if aquaculture was not included. What is HB-1437 about? [click here for bill report]

HB-1437 (and its sister SB-5327 in the Senate) is a "current use tax bill" which would allow the land below a residential structure to be valued at its "current use" (i.e., agricultural) instead of its "fair market value" on farms below 20 acres if contiguous to the farmland and integral to the operation. A shellfish farmer would be able to claim land under their residence is part of the "tideland farm", greatly reducing the assessed value of the waterfront parcel.

Currently aquaculture is excluded from both bills with the land under the residence being valued at its true market value. The concern is that a small tideland parcel with a few geoduck planted or a few oyster bags thrown out may allow a significant portion of the waterfront parcel value to be reduced to whatever the "current use value" of "farmland" (tidelands) would be.

Taxes collected from waterfront property are currently one of the largest percentages of income for Thurston and Mason Counties. They could be reduced drastically, shifting that tax burden to other property taxpayers, not to mention create the added expense to track all of this by the already overworked county assessor departments.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Drakes Bay Oyster Company Told by California Coastal Commission to Cease and Desist

Drakes Estero

February 7 the California Coast Commission voted unanimously to approve the Cease and Desist Order and the Restoration Order requiring Drakes Bay Oyster Company to remove unpermitted facilities and to restore those areas impacted. The Hearing may be heard and seen by clicking here, scrolling down to the "February 7" meeting, and clicking on the "COMPLETE" button (note - you may have to "allow" the video to run). The DBOC portion starts at 2:09:30.

Unpermitted Developments

(paving, storage containers)
Additional information about the hearing (staff reports and other evidence) may be found by clicking here and scrolling down to item 11, Enforcement. Links are provided there for information but are very large files due to last minute papers submitted by the Lunny's attorney. Many of the latter were not admitted into the record due to their being submitted late. It was also felt the papers were irrelevant as most, if not all, pertained to the legal suit against the National Park Service. Some Commission members and staff were clearly upset with the last minute "document dump".

Unpermitted Shed
At issue was whether the Drakes Bay Oyster Company had applied for proper permits and if they had acted on a separate 2007 Cease and Desist Order. While Chairman Kinsey felt some sympathy for the Lunny family, the staff report showed clearly a company reluctant to act on unpermitted actions - for over 5 years. Fines and additional orders were issued which will allow Drakes Estero to be restored.

Restoration Includes Removal
of Racks and Bags
In addition to the unpermitted structures were non-native and invasive Manila clams which DBOC had been cultivating without a permit. As was pointed out, for almost 2 million clams to appear, in waters they were not permitted for, was one of the numerous actions (or inactions) considerd "egregious" by the staff.

The California Coast Commission and staff should be commended for acting directly and forcefully, if belatedly. As was pointed out, it was unheard of to allow a company to go for over 5 years without resolving an order. Despite attempts to frame the commercial shellfish activities occurring in Drakes Estero as being benign, the spread of non-native invasive Manila clams and non-native invasive tunicate Dedemnum vexillum was found to be more important. The risk of the Estero becoming a Chesapeake Bay if oyster's filtering was removed was soundly dismissed as being unsubstantiated.

Non-native Invasive Tunicate
Being Spread through DBOC Actions

DBOC's attorney pleading for more time because of the "circumstances" which they found themselves in was answered with them having had over 5 years. It was further pointed out that if it were so important to resolve the issue the attorney's law firm, who has been representing Mr. Lunny since 2007, had 38 attorneys and perhaps some could have been put onto this task. It was a very weak defense, weakened further in an attempt to claim that if the oysters were removed Drakes Estero would become a dead body of water.

While Drakes Estero is unique it is also representative of the shellfish industry's belief that they are somehow above regulations and permit requirements. It is a "cowboy in the tidelands" attitude which the sun is setting on.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Taylor Shellfish Appeals Denial of Mussel Farm Permit

Taylor Shellfish has appealed the denial of their Shoreline Substantial Development Permit (SSDP) application for a 58 raft mussel farm, near the entry of Totten Inlet, to the Shoreline Hearings Board. APHETI (Association for the Protection of Hammersley, Eld and Totten Inlets) has intervened in support of the denial, siding with the Thurston County Commissioners who denied Taylor's first appeal. [click here for APHETI web site]

In part, Taylor claims, the time and money spent on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) surely justifies approval. The logic is similar to the used car salesman basing the price of his used car on how much money has been "put into it."
[click here for Petition to the Shoreline Hearings Board]
[click here for SHB Prehearing Order]

"I'm selling it for $15,000
because that's what was put into it,
and that doesn't even include
my time spent detailing it!"

Time and money spent on something does not mean that's what it's worth, nor that it's right.
In the pleadings presented, Taylor Shellfish repeats that the amount of money spent, and the amount of time it has taken, to craft the final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) must mean it's right. Both the Hearing Examiner and the County Commissioners found that argument was only one of the many holes in their case. In fact, what both felt is the current analysis of cumulative impacts resulting from intensive commercial shellfish farming in Totten Inlet were not adequately considered. Despite the cost and the volumes of paper provided.

Pouring more money
into a leaking bucket
won't plug the holes.

Taylor's action (or inaction) and resulting permit denial.
Instead of choosing to plug the holes in their case by providing the additional information requested, Taylor instead chose to simply pour more water, in the form of legal fees, into the leaking bucket.

The Hearing Examiner, in his decision dated July 19, 2012, stated: "...the Applicant is given two options for proceeding. First, it may inform the Hearing Examiner that it wishes to challenge the determination that the present analysis of cumulative impacts is deficient and the requirement to perform an additional cumulative analysis. In that case, I will issue a supplemental decision denying the application on that basis, and the Applicant may appeal. Alternatively, the Applicant may inform the Examiner that it wishes to carry out the analysis of cumulative effects required by this decision. In that case, the Examiner and the parties will confer about the timing and nature of that analysis." [click here for initial decision
Taylor chose the former, responding on August 16, 2012, to "...request a final decision at the Hearing Examiner's earliest convenience...even if that decision must be a project denial."

September 14, 2012, the Hearing Examiner obligingly denied the permit which Taylor then appealed to the County Commissioners (who agreed with the Examiner) and is now appealing to the Shoreline Hearings Board. [click here for Hearing Examiner's supplemental decision]

What's one flat tire? There are 3 others aren't there?

Is a dissolved oxygen problem from one mussel farm really that important? Yes.
In the evidence presented at the initial hearing it was clearly shown the existing mussel operations in Totten Inlet resulted in lowering dissolved oxygen levels, approaching hypoxic levels, dropping well below the 7 mg/L level found throughout Totten Inlet (an "extraordinary" body of water). What was not discussed at the hearing was whether the intense densities of other shellfish farms in Totten Inlet also creates lower dissolved oxygen levels. All shellfish respire (consume oxygen) and concentrate feces/pseudo feces on which bacteria feed, also consuming oxygen. Washington's law is clear: When a water body's D[issoveld].O[ygen]. is lower than the criteria in Table 210 (1)(d) (or within 0.2 mg/L of the criteria) and that condition is due to natural conditions, then human actions considered cumulatively may not cause the D.O. of that water body to decrease more than 0.2 mg/L.

Water Quality Problem in Totten Inlet
Low Dissolved Oxygen Problem
Category 5 (worst)
(north of current mussel farm, south of proposed farm)

Added further to the significance intensive shellfish farming lowering dissolved oxygen levels was the recently EPA approved water quality report submitted by the Department Ecology. In that report, just north of the current mussel farm and south of the proposed farm, a significant area of low dissolved oxygen was found, with levels so low it is listed as "Category 5" (Polluted waters that require a TMDL). It was not attributable to natural conditions, leaving an unknown man made source as the probable cause. Little Skookum Inlet is one of the most intensively farmed areas in Totten Inlet, putting in question just what benefits shellfish filtering provide.

Also pointed out by one of the experts used:  The vertical stratification of Puget Sound, the seasonal input of low oxygen waters from the Pacific Ocean during the upwelling season, and the turbulence over sills that brings deep low oxygen waters to the surface make Totten Inlet and Puget Sound a unique area in which to assess if these activities will result in oxygen depression. What does current industrial/intensive shellfish farming add to an already known risk of low oxygen levels from upwelling?

"I can see you're a good negotiator.
For you, I'll throw in some fuzzy dice."

Nitrogen is removed. Isn't that a plus? Or, "Fuzzy math gives fuzzy conclusions."
Towards the end of the hearing, Dr. Rensel was asked to perform a calculation of how much nitrogen was removed from Totten Inlet when mussels were harvested, then to opine on whether that was "significant." An optimistic assumption that all 58 rafts would be in production, and a negative assumption that current efforts to lessen nitrogen inputs would fail, were made in his formula. Actual numbers from Dissolved Oxygen studies of nitrogen inputs into Totten Inlet from Ecology were used which cannot be found in those reports and the nitrogen inputs from air into Totten Inlet were incorrect. Perhaps of most significance is that Dr. Rensel's formula to determine whether nitrogen removal was "significant" did not consider the marine upwellings into Totten Inlet, mentioned above, at all. As he noted in his testimony, without consideration of the marine water input the numbers would "..not be as useful." Logic would dictate that much of his formula's assumptions would make it useless, especially in trying to back up the statement that mussel farming in Totten Inlet is now suddenly "significantly beneficial to South Puget Sound" as Taylor claims in their Petition for Review (page 6).

 "Not to worry. You won't see it if you don't look."

Shell deposition below the rafts? What's the worry?
Discussed at the hearing was shell deposition from mussel die-off and feces/pseudo feces accumulating below the rafts. Analysis of impacts on the benthic life below and near the mussel rafts was considered inadequate, let alone when considered in whole with the rest of Totten Inlet's shellfish farms, the most intensive found in Puget Sound. 

"How about we just
cover it up and call it good?"

This car is a lemon and should be left on the lot.
Taylor's claim of money spent and time invested will not make up for deficiencies found which caused the Thurston County's Hearing Examiner to deny their permit and the County Commissioner to deny Taylor's first appeal. Taylor wanting to spend money on legal fees instead of analyzing the cumulative impacts from industrial shellfish farming is understandable, if you don't want something to be found. But lurking under those mussel rafts; under those predator nets; and, inside of those grow-out bags being spread through south Puget Sound's inlets and beyond is a very real problem they do not want found: shellfish farming's cumulative impacts are significant and adverse, threatening the health of Puget Sound.

Look a little deeper.
Just because you can't see it
doesn't mean it's not there.

Lack of science...
As stated by the Federal Judge in the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm decision: "...lack of evidence of major adverse effects is not the same as proof of no adverse effects nor is it a guarantee that such effects will not manifest in the future."

Modified, and applicable here: "...lack of studies on multiple farms operating simultaneously within an enclosed estuary is not proof of no adverse effects nor is it a guarantee that such effects will not manifest in the future." The latter was clearly acknowledged in the most recent geoduck farm permits approved which require a new hearing after the first planting is harvested. Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat does not agree and is appealing those permit decisions, saying it is time now for a cumulative impacts analysis, not after the damage has been done.

Contact information on how to help ensure the Shoreline Management Act is implemented as it was intended to be when passed by voters in 1972:
Laura Hendricks (253) 509-4987
Curt Puddicombe (206) 730-0288


REI's Jewell Chosen as Secretary of the Interior

Sally Jewell, CEO of Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI), has been chosen as the new Secretary of the Interior.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Judge Rules Against Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Will the tidelands of Puget Sound's Olympic Penninsula now be made part of the Wild Olympics proposal? 
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers on Monday denied owner Kevin Lunny's motion to void Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's order to evict the historic facility from the park, and also declined to allow the farm to continue operating while its legal case proceeds. [abc news]
"The court rightly decided that Secretary Salazar had full discretion to let the oyster operation permit expire on its own terms and honor the 1976 wilderness designation for Drakes Estero," stated Amy Trainer, executive director, Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. "We are very grateful for this decision, which supports the Estero's full wilderness protection, and we urge the company to fulfill its long-standing responsibility to its workers by assisting them during this time of transition." [East Bay Express]
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers wrote in her decision that she did not believe she had authority to overturn Salazar, and that even if she did, "plaintiffs have not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of the claims." [WRAL]
High Tide at the Oyster Shack
December 14, 2012
Castles made of sand...

Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat Appeals 4th Geoduck Permit

Contact: Laura Hendricks (253) 509-4987
Curt Puddicombe (206) 730-0288
The Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat has appealed the 4th Substantial Shoreline Development Permit (SSDP) issued for a geoduck farm in the intertidal area of Thurston County (see News Release following this post). While the Decision requires an "open record review" prior to replanting or in 7 years (whichever comes first) to consider cumulative impacts it did not require a cumulative impacts analysis prior to beginning operation. While the Hearing Examiner had clear authority to require one based on the number and types of farms which currently exist in Eld Inlet, as well as those currently proposed, she instead accepted studies of small discrete farms to create her opinion.

Existing Geoduck Farms
Eld Inlet, South of Xia Farm
Native American Billy Frank, who has long championed for salmon in Puget Sound, said in an editorial today: Salmon are in trouble because of lost and damaged habitat. [click here for complete editorial] Salmon are no longer the only wild species in trouble. All of the diverse species who have evolved to survive in the intertidal area are at risk from industrial shellfish farming's expansion.
To believe that studies which look at small discrete shellfish farms show there is no impact from large numbers of contiguous farms operating simultaneously is not correct. Industrial shellfish farming, geoducks and otherwise, is not the "benign" activity of the past. "Predator nets" covering thousands of square feet disrupt habitats and the flow of species across them. Harvesting no longer occurs on one farm in isolation at slack tide but on multiple farms at the same time, both out of and under water, at any current speed. Geoduck planted in densities 10 times greater than wild densities extract from the waters calcifying agents needed by all species, including wild geoduck attempting to re-populate the large subtidal tracts being harvested. When shipped off to China, removed is any ability to return those agents to the waters of Puget Sound.
Puget Sound's intertidal habitat is being transformed by industrial aquaculture. Mr. Frank is absolutely right to be concerned, but he should not limit it to salmon. It is why growing numbers of citizens are contributing time and money to push back against the immense resources available to the shellfish industry who want only to expand their operations and profits at the expense of the future of Puget Sound's intertidal habitat.

News Release
February 4, 2013

NEWS RELEASE: Coalition To Protect Puget Sound Habitat Appeals 4th Geoduck Aquaculture Permit To
Save Shoreline Wildlife

Contact: Laura Hendricks
(253) 509-4987
Curt Puddicombe (206) 730-0288

The Coalition has appealed the 4th Thurston County geoduck aquaculture permit where over 60% of Eld Inlet shorelines have already been converted to industrial aquaculture. With habitat alteration being cited as a primary cause for the decline in salmon populations, citizens are calling for a cumulative impact analysis prior to additional permits being issued. Public records reveal that Governor Gregoire's Shellfish Initiative is being used as a lobbying tool by the shellfish industry to push state agencies and counties to minimize conservation priorities and to ignore citizen's right to safely use the shorelines.

Terrance McCarthy, the Pierce County Hearing Examiner in the 2008 Taylor Shellfish/Foss geoduck appeal supported the Coalition's position when he stated in his decision that:

“According to Megan N. Dethier, PHD, University of Washington, the harvest of geoducks from high density aquaculture beds will involve near total liquefaction of the sediment of at least 50cm. While organisms in the intertidal zone are adapted to small scale disturbance (from waves, ghost shrimp, crab pits, etc) the large scale physical disturbance is not part of the environment’s evolutionary history.”

“During high tide the tubes and net obstruct the use of shallow water of Puget Sound by watercraft, such as kayaks, canoes, shallow draft motorboats, intertubes and fishermen. The tubes and nets also obstruct use by windsurfers, divers and fishers. The obstructive nature of operations increases during planting and harvesting when barges, workers, hoses and other equipment are present.”

A Coalition member, APHETI, recently was successful in the Thurston County Hearing Examiner and County Commissioner decision that denied the Taylor Shellfish expansion of 58 (30 x 30 ft) mussel rafts in Totten Inlet. Another member, Case Inlet Shoreline Association, was successful in their 2012 Longbranch Shoreline Hearings Board geoduck decision that required protections for forage fish spawning habitat

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Shellfish Politics in DC and a Vision for the Future

The East Coast Shellfish Growers Association (ECSGA) and Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association (PCSGA) have wrapped up their annual "Walk on the Hill" in Washington DC. Posted on the Facebook page of the ECSGA, among pictures of "the event" are two of significance. One, "The Vision", shows oyster farms fronting the shoreline in France. The second, "The Process", shows Kevin Lunny (owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Company) and other shellfish growers meeting with legislators in Washington DC.

A Vision of "Compatibility"
Oyster farming in Arcachon, France, where a Herpes virus
outbreak caused 80% of juvenile oysters to die.
High density shellfish farming
is not without risk.
"The Process"
"Pressing the flesh yields instant results over wine and oysters.
Our legislators have a healthy appetite for good oysters
 and they want to help us
create more green jobs in rural coastal areas." (ECSGA)
Kevin Lunny [center, owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Company]
High density shellfish farming of non-native species is not without risks. As any parent of a child in school knows, classrooms are breeding grounds for virus, spreading from one child to the next and home. In a natural environment of native species growing in natural densities, disease resistance has evolved over generations. Shellfish are not competing with each other for resources so are not stressed in their various life stages, continuing to remain healthy and thrive.
Infected Pacific oyster (bottom) and healthy (above).
Contrast this with the die offs from the Herpes virus in the high density plantings found in France. Contrast this with the die offs of the non-native Pacific oyster larvae in "hatcheries" from deep ocean upwellings in the northwest, which other species of oysters are able to cope with. Contrast this to the "Pacific oyster mortality syndrome" in Australia which overnight decimated the Pacific oyster population. [click here for article]
As with net pen fish farming, and any other highly concentrated population of species, rapid outbreaks and die-offs increase dramatically. "The Vision" does not come without risks. "Pressing the flesh" only risks spreading disease. Are shellfish politics healthy?

Friday, February 1, 2013

REI CEO to Head the Department of the Interior?

“She comes unencumbered by experience” in the political arena

Sally Jewell, current CEO of REI, has risen to the top of the contender list to replace the current Department of the Interior. [click here] Her integrity and credentials are stellar.