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:

Friday, May 31, 2013

Drakes Bay Oyster: A New Paint Job Doesn't Change What's Underneath

Nothing is Free
New Paint Changes Nothing
"From the Pacific Legal Foundation"

With Drakes Bay Oyster's severing ties with Cause of Action has come a renewed effort to dismiss the contractual agreement which DBOC entered into when it purchased the Johnson Oyster Company. That agreement, signed and dated by the current owners of DBOC, was that the only commercial operation preventing the completion of the shoreline wilderness area which Congress created would cease in 2012. The current process in place, if allowed, will result in a political template being created which will be used to allow commercial operations - of all types - in wilderness areas created under the Wilderness Act. This is a fact.

One of the articles on this split reflects the operator's belief that with this separation will come an unveiling of a new picture, an image of naivety over what Cause of Action was and what a relationship with them would bring.
Although Mr. Lunny said he is sad to lose what he described as Cause of Action’s “fantastic legal assistance,” he acknowledged that the group has motives that he does not share. “They have goals that they’re trying to achieve that are bigger and more broad. That kind of became clear in their letter to PBS,” he said.
Dr. Goodman said he hopes the conversation about Drakes Bay shifts from a “narrative of conspiracies” and political agendas to the issues at hand. “It certainly is going to take one of their big narratives away,” he said of environmentalists. Point Reyes Light, 5/30/2013 (owned by Marin Media Institute,co-founded by Dr. Goodman)  

A new paint job does not change what is underneath the paint. The Pacific Legal Foundation stepping into the newly painted Trojan Horse will not help change the image - or reality - of what is at play any more than a new paint job will change the fact that this commercial operation is far more expansive than a simple hot dog stand. Further, it does not change the fact that this commercial operation is all that is standing in the way of completing the creation of the wilderness area Congress intended for everyone to enjoy and the current owners agreed to that fact when they purchased it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Drakes Bay Oyster Company: Changing Tides Changing Attorneys

Updated 5/30:
Link to May 17 COA letter to PBS added. 
Link to Steven Maglivio's piece on COA being dropped, which ends with this succinctly written paragraph:
But it's too little, too late for the oyster corporation, which produces just 3 percent of the oysters on the west coast. The move to cozy up to the right-wing clearly has hurt the company's efforts to portray itself as the little guy vs. big government. And that's something -- like the agreement the Lunny family made to shut down -- it simply just can't walk away from and pretend didn't happen.
And so castles made of sand ...

Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) has severed its relationship with the conservative group Cause of Action (COA) over the latter's request to PBS for video tapes of interviews used for a recent report on PBS Newshour. (Note: COA has removed their post on the FOIA request. Their May 17 letter to PBS may be viewed here: May 17 COA Letter to PBS.)

As written about earlier, Cause of Action felt it had been portrayed unfairly when executive director Dan Epstein was described by PBS as being “an attorney who once worked for a foundation run by one of the conservative activist Koch brothers" and those opposed to the continued commercial operation were not labeled as COA felt they should be (e.g.,  Amy Trainer is only "described as the head of an environmental group.").

Cause of Action also felt it had been somehow portrayed inaccurately to Phyllis Faber, participant in a lawsuit against the California Coastal Commission's action on DBOC's inaction of violations, noting, "Environmental activist Phyllis Faber is described as 'not happy to be on the same side as Cause of Action.'  In the May 1, 2013 NewsHour broadcast, Ms. Faber is quoted as stating, 'I am very disturbed by that and I don't agree with it at all.'" (Note: The California Coastal Commission has asked the court to dismiss Ms. Faber's lawsuit and for it to fine DBOC for its “'intentional and knowing' violation of state law and the agency’s orders.")

Beware of pro-bono legal representation

DBOC chose to allow Cause of Action and conservative friends into its house with offers of free legal support. The reasons for and consequences of that action could be seen by anyone with an objective eye. Now DBOC has tied itself directly to those who see this as the opportunity to break the Wilderness Act and extract the minimal resources which exist in those few areas Congress intended be set aside for all citizens, not just an exclusive few. How would Marin County feel if they looked in their rear view mirror and saw Cause of Action - or the Pacific Legal Foundation - representing developers from San Francisco pointing to millionaires developing parcels set aside as farm easements and saying "The Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) should be dismantled so we may put up condominiums."

Instead of smoothly winding down a commercial operation DBOC knew was destined to cease in 2012, they instead chose to gamble in hopes they could prevent the completion of the wilderness Congress intended for all citizens to enjoy. Instead of helping their employees start a new operation in Tomales Bay or elsewhere they bussed them from location to location for photo-ops to be used for the benefit of conservative groups. Instead of suggesting to those caught up in the "gift" of the Trojan Horse from COA that they help fund employee training and/or relocation, attorneys from San Francisco and Washington DC are instead made more wealthy.

Stepping back and rethinking what to do in order to avoid another train wreck is something which a group such as Gallatin Public Affairs makes fortunes off of. Whether they, or someone similar is brought into the picture, a broader perspective and solution which is inclusive of all citizens, and not for an exclusive few, needs to be presented.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

First Subtidal Geoduck Farm Approved by Pierce County Hearing Examiner

Why doesn't DNR require replanting geoduck
after wild populations are "clear cut" from
state owned subtidal tidelands?
[click here for wild harvest numbers]

A permit for the first shallow subtidal geoduck farm has been approved by the Pierce County hearing examiner. It opens an area of Puget Sound to commercial geoduck "farming" which the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had excluded from activity for decades to help protect a nearshore area where beds of native eelgrass are found (the nearshore area between extreme low and -18 feet). It also puts in question why DNR is not requiring the areas they do allow harvesting in (-18 to -70 feet) to be replanted. Annually, over 4 million pounds of wild geoduck are harvested from these subtidal areas. Why aren't they replanted like the state's forest lands are after they are harvested?

Regarding this specific permit approval, an environmental impact statement (EIS) which the state has been operating under for over 10 years has been nullified. Protections for this nearshore area have been minimized if not eliminated. As noted in DNR's Habitat Conservation Plan:
"Eelgrass is light limited and in Puget Sound rarely occurs deeper than –18 feet MLLW." The importance in protecting eelgrass is "...because of the role of eelgrass as the basic energy source for a variety of food web interactions, and because of the other functions it provides, the covered species use, or benefit in some manner from eelgrass." It notes further, "The shoreward boundary [of -18 feet] acts to protect geoducks closer to shore, eelgrass beds, and other nearshore habitats and their inhabitants (e.g., juvenile fish)."  
The Habitat Conservation plan also notes: "Nearshore buffers – DNR will protect nearshore habitats from geoduck harvest activities by locating the closest shoreward harvest boundary at or deeper than the –18 foot MLLW water depth contour. This protects nearshore habitats where younger juvenile salmonids and forage species are generally found and where forage fish species spawn. It also prevents disturbance of migrating adult salmonids.
"Eelgrass buffers – DNR will avoid and protect eelgrass by establishing a 2-foot vertical or 180-foot horizontal (on very gradual slopes) buffer between geoduck tracts adjacent to eelgrass beds and the deepest occurrence of eelgrass.
"This will protect habitat used by the covered fish species for refuge, and will protect habitat used for spawning and refuge by forage fish species important as prey to the covered species."

At the hearing the attorney representing the applicant simply stated this concern was "overly broad" and "a relic of a DNR EIS", the only environmental impact statement ever done regarding geoduck farming's impacts. In the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) it notes:
"The shoreward boundary [of -18 feet] protects shallow water geoducks,
minimizes impacts on nearby shoreline residents, and helps protect eelgrass beds
and other sensitive nearshore habitats."

In that FEIS, Dr. Charles Simenstad with the University of Washington School of Aquatic Fisheries and Sciences, when asked about the impact on salmon from harvesting stated "The exclusionary principle of not allowing leasing/harvesting in water shallower than -18 ft. MLLW or 200 ft (sic yds) distance from shore (MHW); 2 ft. vertically from elevation of lower eelgrass margin, and within any regions of documented herring or forage fish spawning should under most conditions remove the influences of harvest-induced sediment plumes from migrating salmon. As the available information indicates that sediment plumes do not enter the nearshore zone, impacts to juvenile salmon habitat and prey resource should also be protected from impact by these policies if effectively regulated."
When John Lentz (owner of Chelsea Sea Farms) was questioned by the applicant's attorney whether he was aware of this restriction in the EIS, his off-the-cuff response was "they did it in the office." It seems the importance of an EIS is based on whether it supports your viewpoint or not.

Permit approval for this farm expands the area of impacts from geoduck farming exponentially. Tube placement will no longer be limited to the intertidal area, that area uncovered when the tide falls. Harvesting will no longer be prevented in depths between extreme low and -18 feet. Now these tubes and harvesting activity have been allowed to expand into an area previous protected by DNR, based on the only environmental impact statement focused on geoduck farming.

Most ironic in this approval is the question of why DNR is not requiring the state owned subtidal areas which are commercially harvested of "wild" geoduck to be replanted after they are "clear cut." Annually over 4 million pounds of wild geoduck are harvested, leaving the state's subtidal tidelands harvested empty. John Lentz, a past harvester of state tidelands, stated clearly that subtidal planting is not a problem. If subtidal planting is not a problem, why isn't DNR doing it?

What to do:
If you want to become involved in helping to ensure the rapid expansion of shellfish farming will not occur without a complete review of impacts to Puget Sound's diversity of life through an Environmental Impact Statement there are organizations who will accept your help and donations. These include:

Case Inlet Shoreline Association, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization
Focused on commercial geoduck operations in south Puget Sound
http://www.caseinlet.org/ - contact info@caseinlet.org

APHETI, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization
Focused on expansion of mussel farming in south Puget Sound
http://www.apheti.com/index.htm - contact apheti@gmail.com

Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat
Representing most organizations concerned about expanding aquaculture

Tell the state you want DNR to replant state tidelands which are "clear cut".
You may also contact your government officials and tell them it is time for an Environmental Impact Statement to be done to ensure Puget Sound's diversity of life is not put at risk through expansion of commercial shellfish operations.
Contact your state legislative representative
Contact Governor Inslee

Friday, May 24, 2013

South Puget Sound's Extreme Low/High Tides of Memorial Weekend

Olympia Times/Elevations (click here for an interactive tidal/current map of all Puget Sound)

Saturday: 12:34 PM  -3.6   7:36  +15.4 (elevation change of 19 feet)
Sunday: 1:20 PM  -3.9 8:25PM  +15.8 (elevation change of 19.7 feet)
Monday: 2:08 PM -3.7 9:14PM + 15.9 (elevation change of 19.6 feet)

This weekend south Puget Sound will experience extreme low tides dropping to a low of -3.9 on Sunday, followed by a high tide +15.8. This change in elevation of near 20' is one of the largest of the year in all of Puget Sound, surpassed only by that seen next month.

(click on the above for an interactive chart
showing elevation changes and current speeds)

This epic flow of water into and out of south Puget Sound results in current speeds through the Tacoma Narrows of over 7.5 knots, topped only by Deception Pass at 8 knots. Currents in Hammersley Inlet are over 4 knots with whirlpools forming in all three passages.

Experience this part of Puget Sound which is rarely possible during the daylight  hours.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Drakes Bay Oyster: Strange Bedfellows Continues

[Update: December 9 - Dr. Goodman continues down his path of strange choices for who he is interviewed by.]
(moved from December 8 post)
Drakes Bay Oyster Company supporters are cheering about the fact that people are unwilling to debate Corey Goodman on George Whitehurst Berry's "truth frequency" radio shows. In fact, they - and investors relying on Dr. Goodman's advice - should question why Dr. Goodman would ever want to be associated with Mr. Berry.
Drifting from integrity
Corey Goodman's drifting from a position of integrity cannot be more clearly seen than in his pairing with Sedona Dreams' George Whitehurst Berry. Somehow believing the radio purveyor of snake oil and "reverse speak" chants will improve how he is perceived within the scientific community, Dr. Goodman has allowed himself to become Mr. Berry's new best friend.
People investing millions want to know they can trust their advisor
Dr. Goodman should remember that his role as a venture capitalist and board member on a number of startup corporations in the risky biomedical field brings with it a heightened level of scrutiny. Included within that focus is whether a man has the judgment to be responsible for investing tens of millions of dollars in a field well known for studies which cannot be replicated. His pairing with Mr. Berry risks putting that judgment in question.
Science matters - so does who you choose for friends
Dr. Goodman may have valid concerns within some of his opinions on the scientific process. But as a scientist should wisely choose how he will research something, so too should a spokesperson choose who he uses to broadcast his voice. It should have been a lesson learned when Dr. Goodman found out what Cause of Action's real agenda was. 
Efforts by Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) to prevent creation of the Point Reyes Wilderness Shoreline become more tangled by the day. In DBOC's ongoing use of Corey Goodman to direct focus away from their contractual obligation to cease operations, conservative talk show host Barbara Simpson ("The Babe in the Bunker") has been enlisted in an attempt and bring life back to "the straw man" - Dr. Goodman's questions on data.

KSFO's "Babe in the Bunker"
Barbara Simpson at the
San Jose Tea Party gathering.

After his interview on far-right radio KSFO's "The Babe in Bunker" Dr. Goodman can now include himself in the crowd of Ms. Simpson's other interviewees, including: Alexandra Bruce ("2012: Science or Superstition"); Doug Haagman ("We'll Kill the Dollar"); Colin Gunn ("IndoctriNation"); and, Gerald Celente ("The Trends Journal").

There is no doubt that as with Ms. Simpson's other guests, Dr. Goodman also believes strongly in his position. But it is irrelevant to the fact that DBOC now has no right to be operating in Drakes Estero or on its shoreline. Its continued operation is what is preventing the completion of what Congress intended it to become, a shoreline wilderness area for all of the citizens to enjoy, not for DBOC to make money off of.

This is not part of some "conspiracy" to turn all of the United States into a nature preserve. It is not part of "Agenda 21" (although Ms. Simpson could argue DBOC's "sustainability" reasoning for not leaving might be part of Agenda 21). It is, at its heart, whether a commercial operation should be operating within an area Congress intended to become wilderness. Supporters of DBOC's continued operation should understand clearly what they are supporting. It is not simply an oyster farm.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fudge Point: Our Heritage Defined

"What defines our heritage is what we leave to people, and open spaces and parks are the most important." Walt Hitchcock, Harstine Island on the creation of Fudge Point State Park.

Currently before the legislature is an opportunity to fund what could become part of the greatest state park Washington has. Your representatives in Olympia can make a difference if you contact them. [click here to find who your Legislator is or see below for additional contacts]

Fudge Point, Harstine Island
South Puget Sound

Fudge Point is made up of tidelands over 3,200 feet in length, ranging in width from 100' to over 300', tied to over 55 acres of upland area available for trails and day use. Views of Mount Ranier, Mount Saint Helens and the Olympics are available from these tidelands. Funding the acquisition of Fudge Point presents one of the last great opportunities to acquire a piece of Puget Sound's shoreline which generations far into the future will be able to enjoy.

Fudge Point and its Tidelands 
"This [funding] represents an opportunity to be the best state park the state owns, their flagship park." Mr. Hitchcock

Walt Hitchcock, a neighbor and supporter of a future Fudge Point State Park whose family has owned property on Fudge Point since 1909, could not have put better the opportunity which presents itself. In the November 15, 2012 of the Shelton-Mason Journal, Mr. Hitchcock is quoted as saying: "What defines our heritage is what we leave to people, and open spaces and parks are the most important." Mr. Hitchcock, while initially concerned about the project, now supports the funding and creation of this park. In the article, Mr. Hitchock is quoted further as saying, "This [funding] represents an opportunity to be the best state park the state owns, their flagship park."

The Trust for Public Lands purchased Fudge Point from the Scott family who, like the Hitchcock family, are long time residents of Harstine Island.  They have seen Harstine Island move from use of a landing craft as a ferry to its becoming accessible with a bridge. Both families have seen Harstine Island pressed from development of all sorts, from all sides. Both have chosen to support the creation of Fudge Point State Park while it is still possible so future generations may experience what their ancestors did before them and what they did.

Support for the funding of Fudge Point State Park will define the heritage left by this generation for those in the future to look back on. Make a difference and contact your legislator.

Additional contacts to consider calling to ask for support:

Senator Jim Honeyford
Washington State Senate
PO Box 40415
Olympia, WA 98504-0415

 Senator Sharon Nelson
Washington State Senate
PO Box 40434
Olympia, WA 98504-0434

 Rep. Hans Dunshee
Washington House of Representatives
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600

 Rep. Judy Warnick
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600

Sunday, May 19, 2013

SEPA Decision on New Geoduck Farm in Eld Inlet - Were Adjacent Farms Considered?

Were impacts adequately considered?

Comments Due By: 4PM, May 30, 2013
CONTACT: Scott McCormick, Associate Planner
(360) 754-3355 x6372 or mccorms@co.thurston.wa.us

Northwest Shellfish Co. has applied for permits for a new geoduck farm in Eld Inlet on a tideland parcel owned by William and Marie Staley. Thurston County has issued a tentative "Mitigated Determination of Non-significance" (MDNS) SEPA determination. Comments on this decision are due by May 30. Decision documents are available by request from the county. A general overview is available here, but it does not appear adjacent operations were considered.

Was accurate information provided by the applicant?
Were existing farms considered in the determination? Aerial photos from 2006 to 2012 from Thurston County's GIS site show clearly that aquaculture was occurring on the adjacent tideland parcels south of the proposed farm. Surveys done for Taylor Shellfish show geoducks apparently encroaching on the Staley property. It does not appear the application or determination considered the adjacent farms.  Could the county have made a meaningful determination?
Aerial view of proposed farm.
(see below for higher resolution)

Existing shellfish farms
The proposed site is adjacent to where existing shellfish farms were located, one apparently in front of a parcel owned by the Hittmeier family and another seemingly in front of a parcel owned by Thurston  County (Frye Cove County Park). It is unclear who owns the tidelands in front of the Thurston County parcel and who the shellfish operation there belongs to.

2006 Aerial photo of farm adjacent
to Thurston County parcel.
Taylor Shellfish Survey
The only indication of operators is found in a survey done for Taylor Shellfish of the tidelands in front of the Hittmeier family. That survey shows geoducks planted on the tidelands adjacent to the Hittmeier's upland parcel had encroached onto the Staley parcel by 2'. The survey does not indicate ownership or location of the farm appearing to be adjacent to Thurston County's parcel.
2009 Survey for Taylor Shellfish
of tideland parcel adjacent
to Hittmeier parcel, between
Staley and Thurston County.

Expansion of farming in front of the Hittmeier's parcel.
Comparing the 2006 aerial photos above to the 2009 aerial photos shows aquaculture activity on the parcels, one having expanded. The tideland parcel appearing to be in front of Frye Cove County Park also shows activity having occurred, possibly harvesting.
2009 aerial photo showing the farm
in front of the Hittmeier parcel
had expanded.
Expansion of activity in front of Hittmeier parcel.
From the 2012 aerial photo below it is unclear whether farming on either of the tideland parcels continued. What is clear is there is a continued need for surveying before any permits should be approved, both to ensure private property is protected and to help show how the incremental approval of shellfish farms creates further the need for cumulative impacts to be considered in permitting. What is also clear is the SEPA determination does not indicate consideration of any past or present farming in the area was considered. Would it matter if all farms were harvesting at the same time, some when the tide is out and some when the tide is in, or on a schedule of perpetual cycles? Would it matter if the density of shellfish planted in Eld Inlet reached a scale where native species no longer had the resources necessary to survive? It would matter if the Shoreline Management Act and Thurston County's Shoreline Master Program were to be considered as they should be.
2012 Aerial photo
A larger picture of existing farms.
(click to enlarge)
Get involved.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Drakes Bay Oyster Company: Attorney Who Worked for Koch Brothers Upset with PBS Report, Files Freedom of Information Request

Update: 5/23 - Cause of Action has withdrawn its FOIA request to PBS.
Updated 5/18: From a local Marin County resident - "my they are touchy, aren't they!"
5/17: from Cause of Action web site: "Today, Cause of Action submitted a FOIA request to PBS for the footage of interviews that went into this piece to determine if PBS misled viewers." 

What a tangled web ...

Cause of Action's executive director Dan Epstein, past attorney for a foundation run by one of the conservative Koch brothers, is apparently upset he was described as such by PBS ( “an attorney who once worked for a foundation run by one of the conservative activist Koch brothers”). In reaction Cause of Action has filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for footage of interviews, presumably under his direction as executive director. He is trying to understand why others mentioned (e.g., Tom Strickland and Amy Trainer) were not described with adjectives he sees fit.

Dan Epstein, past attorney
 for conservative Koch Brothers

(Prior to his current position at Cause of Action, and after working for the conservative Koch Brothers foundation, Mr. Epstein became a "Republican counsel for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is chaired by Obama administration critic Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)" (from Cause of Action web site). Representative Issa's reputation stands on its own conservative platform.)

Ms. Phyllis Faber
"Environmental activist" (per Mr. Epstein) is upset
she is now tied to Mr. Epstein's group.
which owns Point Reyes Light newspaper.
MMI was co-founded by Dr. Goodman.

In addition to his being upset with his past job description Mr. Epstein is also upset that Phyllis Faber is not happy with her now being tied to groups such as his Cause of Action who clearly view the Drakes Bay Oyster Company as a means to obtain resource extraction rights from other wilderness areas. In the PBS interview, Ms. Faber states she is:
“not happy to be on the same side as Cause of Action.”  In the May 1, 2013 NewsHour broadcast, Ms. Faber is quoted as stating, “I am very disturbed by that and I don’t agree with it at all. I think what they’re headed for is trying to use a commercial operation in a park – they want to establish that in other public, on other public lands and I think that’s terribly unfortunate.” [regrettably it was something she might have considered before filing a lawsuit against the California Coastal Commission for taking action against Drakes Bay Oyster's "egregious" ignoring of violations]  
Note: The CCC has filed suit against Drakes Bay Oyster Company. DBOC's reaction? It's "in retaliation" for all of the law suits filed on our behalf. A "how to respond" lesson learned from Mr. Epstein. (click here for article
Like Mr. Epstein being upset with the description of he and his past employers, he also feels Cause of Action was not described to Ms. Faber as it should have been. He claims the only reason Cause of Action became involved was over concerns about the quality of information developed, brought to his attention by Drakes Bay Oyster Company's Kevin Lunny and Dr. Corey Goodman. Apparently he was unaware it was something which shellfish attorney Billy Plauche wrote to the National Park Service about in August of 2007, as requested by the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association. (click here for 2007 letter)

Shellfish attorney Billy Plauche
who wrote to NPS about "information quality"
in 2007 for the PCSGA.

Mr. Epstein is certainly free to describe the reason for his actions however he wishes, but the fact is if this private commercial operation is allowed to operate in the designated wilderness it will set a precedent for how to dismantle the wilderness act and create a new "corporate wilderness" which benefits only private corporations or individuals, such as Mr. Epstein's past employer, the Koch Brothers.
Dr. Goodman (r) and Mark Dowie (l)

As an end note, if Mr. Epstein is truly concerned about unbiased press and government transparency he might consider exploring whether the local Point Reyes Light newspaper (owned by the Marin Media Institute which Dr. Goodman co-founded and which Phyllis Faber was also a director of) may be using unbiased adjectives in their reporting on Drakes Bay Oyster Company's problem, or how much money has been spent on water quality testing in Marin County using technology Dr. Goodman helped privatize (click here). More likely Mr. Epstein will continue to complain about the press and government overreach.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Protection of Eelgrass and the Shoreline Management Act

In an evolving story being played out between Mason County, Pierce County and Pacific County is seen a problem in allowing local agencies to create their own Shoreline Master Programs which are intended to protect the near shore environment and prevent the fragmentation of its habitat functions. In this example it is how these 3 counties interpret how eelgrass should be protected. Or not.

Brant Geese Foraging on Eelgrass
Mason County and Activity Within a Native Eelgrass Bed
Mason County has issued a SEPA determination of non-significance and will not require a development permit for a restoration project proposed by the Puget Sound Restoration Fund which will take place within a bed of native eelgrass located in Hood Canal. The proposal is to spread Olympia oysters, individually or as spat on Pacific oyster shell, throughout the bed and then to determine what the impact is on the eelgrass. Past studies have already shown eelgrass is impacted - reduced or eliminated - when oysters are cultivated at certain densities within the bed. (Note: The county will accept comments until May 21. Contact Alan Borden at ahb@co.mason.wa.us.)
Herring Spawn on eelgrass

Pierce County Requiring Buffers of 25' to 180' away from Japanese Eelgrass and Native Eelgrass Beds
At the same time that Mason County has issued a permit exemption and a SEPA determination of non-significance for activity within a native eelgrass bed, Pierce County is trying to determine how far away from an eelgrass bed aquaculture should be allowed to take place. In the case of Pierce County they are considering buffer distances of 25' to 180', with a possibility of 10' in some places, with no activity occurring within the bed. In addition, they are also telling the applicant that they consider Japanese eelgrass as important a habitat as native eelgrass. Buffers will apply to both species. (The Hearing Examiner is currently considering whether to issue a permit for the proposal.)

Copper Rockfish in Eelgrass Habitat

Pacific County wants Japanese Eelgrass Eliminated
In the case of Pacific County, they and the shellfish industry were able to convince the State Noxious Weed Board that the habitat functions of Japanese eelgrass are less important than the ability to grow Manila clams. In this case, shellfish growers stated that Japanese eelgrass may be causing Manila clams to be smaller. The Board decided to categorize Japanese eelgrass as a Class C noxious weed, if it was on a cultured shellfish bed. The next year, despite the Board's own advisory committee recommending against it, the county and the shellfish industry were able to expand the Class C classification to include all of Washington's tidelands. Currently the Department of Ecology is considering whether to allow spraying Japanese eelgrass with the herbicide Imazamox to eliminate it with Pacific County being the application area. Despite its clear habitat functions and its ability to remove CO2 from marine waters, Pacific County views it differently. (Note: The Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat is asking that this decision be reversed.)

Brian Sheldon, Northern Oyster
Claims his clams are smaller
because of Japanese eelgrass.

Lack of Habitat Protection Cohesiveness
The Department of Ecology's role is to ensure the Shoreline Management Act is implemented consistently throughout the state through each county's Shoreline Master Programs. As seen in this case the buffer distances protecting native eelgrass range from nothing to its possible elimination, and how county's view the importance of habitat functions provided by Japanese eelgrass range from very important to its being sprayed with herbicides to eliminate it. Allowing each county to develop its own SMP is many times heavily influenced by local corporate interests. Without strong leadership from the Department of Ecology it will result in fragmented development occurring, something the Shoreline Management Act was intended to prevent.

Monday, May 13, 2013

May 14: Drakes Bay Oyster Company's Day in Court, Again

Update 5/15:
The East Bay Express reports that from questions asked by the three-judge panel it appears they will rule against Drakes Bay Oyster Company.
Earth Island Journal has an article by Amy Trainer on why it is time for Drakes Estero to be allowed to become the wilderness Congress intended it to become in 1972.

Drakes Estero (from Earth Island Journal)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

10 Shellfish Nurseries in Oakland Bay Marina Proposed by City of Shelton Ammendment to Draft Shoreline Master Program

The Mason County Journal reported that at a public hearing held May 6 the City of Shelton announced it was considering amending its draft of the updated Shoreline Master Program in order to allow up to 10 of Oakland Bay Marina's boathouses to be converted to shellfish nurseries. (see page 2/3 here for amendment) In the comments about the amendment it is noted there have already been 2 permits for conversion from public use to private commercial use, with 3 more being considered. The first reading of the proposed amendment and updated SMP will be held at the commission's May 28 meeting.
Oakland Bay Marina and Existing Nursery
(click to enlarge)
While City Planner Jason Dose felt the conversion was "a fairly benign use" he did acknowledge  they were "pushing the envelope" by suggesting 10 boathouses be converted. It wasn't clear whether there are any "liveaboards" currently using any of the boathouses and how they feel about the commercial operations.
Members of the public present expressed a variety of concerns, one being the conversion of that portion of the marina to private commercial use, preventing public access. Impacts on tourism was another area focused on as was the need to upgrade the infrastructure, with water pressure being described as providing "a teaspoon per hour." Commissioner Mike Olsen also pointed out that the Oakland Bay Marina is the only public marina in Shelton.
One alternative suggested was to add an additional float. Another suggestion may be to simply expand the nursery facility already in operation further away from the marina, near the Manke gravel barge loading area, already converted to private commercial use.
Shellfish companies covet the area as it has power, a necessity for "upwellers" used in nurseries, and it is adjacent to a public boat launch which they use for loading and off-loading equipment.
At the May 28 hearing, the City will explain how the amendment meets the first two goals from Chapter 3, "Shoreline Master Program Goals and Policies".
3.1 General Shoreline Goals
SMP1.1. Adequately protect and preserve shoreline areas from incompatible types and intensities of development. Reserve shoreline areas for water-related uses. [is growing shellfish in a marina a "compatible" development?]

SMP 1.2. Increase public access to shoreline areas by increasing the opportunities for the public to reach, touch and enjoy the water’s edge, travel on the waters of the state and view the water and shoreline from adjacent locations. [does removing 15% of the boathouses from public access increase opportunities?]

Friday, May 10, 2013

May's Deep Minus Tides are Coming, Native Habitat is Going

(Olympia Times)
Get out and explore the tidelands during these deep low tides. You'll discover a world which appears few times during the daylight hours. And if you happen to be in Burley Lagoon you might check to see what it is Taylor Shellfish is clearing off of the tidelands and what they've left behind.
"Taylor's Bins"
full of rocks, barnacles and shells
cleared from the tidelands.
For what?
Hauled off to who knows where?
Get out and enjoy the unique native habitat exposed during these minus tides. While it's still there.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Drakes Estero: Former Mayor Speaks out in Support of Point Reyes Wilderness

Lynn Hamilton, former Mayor for the City of Sebastopol, writes in the Healdburg Tribune in support of allowing Drakes Estero to finally become the wilderness area Congress intended. She notes that Drakes Bay Oyster Company's signs being spread throughout Marin and Sanoma Counties should say "Save Point Reyes Wilderness" which DBOC is preventing from occurring.
She writes: This is not an issue of “farmer” vs big government. The real issue here is that private development and industry interests have been working for years to overturn environmental laws and allow natural resource extraction and commercial development in the wilderness areas, national parks, oceans, estuaries and other publicly owned and protected lands.
The Lunny family knew that their rights to using the uplands, tidelands and waters in Drakes Estero would end in 2012. Instead of being grateful for the use of public lands for almost 7 years, from which they have profited handsomely, they have instead chosen to allow themselves to be allied with industries whose view on wilderness areas is that they are a hindrance to their expansion and profitability. The oil, mining, timber and other industries would love nothing more than to see DBOC be allowed to continue their commercial operation covering over 1,000 acres in this wilderness.

The Lunny family needs to consider what they wish to leave as their legacy to future generations.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Drakes Estero: Phyllis Faber Lawsuit Against Coastal Commission Called Frivolous

In a guest op-ed piece published in the May 2, Marin Independent Journal, Dr. Martin Griffin describes the lawsuit filed by Ms. Phyllis Faber against the California Coastal Commission (CCC) as a misguided effort which he forcefully states is frivolous. Ms. Faber challenged the CCC's orders against Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) for their numerous Coastal Act violations they have chosen to ignore.

Dr. Martin Griffin

In the piece he reminds readers about the fact that DBOC chose to ignore previous cease and desist orders filed against them. He correctly describes a company who simply chose to ignore numerous requests, becoming demands, that they correct deficiencies in their operation which were in violation of the Coastal Act. It clearly states that DBOC is alone in their ignoring regulations every other shellfish operator in California finds no problems complying with. Touched on but not developed fully is the false belief by Ms. Faber and others that cessation of the commercial shellfish farm's operations will have adverse ecological impacts worse than those currently occurring, a claim not based on fact but supposition put forth by DBOC's attorney.

Seemingly, the friendship between Ms. Faber and the Lunny family will alter a legacy of environmental activism she has established over her lifetime. If she prevails, the Coastal Act will be greatly diminished and the ability of the California Coastal Commission to enforce the regulations it was created to oversee will be greatly weakened. Something many industries will not doubt be enthused about.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Drakes Estero and Puget Sound: Shellfish Standards of Science

Drakes Estero in California and Puget Sound in Washington have created a lens to look through when one wants to see how an industry uses selective science to achieve use of a resource which has multiple uses, some in conflict with what that industry wants. While focus has been on the oil industry's use of Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) as a pawn to open up other wilderness areas for drilling, an equally if not more important issue is hidden behind the fog- the shellfish industry's duplicity in determining what it defines as "science."

In the case of Drakes Estero the National Parks Service (NPS) initiated a number of studies to help understand whether DBOC's commercial use of Drakes Estero's waters and tidelands could exist within a designated wilderness area, the first shoreline wilderness area on the west coast. Those studies looked at the structures in the marine waters/tidelands, the non-native species of shellfish being grown, eelgrass beds, and noise. In part they helped to confirm that commercial operations, of any sort, within a designated wilderness area were simply not compatible. But to the shellfish industry what those studies revealed was alarming, setting off a cascade of legal actions and studies to prevent what the Executive Director of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Associate, Bob Rheault, defined as information which "will be used against our industry for decades to come".
It should be noted that Kevin Lunny, the owner of DBOC is also a cousin of ECSGA's past president, Tom Kehoe, and was also an active member in the Pacific Coast Shellfish Grower's Association (PCSGA). Both are industry's lobbying groups.
Brought into the picture was attorney Billy Plauche from Seattle and Environ International, an environmental consulting firm. Both are used by PCSGA to press agencies for the expansion of the shellfish industry in Washington. Challenges on the "quality of science" and counter-studies challenging the use of "proxies" (something similar to an action to determine whether the actual action is having an impact) were presented in an effort to prevent the information found from spreading to Washington where it may be used as a deterrent to expansion.

In November of 2012, Secretary Salazar made a decision. DBOC's commercial operation prevented the formation of the Congressionally designated wilderness area and the lease would not be renewed. It was a simple contractual decision based on the reality that were DBOC allowed to continue its operations, covering over 1,000 acres of the shoreline wilderness area, there would be nothing to stop other industries - oil, mining, timber - from saying their commercial operations should also be allowed into designated wilderness areas owned by the Federal Government - US taxpayers.

Puget Sound's tidelands are a mosaic of private and state owned parcels. Overseeing their development is the Shoreline Management Act, passed in 1971 when an attempt to convert the last large river delta area into a deep sea port was made. It acknowledges the multiple uses of the "most valuable and fragile of its natural resources" and that it should be managed to "minimize, insofar as practical, any resultant damage to the ecology and environment of the shoreline area and any interference with the public's use of the water." Through the SMA regulations have evolved which have prevented Puget Sound from becoming Chesapeake Bay.

As regulations have evolved, so has the shellfish industry. In the mid to late 1900's the industry could be relied on for ensuring the marine waters of Washington remained healthy. From the elimination of pulp mill effluent discharges in Shelton to forcing septic plants in Aberdeen to be upgraded so discharges into Grays Harbor were minimized, they were on the forefront. But in the 1990's what had been an industry made up of small family owned operations transitioned. Consolidation began to occur and control of the market began to fall into the hands of a few large companies. And the geoduck industry began to evolve.

What had been a subtidal operation run by the state and tribes, moved into the intertidal area, a strip of tidelands exposed and covered each day. An area where species unique to the world evolved and were able to survive both in and out of the marine waters. An area where geoducks were never able to establish themselves due to the natural ecosystem preventing their establishment. An area where placement of PVC pipes and netting created an artificial environment which allowed geoduck to be planted and harvested, creating a cycle of impacts which forever converted that area.

Alarmed by the ever increasing forests of PVC pipes appearing, in 2007 citizens demanded that the state act to ensure the Shoreline Management Act's goals were achieved. A bill was passed forcing review of science which showed none existed. The shellfish industry's famous response was "there is no science showing harm, therefor, there is no harm." Ignored was the fact that none existed, but because of citizen action, studies were initiated.

Included in the law was: RCW 28B.20.475 (3) All research commissioned under this section must be subjected to a rigorous peer review process prior to being accepted and reported by the sea grant program. Since that time studies have taken place looking at discrete moments in time of a larger cycle.

What has not taken place is the peer review of those studies. Instead, during various permit applications a Masters Thesis is presented as "science" and the lead investigator's updates and presentations to PCSGA are used as "science." Environ's Biological Evaluations, authored by principals who themselves own geoduck companies, are presented as objective evaluations of whether there is an impact from geoduck farming. In short, the very "quality of science" problem the industry is so "alarmed" over in Drakes Estero is taking place in Puget Sound. The difference? Their "science" is somehow different.

The more noise made preventing Drakes Estero from becoming the wilderness Congress intended it to become, the more clear the duplicity found in the shellfish industry's use of selective science will become.