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 30, 2014

Vibrio Returns to Puget Sound: Hood Canal Growing Area 6 Impacted

Vibriosis traced to oysters
from Hood Canal

The Department of Health has notified shellfish growers of vibriosis contracted from oysters traced to Hood Canal Growing Area #6. They are now requiring shellfish growers in Area #6 to reduce the "time to temperature" to one hour. DOH is required to act if 2 or more cases of vibriosis are reported which can be traced to a specific growing area.

Combination of Minus Tides
and Higher Temperatures

As noted earlier in the month, the combination of higher than normal temperatures and minus day time tides increases the risk of vibrio in oysters causing illness. April 30th, DOH issued a warning to shellfish growers to be aware of the increased risk to consumers. Warmer than normal temperatures for this weekend, combined with minus day time tides, may again increase the risk of contracting vibriosis from oysters harvested from Puget Sound.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Drakes Bay Oyster Company: DOI Responds to DBOC's Petition - "Misguided, lacks merit."

 "This isn't about environmental crimes."
Dr. Corey Goodman, Range Magazine, 2013
"The purchase documents specifically informed
petitioners that the right to operate in the
National Seashore would expire in 2012."
DOI Brief
"After careful consideration of the applicable law and policy, I have directed the National Park Service to allow the permit for the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. to expire ... and to return the Drakes Estero to the state of wilderness that Congress designated for it in 1976."
DOI Secretary Salazar, November, 2012 [Note: date corrected 5/29] 
NEWS: Interior Dept. Files Supreme Court Brief, Concludes No Credible Argument Presented

Amy Trainer, Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, 415-306-6052
Neal Desai, National Parks Conservation Association, 510-368-0845
Interior Department Brief Concludes No Credible Argument Presented by Oyster Company
Interior Filing Confirms Oyster Company’s Petition is Misguided, Lacks Merit 
Today, the Department of the Interior filed its opposition brief against the Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s petition for review to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Interior Department’s opposition brief handily rejected the oyster company’s desperate attempt to continue operating more than a year after former Interior Secretary Salazar decided to let the 40-year lease expire on its own terms as planned. The Federal District Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the legality of Salazar’s decision, including that the oyster company was well aware of the lease’s 2012 expiration date.
 “The Interior Department’s brief strongly articulates the many reasons why the Obama Administration’s decision to let the 40-year commercial oyster lease expire and allow Drakes Estero to be restored to wilderness is definitively supported by federal court decisions, as well as federal law and policy,” said Amy Trainer, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. “The Interior Department’s brief handily rejects the oyster company’s misguided and erroneous legal arguments, and seamlessly shows why the Supreme Court should pass on reviewing this case.”
“Three federal court rulings have rejected the oyster company’s assault on taxpayer purchased lands, bringing Americans one step closer to enjoying their national park wilderness as planned decades ago,” said Neal Desai, pacific region field director of the National Parks Conservation Association.
Highlights from the Interior Department’s brief include:
-- The court of appeals accordingly considered on the merits (and rejected) every objection that petitioners [Drakes Bay Oyster Co.] raised against the Secretary’s decision. Pg. 11
-- The petition does not identify any particular, specific, reviewable arguments that were presented to, but disregarded by, the court of appeals. Pg. 14
-- Because the court of appeals did not conclude that there was “no law to apply” in this case, the decision below does not implicate any of the circuit conflicts alleged by petitioners. Pg. 15
-- The decision in this case did not alter the legal status quo. This is not a circumstance in which an agency is required by statute or regulation to act on a permit application. Rather it is a circumstance in which rights reserved in a contract conveying land to the United States were set to expire on their own terms, and the agency did nothing to change that situation. Allowing such rights to expire is not naturally characterized as “major agency action.”And none of the circuit decisions relied on by petitioner suggests that NEPA would apply in a circumstance like this. Pg. 23

                                                                                                         # # #

Amy Trainer
Executive Director
Environmental Action Committee of West Marin
Box 609 Point Reyes, CA 94956

(415) 663-9312 office
(415) 306-6052 cell

Protecting West Marin Since 1971!
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Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth
find reserves of strength that will endure
as long as life lasts.  ~ Rachel Carson

Friday, May 23, 2014

China Lifts Geoduck Ban

Earthfix reports that after the United States agreed to more stringent testing for arsenic it will lift the ban on geoducks and other shellfish.
(see Earthfix for more)

China To Lift Ban On West Coast Shellfish

May 23, 2014 | OPB

China will lift its ban on imports of geoduck clams and other shellfish from the West Coast, according to a statement from Washington Congressman Derek Kilmer.

“The lifting of this ban is great news for shellfish growers and businesses in our region,” Kilmer said Friday in a statement. “China is a key export market for our region’s shellfish and this news means greater economic stability for the workers and families in our region.”

In December, China issued the first ever ban on all shipments of shellfish harvested on the coast from the waters of Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Northern California. That followed China’s determination that a shipment of geoduck clams from Washington showed unsafe levels of inorganic arsenic and another from Alaska showed similarly high levels of the toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning.

Chinese officials sent a letter Friday to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration advising the federal agency the ban would be lifted. The letter stated Chinese officials were satisfied with NOAA’s proposed plans for new monitoring and testing requirements for paralytic shellfish poisoning and inorganic arsenic, which would meet China’s food safety requirements.

China’s ban sparked questions over how shellfish should be inspected before export. The portions of the clam showing levels of the toxins beyond China’s standards are not typically eaten in the U.S. but are in China. The U.S. has no standards for arsenic in shellfish.

The ban also put a brief economic strain on a major Northwest industry. The shellfish industry is worth $270 million in Washington state. The U.S. exported $68 million worth of geoduck clams alone in 2012 — most of which came from Puget Sound. Nearly 90 percent of that went to China.

“I appreciate the hard work of the State Departments of Health and Natural Resources, and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Foreign Agricultural Service and U.S. Trade Representative, for all they’ve done to respond to this case and for effectively communicating to our international trading partners that our seafood is safe and healthy for their consumers,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said. “I also want to thank the staff in my D.C. office for working diligently on bringing resolution to this issue.”

Despite the ban, Washington growers had been shipping shellfish to Asia, with the two main destinations being Hong Kong and Vietnam. NOAA officials will work with federal and state food safety and health officials and the shellfish industry to implement the new requirements, which must be done before trade with China can resume. China still plans to send a team of food safety officials to the U.S. this fall to further discuss the issue and evaluate U.S. monitoring and testing plans.

New Hatchery to Help Restore Native Olympia Oysters in Puget Sound

Puget Sound's Native Olympia Oyster
(Maggie Freeman)

Restoration of Washington's native Olympia oysters, at less than 4% of their historic levels, took a step forward with the opening of the Kenneth K. Chew Center for Shellfish Research and Restoration hatchery. As part of a 10 year plan, the hatchery will focus on providing tribes and agencies a seed source to help rebuild the native population which was brought to near extinction from overharvesting and pollution.

Native Olympia (l) and Pacific (r)
Sea Grant: Restoration efforts at risk from non-native Pacific oyster
While the native Olympia oyster has shown signs of being able to adapt to lower pH levels ("ocean acidification") a larger challenge to restoration efforts may be found in the non-native Pacific oyster, introduced from Japan by the shellfish industry. The ability of the latter to grow quickly made it a more favorable "crop." However, this same ability has also caused Sea Grant to question whether the Pacific oyster presents a risk to the restoration efforts currently taking place in California. In a July 2, 2013 article, they noted the Pacific oyster "... has taken up residence in San Diego’s bays and lagoons and may be in the early stages of a full-fledged, non-native species invasion." The article went further and noted:
The traits that make it so suited to culture could also make it a formidable invader..."Our worry is that native oyster restoration efforts may backfire and we will end up creating habitat for the invasive oyster,” said Danielle Zacherl, a professor at Cal State Fullerton, who has been documenting the Pacific oyster’s spread in San Diego and Orange counties and is involved in native oyster bed restoration in Southern California.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Part 2: Bill Moyers Interviews Environmentalist David Suzuki

David Suzuki, interviewed
by Bill Moyers.

Part 2 of Bill Moyers' interview with David Suzuki explores further the influence of economics on environmental perceptions. As in part one, anyone paying attention to Drakes Bay Oyster Company's well paid public relations press will find insight into how to frame an environmental issue for the benefit of business at the expense of the environment. While focused on climate change, the means used to attack those who believe the climate has in fact changed as a result of human activities, are behind the reasoning used to justify a commercial operation in Drakes Estero, preventing the completion of the Philip Burton Wilderness Area.

In the case of DBOC, labels of "enviro Nazis" and "environmental zealots" are used to describe those who believe the Wilderness Act is clear in saying commercial operations are not compatible with wilderness. A permit's expiration date, well known when the current owners purchased the operation, is now described as "big government's overreaching" action. As noted in Bill Moyers' accompanying article:
In the second part of his conversation with Bill, Canadian scientist and environmental activist David Suzuki says killing the messenger is a 50-year-0ld strategy ripped straight from big tobacco’s playbook.
“This is a very effective thing that we know has been done by the tobacco industry [and] it’s being done by the fossil fuel industry… You attack a person on the basis of their trustworthiness, their ulterior motives, anything to get away from dealing with the issues”
As the Supreme Court's decision on whether to hear the case or not approaches, the arm waving increases. The conservative Pacific Legal Foundation puts out well buffered videos. Professors  complain that science isn't perfect when, in fact, this is an issue of a permit coming to an end not whether a class room experiment was designed correctly. "Friends" with nothing more than their own economic gain from book sales on the history of Drakes Estero feign deep concern. And cocktail party conspiracies of running agriculture out of Marin County, with Sonoma County next, are discussed on talk shows whose primary focus is on listening to speeches played backwards to hear the hidden meanings. It is arm waving which will not lift the idea out of the bridge club. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Pierce County/Haley Geoduck Farm: Coalition and Neighbors Appeal MDNS Decision

Location of the proposed 11 acre "Haley" geoduck farm
on tidelands jointly owned by Taylor Shellfish family,
Seattle Shellfish, and those of the Haley (Almond Roca) family.

The Coalition To Protect Puget Sound Habitat and neighbors of a proposed 11 acre geoduck farm on Case Inlet have appealed the Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance (MDNS) issued by Pierce County. It was felt the lack of analysis by Pierce County which preceded the MDNS decision would set a dangerous precedent for all of Puget Sound. Issues included such things as the large size of the farm; the lack of a clear indication of how the farm would be planted and harvested; and, little to no consideration of the current expansion of geoduck farming which is occurring and will occur in Puget Sound.

The appeal decision - a $2,900 investment in the future of Puget Sound
Unlike the past, it was strongly felt that not appealing the MDNS would set a dangerous precedent for all of Puget Sound. While an appeal fee of $2,900 had to be paid, the alternative of doing nothing would have left the door open for shellfish attorneys to claim, as they have in the past, that because "nobody appealed the MDNS" any environmental concerns should not be considered in the permitting process. It is an investment in the belief that the future of Puget Sound is in balance.

Overview of the Haley farm's location,
just north of Herron Island.
Access to tidelands is denied - "trust us"
Part of the decision rested on the fact that the Taylor family, Seattle Shellfish, and the Haley family refused to grant access to the tidelands to help scientists determine what was there. In the past, shellfish attorneys have stated because expert witnesses did not visit the specific site their testimony should be discounted if not ignored. Now, when given the opportunity to show that the contract scientists hired by the shellfish industry were, in fact, correctly analyzing the habitat, the shellfish industry denies access. Instead, they take a "trust us" attitude because their well paid contract scientists have been there.
Department of Natural Resources'
"Herron Lake" lease proposal,
south of the Haley farm. 

Pierce County, and other counties, cannot operate in a vacuum - a current weakness in the Shoreline Management Act
Also at issue is the fact that Pierce County feels it is only obligated to look at what is occurring in Pierce County. In fact, south Puget Sound's habitat spans three separate counties with three separate approaches to how its tidelands are developed. Pierce and Thurston County both require permits, some more stringent than others, both complained about by the shellfish industry. Immediately to the west, Mason County has chosen to virtually ignore any regulatory oversight of geoduck farming, as seen in this permit note to Arcadia Point Seafood, with similar letters sent to others in the industry:
wrote letter to applicants, Steve and Vicki Wilson, cc'd DOE and Corps, approving proposal without need for SDP [shoreline development permit] or letter of exemption.

Minterbrook Oyster owner Kent Kingman's
 unpermitted developments.

Even Pierce County is challenged by shellfish growers - Minterbrook Oyster owner Kent Kingman's unpermitted bulkheads, shellfish operation and old data
Despite Pierce County's permitting requirements, even shellfish growers make regulatory oversight difficult with unpermitted activities. Within the Coalition's Shoreline Master Plan update submittal to Pierce County is a settlement agreement between Kent Kingman, current owner of Minterbrook Oyster, and Pierce County, for unpermitted developments on his shoreline property at the south end of Herron Island. Included is a major unpermitted shellfish operation; bulkheads; decks; and a dam blocking a stream which created a lagoon (see above and page 9 of the document). Currently, Taylor Shellfish has applied to operate the shellfish farm. Part of the application to resolve the violation incudes an 8 year old (2006) review done for both the DNR site and Mr. Kingman's, hoping to address the "Critical Fish and Wildlife Review." The report was done by Bioaquatics, owned by Dan Cheney, also employed by the Pacific Shellfish Institute. It does not appear any of the above was considered in the decision process which determined the outcome of the MDNS which the Coalition is appealing.

"You too can get rich!"

The tideland rush
Added to the above is a current rush by shellfish growers to lock up as many tidelands as possible for as long as possible. Industry is out of tidelands leaving only private and public tidelands left. Waving promises of great riches before tideland owners who are, for the most part, na├»ve of the long term consequences of their signing on the dotted line, shellfish growers lock them in to long-term leases with a small percentage paid to them. Not discussed is who will clean up the mess when this "geoduck bubble" crashes. It is not a matter of if, only a matter of when.

Support the Coalition and Case Inlet Shoreline Association
You can help the Coalition in its drive to protect Puget Sound's habitat as it was meant to be with a donation to the Case Inlet Shoreline Association (CISA). CISA is a 501c3 organization so donations are tax deductible. More important is the future Puget Sound which you will help create.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Geoduck Management Plan in Canada Causes First Nation Stz'uminus to Act

 “If you’re not going to acknowledge our interests...
… then we’re going to reclaim the area.”
Ray Gauthier, CEO of the Coast Salish Development Corporation
Area in dispute on the East
side of Vancouver Island

Canada's recently released "draft geoduck management plan" which would open vast tracts of British Columbia's tidelands to geoduck harvesting and cultivation has caused the Stz'uminus First Nation to threaten to blockade all commercial fishing in an area of the Straights of Georgia (see here for Area 17 and Area 18 proposed DFO harvest maps). In The Tyee, it was noted Stz'uminus chief John Elliot believes the threat was the culmination of decades of frustrations with what he sees as unsustainable resource management by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), which he added favours commercial fishermen over First Nations. He was quoted as saying:
"...DFO's management plans and policies don't put nations in any position to be successful in any of their territories."
Vancouver Island, Puget Sound and
area Stz'uminus threaten with a blockade.
Unlike the state of Washington, where the courts declared Puget Sound Native American tribal treaty rights allow them 50% of all revenues from subtidal harvesting of geoduck (estimated by Sea Grant at 4 million pounds annually), First Nations (tribes) must apply to the government for harvest rights. In the case of the Stz'uminus, they had applied for an area covering 100 hectares (~247 acres) next to their reserve, but were only granted the right to harvest 5 hectares.

For more on the dispute see CBC News or The Tyee.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bill Moyers Interviews David Suzuki on the Corporate Press to Redefine Environmentalism

Bill Moyers Interviews David Suzuki

Anyone who has listened to or read the corporate lobbyists try and create a "modern environmentalist" to justify why a commercial operation should be allowed in Drakes Estero, part of the Philip Burton Wilderness Area, will find Bill Moyers' interview with David Suzuki on point. In it they discuss the current press by corporate interests to undo decades of work meant to ensure future generations will have some sense of what wilderness and nature truly are.

As put by Al Bergstein on the Olympic Peninsula Environmental News site:
"a coordinated attack on environmentalists from a huge number of media outlets, paid for by corporations that profit from environmentally destructive practices, and backed by billionaires who also profit from the status quo, has effectively countered many of the arguments for progress."
In the case of Drakes Estero, an agreement that a commercial operation would end in 2012 is now being framed by corporate interests as a "small business operator" being pushed off of public lands by environmental "zealots" whose goal, in fact, is to see the completion of the Philip Burton Wilderness Area. It is a goal which has been fought by corporate lobbyists whose goal is nothing more than to put in place a template to gain access to other wilderness areas throughout the United States.  Wilderness areas intended to be protected for future generations, not for commercial exploitation.

Get involved. You can help complete the creation of the Philip Burton Wilderness Area by donating to the West Marin Environmental Action Committee.
[Update 5/12: Corrected Mr. Moyers' name.]

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Full Moon May 14 Brings Deep Minus Tides in South Puget Sound

Full Moon Rises May 14
Lowest Tides Friday and Saturday
Tide Table for Olympia
Get out and see what's there.
Tideland owners - have you been poached?
A special note to tideland owners who have leased and converted their tidelands to geoduck growers: Do you know how many geoducks are on your tidelands? Do you know where your tideland parcel actually starts and ends? Minus tides present an opportunity for you to become educated. Be sure when harvest time comes and reports are received, you'll know if you've been poached. Divide the planted plot on your tidelands, which should be clearly known, into 3'X3' squares and count the number of geoduck "shows" in each square. You don't need to measure the entire plot, although that would be ideal, only a number of samples. Multiply the average number in the sample squares by the number of squares in your tideland area planted and you'll know what you should expect at harvest time.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Willapa Bay Imazamox Spraying: Coalition Submits Comments on Spray Permit Applications

Is an oyster from Willapa Bay really safe to eat?

The Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat has submitted comments on eight separate applications to spray Imazamox on shellfish beds in Willapa Bay. Some of the companies who have asked to be allowed to spray the herbicide on their shellfish beds include: Herrod Fish and Oyster, Long Island Oyster, Northern Oyster, Station House Oyster, Taylor ShellfishWiegardt and Sons, and Willapa Bay Oyster.

Consumers of shellfish harvested from Willapa Bay would do well to question whether those shellfish are truly something they wish to consume.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

California Shellfish Growers and the Coastodian

Do marine waters really need this form of "structure"?

The Coastodian continues to point out the impacts from shellfish operations north of San Francisco. What the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association and Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association promote as "structure" is, through anyone else's eyes, something far different. Especially when whatever minor benefits may be created are destroyed when harvesting removes the "structure."

Unused oyster racks in Tomales Bay.
"Structure" in shellfish lobbyist's eyes.
(from The Coastodian)
More "structure".
When harvested, "structure" is destroyed.
(from TBOC)
If you believe this sort of "structure" is not in the best interest of Tomales Bay, let the manager know. His contact information is: Martin Seiler at mseiler@tomalesbayoystercompany.com. Maybe if he knows people are concerned he will clean up the operation.

Pierce County Planning Commissioner Promoting Conservative Land Group from San Juan Island County

Pierce County Planning Commissioner promotes conservative land use meeting
Should a Pierce County Planning Commissioner draw a line when considering the promotion of a political special interest group? This may be a question to ask of District 1's Mr. Millan. On a social media site he has posted a link to a meeting at the Seattle Yacht Club with the conservative land rights group, Common Sense Alliance. The group, whose board is made up of realtors, contractors, land use consultants, attorneys, builders, and politicians, is opposed to land use regulations which, in many cases, do not favor their field of business.

Come one come all
CSA, with ties to the conservative Freedom Foundation in Thurston County, recently obtained the email addresses of citizens who attended Senator Roach's Shoreline Management Act Workshop. CSA sent an email to all inviting them to a meeting at the Seattle Yacht Club with their attorney from Perkins Coie law firm, Senator Jan Angel, and Senator Roach. Included in the email were Pierce County's Debby Hyde (Planning and Land Services), Dan Roach (Pierce County Councilman and son of Senator Roach), and his assistant Tammi Lewis.

San Juan Island residents question CSA
For a perspective on CSA and their approach to local politics, consider this letter about the Freedom Foundation's involvement in San Juan County [click here] or another on the need for regulations which CSA is opposed to [click here].

For a longer perspective, this editorial by John Darrah, retired King County superior court judge, was published by The Journal of the San Juan Islands:

A carefully crafted campaign against the Critical Areas Ordinance during 2011-2012 resulted in the defeat of two County Council members in the 2012 fall election. The campaign was so quiet and so well executed that the election results were generally greeted as a surprise.

This examination of the campaign is limited to what appeared in the Journal of the San Juan Islands because of its large circulation, the large bloc of voters covered, and the fact that most voters receive their information about the ordinance from the media rather than attending council and planning commission meetings. Other activities of the campaign, including what may have appeared in other islands’ media, are not considered here.

The campaign against the CAO appears to have started with a call to action on Feb. 23, 2011, but began in earnest in September and continued on to the election in 2012. It consisted of a flurry of ads authored by the Common Sense Alliance, the first in February 2011 and the last in April 2012, and many well written letters and opinion pieces that continued for over a year. There is no direct tie between the ads and the letters but the messages are essentially the same.

Before looking at the facts, it is helpful to consider how people opposed to the CAO might go about defeating it. After all, these islands count orca and salmon and their food chain as very important and the CAO aims at reducing human sourced pollution that affects them.

If the "Antis" were to consult an advertising or political guru, they would be told at least three things: 1) define the issue in your favor; 2) make yourselves out to be the good guys; and 3) paint the opposition as the bad guys. Let’s see how well they did.

If you were to go over past issues of the Journal, this is what you would find: The letters and opinion pieces against the CAO began on Sept. 7, 2011 and continued through Oct. 31, 2012. Including an outlier on March 30, 2011 immediately following the first ad, they number 58.

Some were calm and reasoned; some were emotional or angry. The one thing common to all these letters is that not one mentions forage fish, salmon, orcas, birds or any species that might be affected by pollution. On the other hand, almost all use bold negatives to describe the proposed CAO, including “incomprehensible,”  “overreaching,” “harsh,“  “vague,” “out of balance,” “burdensome,” and “Trojan horse.”

Many letters touched on the possible economic impact: it hurts owners, builders and jobs; it lowers property values and makes it hard to get bank loans. Some compared it to regulations on Nantucket,
where now only rich people can live.

A recurring theme was that there was no evidence that a change was needed in the CAO: our current law has been serving us well for years and there is no showing that it is not doing its job.
“Best available science” is the state standard to guide regulations, and the council’s stance was attacked as “not balanced,”  “abracadabra,” and “our science is better than yours.”
Finally, the pro-CAO crowd was roundly condemned: They were labeled “dishonest” and “extreme environmentalists.” The Friends of the San Juans was given a drubbing as “misleading,” “intellectual,” a ”small group of environmentalists,” ”activist bullying,” and a ”gang of zealots.”  The County Council was described as captured by highly paid consultants and as not listening to the public outcry. The Pros were seen as spending millions in their effort. They pushed the “most restrictive, anti-human laws,”  “the worst assault on individual liberty in the county’s history.”
A review of the Journal regarding messages in favor of the CAO reveals quite a different picture. Of 90 letters or opinion pieces written, 32 were pro as opposed to 58 anti – 36 percent to 64 percent.
Those expressing approval described the regulations as “carefully drawn,” “preserving beautiful places” and “needing citizen support.” One called for “extreme protection” and several praised county staff or the Friends for their work. (Both the Pros and the Antis spent much time answering the others’ arguments about buffers, grandfathering, mitigation, setbacks, non-conforming uses and the like.)

Four pro letters mentioned the protection of critters but most simply responded to the latest anti arguments. With regard to science, beside the protection of fish and endangered species, one talked of the pollution of the commons; another said the fight was “between scientists and realtors and developers.” Real estate value was thought to be enhanced by a strict CAO and it was noted that buffers protect you from your uphill neighbor.

Finally as to labeling the Antis, only four spoke out: 1) “vocal minority,” 2) “alarmist,” 3) “providing misinformation” and 4) “right wing interest groups.” Another protested about the Antis’ use of a snake to depict county government.

Moving to the advertisements, we find the first on Feb. 23, 2011 by the Citizen’s Alliance for Property Rights. (Our count of letters and opinion pieces begins at this time although we keep them separate from the ads). The other ads are on Sept. 28, Oct. 12, and Nov. 2, 2011, and then five in a row ,from March 7 to April 4, 2012. All are authored by the Common Sense Alliance.

The first ad establishes a government-and-special-interests-against-us theme and then gives notice of a meeting to plan a response. The Nov. 2, 2011 ad also gives notice of a meeting in which lawyers would discuss the CAO and property rights. All other ads display a negative message about the CAO and its process with the help of graphics.

On Sept. 28, 2011 a snake is squeezing an islander by means of the new CAO. On Oct. 12, 2011 a citizen notes the load of "B.S." a scientist has in his buckets which the scientist insists is BAS (best available science.) In the first two weeks in March 2012, two ads depict Dorothy and her friends in the land of Oz bewildered by what has been created by the CAO. In the last two weeks of March, the graphics portray a baseball player at the mercy of an umpire who has changed the rules, illustrating how the Department of Ecology has re-written the rules against property owners. The first two weeks in April 2012 have a distraught former property owner on a raft, adrift on a sea of regulations and the message is that the San Juans are “off limits to humans.”

Advertisements on the pro side are only two: Nov. 30 and Dec. 14, 2011, placed by Friends of the San Juans. Both briefly ask and answer questions about the proposed new CAO provisions and alert readers to upcoming county meetings.

A comparison of the pro and anti ads is striking. In size, the two Friends ads total 27 column inches whereas the 12 ads by CAPR/Common Sense Alliance cover 220 column inches. At the going rate of $14.50 per column inch, the Friends spent about $390 and the Antis spent about $3,200.
In content the pro ads were matter-of-fact, resembling the mild tone of language to be found in a school textbook. The anti ads were mostly urgent with the graphics backing up the message of alarm or unfairness.

That in a nutshell is what you would find if you went back through past issues of the Journal. What can we make of it?

The advertisements tell us that at the outset the anti-CAO folks changed their identification from CAPR (Citizen Alliance for Property Rights) to Common Sense Alliance, a change that was more likely to make them appear to be the good guys. The ads carried a consistent and strident message  - essentially the same as the CAO letters. For readers who wouldn’t remember the words, the graphics (the snake, the scientist with his bucket of BS, the bewildered characters from Oz, and the tormented property owner adrift on a sea of regulations) drove home the message.

The parallel letter barrage including opinion pieces from September 2011 to October 2012 starting and ending abruptly was a fairly disciplined effort to portray both the CAO and its supporters as bad. They stayed on message. No one, not a single letter, mentioned the wildlife that the CAO purports to protect, and the science was ridiculed as bad science or not applicable to the islands.

The ads, the letters and the opinion pieces all followed the political campaign advice we mentioned earlier. They labeled themselves as having “common sense” in contrast to the pro-CAO crowd who were labeled extreme or worse.  By defining the issue as property rights and property values, they gave center stage to lawyers and realtors as opposed to scientists who would have nothing to say. While science may have been the issue before the county council, the “worst assault on individual liberty” was the issue in the court of public opinion.

The pro-CAO response to this campaign can only be seen as feeble from a political issue point of view and without organization. Individual letters argued with points made by the Antis but there was no evident agenda or consistency to them. There was no attempt to redefine the issue or to paint the Antis as the bad guys.

In short, the Antis had almost double the participation, stayed on message and established the CAO as a very bad regulation. In contrast, the Pros hadn’t a clue.

Whether the backers of this campaign had in mind simply putting pressure on the county council or whether they saw it as a springboard for an election campaign, the timing of the CAO process allowed two candidates to run successfully against two incumbents, using the CAO issue as a weapon. Exit polls by a skilled pollster could have calibrated the extent of the campaign’s effect but the narrow margin by which two newcomers beat two seasoned incumbents should indicate it was a big factor.

The voter trying to make sense of the rhetoric might see two possibilities. Either the council, spurred on by radical environmentalists, labored mightily to construct an ordinance that was confusing, unnecessary and costly to the landowner, or the realtors/developers and political ideologues wanted to keep regulations and development costs to a minimum. Two articles in the Journal (June 8 and August 22, 2011) might help resolve the voter’s quandary.

In them the basic issues are laid out and then-councilman Richard Fralick is quoted, “large, same-size ‘dumb buffers’ around all critical areas would be easy for the county to administer.”  The articles synthesize the council’s intent in this regard as “to avoid following a ‘one-size-fits all’ approach in favor of developing a regimen of site specific and ‘tailored’ buffers and setbacks that would apply to existing and future development.” Thus, if the CAO seems complicated, it’s largely because the Council wanted the owners to have more options building on their land. The more detailed options might indeed increase costs for a developer or someone wanting to turn a house into a mega-mansion, but they would not likely affect a homeowner’s sale of property or the addition of a deck or garden.
All of the campaign and the response to it are quintessential examples of American free speech. If one objects to the tactics or arguments of one side or the other, one need merely look to our past national or state elections to observe far worse.

Perhaps this campaign foretells the future of political discourse in the San Juans. Perhaps even local candidates and issues will soon require large advertising budgets and the guidance of expensive political consultants. If there is a way to avoid this, it would require a potent neutral force that provides a venue for debate that renders money or stealthy campaigns impotent.

Perhaps we should think about how islanders want to talk to each other about important issues.

— Editor’s note: An abbreviated version of the opinion piece above by John Darrah, a part-time resident of San Juan Island and retired King County superior court judge — conforming to Journal's policy for word limits on guest columns, was published in the April 3 of the Journal.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Shellfish Lobbyist Complains of Lobbying to Create a Marine Sanctuary

Bob Rheault
Shellfish Lobbyist
"My lobbying is different."

Bob Rheault, shellfish lobbyist and head of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association (ECSGA), has complained about the creation of a marine sanctuary in Massachusetts. Apparently "surprised" at the state's House action (it must still be passed by the Senate) he has begun a lobbying campaign himself, intended to show this is little more than the "affluent" attempting to keep "muddy people" out of the waters and tidelands in the area. Apparently he believes the lobbying he does for his industry to be allowed to go wherever, whenever, and do whatever, is different.

Shellfish industry lobbying is different.
They also serve oysters.
"Our legislators have a healthy appetite for good oysters."

"buy off the legislature"
In his political press to prevent the sanctuary's creation Mr. Rheault attempts to frame the political process as the affluent buying politicians off. He apparently forgets his trips to Washington DC  where his "walk on the hill" with his "legislative agenda" in hand is pressed on politicians. There, oysters are used as "hard currency" to influence the political process at the many banquets the industry sponsors.
 It's structure so it's good.

"the gear provides excellent habitat"
He claims the plastic mesh bags create "structure" which creates an artificial reef. He ignores the reality that this "structure" first transforms the habitat they are placed in. More importantly he ignores the reality that this so called "reef" is destroyed when the bags are removed at harvest time.

"dirty muddy people"
He describes shellfish workers as little more than "dirty muddy people" who he believes people do not wish to look at. Mr. Rheault's employees may want to ask how he perceives them the next time he tells them during a winter's low tide at midnight in a storm that it's time to go harvest oysters for him and his political friends.

politics is messy
Industry lobbyist Mr. Rheault may want to consider how he is perceived when he expresses his deep concerns over political lobbying. Especially when it is over trying to protect the marine environment his wealth is derived from.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Nisqually Tribe Elder Billy Frank Passes Away

Billy Frank Jr with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell

Billy Frank Jr., Nisqually Tribe elder and one of the strongest advocates for the preservation of Washington's greatest natural resource, Puget Sound, has passed away at the age of 83. It can be said with conviction that few in Washington did more to bring awareness to the critical importance of Puget Sound for everyone - whether tribal or otherwise - than he did. His energy and focus on the belief that Puget Sound's waters and tidelands provide a habitat producing a diversity of life found nowhere else will be deeply missed and difficult to replace. (Read more of the depth of Billy Frank Jr's influence here.)

Monday, May 5, 2014

West Coast Starfish Die Off Still a Mystery

"...it is possible the pathogen killing them
is nature's way of controlling the population."
A common starfish at the mouth
of Hammersley Inlet missing 2 arms. 
(credit Protect Our Shoreline)

The source of what has been described as the largest die off of starfish in the northwest and along the west coast is still unknown. CBC news from Canada has suggested it may be a pathogen but as of yet it is not yet been proven to be a bacteria, virus or protozoa. Arms pulling themselves off of the starfish, sometimes leaving a living starfish, and other times not, or a slow wasting away of the starfish are symptoms. [for arm separation, see this video at 3:40]

A Sun Starfish, also at the mouth
of Hammersley Inlet, showing lesions
which precede the leg separation.
(credit Protect Our Shoreline)
Whatever the cause, it is widespread and seemingly focused in waters of Puget Sound and British Columbia. You can help track sick star fish through the SickStarfish website. 
Cluster of healthy starfish
in South Puget Sound.

(credit Protect Our Shoreline)


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mason County Shoreline Master Program Upate Meeting May 5

Mason County's Planning Advisory Commission (PAC) will hold a meeting May 5 at 6PM to continue development of the County's Shoreline Master Program (SMP) update. The public is welcome to attend and provide comments. The meeting will be held at Shelton in Mason County Building 1, 411 N 5th Street.

The agenda for the Monday evening meeting is located here: Agenda
(Grading, fill, excavation and dredging are among the regulations to be discussed)

Changes to the current SMP may be viewed here: SMP Update
(Changes to aquaculture begin on page 55)

Current members include:
Bill Dewey - Taylor Shellfish
Vicki Wilson - Arcadia Point Seafood
Rob Drexler - Windermere Real Estate
Tim Duffy - (recently appointed)
Ken VanBuskirk - US Forest Service (retired)
Kristy Buck - John L. Scott Real Estate

Friday, May 2, 2014

Coalition Appeals Approval of Applyng the Herbicide Imazamox to Willapa Bay Clam Beds

Will Imazamox make shellfish
from Willapa Bay safe to eat?
PRESS RELEASE-Olympia, Washington
For more information, contact:
Thane Tienson, Attorney for Coalition To Protect Puget Sound Habitat (503) 224-4100
Laura Hendricks (253) 509-4987
Yesterday, the Coalition [to Protect Puget Sound Habitat] filed administrative appeals with the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board challenging the Department of Ecology's approval of a NPDES General Spray Permit for Willapa Bay. This General Spray Permit violates or is inconsistent with the laws, policies, and guidelines of virtually every state and federal law applicable to Willapa Bay, including the CWA, ESA, MSA, GMA, SMA, SEPA and MBTA.. The proposed use is also contrary to the FIFRA product label and is a violation of the Washington Pesticide Control Act, RCW 15.58.150(2)(c).
The issuance of this challenged NPDES General Permit was the product of a very successful lobbying campaign on the part of the shellfish industry. In 2011, the WDFW took Zostera japonica off the priority habitat list, a step that allowed the State Weed Board, at the urging of the industry, to then list Zostera japonica as a noxious weed, and to then lobby for the issuance of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) Permit to spray Imazamox throughout shellfish beds in the State of Washington, all in order to expand greatly the production of commercial shellfish. The Willapa-Grays Harbor Oysters Growers Association asked Ecology to authorize the use of the herbicide Imazamox to control Zostera japonica on commercial shellfish beds throughout Washington, but because of concerns expressed by citizens, scientists, and agencies alike, Ecology concluded that it should narrow its focus to only commercial clam beds (excluding geoduck beds) in Willapa Bay. Shellfish growers continue to request a General Spray Permit for Puget Sound.
Ecology is obligated by a host of laws, including the SMA, to provide protection to the most sensitive uses - that is, aquatic and aquatic-dependent species such as migratory waterfowl and fish, including anadromous salmonids, especially when they qualify as threatened or endangered species - over the desire of the shellfish industry to acquire more habitat to engage in commercial planting of yet another exotic species -non-native manila clams.
This General Permit has no prohibition at all on the spraying of native eelgrass (Zostera marina), despite the fact it constitutes critical saltwater habitat for a variety of species, including threatened and depressed salmonid and green sturgeon populations, in regulated areas.
The actions proposed to be taken pursuant to the subject General Permit are contrary to Washington State goals on reducing ocean acidification and will only exacerbate ocean acidification effects. In addition, the removal of Zostera japonica, a rooted aquatic plant, by the proposed discharge would result in the release of significant nutrients back into the waters of Willapa Bay, along with a loss of a process by which the nutrients are removed from the water.
For the foregoing reasons, the Appellants have asked that the Pollution Control Hearings Board set aside Ecology’s decision to issue a General Permit for Zostera Japonica Management on Commercial Clam Beds in Willapa Bay. 
Appeal link:
Detailed Information can be found on the Coalition's Petition to Governor Inslee at: