Groups Challenge Army Corps of Engineers’ Refusal to Protect Puget Sound Shorelines

Corps’ Seattle District violates Clean Water Act, endangers Sound recovery
May 21, 2018

Seattle, WA —A lawsuit filed today against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) charges that the agency has refused to assert its Clean Water Act jurisdiction over most shoreline armoring in Puget Sound, and that endangered species and Sound shorelines are suffering the negative impacts of the Corps’ continued inaction.

Washington Environmental Council, Sound Action and Friends of the San Juans filed the suit after the Corps rejected a science-based government recommendation to correct its unlawful definition of the Seattle District Corps’ jurisdiction over shoreline armoring projects.

The coalition, represented by Earthjustice, is calling for federal oversight of shoreline armoring by raising what the Corps’ Seattle District considers the “high tide line” in order to better protect at-risk species and the shorelines themselves. The lawsuit also calls for a response to the groups’ 2015 petition asking for jurisdictional decisions on four shoreline armoring projects. The groups contend a strong federal policy to protect shorelines is critical to Puget Sound recovery.

“Shoreline armoring impairs the health of Puget Sound by damaging nearshore habitat important for forage fish that feed salmon,” said Mindy Roberts, Puget Sound director for Washington Environmental Council. “Currently, federal agencies don’t consider impacts from these structures, because their definition of what constitutes ‘the shoreline’ is too lax.”

Background

Armoring is the placement of hard structures — boulders, jetties, seawalls — on shorelines to help prevent erosion. The Corps is required by law to review proposed armoring projects up to the “high tide line,” which is generally the line at which land meets the water. But the Corps’ Seattle District uses a much lower tidal marker (known as the “mean higher high water” mark). As a result, the Seattle District does not review the majority of armoring projects in Puget Sound.

The Corps’ failure to assert jurisdiction means there has been no federal oversight of whether most armoring projects in the Sound meet the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act or any other federal requirement.

Further, the Corps recently rejected an interagency recommendation to use a higher tidal marker, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, which prohibits arbitrary and capricious agency actions. In rejecting the recommendation, the Corps ignored sound science and the law.

“The Corps has known for years that its high tide line marker in Puget Sound is unlawfully low,” said Anna Sewell, Earthjustice attorney for the plaintiffs. “But the Corps put its head in the sand and rejected a science-based recommendation from three regional federal agencies — including the Seattle District Corps itself — to protect 8,600 acres of shoreline area by raising that marker.”

This troubling lack of federal support puts Puget Sound shorelines at risk of further deterioration, particularly when shoreline armoring is well documented to be one of the most significant risks to the Sound.

“Puget Sound is already on the brink of collapse due to continued habitat loss, and it’s critical that the laws put in place to protect nearshore ecosystems are both followed and enforced,” said Sound Action Executive Director Amy Carey. “Unless we act now, the forage fish, the salmon and the orcas that are so desperately struggling to survive will be lost forever. It’s up to all of us to ensure this doesn’t happen — and it starts by holding the permitting agencies accountable for doing their jobs.”

“By disavowing its statutory authority, the Corps has shielded harmful projects from a review of their impacts on critically endangered and culturally vital Northwest species,” added Kyle Loring, staff attorney, Friends of the San Juans. “Its high-tide interpretation also leaves state and local governments on their own, at a time when our publicly-funded agencies should be working together to do everything in their power to protect what remains of our region’s rich heritage.”

The Corps must respond to the lawsuit within 60 days.

Reporter Resource

Read the brief.

Damning emails surface showing state concerns over aquaculture methods

Laura Hendricks has been working against geoduck farming aquaculture for over a decade. She has often been portrayed quite negatively by the shellfish industry, as they routinely attempt to label her as a ‘radical environmentalist’.  This reporter has heard her called that by representatives of the shellfish industry public relations team. Her tactics have often been at odds with other environmental organizations. Recently, she requested through a public records request emails between Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and the Pacific Coast Shellfish Industry, a lobbying organization for the shellfish industry.
The latest document that she has surfaced shows a picture of industry attempting to influence (and weaken) any attempt at state regulation over it’s use of state tidelands. In the last decade, in an effort to head off attempts to provide greater state regulations over their conversion of thousands of acres of tidelands into valuable geoduck farms, (which sells virtually all their product to China), the aquaculture industry has put together a public relations and lobbying machine that has worked to keep any regulation that may thwart more conversion of nearshore into production from reaching law. At the time of the email, 2002, the industry was putting together a self regulation effort, to forestall any attempts by environmentalists to get the State of Washington to better regulate their industry.
The Washington Shellfish Initiative, which has been implemented by Governor Inslee, primarily works to enhance and expand shellfish harvest in Puget Sound. The issues raised in this newly found email, appear to never have made it into any working framework for regulation of the industry. The question it raises, is “Why weren’t they?”
The document, by Gail Kreitman, who was the regulatory services manager for the habitat program of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife ends with a with a damning list of negative consequences that the aquaculture industry causes, or could cause, to shorelines.
The State and Tribes  are struggling to save Orca and restore native salmon, forage fish and herring populations. At the same time, the State is allowing conversion of  hundreds and hundreds of acres of nearshore into farms for geoduck, along with the attentive shore based work . We in the environmental community have fought for less farms and more protections for the shore and shoreline for the last few decades. We have asked for some basic protections to the habitat.
That a home owner must produce a detailed state Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) to describe possible negative effects of something as simple as a dock remodel, yet the aquaculture industry does not have to detail destruction  or mitigation of hundreds of acres of geoduck farm conversion of the same habitat, is an issue that must be addressed if we have any hope of restoring species. The industry claims that science has shown that the bottom (known as the benthic layer) will recover when the farms are removed. It is a well known fact that once a farm is installed, there is no ‘return to natural processes’ as the farm is in place essentially forever.
Kathy Fletcher and People for Puget Sound was involved in efforts to bring greater scientific scrutiny to the aquaculture industry in the late part of the last decade. These efforts were to find or create the science to prove the case of aquaculture consequences. The industry fought them to a standstill, ending with a long term study of impacts of aquaculture on the nearshore that found issues with the benthic layer and requested further study, which was never funded.  If People For Puget Sound would have had these emails, it may have significantly impacted the outcome of the debate back then, as the State knew that these impacts were possible yet did not choose to force the issue by requiring the same due diligence that individuals were required to do.  That these documents by public officials were not allowed into the public debate of that era is a travesty and a testament to the power of the lobbying machine that the shellfish industry employs. What is also disheartening is that the State apparently refused to bring environmental organizations into this discussion,  who where fighting for the protections that the State was unwilling to fight for themselves.

Ms Hendricks has joined a lawsuit seeking to force the state to issue HPA’s for aquaculture. The lawsuit seems to be  a long shot that may do more harm than good for the cause if they lose. But the  discussion in this email exchange is key to getting public officials off their positions about the lack of harm of aquaculture. The email definitively documents what a lead state habitat bureaucrat saw as the known dangers to the nearshore.

Very few are arguing against aquaculture in total. Most of us enjoy the fruits of their labor. But they, like all of us, need to operate within a framework of protections that ensure that they do as little harm as possible to the environment. 
We can have both better protections and aquaculture. But the industry has been not fully truthful in it’s attempts to paint itself as a beneficial environmental industry. They have fought to be self regulated. It’s clear that they have not earned the right to do so, since they cannot be trusted to put in place stringent environmental protections.  I highly recommend that you read the PDF document I attach from her below.

From Laura Hendricks:
Since many of you are still working on aquaculture regulations or permitting, we thought you would be interested in how the shellfish industry avoided state environmental regulation.
We found the attached records from a WDFW public records request that clearly document 28 pages of “Aquaculture-Fish Impacts” that WDFW compiled in 2000.
The 2002 letter from Gayle Kretiman is telling when she states: “Much of the Codes of Practice is written to convince the public that the shellfish industry is a good environmental steward and that further regulation is unnecessary…..”Though WDFW supports the intent of these statements, they are misleading given that the Code of Practice fails to inform the reader that the operations of the commercial shellfish industry in Washington State are currently unregulated at the state level.  To date, the Washington Department of Agriculture has failed to develop or adopt rules that address the risks and impacts to marine habitats and natural resources that can result from commercial shellfish operations.”
We can see why Mr. Dewey stated in his email that “So far, I am only mildly panicked.” It is clear that the shellfish lobbying stopped the state regulations in 2000 and instead introduced the self serving Environmental Codes of Practice (ECOP) that most counties/Shorelines Hearings Board used to guide their permitting in the past. It must also be noted that the Department of Agriculture never issued any aquaculture regulations and the new 2018 aquaculture office is there to streamline permitting–not to protect marine habitats and natural resources. It is a fact that the Shellfish Initiative which is only a lobbying effort called for by Taylor Shellfish and promoted by NOAA is now being used since the ECOP’s were no longer giving the industry cover from regulation.
Considering the massive lobbying efforts by the shellfish industry to avoid state regulation. it is even more important that our counties and the Army Corps protect our marine habitats when even WDFW lists 28 pages of “fish related impacts” as of May 17, 2000.
We must protect our marine habitats from industrial aquaculture if we have even a chance of saving Chinook salmon, Orca’s and other marine life. I have already sent this information to our Pierce County as they continue to work on their SMP update.
Sincerely,
Laura Hendricks
 The email conversation of 2002.
Additional readings on the subject. The Seattle Journal of Environmental Law published an article by Lindsay Ward, in May 2014. Called The Legal and Enviromental Implications of the Washington Shellfish Initiative: Is it Sustainable? This comprehensive overview of the legal framework which has been implemented since the emails of 2002 clearly shows how the state works together with the shellfish industry to promote shellfish farming over environmental protections, protections which were implemented to protect Hood Canal summer run Chum and Puget Sound Chinook salmon and it’s required habitat. The same salmon that Governor Inslee has recently signed an executive order and called a task force together to attempt to save.
From the Lindsay Ward document:

The economic importance of shellfish to Washington’s economy, both as a source of revenue and job creation, is evident. What is less clear, however, is the (Washingont Shellfish) Initiative’s ability to successfully carry out its objectives while following the legal mandates proscribed by Washington’s Shoreline Management Act (SMA), as well as other legal doctrines. While the Washington Shellfish Initiative bills itself as promoting a sustainable clean water industry, its directives fall far from the Initiative’s claim of enhancing and protecting this valuable resource in a sustainable manner. Where this endeavor may destroy our pristine coastal environments forever, an assessment of both legal mandates surrounding shellfish aquaculture as well as the environmental ramifications of improper shellfish aquaculture growth is necessary to ensure that Washington’s coastlines and encompassing habitat are protected from destruction.

Primarily, the environmental consequences of implementing the Initiative pose massive and irreparable consequences for the environment.”
Read the whole story on the history and current threats from the Washington Shellfish Initiative here:
Seattle Journal of Environmental Law:Vol 4. Issue 1 Article 6

Job listing: P/T Program Assistant – Jefferson MRC

 

2018 Program Assistant Job Posting – Temporary, Part-time 

APPOINTMENT:   July 1 – Nov. 30, 2018.  Total of 325 hours over 5 months. 

ORGANIZATION/LOCATION:   Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee (MRC), based at the WSU Extension Office, 121 Oak Bay Rd, Port Hadlock, WA  98339  

SALARY:   $20.00/hour, no benefits. Workdays and times will vary.  

JOB DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:  This person will assist the MRC in bringing stormwater-related educational programs and activities to 3-5 communities or neighborhoods in Jefferson County.   

TASKS:  The Program Assistant will:  

  • Write and submit short articles on stormwater management and rain gardens for community/neighborhood newsletters 
  • Work with each community association’s board or designated committee to plan and implement at least one action-based program 
  • Establish a mechanism for disseminating and managing short-term community incentive programs that would encourage participation and collaboration 
  • Submit press releases to the Peninsula Daily News, Port Townsend Leader newspapers, and other local news outlets 
  • Utilize social media to disseminate announcements, invitations to participate, and project news 
  • Work with volunteers to assemble public outreach table displays and provide staffing for selected community events 
  • Share written materials with 2 other MRCs 

 

SUPERVISED BY:  Bob Simmons (WSU Extension) and Cheryl Lowe (MRC Coordinator) 

 

QUALIFICATIONS:  

The successful applicant will be self-directed and motivated; able to work independently; and have strong organizational skills. S/he must have a demonstrated ability to communicate effectively (verbally and in writing) with diverse audiences; be familiar with online technology including website updates and social media tools: and have experience working with volunteers. Some knowledge of stormwater issues and/or experience with environmental education is preferred.  

MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS:  

  • The applicant must be at least 18 years old and have completed at least one year of post-secondary coursework.  
  • Successful completion of a background check.  
  • Possess a valid WA driver’s license and have reliable transportation with current automobile liability insurance. 

APPLICATION & DEADLINE:  

Submit a letter of intent and resume to the Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee at Cheryl.lowe@wsu.edu . 

 

Deadline for submitting application is June 7, 2018. 

 

In your letter of intent, please answer the following questions:  

  • Why do you want to be an MRC Program Assistant?  
  • How do you see yourself contributing to the stormwater management effort through this position?  
  • What skills do you have that will be particularly useful for this position?  
  • How does this position fit into your future plans?  
  • How do you think you will benefit from this position?  

A selection committee will review the submitted materials and contact qualified applicants to schedule interviews, tentatively scheduled for June 14-15. Hiring decisions will be made within the following 2 weeks.   

 

Lawsuit seeks more review of projects that ‘armor’ Puget Sound shoreline – Seattle Times

Good independent overview of the lawsuit filed yesterday  by Sound Action, Friends of the San Juans and Washington Environmental Council (WEC).

Restoring the natural shoreline at the Elwha River where it meets the sea is part of an ongoing battle to heal Puget Sound — along with a lawsuit to achieve better environmental review of new shoreline projects.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/lawsuit-seeks-more-review-of-projects-that-armor-puget-sound-shoreline/?utm_source=marketingcloud&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Morning+Brief+5-22-18_5_22_2018

State denies request to move juvenile Atlantic salmon to Bainbridge net pens -AP & various

Well, this is likely the end of the line for Atlantic net pen raised salmon in Puget Sound. Good news for wild fish and the benthic layer in those locations.

Washington state fish managers have denied a request by Cooke Aquaculture to move thousands of juvenile Atlantic salmon from its hatchery to marine net pens in Kitsap County. The Department of Fish and Wildlife said Thursday it rejected the company’s application because the move would increase the risk of fish disease transmission both within and outside the pens…. Tests taken from samples of fish that would have been transported showed they had a form of the fish virus PRV that has not been known to occur in Washington waters. WDFW fish health manager Ken Warheit called it an “exotic strain” that differs from the variety that had been present in the eastern Pacific Ocean, creating an “unknown risk that made it unacceptable.” (Associated Press)

Salmon spawn fierce debate over protecting endangered species, thanks to a single gene-Science Magazine

interesting news…big possible impacts for dam removal projects.

…Researchers had concluded that the Klamath’s spring-run Chinook are genetically similar to fall-run Chinook.

New research findings, however, are forcing scientists and federal officials to revisit that decision. In 2017, researchers announced that they’d identified a single gene that appears to control whether Chinook salmon, as well as steelhead, a closely related species of rainbow trout, migrate upriver before or after reaching sexual maturity. They concluded that the genetic change that produced spring-run Chinook occurred only once in the species’s history.

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/05/salmon-spawn-fierce-debate-over-protecting-endangered-species-thanks-single-gene

Troubling report on the use of chemicals in National Refuges

Given the current discussion about allowing large scale aquaculture in the Dungeness Bay National Refuge, it’s worth looking at what’s happening at other refuges across the country. While most of these are land based, it’s not likely that most people assume that pesticides are allowed to be sprayed in wildlife refuges. It points out why the Army Corp. of Engineers needs to do more diligence with the permit applicant before coming to a conclusion about what to do.


For Immediate Release, May, 10, 2018

Contact: Hannah Connor, (202) 681-1676, hconnor@biologicaldiversity.org

Analysis: 490,000 Pounds of Toxic Pesticides Sprayed on National Wildlife Refuges

Pesticide Use on Crops Grown in Refuges Spikes in California, Oregon, Arkansas, Tennessee, Maryland

WASHINGTON— America’s national wildlife refuges are being doused with hundreds of thousands of pounds of dangerous agricultural pesticides every year, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Center report, No Refuge, reveals that an estimated 490,000 pounds of pesticides were dumped on commodity crops like corn, soybeans and sorghum grown in national wildlife refuges in 2016, the most recent year for which data are available. The analysis was conducted with records obtained by the Center under the Freedom of Information Act.

“These refuges are supposed to be a safe haven for wildlife, but they’re becoming a dumping ground for poisonous pesticides,” said Hannah Connor, a senior attorney at the Center who authored the analysis. “Americans assume these public lands are protected and I think most people would be appalled that so many pesticides are being used to serve private, intensive agricultural operations.”

The pesticides include the highly toxic herbicides dicamba and 2,4-D, which threaten the endangered species and migrating birds that wildlife refuges were created to protect. Refuge pesticide use in 2016 was consistent with pesticide applications on refuges over the previous two years, the Center analysis showed.

America’s 562 national wildlife refuges include forests, wetlands and waterways vital to thousands of species, including more than 280 protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Yet intensive commercial farming has become increasingly common on refuge lands, triggering escalating use of highly toxic pesticides that threaten the long-term health of these sensitive habitats and the wildlife that depend on them.

In 2016 more than 270,000 acres of refuge land were sprayed with pesticides for agricultural purposes. The five national wildlife refuge complexes most reliant on pesticides for agricultural purposes in 2016 were:

  • Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex in California and Oregon, with 236,966 pounds of pesticides;
  • Central Arkansas Refuges Complex in Arkansas, with 48,725 pounds of pesticides;
  • West Tennessee Refuge Complex in Tennessee, with 22,044 pounds of pesticides;
  • Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Tennessee, with 16,615 pounds of pesticides;
  • Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, with 16,442 pounds of pesticides.

Additional findings from the report:

  • Aerial pesticide spraying: In 2016, 107,342 acres of refuge lands were aerially sprayed with 127,020 pounds of pesticides for agricultural purposes, including approximately 1,328 pounds of the notoriously drift-prone dicamba, which is extremely toxic to fish, amphibians and crustaceans.
  • Glyphosate: In 2016 more than 55,000 agricultural acres in the refuge system were treated with 116,200 pounds of products containing glyphosate, the pesticide that has caused widespread decreases in milkweed plants, helping to trigger an 80 percent decline of the monarch butterfly over the past two decades.
  • 2,4-D: In 2016 more than 12,000 refuge acres were treated with 15,819 pounds of pesticide products containing 2,4-D, known to be toxic to mammals, birds, amphibians, crustaceans, reptiles and fish and is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of endangered and threatened salmonids.
  • Paraquat dichloride: In 2016 more than 3,000 acres of corn and soybean crops on refuge lands were treated, mainly through aerial spraying, with approximately 6,800 pounds of pesticides containing paraquat dichloride, known to be toxic to crustaceans, mammals, fish, amphibians and mollusks and so lethal it is banned in 32 counties, including the European Union.

“These pesticides are profoundly dangerous for plants and animals and have no place being used on such a staggering scale in our wildlife refuges,” Connor said. “The Interior Department needs to put an end to this outrage and return to its mission of protecting imperiled wildlife, not row crops.”

 

No Refuge

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Where did the Puget Sound green crabs come from? We’re still not sure.- Puget Sound Institute

It’s amazing how far afield the Columbia River affects environments. I’ve also heard it said by folks researching it that our Orca prefer (historically that is) the Columbia River (and Fraser River) Chinook and Chum. Maybe because of swimming longer distances make them more muscular? But again, research is the key to assumptions.

Genetic testing shows that invasive European green crabs in Puget Sound likely did not come from the Sooke Basin in British Columbia as previously thought. New findings on the crab’s origins were presented at the 2018 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle. Scientists are looking at a variety of potential sources.

https://www.eopugetsound.org/articles/where-did-puget-sound-green-crabs-come-we%E2%80%99re-still-not-sure

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