An open letter to our State Representatives and Senator – Regarding the Jefferson County SMP

Over the last six years, dozens of individuals have worked on updating the Shoreline Master Program, as required by the State Department of Ecology. I was a member of the group of citizens who volunteered hundreds of hours of my time to help craft it.

The document was approved by the County Planners and also approved by the Planning Committee and the unanimous approval of the County Commissioners.

There was one issue that was a sticking point, in that the County chose to ban Net Pen Aquaculture in county waters. To be clear, there are no net pens currently in Jefferson County, and the last ones were removed decades ago, because they were failures.

The Department of Ecology allowed the banning of net pens in Whatcom County’s SMP.

Now, the DOE is saying that we cannot ban net pens in Jefferson County.

There is good scientific evidence that net pens negatively impact native salmon, by becoming a ‘vector’ for infections and infestations of parasites, such as sea lice. If you want to know more, simply listen to this audio podcast I recorded last month when Dr. Lawrence Dill came to Port Angeles. The link to his slides and video of him presenting is listed to the left of this column.

Our banning of net pens can be looked on as temporary, as future updates to the SMP, can reverse this if science is shown to be able to properly manage the threat. Also, there is new technology that could see net pens put near the shore, or “upland” and not be directly in the water. We all look forward to that technology being proven workable.

The State of Washington, and our Federal Government, is spending hundreds of millions of dollars over decades to protect and restore the native salmon to our waters. It seems totally out of step that the Department of Ecology, that is chartered with defending our environment, should essentially tell our local officials, after all this work, that if we do not approve the SMP with net pens allowed, that they will withdraw our work and rewrite the SMP themselves as they see fit.

This seems to be the kind of behavior we would expect if officials had some kind of stake in the outcome. It is not indicative of the organization or the man who is chartered with protecting our environment. I am sure that’s not the case, but this is an election year. And appearances are everything.

That said, I am calling for the removal by the Governor of Mr.Ted Sturdevant, the Ecology Director. His actions have gone against the years of work of informed citizen volunteers, against the work done by elected county officials of Jefferson County and against the ecology of the Sound that he is chartered with protecting.

I hope you join me and phone or email your support of this letter to the Governor’s office, and our elected officials, Representative Van De Wege, Representative Tharinger and Senator Hargrove. Their contacts are found to the left side of this page, under Governmental Sites, near the bottom of the list. Linda Barnfather is currently handling both Tharinger and Van De Wege administrative assistant duties, so one email or call to her will handle both of them

2 Responses

  1. Excellent open letter. All of us need to contact the governor and our legislative representatives demanding the removal of Sturdevant. Ecology is holding our county commissioners and our county as hostages. The question begs to be asked, “Why?” What political motivation is behind these stupid actions? It is hard to conceive that a state agency would blackmail a county in this fashion, but that is exactly what is happening. We cannot allow this to happen, folks.

    Once the Hood Canal is contaminated by the parasites and toxins from fish net pens, it will be a point of no return – gone forever. Can’t we learn anything from the incredible problems these net pens have caused in British Columbia and throughout the world?

    Please support our county commissioners in this battle – they are standing up for the welfare of all of us. Fire off an email today to the governor, to Steve Tharinger, to Kevin Van de Wege, and to Democratic candidates as well so that they are aware of our united front to protect the Hood! Do it now.

  2. Industry is powerful. And it’s not just fish farms. Hatcheries do incredible harm to wild salmon — yet commercial interests allow the dumping of industrial salmon into rivers with declining wild salmon. Billie Franks just said that he’ll continue to support hatcheries until wild fish recover — not likely. Industrial timber practices fill streams with fine sediment that suffocate salmon eggs. We continue to have both recreational and commercial killing seasons on endangered wild salmon. You can’t pick a wild flower in the national park, but you can kill a salmon. Officials support catch-and-release regulations, even though released salmon often die or suffer sub-lethal harm that prevents successful spawning. Fishermen are allowed to walk intream, even though they are tramping on sensitive eggs in the gravel. LWD (large woody debris) salmon-recovery programs are done so poorly that they often do more harm than good. Commercial interests set regulations, and the average person is clueless about how much harm is being done.

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