Conservation Groups Sue State Over Permitting Exemptions


This is a huge lawsuit, as it challenges  the State exemptions for aquaculture from it’s Hydraulic Permit Applications, while forcing anyone seeking to redo a family dock to engage an engineering firm to file an HPA. I’m withholding comment on this lawsuit at present because as a board member of Sound Action, the NGO that independently reviews all HPAs and challenges ones that are environmentally unsound, we have a position on this lawsuit that will come out in the next few days.  The State exemption is something that we have publicly commented against in the past, but for a variety of reasons have not brought suit to challenge it.
There is much more background to this lawsuit that appears in this announcement and it will be interesting to see whether they have a case and the money that is capable of withstanding the considerable challenge of the aquaculture industry, including it’s P.R. machine.
If you want to support the efforts of the only organization that oversees the Hydraulic Code Permits and has successfully challenged them, feel free to donate to Sound Action. Go to our website www.soundaction.org to learn about the work we have done keeping the damage to our nearshore to a minimum and ensuring that the permitting is done in accordance with State law.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–Case Number: 18-2-01972-34.
April 12, 2018
CONTACT:     Patrick Townsend (360) 359-4406
                     Laura Hendricks  (253) 509-4987
                     Kurt Beardslee    (425) 788-0125
CONSERVATION GROUPS SUE STATE TO DEMAND IT PROTECT COASTAL SHORELINES BY ENDING PERMITTING EXEMPTION FOR INDUSTRIAL SHELLFISH AQUACULTURE
Protect Zangle Cove, the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat and Wild Fish Conservancy filed suit today against the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (“WDFW”), demanding an end to the improper exemption of industrial shellfish aquaculture projects from state standards designed to protect fish and marine habitats.
Most construction projects in or near Washington waters must receive an Hydraulic Project Approval (“HPA”), which requires that they have safeguards in place to protect fish and their habitat. WDFW has exempted commercial aquaculture from this statutory requirement for many years, meaning aquaculture projects go forward without these crucial environmental safeguards.
The lawsuit filed in Thurston County Superior Court contends this exemption has no legal basis and asks the court to direct WDFW to apply the HPA law consistently to shellfish aquaculture projects. The suit also asks the court to halt development of a geoduck farm planned for Zangle Cove, a near pristine estuary in South Puget Sound, until it receives an HPA permit.
“With threatened Southern Resident killer whales and endangered native salmon at extreme risk, our state agencies have failed to implement the environmental protections that are critical to the broad scale ecological recovery of Puget Sound,” says Patrick Townsend, president of Protect Zangle Cove. “The action we are taking today is one important step toward restoring sanity to the recovery process. We must protect the tidelands from further loss of ecological function or we will see the loss of iconic species so important to the people of Washington State.”
Laura Hendricks, director of the Coalition To Protect Puget Sound Habitat, emphasizes that the lawsuit only asks the state to apply the law consistently.
“There is a double standard that exempts commercial shellfish aquaculture from the state HPA permitting system, even though these operations pose a severe threat to our fragile coastal habitats,” Hendricks says. “A private citizen installing a small dock needs to get an HPA permit, but a commercial shellfish facility would not need an HPA permit before constructing a facility that disrupts miles of pristine shoreline, destroys natural vegetation and aquatic life, and inserts tons of harmful plastic tubing, netting, and rebar into the tidelands.”
Commercial shellfish aquaculture is in the midst of dramatic expansion in Washington. These factory-farm like facilities already take up as many as 50,000 shoreline acres, or as much as one-quarter of all Washington tidelands. Significant expansion is planned in the immediate future,  focusing largely on geoducks raised to sell in the Asian luxury market.
A single-acre geoduck operation usually includes around 44,000 PVC tubes, four- or six-inches in diameter, and approximately ten inches long. This amounts to approximately seven miles of PVC tubing per acre, weighing between 11 and 23 tons. Plastic nets are typically installed over the entire geoduck bed to keep out native wildlife that would normally feed and shelter there.
Kurt Beardslee, co-founder and Executive Director of the Wild Fish Conservancy, says: “There’s no way around it, it’s a scientific fact: the industrial shellfish aquaculture industry routinely damages vast amounts of habitat critical to federally protected species, including wild salmon and steelhead, with little or no agency oversight.”
Protect Zangle Cove, the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat and Wild Fish Conservancy are represented in the litigation by the law firm of Lane Powell P.C.
                                                           ###
To view the complaint filed today, visit:
For more information about the impact of commercial shellfish aquaculture, visit:
                                                About Zangle Cove
Protect Zangle Cove is a nonprofit organization consisting of citizens who reside on the shores of South Puget Sound. Our mission is to protect the tideland of Zangle Cove from industrial geoduck aquaculture, preserve the critical habitat of Puget Sound tidelands, support the protection and restoration of eelgrass on Puget Sound tidelands, educate citizens about nearshore habitat, inform government officials about the problems from industrial shellfish aquaculture, and encourage rulemaking to protect Puget Sound shorelines for the enjoyment of citizens and for native species that make their homes here.
                              About Coalitoin To Protect Puget Sound Habitat
The Coalition is an alliance of citizens, environmentalists, scientists and recreational users concerned about industrial aquaculture and its impacts on plants, animals, and ecological functions. Our mission is to voice citizen concerns about industrial aquaculture and its adverse impact on the health and quality of Puget Sound and coastal waters, to effect changes in policies and regulations, and to encourage enforcement to protect shoreline habitat.
                                            About Wild Fish Conservancy
The Conservancy is a membership-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and recovery of the Northwest’s native fish species and the ecosystems upon which those species depend.
Photo Courtesy of the Coalition To Protect Puget Sound Habitat
A typical commercial geoduck facility, which uses approximately seven miles of PVC tubing per acre, weighing between 11 and 23 tons.

4 Responses

  1. It is not clear why Mr. Bergstein can’t comment on the lawsuit that is being filed by another NGO that shares the the same HPA concerns that are continually voiced by Sound Action. I also don’t understand “challenges the notion” when it is a fact, not a “notion”, that an HPA is not required for massive industrial aquaculture operations when such operations may have a deleterious impact upon the marine ecosystem. Sound Action is an independent organization and so are the protectors of Zangle Cove. Citizens are entitled to know how many thousands of acres the shellfish industry is “cultivating” and the potential impact on Puget Sound recreation, salmon recovery, and other uses.

    • Glad you are concerned. As to my opinions, let’s just say, “It’s complicated”.

      • Sometimes money has a funny way of “complicating” things — could that be the case for your comments? “It’s complicated” hardly sheds light on the subject.

      • No, money isn’t what I’m talking about. B.B. King once had a song he sung, which about sums it up. “Never make your move too soon.” Just because you have tactics doesn’t meant they are the right ones. But they have put their tactic out there. Now it’s up to the courts to decide the merit of the case.

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