A sham of environmental protection in Clallam County, aquaculture inside the refuge.

Clallam County brought in an outside hearing examiner to help negate opposition so the county could grant a major aquaculture operation inside a national wildlife refuge. The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe has been granted a green light by the  supposedly impartial examiner, to put up to 80,000 bags of oysters inside this refuge that provides the food for many of our dwindling shorebirds in the area. What on earth can go wrong? Where was the environmental community in Clallam County that sits on the county commissions that are chartered with protecting their shores? Silent, beyond one or two stalwarts who have continued to fight a lonely battle against entrenched interests in the area

The examiner, Andrew Reeves, found, among other astonishing claims, that he would allow development of up to 34 acres in the wildlife refuge with the possibility of opening up even more in the future. Why? Because of the following comments he made:

“The project would be located on a DNR-managed tideland that has historically been leased for aquaculture.” This does not recognize that the previous aquaculture operations were a much smaller grant in a much more lenient legal era, during which there was virtually no opposition to any kind of aquaculture at all. That the public is clearly now concerned with opening up expanded operations in a wildlife refuge is downplayed by this examiner who routinely argues for oil and gas ‘mitigation’ (read shut up the landowners unwilling to sell by paying them off in negotiation) in the west.

Why is this odd? Well think about coal mining. Would anyone argue that using the laws of 60 years ago to approve a coal mining operation, oh say in Black Diamond, where they used to mine, would be  a useful tool to determining if mining in Black Diamond today is an appropriate use of the natural resources in that bedroom community? Let’s remember it was state agencies back in the 50s that were being begged by sports charter fishermen on these very shores to put in limits on salmon fishing. Why? so they didn’t have to come back home from a day ferrying Boeing executives who had demanded to catch all the fish they could and then only take one or two of the biggest leaving the charters to throw the rest overboard because they couldn’t find high school students to gut 30 or more fish. I know, I’ve talked to those fishermen who wish they could have stopped the senseless slaughter of our fish back then. And now them and the fish are almost gone. We are told by a judge that this won’t have an equally destructive effect on our refuge and the birds and fish that rely on it. It doesn’t matter that the Refuge scientists don’t agree with him. But this is just more Trump era bias to economic interests over hard fought protections of our waters.

And of course, there is the poorly defined notion that oyster farming “enhances the public interest.” How? “The proposal would promote the public interest, given that shellfish aquaculture is a designated “preferred use” of Washington State waters under Governor Inslee’s Shellfish Initiative. Cultivation of oysters on the lease site would also have the potential to enhance recruitment and growth of oyster”  Conveniently ignored is the notion of the public interest in having a wildlife refuge to feed and support the notoriously shy seabirds that are continuing to decline in number on our shores.  How do I know they are shy? Because the refuge scientists have not allowed even a Frisbee to be flown on the Spit! Why should we think that a commercial operation is going to make it better? And no weight is given to the public demand for protection of the dwindling shores that are left in wild states.

There is no discussion of the fact that that the manager of the refuge wrote a long and well documented scientific overview of the dangers inherent in this project and then was told to rewrite the original document by superiors to fit the science to the request.

The ultimate absurd argument was presented last in his list, “There are no other similar developments proposed in Clallam County, and thus cumulative impacts from this type of development would not occur.”

This is laughable, with this project underway and granted a green light, expect a slew of other projects to come forward. Has this ever been an argument that stopped the growth of this industry in virtually every corner of the Sound?  The Tribe already is doing this exact same aquaculture a few miles east in Sequim Bay, and also have taken over the net pens in Port Angeles harbor. I don’t criticize those enterprises. They are legal, have not done enormous harm under the Tribal guidance, but they have not been environmentally neutral. The Sequim Bay operations are on the shoreline of the Tribe’s HQ itself. The notion that this taking of the Refuge is neutral  could only come from someone that has  spent his career somewhere else.

The whole process is a sad joke, and continues the wholesale giveaway of our natural resources and remaining shorelines to the aquaculture industry. This industry continues to lobby for removing any kind of laws protecting the shorelines of Puget Sound, as seen in the recent decision of the Trump Administration to severely curtail NEPA regulations, a move highly lobbied by the very industries now granted the ability to go in and plunder our wildlife refuge.

Where were the supposed “environmentalists” who kowtow to the tribes so as not to upset them, rather than ask a simple question, “Can’t we find another place to do this so we don’t plunder our joint use refuge?” The Tribe routinely uses the area just outside the boundary for fishing and a hunting lodge is just a bit east of the refuge at the mouth of the Dungeness. Why take the Refuge? Too late.

Who will count the last bird in the refuge in ten years or twenty years? A tribal member or some member of their scientific teams who claim they care about the resources, or an MRC member or Audubon bird counter, documenting their extinction, or will it be a  politician who doesn’t want to upset the monied interests that are paying their reelection campaign, or the hearing examiner, who came to shut down the environmental opposition , or a DNR executive in Olympia who needs funding for her campaign and sat on the sidelines?  It is just another example of the “changing baseline” that allows our children and other newcomers to the area to think that this is how it’s always been, when nothing is the same,virtually every indicator on the Puget Sound Partnership indicators are going the wrong way  and no one really wants to talk about it. Whether it’s our wildlife refuges, our airways over the silence of the Olympia National Park, our waters for training military operations or dozens of other small cuts to our environment, we just give in and it keeps on getting worse.

In about 2000, this state decided to go whole hog into giving away shoreline to support the rise of geoduck and other aquaculture. The voters of this state have never been asked just how much  shoreline they are willing to give away to people to profit from it. Some have fought and won battles, but the war is being lost. When are we going to pause and say, “How much is enough?”

The destruction of the shoreline  environment of Clallam, Jefferson and other counties continues full steam ahead, as it has almost since Lewis Carroll wrote this poem in the 1880s about the cosy relationship between those who wanted to exploit the resources and those that were exploited. I’ve taken a bit of liberties. With apologies to Lewis Carroll.

The walrus and the carpenter were walking hand and hand, they cried like anything to see such quantities of sand.
“If this were only cleared away,”
They said, “it would be grand!”

“If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.
“O enviros, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”

The eldest enviro  looked at him,
But never a word she said:
The eldest enviro winked his eye,
And shook her heavy head–
Meaning to say she did not choose
To leave the enviro-bed.
But four young enviros hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat–
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.
Four other enviros followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more–
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
“But wait a bit,” the enviros cried,
“Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
“No hurry!” said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.
“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
“Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed–
Now if you’re ready, enviros dear,
We can begin to feed.”
“But not on us!” the enviros cried,
Turning a little blue.
“After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
“The night is fine,” the Walrus said.
“Do you admire the view?

“It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf–
I’ve had to ask you twice!”

“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
“To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“The butter’s spread too thick!”

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

“O enviros,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

5 Responses

  1. Thanks—you can read the Hearing’s Examiner’s decision here: http://www.protectpeninsulasfuture.org/?p=1129

  2. Thank you for this article – I especially enjoyed the revised “Walrus and The Carpenter”. As an environmentalist who has left the Sierra club and lost respect for the local Audubon over this project I share your frustration.


  3. Very well said, Al. Your comments sum it all up well.


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