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.

Future of orcas takes center stage at Salish Sea conference – PSI

It was worth spending even a day at the Salish Sea Conference. If you get a chance to go, you should.

Gov. Jay Inslee joined former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to open three days of science talks at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle. The conference includes about 700 scientific presentations on topics ranging from orcas to habitat restoration, from climate change to toxic chemicals.

https://www.eopugetsound.org/magazine/ssec2018/opening

Dr. Lucas Hart named Director of the Northwest Straits

This is incredibly good news. Choosing a successor to Rich Childers is not an easy task. We wish Rich all the best on his next step. He’s been a great leader for the Commission.

I’ve know Lucas since the last decade, when he volunteered to go down to Lobby Day sponsored by the late, great People for Puget Sound.

Lucas rode shotgun in my van as I took a load of folks down from Port Townsend. We talked the whole way down and back, and I got to know him. When we parted I was left thinking, “this is someone who I will be hearing about in the future.”

He joined us on the Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee, so I got to see him working with us on the programs we worked on, and then he got hired onto the Commission as Program Manager. His calm demeanor and solid work showed his ability to lead.

It is so hard to find leadership in roles such as this. It is critically important to find someone with a knowledge of place, a solid base of local contacts, hopefully someone who is being promoted from within for great work, leadership and helping an organization succeed. I’m truly thrilled that the NW Straits Commission took the step to recognize Lucas and promote him to this role. Congratulations, Lucas. We all look forward to working with you in the future.

The Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Commission is pleased to announce that Dr. Lucas Hart will be its next Director.  Dr. Hart has been with the Commission the past three years serving as the Marine Program Manager and brings a wealth of skills and experience to the role of Director. He is not only a skilled marine scientist and outstanding communicator, but has served in various volunteer positions with several Puget Sound conservation organizations and worked with these groups to advocate for their objectives before elected and appointed officials. Commission Chair Nan McKay said, “Members of the Commission look forward to Lucas’s leadership and to working with him to advance the goals of the Northwest Straits Initiative.” Please join us in welcoming Lucas as the new Director.  He will be starting this position officially on April 20, 2018.

Underwater noise pollution also disturbs fish, study suggests – CBC

More evidence that noise pollution in the waters of the Salish Sea can have negative impacts on more than just Orcas.

Plastics and oil aren’t the only types of pollution having a negative impact on fish. According to a new study entitled Sound the Alarm, noise is also a growing problem for the aquatic animals. “In terms of fish behaviour and physiology, it’s negative responses across the board,” said Kieran Cox, a doctoral student at the University of Victoria. Cox and fish ecologist, Francis Juanes, led the collaborative team that conducted the research, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Global Change Biology. (CBC)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/underwater-noise-pollution-also-disturbs-fish-study-suggests-1.4600024

Blooming marvellous: drones give B.C. researchers new view of ‘enormous’ jellyfish clusters – Canadian Press

Some cool news uses for drones.

Technology is allowing researchers in British Columbia to study blooms of jellyfish and their impact on the ocean in a whole new way. UBC oceanography professor Brian Hunt and undergraduate student Jessica Schaub have been using drones to get a better picture of the size and composition of clusters of moon jellyfish off B.C.’s central coast. Images from cameras soaring high above the ocean provide a bird’s-eye view that can’t be replicated on the water, Hunt said. Gemma Karstens-Smith reports. (Canadian Press)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/jellyfish-blooms-bc-1.4522141

State investigation finds Cooke’s negligence was primary cause of Atlantic salmon net pen collapse

NEWS RELEASE

Washington Department of Natural Resources -Washington Department of Ecology -Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

January 30, 2018

OLYMPIA – State investigators have determined that an excessive buildup of mussels and other marine organisms on nets – caused by Cooke Aquaculture’s failure to properly clean them – led to the August 19 collapse of the company’s net pen at Cypress Island.

An investigative report – authored by the departments of Natural Resources (DNR), Ecology, and Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) – found that 110 tons of mussels and plants had accumulated on the nets before the incident. The report was released today at a news conference in Olympia.

The investigation determined that tidal currents pushing against the tremendous mass of organisms on the nets overwhelmed the pen’s mooring system and crushed the pen.

Extensive corrosion of the net pen structure also contributed to the collapse.

In addition, the agencies identified shortcomings in engineering practices that likely contributed to the failure.

Properly designed and maintained net pens would have withstood the tidal currents of August 19.

“The collapse was not the result of natural causes,” said Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands. “Cooke’s disregard caused this disaster and recklessly put our state’s aquatic ecosystem at risk.”

“The results of our investigative report clearly show a significant violation of Washington’s water quality laws,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “Cooke Aquaculture could have prevented this failure.”

“Cooke made this situation even more difficult by under-reporting the number of fish that escaped during the net-pen collapse, and over-reporting the number it recovered afterward,” said Amy Windrope, WDFW’s north Puget Sound regional director.

Growth of mussels and other marine organisms on nets – called “biofouling” – is documented in state agency videos that show a “rain” of mussels falling off nets as debris from the collapse was removed.

The severe biofouling produced 110 tons of material – an average of 11 tons per net.

Cooke’s Failure to Act

Prior to the collapse, Cooke was aware of both the excessive biofouling and the poor condition of the facility.

The report details how Cooke didn’t follow its net pen cleaning schedule when broken net washers were not repaired or replaced. This allowed mussels to accumulate on the nets, which increased the drag from currents and added pressure to the structure.

Cooke also failed to take necessary precautions after the net pens were moved out of position in July when strong currents broke ten mooring points.

Cooke documents show that after the July incident, the company had serious concerns about the facility. An internal company email stated, “We almost lost the farm.”

Nevertheless, after the July incident, Cooke considered, but did not:

·         Replace the biofouled nets,

·         Begin their salmon harvest early, or

·         Increase monitoring of the net pens and have a tug on standby when strong currents were again expected on August 19.

The report notes that state agencies did not investigate the July incident because they received incomplete and misleading information from Cooke.

More Salmon Escaped Than Cooke Reported

The report also found that Cooke misrepresented the number of fish it harvested when the pen collapsed. According to the report:

  • There were 305,000 fish in the net pen prior to failure.
  • Cooke reported harvesting/extracting 145,000 fish from the collapsed net pen.
  • The investigation concluded that Cooke could only have extracted between 42,000 and 62,000 fish.
  • Therefore, between 243,000 and 263,000 fish actually escaped. Previous estimates, based on Cooke’s reports, put the number of escaped fish at 160,000.
  • Of the escaped fish, 57,000 have been caught.
  • Between 186,000 and 206,000 Atlantic salmon remain unaccounted for.

The report concludes that monitoring through the winter and next fall’s salmon run season will be critical to knowing if any escaped Atlantic salmon remain in Washington’s waters and if they are reproducing.

Commissioner Franz is currently reviewing the report and will make an announcement about the future of the Cypress Island facility in the coming days.

In December, DNR terminated Cooke’s lease of state aquatic lands in Port Angeles, citing a failure to maintain the facility in a safe condition.

Ecology intends to take enforcement action against Cooke Aquaculture for violating Washington’s water quality laws.

This multi-agency report included information collected during and after the incident, interviews with Cooke staff, and an engineering review of the failure.

More documents and information is available at www.dnr.wa.gov/atlanticsalmon.

# # #

MEDIA CONTACTS
Carlo Davis

Communications Director

Department of Natural Resources

Office: 360-902-1101

Cell: 360-999-9165

carlo.davis@dnr.wa.gov

Pesticides and salmon: Can we see a light at the end of the tunnel? – Watching Our Water Ways

Once again, the National Marine Fisheries Service has determined in official findings that three common pesticides — chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion — raise the risk of extinction for threatened and endangered salmon. By extension, for the first time, the agency also concluded that those same pesticides threaten Puget Sound’s endangered orca population by putting their prey — chinook and other salmon — at risk. This politically and legally charged issue — which has been around for more than 15 years — has gone beyond a debate over potential harm from pesticides. It also raises uncomfortable questions about whether our society will follow science as we try to solve environmental problems. Chris Dunagan reports. (Watching Our Water Ways)

https://pugetsoundblogs.com/waterways/2018/01/16/pesticides-and-salmon-can-we-see-a-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel/

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