WA Dept of Natural Resources Cancels Leases for Remaining Net Pen Salmon Farms in Puget Sound

While many are glad to see this long-awaited decision, it is by no means the end of Cook Aquaculture and its efforts to farm fish here. But if they indeed do remove the Rich Passage net pen, it could be good news for the remaining salmon that run through Orchard Rocks off southern Bainbridge Island. Why? Because it has never been fully investigated as to whether this net pen was partially responsible for the collapse of the salmon run through the passage and Agate Pass. Given recent news that the Hood Canal Floating Bridge may be a significant cause of salmon collapse in Hood Canal, and the hunch by some old fishermen that stocks collapsed after the net pen in Rich Passage went in, anything is possible. Obviously, shoreline development in the area at that time also had a good deal to do with the salmon loss.

A reminder to all that Cooke still has a business agreement with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and the two are rearing Black Cod (Sablefish) in Port Angeles harbor. My guess is that Cooke will look for additional opportunities like this and will approach other tribes if they haven’t already. Still to come, is understanding how the recent unanimous Supreme Court ruling may affect this decision. Will Cooke and allies sue in court, based on their previous win? I don’t think this is as over as it seems, but for now, it’s a good decision, long overdue.


Official Press Release:

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has ended the remaining two finfish net pen aquaculture leases on Washington’s state-owned aquatic lands.

DNR officials informed Cooke Aquaculture Monday that the agency will not renew expired leases for the two remaining finfish net pen aquaculture facilities in Washington; in Rich Passage off Bainbridge Island and off Hope Island in Skagit Bay.

“Since the catastrophic Cypress Island net pen collapse in 2017, I have stood tall to defend the waters of Puget Sound,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “This effort began by terminating finfish net pen operations due to lease violations. Despite years of litigation – and a company that has fought us every step of the way – we are now able to deny lease renewals for the remaining net pen sites. Today, we are returning our waters to wild fish and natural habitat. Today, we are freeing Puget Sound of enclosed cages.”

“This is a critical step to support our waters, fishermen, tribes, and the native salmon that we are so ferociously fighting to save,” said Commissioner Franz.

DNR’s denial of Cooke Aquaculture’s request to re-lease the sites to continue finfish net pen aquaculture gives the company until December 14 to finish operations and begin removing its facilities and repairing any environmental damage.

The Hope Island lease expired in March and has been in month-to-month holdover status since. The Rich Passage lease expired in November.

Decision Draws Support

Salish tribes and conservation groups hailed the decision as a step toward protecting the habitat of struggling stocks of native salmon.

“We are very pleased that Commissioner Franz rejected Cooke Aquaculture’s lease application. Removal of the existing net pen will restore full access to the Tribe’s culturally important fishing area in northern Skagit Bay. Swinomish are the People of the Salmon, and fishing has been our way of life since time immemorial. Cooke’s net pens have interfered with the exercise of our treaty rights for far too long. We look forward to the day when the Hope Island net pen facility will be a distant memory,” said Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Chairman Steve Edwards.

“This decision is a joyous and historic victory for the recovery of wild fish, orcas, and the health of Puget Sound,” says Emma Helverson, Executive Director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “For years, the public has overwhelmingly called for an end to this dangerous industry in our public waters. Commissioner Franz’s response proves she is both accountable to the public and dedicated to protecting Puget Sound’s irreplaceable public heritage for current and future generations.”

“We say, ‘the table is set when the tide goes out.’ Seafoods have always been a staple of Samish diet and traditions,” said Tom Wooten, Samish Indian Nation Chairman. “By removing the Sound’s remaining net pens, our delicate ecosystem now gets a chance to replenish, repair and heal. We are grateful and lift our hands to the DNR’s partnership in helping protect the Salish Sea that tie us to our history and culture.”

Denials End Saga Started by 2017 Collapse

Cooke Aquaculture had previously leased four sites for net pen aquaculture from the Department of Natural Resources, recently growing steelhead trout in the net pens after years of using them to grow Atlantic salmon.

DNR’s letters denying an extension of Cooke’s leases lists several areas where the firm violated terms of the leases. DNR determined that allowing Cooke to continue operations posed risks of environmental harm to state-owned aquatic lands resulting from lack of adherence to lease provisions and increased costs to DNR associated with contract compliance, monitoring, and enforcement.

In August of 2017, a net pen at Cooke’s Cypress Island fish farm collapsed, releasing hundreds of thousands of Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound. As a result, DNR terminated that lease. Cooke was fined $332,000 and found negligent by the state Department of Ecology. The net pens were removed in 2018.

In December of 2017, DNR terminated Cooke’s Port Angeles lease due to Cooke operating in an unauthorized area and failing to maintain the facility in a safe condition. Cooke challenged that termination in the superior court and that litigation is still pending.

The Washington state Legislature in 2018 phased out Atlantic salmon farming, and the company since shifted operations at its remaining leaseholds in Rich Passage and Hope Island to grow sterile steelhead trout.

Future Net Pen Policy will be Announced Friday

Following the denials of these lease renewals, Commissioner Franz is reviewing policies for net pen salmon aquaculture throughout Washington’s state-owned aquatic lands, and will announce this decision at a press conference alongside partners and tribes at 11 a.m. Friday, November 18, on Bainbridge Island.

Seattle Times article (Behind paywall)

WA will not renew leases for Puget Sound fish farms, 5 years after spill | The Seattle Times

Reducing collisions between ships and whales? There’s apps for that, but they need work – NW News Network

The ability to give ships captains a reliable source of information on location of orcas is a work in progress.

Fortunately, it doesn’t happen very often in the Pacific Northwest that ships collide with whales. But when it does, it’s upsetting, tragic and the whale probably dies. Three separate teams have developed smartphone-based systems that can alert commercial mariners to watch out, slow down or change course when whales have been sighted nearby. A recent ride-along on a big container ship demonstrated that real-time whale alerts are still a work in progress.

Reducing collisions between ships and whales? There’s apps for that, but they need work | Northwest News Network (nwnewsnetwork.org)

Researchers, growers face the challenge of acidic ocean water -Salish Current

Things are getting worse as it relates to ocean acidification. But as the article points out, we are on the leading edge of trying to find a way forward to save our shellfish. This is global warming in your backyard. There is no time to waste.

Salish Sea waters are acidifying faster than ever before, but researchers in Washington are leading the world in addressing the looming disaster. Rena Kingery reports. (Salish Current)

Can kelp farming help save our marine environment? -Salish Sea Current

This is an echo of both the race to open the Sound up to salmon farms in the late 70s (a failure both financially and environmentally) and the race to open beaches across the Sound to commercial aquaculture, including geoducks (a financial boon but an environmental disgrace). Our tendency to ignore the possible downsides of new aquaculture plays into a narrative that all aquaculture is “good” and “sustainable”. Part of the issue here is that NOAA is looking to continue to support the conversion of our waters and beaches into commercial companies, which end up making it impossible to access more and more of our public beaches. Part of NOAAs efforts is to put a “stacked” farming plan into effect, looking at each depth as a possible source of revenue for businesses. Shellfish on the bottom, kelp in the middle with hopefully some fish along the way. Where recreational users fit into this is ignored. Proof? try kayaking in many of the bays in the South Sound, where geoduck nets straddle much of the waters. Is there any real debate going on about kelp farming at the state level or will we simply open the waters to another industry that we can never again reign in. There rarely is any ability to stop or better regulate it once it’s in place.

To be clear, I am not against the idea of this industry taking hold, I’m against the blind race to simply permit this without really debating the long term consequences of our actions.

Thirteen Washington counties ring the Salish Sea; a kelp farm would have to meet the requirements of each county’s shoreline master plans, which regulate shoreline uses. Tribal governments would likely want to review applications to ensure a kelp farm wouldn’t interfere with tribal fishing in their usual and accustomed areas.

Can kelp farming help save our marine environment? – Salish Current (salish-current.org)

Perspective: DNR moving forward with cutting Ludlow old growth while “protecting” other areas

The confusing balancing act of Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and Jefferson County environmentalists and politicians has continued over the last month. Franz runs the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). First, a bit of background:

The Olympic Forest Coalition, which has been working hard to protect forests for decades, and includes some of the most well respected Democratic activists in the county, has issued written concerns to DNR and the County Commissioners about logging of old growth near Port Ludlow. Ludlow has seen a huge upturn in large clear-cut parcels in the last year. A drive along Paradise Bay road recently showed huge swaths cut on both sides of the road east of Ludlow.

The OFC wrote a letter to county commissioners stating:”…. request your assistance on how best to approach the BOCC on a timber sale of concern, the Beaver Valley Sorts sale near Port Ludlow, and I believe in your district. The sale has been recommended by the DNR staff to the Board of Natural Resources and will be on the BNR agenda April 5th [https://www.dnr.wa.gov/publications/em_bc_bnr_agenda_04052022.pdf ].  OFCO is very concerned that this sale contains unique plant associations remaining in our area, is an important sequester of carbon and provides resiliency in the face of climate change, and contains stands that DNR is required to conserve under the multi species Habitat Conservation Plan.”

The county commissioners then issued a letter to DNR on April 4th stating:

April 4, 2022
To: Commissioner Hilary Franz
Deputy Supervisor Angus Brodie
Board of Natural Resources
From: Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners
RE: Beaver Valley Sorts timber harvest
Commissioner, Mr. Brodie and Board Members,
The Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners( BOCC) appreciates your partnership in managing
Washington State’ s resource lands for the many benefits they convey, and we recognize the
complexity that presents in your policy- and decision- making.
We are writing to ask you to not approve and defer the Beaver Valley Sorts timber sale before the Board
on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. We ask this given the other, important work that DNR is engaged in
which will ultimately inform this sale and others like it in the future. Specifically, we would like to
delay this sale for the following reasons:
Jefferson County highly values the myriad ecosystem functions that our forests serve, especially carbon
sequestration as we see the impacts of climate change accelerating. We implore DNR and the Board of
Natural Resources to finalize a calculation of sequestered and emitted carbon to use in analysis of all
future timber sales and harvests.
(emphasis mine)
The Trust Land Transfer proviso work group is currently working to provide pathways for communities
like ours to identify the trust lands most suitable for harvest and those better suited to conservation.
We would like to see the outcomes of their work before any harvest commences on diverse, mature
forests such those in the Beaver Valley Sorts units.
While these are specific concerns related to the Beaver Valley Sorts timber sale, they are indicative of
broader, structural and existential concerns that we have about how our State’ s trust lands are held
and managed. Simply put, funding schools, libraries, emergency services and other essential
services with industrial forest practices is outdated and needs to be reconsidered.
We recognize forestry as an important economic and cultural driver in the state of Washington, but see
enormous opportunity for innovation in how state- owned lands are managed. Whether it is variable
retention harvest, or the selling of carbon credits, or development of specialty forestry products,
alternatives to clear-cutting exist. Jefferson County will gladly partner with DNR in exploring new
and alternative forest practices that don’ t pit funding of essential services with protecting our
environment. That is a zero- sum game in which nobody wins.

As this letter was being delivered, Commissioner Franz decided to temporarily pull the Beaver Valley Sorts and push it’s sale further into the summer. But it is not off the table to be sold.

Franz simultaneously was meeting with a select group of environmental orgs and Tribes from the south and east sides of the Sound. On April 4th DNR announced:

DNR to Announce First-of-its-Kind Carbon Project on State Trust Lands

Project will preserve thousands of acres of Western Washington’s most ecologically valuable forests, offset carbon emissions, and generate millions of dollars in revenue for schools and counties throughout the state

OLYMPIA – Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz will unveil a historic carbon project on state trust lands on Wednesday morning that will offset hundreds of thousands of metric tons of emissions by protecting thousands of acres of Western Washington’s most ecologically valuable forests.

Franz will be joined by Tribal leaders, environmental advocates, and carbon market industry experts to discuss the unprecedented approach DNR is undertaking and potential to reset, and serve as a model for, carbon markets throughout the country.

Project areas in Whatcom, Thurston, King, and Grays Harbor counties will be used to sequester carbon and generate revenue for state trust land beneficiaries through carbon markets.

DNR media release

Mysteriously missing from this decision, was any inclusion of Jefferson County forest lands. The question is “why?”

With a letter in hand and years of work between Jefferson County and Ms. Franz (who has attended the Jefferson County Democratic Fish Fry numerous times), she appears to have ignored any opportunity to work with the county to protect its forests in this carbon project. Questions remain: Why were those counties chosen and not anything from Jefferson County? Why was their no discussion between DNR and Jefferson County Commissioners before making this announcement? Why was the Beaver Valley Sorts sale taken off the table just as this announcement was happening and pushed to mid-summer?

In a scathing editorial in the Seattle Times, Former DNR Commissioner Peter Goldmark and Mary Jean Ryan, a member of the board of the Center for Responsible Forestry and served as chair and as a member of the Washington State Board of Education from 2006-2014, stated this:

While creating a small carbon reserve with a few thousand acres of older forests is crucial to begin climate mitigation in state forests, this action is in stark contrast to DNR’s timber harvest plans. Under current state policy, older forests are being clear-cut at an alarming rate. (emphasis mine) Over the next year, the DNR has plans to log more than 5,000 acres of older forests that have similar characteristics to those identified for the carbon reserve. Since there are many younger plantations of trees available for harvest on DNR-managed lands, this choice to preferentially log older forests undermines the very goals and values expressed by Commissioner Hilary Franz on April 6. This glaring contradiction should be resolved. The DNR and the Board of Natural Resources should take swift action to abandon the plan to clear-cut these valuable older forests.

… Thankfully, communities from Bellingham to Olympia and to the Olympic Peninsula are mobilizing and organizing to save these treasured forests. We strongly believe that these forests should be conserved and not logged. We reject the idea that the state needs to log these forests to pay for important public services.

https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/save-washingtons-legacy-forests-to-save-ourselves/

Meanwhile:

Goldmark and others said they were surprised by the policy because Conservation Northwest, the Washington Environmental Council and other plaintiffs have taken a lawsuit all the way to the State Supreme Court to argue the DNR has the authority to consider values beyond dollars when determining management of state lands not only for trust beneficiaries, but for all the people of Washington. A decision on the case is expected any time.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/wa-to-preserve-10000-acres-of-trees-to-sell-as-carbon-credits-to-polluters/

Why the sudden decision on the eve of a lawsuit by environmental groups that are well respected? Politics?

Commissioner Franz has in the past used Jefferson County for fundraising for her campaigns. There are persistent rumors of her possibly mounting a campaign for governor. Her recent fundraising during a year when she is not running for office is interesting in light of these rumors. Her haphazard approach to this issue seems to be attempting to burnish her creds as environmentalist while angering some of her former supporters. That no discussions were held by the Commissioner with those who’s support she usually is asking for when raising funds, is puzzling in the least.

The Olympic Peninsula Environmental News will continue to follow this very confusing story.

Whale Trail Spring Gathering 2022 

The Whale Trail runs through the Strait, with viewing locations along the way. Perhaps you might be interested in attending this event. I don’t believe it’s online. In person only. It is in West Seattle, so those on the West side of the Sound could take a ferry and walk, bike or bus to the event.


Welcome Spring with special guests Rachel Aronson (Quiet Sound), researcher Mark Sears and Whale Trail Director Donna Sandstrom on March 24, 7 p.m., in West Seattle. Rachel will introduce us to Quiet Sound, a new program to protect whales by reducing noise and disturbance from large vessel like tankers, container ships and ferries. Mark will share photos from recent field research, including encounters with southern resident orcas. Donna will recap news around The Whale Trail, including upcoming events to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Springer’s rescue! Attendance limited; masks optional but recommended. Register here. 

What new projections of sea level rise mean for Puget Sound and WA Coast – Seattle Times

Solid reporting on our future along the Salish Sea. 10 to 12 inches of sea level rise in a place like Port Townsend could put large areas under water much of the time. Think the boatyard, Lincoln Beach, Point Hudson, and other places at sea level now.


Sea level rise will affect each area of the planet in a unique way, but new projections are helping researchers and lawmakers in Washington state identify which coastal communities are most vulnerable. A new report published earlier this month by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says sea levels will rise 10 to 12 inches in the contiguous U.S. by 2050 — with regional variations — which scientists say would trigger a “profound increase” in coastal flooding. Nicholas Turner reports.(Seattle Times)

What new projections of sea level rise mean for Puget Sound and the WA coast

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New UW research explores a way to fight off invasive green crabs – Crosscut

Good news from the UW

An emerging surveillance tool could help the state and tribal partners expand detection and make trapping efforts more effective.

https://crosscut.com/environment/2022/02/new-uw-research-explores-way-fight-invasive-green-crabs

Ediz Hook enhanced for salmon, public use – NWTTM

Here’s an update on the work at Ediz Hook in Port Angeles by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. They have been removing debris from the shore and planting eel grass to renew the nearshore habitat for fish and other species.

Below the surface, the tribe and partners Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Washington Sea Grant have been restoring eelgrass beds on the sand spit’s south shore for the past four years, with greater success than expected

Northwest Treaty Tribes January 2022

Read the whole story here. https://nwtreatytribes.org/publications/magazine/

How do we stop tire debris from killing coho? NWTTM

Over the last decade science done at the UW has identified a chemical in our tires that leaches out as we drive and ends up killing salmon when it runs off into the lakes, rivers and bays of Puget Sound. This issue will require billions of dollars to fix, just as the culvert problem, created over the last 100 years of road building has done. But it must be done if we are to save coho in our waters.

This article, in the Northwest Treaty Tribes magazine does a good job of updating us on the issue and what is being done about it now.

We need to deal with these impacts immediately by filtering 6PPD-Q from
stormwater before it enters the water. The Nisqually Tribe is working with McIntyre, Long Live the Kings and the state Department of Transportation to develop a compostable biofiltration system on
Highway 7 where it crosses Ohop Creek. If we are successful, similar systems could be retrofitted along all roadways to remove this lethal, toxic chemical.

Northwest Treaty Tribes Magazine -2022 January

Read the whole story here: https://nwtreatytribes.org/publications/magazine/

WA Legislators prepare for long list of climate change bills – Crosscut and others

As we start the 2022 legislative session, there’s a lot of new bills to follow.

Lawmakers could look at more than a dozen climate proposals addressing carbon reduction and other environmental issues

https://crosscut.com/politics/2022/01/wa-legislators-prepare-long-list-climate-change-bills

Also there is a parallel and somewhat overlapping set of bills followed by the Environmental Environmental Priorities Coalition. They are a coalition of over twenty leading environmental groups who lobby in Olympia on a regular basis and organize around a set of priority bills each legislative session.  They established four to be their highest priorities for the 2022 Legislative Session, they are listed below.  As in the past, they will be sending out a weekly “Hot List” to assist in your efforts to promote this common agenda.

The key priorities for the environmental caucus, as defined by the Washington Environmental Council and other allies:

2022 Priorities

Lorraine Loomis Act for Salmon Recovery (SB 5727 / HB 1838): Across the state, salmon are on the brink of extinction. Some Puget Sound salmon species have declined by 90% compared to historical populations. In the Columbia River basin, returns are as little as 2% of historical levels. The Governor is proposing habitat legislation as a tribute to Lorraine Loomis (Swinomish Tribe, and Chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission) longtime champion for the salmon. The Act requires tree buffers tall and wide enough to shade rivers and streams. The Act also requires shifting to a standard of improving ecological conditions rather than habitat loss mitigation.

Transportation for All: We need to fund a transportation system that reduces pollution and can support a range of transportation solutions including improving multimodal transportation choices, such as biking, driving, and public transit. Transportation dollars must be used in ways that deliver the best investments possible to help build a more efficient, affordable, and clean transportation system for all.

GMA Sprawl Loophole (SB 5042): The current sprawl loophole undermines the intent of the Growth Management Act (GMA) by allowing counties to subvert the Growth Management Hearing Board (GMHB) appeals process to illegally build sprawling developments that devours farmlands, forests, and critical habitats. The loophole locks in outdated rules, and puts a financial strain on jurisdictions to provide adequate infrastructure, facilities, and services to new developments.

RENEW Act (SB 5697): All across Washington, plastic waste litters Washington’s shorelines and waterways, filling landfills to capacity, and harming wildlife. Our recycling system needs to be modernized so packaging can actually be recycled, composted, or reused. The Renew Recycling Act addresses this waste by creating a set of graduated fees on packaging manufacturers based on how readily reusable, compostable, or recyclable their products are. These fees will be used to fund improvements in infrastructure, uniform access for residents across the state, and a clear list of what people can recycle. This bill will have the added benefit of shifting recycling costs away from ratepayers and onto the manufacturers.

The Puget Sound Partnership Agenda

Buy Clean & Buy Fair (HB 1103 / SB 5366): Washington has an important role to play through investing in locally sourced materials, manufactured in facilities with high labor standards and minor environmental impact. The policy creates a reporting system with vital information on the environmental and labor impacts of structural materials used in state-funded infrastructure projects. During the 2021 session, the legislature funded the creation of a publicly accessible database to enable reporting and promote transparency. Passing Buy Clean and Buy Fair legislation sends a clear market signal of the growing demand for ethically-made low-carbon goods. (Partner: Blue Green Alliance)

Energy for All (HB 1490): Secure access to energy is crucial to keeping Washington residents healthy, safe, learning, working, and thriving, and will facilitate a Just Transition to clean energy. The Governor and Utilities and Transportation Commission moratoriums on shut-offs helped sustain residential energy service in Washington and protected the public. But these protections are temporary and utilities are already seeking to collect on debt. This legislation establishes access to home energy as a basic need and an essential resource that should be accessed in full dignity without uncertainty about affordability and threats of disconnection. (Partner: Front & Centered)

Also, you can track environmental bills here:

and here:

Event: WA DOE air monitoring listening session on Jan 20th- Sign up now.

There is an upcoming listening session that the Washington State Department of Ecology is holding. As part of the recently passed “Climate Commitment Act,” Ecology is looking to promote environmental justice and equity. One way we are looking to do this is by expanding air quality monitoring in overburdened communities. There will be two steps in this process:

1)      Identifying a set of overburdened communities.

2)      Installing new air quality monitors in those communities.

Ecology will be holding a listening session to hear from communities on January 20th starting at 6 PM. More information regarding this listening session and a link to register can be found here:https://ecology.wa.gov/Blog/Posts/December-2021/Clearer-skies-ahead.

You can read up more about the Climate Commitment Act here (there is a short discussion on the environmental justice piece): https://ecology.wa.gov/Air-Climate/Climate-change/Reducing-greenhouse-gases/Climate-Commitment-Act.

Please forward along to anyone who may have interest.

Shingo Yamazaki

Washington State Department of Ecology

Solid Waste Management Program, Industrial Section

PO Box 47600

Olympia, Washington 98504

syam461@ECY.WA.GOV

What we learned this year about human waste and Puget Sound – Crosscut

Well, I thought I was done for the year, but…”The waste that 4.5 million Seattle-area people flush affects shellfish, wastewater regulations and more.”

The ways we handle human waste before it reaches the sound can vary, but what we put into our bodies inevitably ends up there — later today, tomorrow or a century from now. In keeping with the New Year’s adage “out with the old, in with the new,” it’s good to consider: Just because waste is out of our bodies doesn’t mean it isn’t still actively affecting our lives.

https://crosscut.com/environment/2021/12/what-we-learned-year-about-human-waste-and-puget-sound

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Tribe: Court of Appeals Ruling Won’t Stop Fish Farm Attempt – PDN


The Tribe has been expanding shellfish and fin fish aquaculture in the last few years. This latest push, is an interesting issue. While the Tribe supported shutting non-native salmon fish farming, they never said they supported shutting down native salmon fish farming. This farm is for black cod, also known as Sablefish or Butterfish. It is native to the Pacific Northwest, but farming it by feeding it pellets, as they do with salmon, makes it not that appealing. Wild caught black cod is delicious, widely served in the Pacific NW. But I certainly will be asking if my black cod is wild caught or not. Not interested in eating fish raised in the backwater of Port Angeles harbor, near the pulp and paper mill.

It will be interesting to see how Ron Allen gets around the ruling. They likely would have to end the relationship with Cooke, which is a financial boon to the Tribe. We’ll continue to follow this as it unfolds.


Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Chairman Ron Allen vowed Tuesday to move forward with plans to establish a fish farm in Port Angeles Harbor despite a recent state Court of Appeals decision upholding the termination of its business partner’s lease. The three-judge panel Dec. 14 affirmed a Thurston County Superior Court decision that struck a blow to the joint plans of the tribe and Canadian aquaculture company Cooke Pacific LLC. Paul Gottlieb reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

Groups Again Sue Army Corps to Protect Washington’s Coastal Areas and Endangered Species from Industrial Shellfish Operations

Back to the battle lines in the courthouse to make the Army Corps. of Engineers live up to the law. They were found guilty of not doing diligence in the last year, and yet they reissued the same permits in the last days of the Trump administration with no changes by sending out “Letters of Permission” to get around the ruling. A truly cynical move. What can you do about this? Donate to either CFS or the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat. From the press release today:


SEATTLE—Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from continuing the excessive expansion of industrial shellfish operations without considering the cumulative impacts to Washington’s rich and diverse coastal waters. Industrial shellfish operations adversely affect Washington’s shorelines and estuaries by destroying critical habitat for numerous species, including endangered and threatened salmon and killer whales. These operations harm Washington’s aquatic and nearshore areas by increasing plastic netting and debris, micro-plastics, pesticides, and disturbances in the environment. 

“Despite clear statutory mandates and a previous court decision requiring the government to fully consider the potential impacts of proposed shellfish operations, the Corps continues to ignore its duties by allowing industrial shellfish operations to degrade important aquatic habitats, including through the use of plastics and pesticides, endangering Washington’s shorelines, biodiversity, and surrounding communities,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney at CFS.

In the complaint filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, plaintiffs argue that the nationwide permit (NWP 48 of 2021) authorizing commercial shellfish operations in Washington violates several federal environmental protection laws, including the Clean Water Act (CWA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Endangered Species Act, and Administrative Procedure Act. The complaint also challenges the Corps’ unlawful use of “Letters of Permission” (LOP) to approve industrial shellfish operations without public notice or comment and without considering their overall cumulative impacts. 

The new lawsuit comes on the heels of a previous lawsuit against the Corps, where CFS and allies successfully sued the Trump administration for issuing a similar nationwide permit (NWP 48 of 2017). The court found the previous 2017 permit unlawful under CWA and NEPA, stating that the Corps had failed to adequately consider the impacts on Washington’s shorelines and wildlife habitat, including the cumulative effects of expanding or continuing operations in sensitive areas. In a victory for plaintiffs, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently affirmed the lower court’s decision. 

In January 2021, during the last few days of the Trump administration, the Corps finalized the new nationwide permit for commercial shellfish aquaculture activities. In rushing to issue the permit, the Corps ignored comments from plaintiffs and stakeholders urging the agency to fix problems with its impact analysis before issuing the new permit. For example, neither the 2017 permit nor the 2021 reissuance include any restrictions on pesticide or plastic use. Much like the unlawful 2017 permit, the 2021 permit authorizes commercial shellfish aquaculture activities in Washington without full consideration of the potential adverse effects to aquatic ecosystems and wildlife, prompting CFS and allies to launch another lawsuit to vacate the permit.

“The Coalition is outraged that the Corps would try to avoid doing what is necessary as a bare minimum under the law to protect orcas, salmon, and marine life in Washington from the toxic and physical impacts of the massive number of industrial-scale aquaculture operations that have been proposed,” said Laura Hendricks, director of the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat. “This is precisely the sort of agency action that gives ‘government’ a bad name.”
 

The Corps has already relied on the 2021 NWP 48 to approve thousands of acres of industrial shellfish activities in Washington’s coastal areas, and the LOPs to approve thousands more without public input. Many of the acres authorized for shellfish aquaculture are located near critical spawning, breeding, and feeding habitats for forage fish, threatened and endangered species of salmon and green sturgeon, birds, whales, and other wildlife species. Additionally, operations authorized under the new permit destroy eelgrass and other aquatic plants that provide habitat to wildlife and other essential ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, sediment stabilization, and nutrient balancing, which help mitigate the effects of climate change. 

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are CFS and Coalition to Protect Puget Sound. CFS is represented by counsel from CFS and Coalition to Protect Puget Sound is represented by the Law Office of Karl G. Anuta and Law Office of Mike Sargetakis.

Washington launches program to cut underwater noise in Puget Sound – Crosscut

This effort, based on successful efforts in British Columbia a few years ago, seems to be better funded and Maritime Blue, the non-profit behind it, did their homework in working with the legislature. Controversy over a lack of communications with existing groups doing similar work may ease with the new Program Director having uncloaked the program. At least I hope so. The last thing we need is non-profits doing the exact same work with no communication between them. The Orca Network has been doing a great job for many years. No reason to re-invent the wheel on this issue. Maybe crafting a better wheel will be a way forward. Odd to see some criticism by Fred Felleman in this article, as Fred is a board member of the very organization that he is criticizing. However, here is the goal of the new program:

To protect endangered orcas in Washington state waters, a new collaborative program called Quiet Sound is preparing to launch several voluntary initiatives in the new year that are aimed at cutting underwater noise from large ships. Aronson directs Quiet Sound via the nonprofit Washington Maritime Blue, and she said the new measures range from piloting a potential seasonal slowdown zone for commercial vessels to using app-based technology to notify ship operators of nearby orca sightings in real time.

https://crosscut.com/environment/2021/12/washington-launches-program-cut-underwater-noise-puget-sound

Maritime Blue has been a collaboration of a number of very influential representatives of various governmental agencies, Tribes, educational organizations, non-profits and others.

According to their website:

Washington Maritime Blue is committed to the development of maritime business, technology, and practices that promote a sustainable future contributing to economic growth, ecological health, and thriving communities.

Maritime Blue web site

EVENT: Science Panel to discuss Puget Sound Recovery issues Dec 16

If you are following the recovery efforts of the Puget Sound Partnership and care about what the next steps in the long running restoration of the Sound are going to be for 2022, this is likely one of the most important meetings of the year.


MEDIA CONTACT: Kevin Hyde, kevin.hyde@psp.wa.gov 

The Puget Sound Partnership Science Panel will meet on Thursday, December 16, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the December 16 Science Panel meeting will be a virtual Zoom meeting for all participants and the public.

Zoom instructions are included in the meeting agenda, which is available through our board meetings page: https://psp.wa.gov/board_meetings.php

Meeting highlights include:

  • A presentation for discussion about legislative and budget priorities for the 2022 Washington State legislative session. This session will include a presentation of the Partnership staff’s ranking of 2022 supplemental budget requests, Project Olga legislative recommendations, and input received from boards and advisory groups. Presentation by Don Gourlie, legislative policy director at the Puget Sound Partnership.
  • A presentation for discussion about the Washington State Academy of Sciences (WSAS) study on Net Ecological Gain. WSAS is advising the state legislature on a net ecological gain standard for state land use, development, and environmental laws to achieve a goal of better statewide performance on ecological health and endangered species recovery. Presentation by Ron Thom, member of the Washington State Academy of Sciences, staff scientist emeritus at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and senior science advisor for the Puget Sound Partnership. 
  • A presentation for discussion on cumulative effects evaluation and case study application to Puget Sound recovery. A cumulative effects evaluation is a tool to evaluate recovery progress and effectiveness by analyzing the cumulative benefits of recovery actions across large spatial and temporal scales. This presentation will include discussion of how the peer-reviewed methodology for a cumulative effects evaluation can be applied in Puget Sound. Presentation by Elene Trujillo, effectiveness monitoring analyst at the Puget Sound Partnership, Annelise Del Rio, monitoring performance analyst/salmon scientist at the Puget Sound Partnership, Ron Thom, staff scientist emeritus at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and senior science advisor for the Puget Sound Partnership, and Gary Johnson, retired research scientist, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
  • A presentation and discussion about the Science Panel’s 2022 work plan and the shared priorities of the Partnership’s boards. This session will include discussion of existing topics and new topics for the Science Panel’s 2022 work plan and a review of the board’s 2021 priorities. Presentation by Jillian Reitz, boards policy advisor at the Puget Sound Partnership.
  • A presentation and discussion about identifying actions to include in the 2022-2026 Action Agenda. Partnership staff will update the Panel on the process to identify actions to include in the 2022-2026 Action Agenda update. Partnership staff will also invite the Panel to continue discussing its role in implementing this Action Agenda. Presentation by Dan Stonington, planning manager at the Puget Sound Partnership.
  • A presentation for discussion about the application of econometric cost models to fish passage barriers. This session will include an overview of a report on using econometric and machine learning methods to project the restoration costs for 27,000 barrier culverts documented in state inventories. Presentation by Braeden Van Deynze, postdoctoral research associate with the University of Washington’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, and Robby Fonner, economist at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center. 


The full Science Panel agenda and meeting materials are available through our board meetings page at: https://psp.wa.gov/board_meetings.php.

If you need special accommodations to participate in this meeting, please notify Boards Policy Advisor Jillian Reitz at 360.742.2936.


About the Science Panel

The Science Panel’s expertise and advice are critical to the Puget Sound Partnership’s efforts to develop a comprehensive, science-based plan to restore Puget Sound. The members, appointed by the Leadership Council, are chosen from the top scientists in Washington State.

About the Puget Sound Partnership

The Puget Sound Partnership is the state agency formed to lead the region’s collective effort to restore and protect Puget Sound. Working with hundreds of government agencies, tribes, scientists, businesses, and nonprofits, the Partnership mobilizes partner action around a common agenda, advances Sound investments, and tracks progress to optimize recovery.

For more information, go to www.psp.wa.gov.

Pat Neal’s Alternative Universe of Salmon Restoration

An Alternative Universe (NASA)

The following letter (edited to 250 words) was sent to the PDN this morning.

It was dismaying to see the PDN give column space today to the opinions of Pat Neal and his alternative universe of salmon restoration. If I read it right, he offers nothing but criticism of what he calls “The Salmon Restoration Industry” and no actual concrete proposals other than “build and fund more hatcheries” as if this will somehow fix the slow extinction of salmon in our region. It’s so easy to ignore the decades of science, funding and citizen involvement that has brought us to this point of restoration, as well as ignoring the habitat destruction that all of us contributed to over the last 100 years. I guess it’s easy to stand on the river and pretend hatcheries will fix everything.

Virtually all scientists agree on an “All H” method of salmon restoration. This means addressing Habitat, Hydro (dams, rivers, lakes),Hatcheries and Harvest. Increase and restore habitat. Monitor and manage river flows, well densities, fix hydropower issues, or perhaps tear down dams. Increase hatchery size and type. And manage harvest to save runs. The current “salmon restoration industry” as Neal so derisively puts it, has been established *because* of the need to address all four of these issues. If it’s failing, maybe it’s from something other than ongoing support. Like needing even more funding which is substantial but nowhere near enough. Perhaps more enforcement of the regulations on the books. Well, the list of what could be done goes on and on. Easy to pick your favorite solution and say “if only”.

Hatcheries have been given far more importance in budgets over the last 10 years, including large increases proposed by the Governor in his 2019 and 2021 budgets at the behest of sports fishermen and tribes (2020/21 had cuts to everything due to the Pandemic). This despite mounting scientific evidence that hatcheries produce fish that compete for food with wild stock and reduce genetic diversity. Salmon for fishermen and not for whales or the ecosystem at large. Neal uses hatchery numbers from 1961 to supposedly show that these hatchery fish were the reasons we had such a huge amount of salmon in our waters. Given the survival rate of hatchery fish it seems absurd to draw a conclusion like that. It ignores that we had dramatically fewer people, a climate under some semblance of stability, and had yet to finish destroying virtually all old growth forests between here and Juneau. But the signs of impending doom were clear to those that wanted to look.

Neal’s use of the Dungeness River as an example is perfect. It is a perfect example of not understanding history. For my 2010 movie “Voices of the Strait” I interviewed fishermen who were on the Dungeness in the 40s, 50s and 60s and their stories all were the same: they understood but had no way to stop the unrestrained destruction of habitat that they witnessed, including the cutting of irrigation channels into the Dungeness during peak salmon return seasons, leaving millions of fish to die without spawning. They had no environmental vocabulary to describe it,as we do now. They just all said, “what a waste”.The diking of the Dungeness only helped to kill the river by accelerating the river flow and wiping out locations where the fish spawned. It was done for the benefit of farmers and homeowners, not salmon. The late Port Angeles angler Dick Goin actually documented the losses in his unpublished “Roll Call of the Lost” counts of the loss of fish on all our rivers. I have a copy if anyone is interested. He saw it in real time. The hatcheries Neal describes were created to *fix* that problem, and yet the science shows it’s not nearly enough and they are failing to produce significant results. For instance, we now know by scat analysis what Orcas actually eat and it’s not hatchery salmon but fish from the Fraser and Columbia.

Additionally, charter fishermen who I interviewed described to me in vivid detail that there were no limits on sports fishing up until the 1960s, despite their pleas to Fish & Wildlife to not waste the fish. The sports fishermen from Seattle would come out, catch 30 to 40 fish in a day and leave with a few in their coolers. The charter fishermen couldn’t hire enough kids to clean the fish so they would just throw them back in the Strait when the guys from the east side of the Sound left. They knew this was wrong but had no power to stop it and no storage for the fish. Limits on salmon were finally put in, too little too late. Now we are at place where shutting down the season appears as the only way to protect the runs from complete destruction.

Habitat restoration has been funded due to the efforts of the Tribes, the Counties, the Cities, the State, the Feds, sports and commercial fishermen and hundreds of other people who have *volunteered* their time to work on this. They sit in interminably long, boring meetings trying to come to consensus. They debate long lists of priorities. There is not the money for all of the priorities. The results of their work may take decades to show up in any significant numbers. It is like a giant puzzle with the pieces fitting together and finally, near the end, painting a bigger picture.

Pat ignores the history of international fishing fleets with gear so good they could laugh about who would catch the last fish, as one old timer who fished with them told me. Pat ignores our own logging for raw logs right here on the Peninsula to ship to Japan in the 70s & 80s, wiping out entire ecosystems of salmon runs for the quick profit of the few. He ignores that we clearcut over 90% of old growth forests until the Feds put an end to it due to documented losses of species, like salmon and birds. He ignores the enormous build out of suburbs & exurbs around Puget Sound most with little or no efforts back then to protect fish. I watched that happen myself, seeing subdivisions on the East side of Lake Washington build right down to the banks of streams and small lakes. Or ignoring 100 years of culverts put into roads for our benefit that cut off salmon from returning to spawn. And the armoring of shorelines around Puget Sound that is still going on. And of course ignoring a warming climate that could make all these efforts go for naught. All of it nibbling away at the habitat and the fish until there wasn’t enough left. And of course, there was the Boldt Decision, used for propaganda purposes to demonize the very people who have done the most to attempt the restoration. Love them or hate them, they haven’t sat idly by while the fish vanish. They are at the table, working to save them using the best available science today.

Will the efforts to restore runs succeed? We don’t know yet, but some runs on the Elwha are returning, just not yet the chinook in any numbers. As are some runs on Jimmy Come Lately Creek and others. It costs a lot of time, people and money to fix 100 years of destruction.

No one I’ve talked to or read in the last 20 years who is seriously working on this issue, other than Pat Neal, thinks simply making more hatchery fish is some kind of solution. Pat, you have a lot of passion, how about working to help solve the problems rather than ignore the scientists and anglers who have been in the trenches fighting to reverse this ? Your passion might be useful if you are willing to listen and learn.

Fixing septic systems is key to protecting Puget Sound shellfish -Crosscut

What happens when septic systems fail. Photo by Wa State Dept of Ecology

Since we are a county with a lot of septic systems, this might be of some interest to some of you. More work needs to be done, especially on homes along shorelines.

Keeping shellfish safe to eat will get harder without increasing repair and inspection of septic systems that can contaminate shellfish beds.

https://crosscut.com/environment/2021/12/fixing-septic-systems-key-protecting-puget-sound-shellfish

Washington state seeks tighter wastewater rules for Puget Sound, but sewage plant operators push back  – Seattle Times

This could be quite costly for small rural communities like ours. Can we find financial support to help upgrade our plants without massive increases in sewage costs?

…The state’s Ecology Department will decide as soon as the end of the month whether to issue a new general permit for all 58 sewage plants around the Sound. Ecology argues that as more people live here, it’s imperative they not contribute more nitrogen, which comes from their urine, and worsen low dissolved oxygen levels. These levels already occur in some parts of Puget Sound, especially in the summer. Lynda Mapes reports. (Seattle Times)

Seattle Times

Washington state seeks tighter wastewater rules for Puget Sound, but sewage plant operators push back 

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