Net Pen Aquaculture in Puget Sound? A Risk Too High

What if a single mega-corporation polluted Puget Sound with as much untreated waste as the cities of Port Angeles, Bellingham, Everett and Tacoma combined? Would you agree that’s wrong? What if that industry’s products were so plagued with disease that it routinely spreads lethal viruses and parasites to the very wild salmon we are all so concerned about? What if an unknown amount of the farmed fish sold at grocery stores was infected with viruses, would you feel safe eating it? And what if, without knowing it, you were also consuming fish antibiotics, growth hormones, anti-parasitics, and other compounds?

What if you learned that this industry continues to discard into Puget Sound each day, large amounts of fish sewage, carcass leachate, blood water, drug-laced feed, dead fouling organisms, heavy metals, and marine debris–often in violation of its permit, and apparently undeterred after a long history of violations and fines? Would you find that acceptable year after year? A new report from the Olympic Forest Coalition gives the details.

While most people would agree that feeding a hungry world is necessary and good, most would also agree that damaging or destroying natural ecosystems (or bending regulations) in order to do so is bad – and, with the aquaculture industry, completely unnecessary. Aquaculture is considered an essential way to produce protein for humanity, a “blue economy” defined as “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystems.” But aquaculture in the form of net pens in ocean water has proven to be a double-edged sword for Puget Sound, with significant impacts in the absence of conscientious oversight and ethical management.

Suppose after a catastrophic accident caused by poor maintenance, that you had the authority to cancel the industry’s lease of submerged public lands. More than 250,000 diseased salmon escaped, but the industry sued you for canceling its lease. Though the court sided with your decision time after time, what if five years later the industry is still forcing you to spend more money on lawyers and court costs? When I use the word “you,” it’s not a hypothetical, because you as a Washington taxpayer are paying for this.

What if more sustainable alternatives to this industry’s practices exist, but the will hasn’t yet been summoned to turn to them?

That is precisely the pickle Washington State is in right now. Behaviors like those of Cooke Aquaculture, the company that owns these fish farms, have been likened in a newly-published book to “our generation’s version of Big Tobacco.” The report by the Olympic Forest Coalition gives the details on what is briefly mentioned here. If your reading time is limited, you may find the Timeline most compelling.

A history of agency bungling, lax oversight, inadequate enforcement, and fines that aren’t enough to be disincentives has affected the public’s trust of the very government agencies that should be better at protecting us by reining in such a highly polluting industry. Does Washington State lack the legal grounds that more legislation could remedy? Maybe. Does the will exist to truly fix the problem? Apparently not. Because after the gigantic diseased fish spill and passage of a state law in 2018 banning the raising of non-native fish in net pens in Puget Sound, Cooke Aquaculture immediately applied to raise native steelhead trout, albeit genetically manipulated, without any indication that it was correcting its well-known deficiencies.

And then, despite a contentious process in which a knowledgeable public overwhelmingly opposed the granting of this new permit to Cooke, the State Department of Ecology (DOE) granted them a five-year license anyway. A lawsuit over that poor public process went all the way to the State Supreme Court. Unfortunately for Puget Sound, it was decided in favor of Cooke on such narrow grounds that the cumulative impacts of all that pollution, as well as the intense public opposition, were all but ignored. So, the viruses may now be different for steelhead, but the fish waste, antibiotics, fouling, debris, escaped fish and other pollutants will continue as long as the leases on those submerged lands are in effect. And this is where DNR comes in, because of Cooke’s leases are all expiring.

What’s next? Washington is at a major decision point. While Cooke wants new leases, the advocacy group Wild Fish Conservancy has also applied for them, with the intent to restore the degraded habitats of these public lands. With foresight, British Columbia recently announced that by phasing out or canceling its leases, it will transition away from open water net pens over the next few years. Washington is now the last state on the west coast to allow commercial open water net pens, and the last jurisdiction on the entire North Pacific Coast that has not already banned, excluded, or committed to phasing them out.

Nobody knows how farming steelhead will impact Puget Sound, not even DOE, who granted the permit and whose statements about steelhead being less risky to farm than Atlantic salmon were contradicted by its own documents submitted as proof. With a new biological opinion issued by NOAA Fisheries last winter, the harm to endangered species, including native steelhead, has been officially recognized.

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz is the deciding official on whether to grant leases to Cooke Aquaculture or to the Wild Fish Conservancy. It’s already well-known that like just about everyone else, both she and Governor Inslee dislike the aggressive and litigious behavior of Cooke Aquaculture, but think about it: this is our state government and we have a voice. We should use it. A vocal chorus from the public might lend more weight to a decision in favor of restoring our public trust resources. Contact the Office of the Commissioner of Public Lands at cpl@dnr.wa.gov, or at MS 47001, Olympia, WA 98504-7001. Phone: 360-902-1004, fax: 360-902-1775.

Link to report: https://olympicforest.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Net-Pen-Fish-Farms-in-Puget-Sound-Position-Paper.pdf

EVENT: 8/26/22 @ 9am Birding in the Park – Fort Flagler

Birding and nature tours are now being held on the 4th Friday of each month. Wear sturdy footwear and dress for changeable weather. bring binoculars and your own water.

Registration: Please send Bev an email, subject: Birdwatching Walk to Bevybirds53@gmail.com and she will plan directly with you. Please note this program is dependent on good weather.

Presenter: Beverly McNeil, Admiralty Audubon trip leader and photographer, has been conducting bird walks at Fort Flagler. Beverly’s photographs are displayed at the Port Townsend Gallery: http://porttownsendgallery.com/artists/beverly-mcneil/.

 

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Hot enough? You haven’t seen anything yet.

Reading through New Scientist today, UK’s hottest day on record sees temperatures pass 40°C | New Scientist, I was struck by their comments that we are now at 1.5 degrees C experiencing this kind of interruption to society in the U.K. Canada and the U.S. but we are expecting 3.5 degrees by the end of this century.

Think that through. We are experiencing this kind of heat in the northern hemisphere at only 1/3rd of the way to where scientists predict we are going. At the same time, none of the 40 countries that met in Berlin last week for the annual climate change talks did anything of substance to help low-income countries. We are failing on all accounts. The vast majority of people simply refuse to believe it until they are washed away, living in an inferno or finding their forests burning. We are *in* climate change. There is no going back.

If you have anything you can do, it’s to take this issue to our elected or soon to be elected officials. They need to hear that it’s unacceptable to do nothing or blame others in the face of this slow moving disaster.

It’s up to you now. The politicians are refusing to save us. The Republicans just want to return to a past that included burning rivers of pollution, fogging children with DDT and more. The born again Christians seem to simply be interested in abortion or believe we are in end times and are simply waiting for salvation rather than helping come up with solutions. We are truly untethered as society and needing leadership that will only come from people not yet on the stage. The future is not going to be like the past, but with work it might be better than we think. Step up now.

A farewell to Bob Campbell

From our friends at the Feiro Marine Life Center in PA. I agree, Bob was a wonderful human being. Sad to see him gone, though I haven’t seen him in a few years.

Please note that Feiro will be closed on Sunday, July 24 so that staff and volunteers will be able to attend Bob Campbell’s Celebration of Life.

He will be celebrated at 2:00pm at Studio Bob, 118 1/2 East Front Street, Port Angeles, with refreshments and socializing to follow.

Bob was a wonderful human with a deep passion for our ocean and a commitment to mentoring young humans. He was Feiro’s Facilities Director from 2003-2016. We miss him every day.

The frustrating, baffling Mr. Biden

As long time readers know, I rarely venture into specific politics in Washington D.C., but after the defeats of the Democrats on environmental issues by zero support of Republicans under the leadership of Mitch McConnell, and the lack of any support by Senator Manchin to fix the deadlock on any substantial climate change issue, I’m acted to move by a morning headline.

The New York Times is reporting this morning that President Biden was willing to make a “collegial deal” with Senator McConnell to nominate a judge to the Federal Bench. The Times reported, “The White House quietly agreed with the Senate Republican leader to nominate Chad Meredith for a federal judgeship, but opposition from his fellow Kentuckian Rand Paul scuttled the deal.”

To be clear, Mr. Meredith is a staunch anti-abortion advocate, and a member of the Federalist Society, with other Supreme Court right wing judges. This right wing society is focused on overturning many of the issues that Democrats hold dear including environmental issues. In 2019, The Washington Post Magazine wrote that the Federalist Society had reached an “unprecedented peak of power and influence.” Of the current nine members of the Supreme Court of the United States, six are current or former members of the organization (Brett KavanaughNeil GorsuchClarence ThomasJohn RobertsSamuel Alito, and Amy Coney Barrett). Politico wrote that the Federalist Society “has become one of the most influential legal organizations in history—not only shaping law students’ thinking but changing American society itself by deliberately, diligently shifting the country’s judiciary to the right.” Additionally, these same Supreme Court judges are responsible for rolling back the power of the EPA to protect our air and water exactly at the time we need it to do that more than ever.

After years of having Senator McConnell work to stop anything being done in the Senate by President Obama, and now President Biden, including unprecedented holding up of Supreme Court nominees, to hear that President Biden was somehow working to be collegial to this ruthless political animal simply is mind bending. It appears that Biden just still, doesn’t get it. What kind of “personal favor” as the White House stated, was behind this? Why not ask for something from McConnell for this nomination, or simply state the obvious, “given what you have done to Democratic nominations and bills over the last 15 years, Mitch, you deserve nothing from us until you start working with us to pass legislation that is meaningful.”

I have talked to 30 somethings recently about voting on environmental and abortion issues, and the depressing truth is I’ve heard how disenfranchised they feel about both parties. It is not working to try and tell them how important an issue is, when they feel that both parties are working against their interests, and this kind of “old school” Senate behavior is simply reinforcing it. I predict there is not much chance Biden will be re-elected, if he chooses to run and if he gets out of the primaries.

The earth environmental crisis needs fighters, politicians who can get things done, or make the opposition pay a price for their insistence on not negotiating. We do not need milk toast middle of the road old school pols who take stances like this.

Supreme Court threw a ‘punch to the gut,’ PNW Native leaders say – Seattle Times

If you don’t believe that it matters who you voted for, think again. More outrageous behavior from the team of right-wing radicals currently running the highest court in our land. Are Treaty Rights next?


Native leaders and Indigenous rights lawyers in the Puget Sound region and beyond are raising the alarm about a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, saying it threatens tribal sovereignty with regard to criminal prosecutions and beyond. Some local tribes are still digesting the June 29 ruling that deals with state power over Native lands, while others are calling it a blow to centuries of legal history and tradition. Daniel Beekman and Omar Shaikh Rashad report. (Seattle Times)

Supreme Court threw a ‘punch to the gut,’ PNW Native leaders say | The Seattle Times

Job Opening: Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Position Description: Enviro. Education & Stewardship Specialist. The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary AmeriCorps member will support education and outreach for Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, including planning, implementing and evaluating K-12 ocean science education programs based on Ocean Literacy Principles and best practices for NOAA B-WET “meaningful watershed educational experiences”.

AmeriCorps members will also assist sanctuary staff, in partnership with Washington CoastSavers, to plan and coordinate beach cleanups. Additionally, members will conduct public outreach with local service and interest groups and at prioritized community events such as Dungeness Crab and Seafood Festival, Beachcombers Fun Fair, Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival and regional career fairs.

The position is based out of Port Angeles, WA, and will take place from Oct 2022 – Aug 2023.

Apply at:

https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?id=74731&fromSearch=true

Lamprey legacy: Eel-like fish return after dam removal – Salish Sea Currents

Christopher Dunagan concludes his excellent series on the return of the Elwha River.

Prehistoric-looking lamprey are recolonizing parts of the Elwha River that they have not occupied for more than 100 years. Like salmon, the culturally and ecologically important fish also move from saltwater into rivers to spawn. And like salmon, lamprey were devastated by the dams that once blocked their way. We conclude our series ‘Returning home: The Elwha’s genetic legacy.’   

Lamprey legacy: Eel-like fish return after dam removal | Encyclopedia of Puget Sound (eopugetsound.org)

Returning home: The Elwha’s genetic legacy-Salish Sea Currents Magazine

Excellent series by long time Northwest journalist Christopher Dunagan

Following dam removal, migratory salmon have been free to swim into the upper Elwha River for the first time in 100 years. Their actual behaviors and reproductive success may well be driven by changes in their genetic makeup. Our seven-part series ‘Returning home’ examines how the fish are doing and whether the Elwha’s genetic legacy remains intact. 

Salish Sea Currents

Returning home: The Elwha’s genetic legacy | Encyclopedia of Puget Sound (eopugetsound.org)

NWI: Purchase protects Discovery Creek headwaters – PDN and others

A little behind on this news. Congratulations to Northwest Watershed Institute and everyone else who helped pull this off!

Ninety-one acres of forest and streams at the headwaters of Discovery Creek, a major tributary to Dabob Bay in East Jefferson County, have been acquired by Northwest Watershed Institute from Rayonier. The project completes preservation of nearly the entirety of Discovery Creek, which is the second largest freshwater source to Tarboo-Dabob Bay.

PDN & NWI

Microsoft Word – Discovery Ck acquisition May 27 2022.docx (nwwatershed.org)

Greta Thunberg on hope…

Yesterday in England, Greta Thunberg gave a speech to the crowds at the Glastonbury festival. It was reported in The Guardian.

She said it was time for society to start “creating hope” rather than waiting for it to arrive: “Hope is not something that is given to you. It is something you have to earn, to create. It cannot be gained passively from standing by passively and waiting for someone else to do something.

“It is taking action. It is stepping outside your comfort zone. And if a bunch of school kids were able to get millions of people on the streets and start changing their lives, just imagine what we could all do together if we try.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jun/25/greta-thunberg-makes-surprise-appearance-at-glastonbury-festival?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Navy SEAL use of state parks appears over – Seattle Times – Update

The attempt to turn our state parks into training grounds for the military is over for now. The lack of concern by many citizens, including those in roles who’s charters clearly gave them authority to simply speak out against it, like our Port Commissioners and Marine Resources Committee members back in 2016, showed a lack of will to take a stand when needed. Luckily, others came forward to write the Parks Commissioners and fight it in court. Eventually, organizations like the MRC did come around and issue letters of concern.

Not wanting to rock the boat on issues like this, is no excuse for inaction. Thanks to those who did the right thing to challenge this.

Navy SEAL use of state parks appears over as state declines to appeal judge’s decision

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/navy-seal-use-of-state-parks-appears-over-as-state-declines-to-appeal-judges-decision/

I also received this email today.

“In your Olympic Peninsula Environmental News post today titled “Navy SEAL use of state parks appears over,” you implied that the Jefferson County MRC was silent on the issue of naval special operations training in our State Parks. To the contrary, the MRC did write an advisory letter in January 2021 to the Board of County Commissioners, who forwarded our concerns to the Parks and Recreation Commission. Our letter may be found on the Jefferson MRC website at https://www.jeffersonmrc.org/media/20315/jcmrc_letter-re-navaltraining_1152021-signed.pdf.  It would be helpful if you would correct this for the record in your newsletter.

I’m happy to hear that the Jefferson MRC finally did take a stand on this issue. I was a member of the MRC from 2010 to 2019, and during the time of my being chair and beyond, I did attempt to raise this issue and seek a letter taking a stand. At that time, with the membership it had, there was no interest in doing that. Now, with a somewhat different set of members, it appears that they have accomplished it. I am supportive of the MRC following it’s charter to seek to protect the waters and shoreline of Jefferson County.

Quilcene & Dabob Bays closed for shellfish harvest

Port Townsend, WA. Recent shellfish samples taken from Quilcene Bay contained elevated levels of the marine biotoxin that causes Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP). As a result, the Washington State Department of Health has closed Quilcene Bay and Dabob Bay beaches for recreational shellfish harvest for all shellfish species. Danger signs have been posted at public access points warning people not to consume shellfish from these areas. Other Hood Canal waters outside of Quilcene Bay and Dabob Bay remain under a Vibrio warning to cook all shellfish to an internal temperature of 145°F for 15 seconds.

Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP) can cause gastrointestinal illness. Illness is caused by eating shellfish contaminated with toxins from the naturally occurring marine plankton Dinophysis.

Diarrhetic Shellfish Poison toxin isn’t destroyed by cooking or freezing. Symptoms of DSP include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. The onset of symptoms can range from thirty minutes to four hours after consumption. If mild symptoms occur, call your health care provider and Jefferson County Public Health. For severe reactions call 911. Additional information regarding DSP can be found at www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Shellfish/RecreationalShellfish/Illnesses/Biotoxins/DiarrheticShellfishPoisoning.

To find out which areas are safe to harvest shellfish in Washington, check the map at doh.wa.gov/ShellfishSafety or call the Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632. For the latest information on regulations and seasons, visit the Fish and Wildlife website at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing or call the Shellfish Rule Change Hotline at 1-866-880-5431.

Pleasant Harbor opponents ask State AG and Federal Consumer Protection Bureau for investigation into sales activities

Since 2006 a Master Planned Residential Resort (MPR) has been in the planning stage by the Canadian Stateman Group, on what is known as Black Point in southern Jefferson County along the Hood Canal. The MPR, 15 miles south of the Hood Canal Bridge, was proposed as an approximate 256-acre destination resort with golf course. The county granted (against much opposition) a land use designation in 2008, and in 2018 approved new zoning and a “Development Agreement”. Despite the go ahead from the county, the Statesman Group has only recently logged the land and has now been marketing the not yet built development. The Brinnon Group, which was formed in opposition to the proposed development, has now asked the State Attorney General and Federal Consumer Protection Bureau to investigate the sales and marketing efforts.

Black Point aka Pleasant Harbor Master Planned Residential Resort – left and center of Peninsula stretching over to marina on upper right. Logged area for golf course can be seen in mid center. Photo courtesy of The Brinnon Group.

The Brinnon Group points out several points of concern.

The county amended their development agreement with Statesman under court order, due to an appeal by Statesman of the original zoning and agreement. The amendment required each phase of development to “contain adequate infrastructure, open space, recreational facilities, landscaping” and other conditions “to stand alone if no subsequent phases are developed.”

Further, the Development Agreement requires ten features of combined infrastructure and resort/recreational amenities be developed before residential units can be built and sold. However, as of this date, none of these infrastructure/amenities have been constructed; the Brinnon Group state that no permit applications have even been filed for necessary features of Phase 1 of the proposal. No water/sewer district has been formed and no sewer treatment plant or water system has been permitted, constructed or installed. No permits have been filed for construction of the staff quarters. No road system has been constructed and no improvements made to the intersection of Black Point Road and Highway 101, the only entrance to the project.

The ten features the agreement states for Phase 1 “required that substantial resort infrastructure and recreational facilities be constructed as follows:

  • Clearing and construction of the golf course.
  • Construction of the road network.
  • Road improvements at Highway 101 and Black Point Road.
  • Wastewater Treatment Plant.
  • Water Storage Tank and distribution piping.
  • Sanitary Sewer Pump Stations.
  • Begin Implementation of Vegetation Management Plan.
  • Construction of Community/Recreation Center, with 208 short term hotel rooms, spa services, pool, water slides, commercial space and sports courts.
  • Construct residential units with 52 units of staff quarters for those working at the facility.
  • Form a water and sewer district.”
    • Only if these amenities and infrastructure elements are completed can the developer construct and sell approximately 252 units of residential housing.
    • As of this month, according to the Brinnon Group’s letter, none of these infrastructure/amenities have been constructed. (emphasis in original email from Brinnon Group.)
  • Additionally, the planned 208 room hotel, complete with premised water slides, spa services, commercial space and sports courts is not constructed, and no building permit applications have been filed.
  • The only progress on Phase 1 is logging (and timber sale) for golf course fairway areas
  • Construction of any sewer and water facilities requires approval of the State Department of Health (DOH). Though application materials were sent to DOH, they were incomplete, as described in a letter from DOH dated September 22, 2020. A recent inquiry to DOH by the Brinnon Group shows no additional material submitted by Statesman.
  • The Brinnon group points out that despite the issues listed above, the Statesman Group have begun marketing efforts.
    • They have constructed a web site.
    • They have put a 6 minute sales video out.
    • Sent out a mass mailer in the Seattle area.

The Brinnon Group points out that both the website and the “Seattle Signal” mass mailing contain multiple inaccuracies and statements which are not – and will not be – accurate within any reasonable time. The five numbered items in the mailing,  “Vista Lots, Sea View Villas, Terraced Lofts, the Inn by the Sea and the Maritime Village” are all described for purchase or lease real estate interests. There is no indication, according to the Brinnon Group,  that these facilities are permitted or constructed, and the brochure does not explain the ten elements of Phase 1 of the PHMPR that must be constructed before the real estate interests can be sold. There is apparently no opportunity offered for prospective buyers to inspect the property.

Additionally, the marketing mailing states that, “While some are golfing or enjoying REJUV-Health, others benefit from the Recreation Center’s indoor pools, skating and hockey rink, indoor soccer, racquetball and numerous training facilities for league sport, as well as the Family Fun Center,”  

However, this recreation center is not constructed and there are apparently no permit applications with Jefferson County, nor even basic plans for the facility, according to the Brinnon Group letter.

The website claimed that “Our Health Center includes an approved surgical operatory for various endoscopic day procedures such as those related to ear-nose-throat procedures, general surgeries, plastic surgery plus urology & gynecology and minor orthopedic procedures.” The Brinnon Group could find no plans nor permits for construction of such a facility.

The Brinnon Group goes on to state, “Even Phase 1 of the PHMPR involves a very expensive proposal with a multi-year permitting and construction program. However, substantially no progress has been made on moving this project forward in the three years since the Development Agreement was approved, after modifications required by the Superior Court. There is every indication that Statesman lacks the financial wherewithal to complete this venture, much less even initiate it.”

A question also is raised by the Brinnon Group as to whether the Statesman Group has the financial resources needed to build this development. Their concern comes from a 2016 proposal made by the Statesman Group that said, “In order to finance this community resource, Pleasant Harbor Marina & Golf Resort LLP (PHM) will be seeking County and State of Washington support, where the stakeholders would all benefit from the increased attraction in the community.”

The proposal included requesting a $2,000,000 grant from Jefferson County and a $9,250,000 grant from the State of Washington from “the Washington State Utility Trust, a Recreational Community Grant . . .” Statesman further proposed that the State “would sponsor through the Federal Government a Tax Exempt Municipal Improvement Bond for $26.5 million dollars at a loan to PHM.” Given the non-existent financial arrangements proposed, neither the State nor Jefferson County advanced any funds, much less the $37,750,000 requested. Indeed, Statesman asked local governments in British Columbia to provide similar financial support in the amount of about $40 million for the recreational center at its Pine Ridge resort, which unsurprisingly was declined by Canadian officials.

The Brinnon Group concludes in their letter, “Statesman, though creating the PHMPR in name, has made no progress toward the completion of facilities necessary to meet the standards of a Master Planned resort, even the basics of water and sewer services. It appears that Statesman lacks the financial resources even to build the infrastructure and amenities required by its Development Agreement. This however does not deter Statesman from wild promises and misrepresentations concerning its proposal, as found in its promotional materials and advertising, all in an apparent attempt to solicit sales of real estate interests in this proposal. The mismatch between development reality and description provided in the promotional materials is substantial. The partial development of an underfunded and half-finished resort has consequences for the community. In summary, the Brinnon Group requests that there be a full investigation of the public solicitation for the sale of interests in the Pleasant Harbor MPR and appropriate actions taken.”

We will continue to follow this story as it unfolds.

Are yelloweye rockfish on the path to recovery? -Salish Sea Currents

More good news on one species of rockfish recovery.

“If this is real — and this is based on the most robust model we have with the best available science — then we are very optimistic,” says Lowry. 

https://www.eopugetsound.org/magazine/yelloweye-rockfish-recovery

Battle of Dems over forests

Recently two strongly worded Op-Ed pieces ran in the Seattle Times, highlighting a growing rift between the efforts of Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and Democratic Senator Kevin Van de Wege of the Olympic Peninsula. Both Franz and Van de Wege are staunch Democrats, both often attend the local fish fry’s and usually have been seen as being on the same page.

However, in the last months, to highlight Earth Day, Commissioner Franz went out on a limb to lock up forests (also known by the title “Working Forests” for the fact that they are usually cut down at some point) and trade the lock for “carbon offsets” to polluters.

On the face of it, this might seem like an innocuous “good thing” to do. But it appears that Commissioner Franz decided on this for her own reasons, perhaps to gain an opportunity to host President Biden when he was here, and gain a photo op of her and the President Biden on his trip here in April. Her announcement included protection of forests in Whatcom, Thurston, King and Grays Harbor counties. Oddly missing was Clallam and Jefferson Counties, two counties that non-profits working hard to get Franz to save some old growth that is planned on being harvested this summer. Also, it apparently was done with little or no involvement of Senator Van de Wege, who then launched his own scathing Op-Ed piece denouncing Franz move, one he said “…should be effective, measurable and transparent — standards notably ignored in the Washington Department of Natural Resources’ recent decision to set aside more state trust lands as carbon reserves while selling carbon offsets that allow industrial polluters to keep polluting.”

Van de Wege went on, “Whatever actions we take, our climate policies should be effective, measurable and transparent — standards notably ignored in the Washington Department of Natural Resources’ recent decision to set aside more state trust lands as carbon reserves while selling carbon offsets that allow industrial polluters to keep polluting.

“…DNR adopted this fundamental change of course in state policy without honoring traditional safeguards such as thorough analyses, public hearings and oversight by the state Legislature or Board of Natural Resources.

“While in the past DNR has acknowledged that the sale, exchange or purchase of trust lands must be approved by the Board of Natural Resources, in this case the agency has notably declined to commit to honoring the board’s oversight. At best, DNR has offered only vague promises of “engagement” to some undefined and uncertain degree.

He finished by saying, “Did DNR adequately analyze the impact of unintended consequences from its proposed carbon lease? Reducing the responsible timber harvest in Washington state will decrease our state’s capacity to produce wood products, leading to an increase in carbon-emitting imports from places that do not sustainably manage their forests, or the substitution of concrete and steel, both of which are significant contributors to carbon emissions.

“Until these troubling questions are answered, the state should not proceed with a carbon reserve policy that may be neither effective, measurable nor transparent while undermining well-established practices that combat climate change and support rural communities.”

This blog has been highly critical of Ms. Franz approach to her leasing the Dungeness Spit to a commercial aquaculture farm, over the objections of numerous significant environmental concerns raised by everyone from the Dungeness Spit Wildlife Refuge manager to a number of scientists and environmental organizations. As reported here before, she denied to this reporter in front of a crowd of democratic funders any knowledge of the leasing of the Spit though her signature was affixed to the document. This new initiative seems poorly thought out and even more poorly communicated within her own party.

Ms Franz, it has been rumored in Democratic circles for years, has had her eye on the Governorship. While she is clearly running for future office on her work on fighting fires in Washington State, she might worry a bit more about the political fires she herself is starting on the Olympic Peninsula. Senator Van de Wege is a powerful force in our state politics, especially for holding onto a very conservative district like Clallam County. He is known as an environmental champion, having been given that honor years ago by People For Puget Sound for his efforts to both support ending fire retardants use in industry and his support for the rescue tug at Neah Bay, which has saved many ships over the years. His Op-Ed clearly shows she has angered him, and it’s going to be very hard for her to mend that fence.

Read the whole Op-Ed by Senator Van De Wege here:

https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/lack-of-transparency-clouds-management-of-trust-lands/

Read Commissioner Franz’ reply here:

https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/we-must-stop-fighting-over-our-forests-and-come-together-to-start-fighting-for-our-forests/

For more on DNR’s Carbon Project that has angered Senator Van de Wege…

https://www.dnr.wa.gov/CarbonProject

Two Countries, Two Government Officials, Poised to Make One Critical Decision

The Wild Fish Conservancy brings up the impending decisions on net pens that both BC and Washington officials will be making. Given a conversation that I had with Commissioner Franz last year, I hold very little hope of her doing the right thing. She seems either ignorant of the issues, letting staffers make the decisions, or in favor of industry on this topic. But your input now could make a difference. Call her office. 360-902-1000


Causeway removal meant big jump in juvenile salmon – AP

Good news from the work done by North Olympic Salmon Coalition (NOSC) and the State.

Only six juvenile salmon were found during seining in the five years before the bridge opened. During this year’s seining, over two days in May, volunteers netted close to 1,000 juvenile salmon

https://www.knkx.org/environment/2022-06-06/causeway-removal-meant-big-jump-in-juvenile-salmon

Clallam County Marine Resources Committee offers paid internships!

Due date extended!

Do you enjoy doing citizen science work in our community? Do you want to earn while you learn? This year the Clallam Marine Resources Committee is expanding their internship program by offering two internships for Summer 2022.

The duration of the internships is approximately 80 hours @ $15/hr. with most of the work to be completed between June – August 2022. The interns will work closely with MRC members, Makah, Jamestown Biologists on one or more of these projects:

  • Green Crab Trapping and Removal: The intern will assist the Makah Tribe’s Marine Ecology program with their efforts to trap invasive European green crab in estuaries on the Makah Reservation. The internship will include both fieldwork and office/lab work.
  • Olympia Oyster monitoring: The intern will assist Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s Natural Resource Department with all aspects of Olympia Oyster surveys and monitoring. The internship will include both fieldwork and office/lab work.
  • Other: Pigeon Guillemot colony monitoring, kelp surveys via kayak, shellfish biotoxin sampling,data entry and other duties as assigned.

The interns will present their work at the Intern Celebration August 15, 2022.

If you are interested in being an intern, we recommend you browse the MRC website http://www.clallamcountymrc.org/ for more background, and then submit a letter of intent to the Clallam MRC at rebecca.mahan@co.clallam.wa.us or 223 East 4th St. Suite 5, Port Angeles, WA 98362. The application due date for the two internships is May 27, 2022.

Save the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge Update

Janet Marx, who is a member of Protect the Peninsula’s Future, working to save the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge, passed this along.


With the Army Corp of Engineers (ACE) approving a permit despite their Decision Document stating concerns about more than minimal damage to the Refuge, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) quickly signed a lease with Ron Allen of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe (JST) in January without public input. 

In December we sent DNR the ACE document that listed several ways the oyster operation would destabilize the refuge and harm the wildlife.  We then requested a meeting with Hilary Franz, Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands (DNR) to discuss ACE findings and why the lease should be rescinded based at least on the ACE concerns.  We received no response.  Follow up requests for a meeting were ignored by Hilary. We finally had two meetings with Alex Smith, Deputy Supervisor – Forest Resilience, Regulation and Aquatics, and other staff.  The outcome was a refusal by DNR to rescind the lease, knowing the bottom lands they are charged to protect will be damaged.

They remarked that DNR can enforce permits but cannot deny them.  Hence, violate first.

Remember back to the Clallam County Hearing Examiner’s (HE) mitigated approval in which he required the applicant have the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) or the local Audubon chapter oversee the project and train the applicant’s staff to identify and monitor Refuge birds.  If both declined, then the County would select an independent corporation to review a modified Jamestown Avian Monitoring Plan (AMP) as the original Plan was inadequate.  Both declined.  So the County hired an independent corporation, West Inc.  West reviewed the AMP and made light-weight suggestions instead of requirements.  West accepted weak statements rather than requiring detailed procedures and oversight.  The report primarily focused on seasonal bird counts but did not have a procedure for monitoring habitat changes that will affect the birds.

We have grown our coalition of Washington State environmental organizations who are also appalled with a commercial operation inside a national refuge.  Recently, nearly a dozen organizations sent a joint letter to DNR Commissioner Hilary Franz expressing their concerns that she approved the oyster shellfish operation knowing full well that this operation will damage the Refuge.  (See letter attachment above.) 

We are working with our partner organizations to find a way to save the Dungeness Refuge.  If you have not written to Commissioner Franz please do so. This is a good time for individual letters to join forces with the joint letter.

                                                Hilary Franz, Commissioner

                                                Office of the Commissioner of Public Lands

                                                MS47001

                                                Olympia, WA  98504

                                                cpl@dnr.wa.gov

Hugh Morrison is the recently appointed interim USFWS Regional Director in the Portland OR office.  Please write him.  It was that office that pulled its earlier comments opposing the oyster project.  We need to keep the pressure on the service to re-engage and oppose.  They too were sent the ACE document spelling out the destruction to the Refuge.

                                                Hugh Morrison, Interim Regional Director

                                                Regional Director’s Office-R1

                                                911 NE 11th Avenue

                                                Portland, OR  97282-4181

                                                Hugh_Morrison@fws.gov

This will take a village to save the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, but save it we will!

Protect the Peninsula’s Future — PO Box 421 — Sequim, WA 98382

http://www.protectpeninsulasfuture.org/dungeness-refuge-alert/

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