Study raises questions about using ‘woody debris’ to restore streams -Salish Currents

Some of the woody debris projects work, some don’t. The reasons why are not yet known.


“Efforts to improve salmon streams damaged by past logging and other human activities commonly include the addition of carefully placed logs, tree roots or “woody debris” to mimic this natural system. But a new report raises questions about the value of adding wood to streams — at least in the way it has been done in many restoration projects.”. Chris Dunagan reports. (Salish Sea Currents)

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

Beyond Pesticides Launches Campaign to Save Dungeness Spit from Aquaculture

Beyond Pesticides (BP) has apparently recently learned of the ongoing battle to save Dungeness Spit from an aquaculture farm, supported by Commissioner Hilary Franz and others in our local and state governments. While BP is late to this issue, we welcome their efforts to stop this while we still have a small chance.


In spite of the known harm to migratory and residential birds, salmon, forage fish, other wildlife and their primary feeding areas, and a recommendation by the National Marine Fisheries Service that “an alternative site be identified in a location that results in less potential impacts to wildlife that is more appropriate for aquaculture and meets the goals of the tribe,” permitting agencies approved permits and a lease for a 50-acre industrial oyster farm for private financial gain inside the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. This decision, which is in violation of the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, must be reversed.

Agencies are well aware of the potential damage to the lands it is their mission to protect.

>>Tell the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the Dungeness National Wildlife lease must be rescinded.

The Dungeness Bay Wildlife Refuge was created by Executive Order in 1915 by Woodrow Wilson, directing the area to be set aside as a “refuge, preserve and breeding ground for native birds and prohibits any disturbance of the birds within the reserve.” The Refuge provides habitat, a preserve and breeding grounds for more than 250 species of birds and 41 species of land animals. 

The front page of the Refuge website states: “Pets, bicycles, kite flying, Frisbees, ball-playing, camping, and fires are not permitted on the Refuge as they are a disturbance for the many migrating birds and other wildlife taking solitude on the Refuge.” With this level of concern, it is counterintuitive to allow destructive industrial aquaculture. 

These detrimental effects to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge are NOT minimal. Among the negative impacts of this project are: 50% reduction in bird primary feeding grounds;  20,000 – 80,000 toxic plastic oyster bags that exclude the probing shorebird flocks from feeding deeply into the substrate, entrapment of fish and birds, add macro- and micro-plastic bits to the sediment throughout the refuge, and shift the benthic community composition; diminishment of the ecological benefits provided by eelgrass to threatened fish and birds, such as nourishment and cover from predators and, with warming waters, increased toxic algal blooms that will leave a graveyard of dead oysters. Additionally, commercial shellfish operations attract pathogens and non-native species that threaten the area ecosystem and the shellfish. Decision makers should not place financial benefits to the corporation above the long term and cumulative impacts to the refuge.

>>Tell the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the Dungeness National Wildlife lease must be rescinded.

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

Trouble on the Half Shell

Scientists have discovered a mystery parasite—what will it mean for the future of Washington’s oysters?

Interesting article that features the Jamestown S’Klallam and their efforts to restore Olympia Oysters, and scientists trying to better understand the history of this mysterious parasite.

FDA Sued Over Failure to Release Documents Regarding Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon, Planned Ohio Production Facility 

While this is not local news, it does show that the aquaculture industry seems to be untrustworthy when it comes to honesty to the public. We have seen this many times locally. As mentioned before, the only way to protect our environment seems to be in the courts. We have seen many times recently that we cannot trust the FDA, NOAA, State & Federal EPA, local officials nor the Army Corps of Engineers to actually do their jobs in following the law to protect our environment. The only thing that seems to stop them is lawsuits.

“After years of touting that it will grow its fish in tanks that recycle the water, the company now plans to pump water from the aquifer that supplies community drinking water and dump wastewater back into a nearby stream. Without the requested documents, we have no way to know if FDA has fully considered the effects this facility will have on the local environment.” 


SAN FRANCISCO—Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for unlawfully withholding records regarding FDA’s environmental assessment of genetically engineered (GE) salmon and a planned Ohio-based production facility—a major expansion from current capacity. The FOIA lawsuit comes on the heels of CFS and allies’ successful lawsuit holding FDA’s approval of GE salmon unlawful. FDA’s approval marked the first time any government in the world had approved a GE animal as food. 

“Despite the 2020 court decision holding FDA’s first-ever approval of a genetically engineered food animal unlawful, FDA claims it needs nearly two years to produce records,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety. “But our request is narrow and straightforward: it’s time for FDA to tell the public about the possible environmental and ecological effects of genetically engineered salmon, including any effects to endangered wild salmon species.”  

AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage GE salmon is produced with DNA from Atlantic salmon, Pacific king salmon, and Arctic Ocean eelpout. In 2016, CFS and Earthjustice—representing a broad client coalition of environmental, consumer, commercial and recreational fishing organizations and the Quinault Indian Nation—sued FDA over the agency’s approval of GE salmon, citing inadequate environmental assessments and broad risks to ecosystems. 

In 2020, in a victory for CFS and allies, a California district court ruled the FDA violated core federal environmental laws in approving GE salmon, including failing to fully assess the serious environmental consequences of approving a GE salmon and the full extent of plans to grow and commercialize the salmon in the U.S. and around the world. The court sent the approval back to FDA to undertake more thorough environmental analyses to inform the public about the potential risks. 

After that ruling, AquaBounty announced plans to build a $200 million facility, expanding its production of GE salmon by 10,000 metric tons. This operation will be eight times larger than its existing Indiana facility. With action in play to produce GE salmon on an even larger scale, it is even more important to understand the environmental and ecological risks of producing and marketing GE salmon for human consumption.  

In October 2021, CFS submitted a FOIA request to FDA, seeking all documents related to FDA’s environmental assessments of AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage salmon and the planned Ohio facility, pursuant to the district court’s ruling. FDA is yet to produce the records, prompting CFS to now sue FDA under FOIA.  

“We are concerned that FDA is not paying careful attention to AquaBounty’s planned expansion in Ohio,” said Jaydee Hanson, policy director at Center for Food Safety. “After years of touting that it will grow its fish in tanks that recycle the water, the company now plans to pump water from the aquifer that supplies community drinking water and dump wastewater back into a nearby stream. Without the requested documents, we have no way to know if FDA has fully considered the effects this facility will have on the local environment.” 

CFS is committed to ensuring the public has access to information concerning government regulation of food production and labeling. CFS’s FOIA program is committed to upholding the principles embodied in FOIA, such as maintaining an open and transparent government. 

# # # 

Center for Food Safety’s mission is to empower people, support farmers, and protect the earth from the harmful impacts of industrial agriculture. Through groundbreaking legal, scientific, and grassroots action, we protect and promote your right to safe food and the environment. Please join our more than one million members across the country at www.centerforfoodsafety.org. Twitter: @CFSTrueFood 

Concerns remain over tribe’s oyster farm in Dungeness Bay – Sequim Gazette

More on the ongoing battle over the Dungeness Spit oyster farm.

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.

A Second Court Rejects Cooke Aquaculture’s Challenge Over Termination of Port Angeles Net Pen Lease

Port Angeles Netpen managed by Cook Aquaculture – Photo provided by Wild Fish Conservancy

Cook loses another one. Very good news.

Media Contacts: Kurt Beardslee, Executive Director, kurt@wildfishconservancy.org

DECEMBER 17, 2021—In another legal defeat for Cooke Aquaculture, a second Washington state court has rejected efforts by the seafood giant to sue Washington state over the termination of the company’s lease for their Port Angeles netpen operation. On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming a lower court ruling upholding the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) decision to terminate the lease.

The Court’s decision represents another major step forward in the public’s hard-fought efforts to remove this dirty industry from Puget Sound waters,” says Kurt Beardslee, Executive Director. “I applaud the Courts for putting our natural resources and the interest of the public ahead of this powerful corporate interest.”

The court said:

We hold that the superior court properly applied the arbitrary and capricious standard of
review because DNR’s decision to terminate the lease was administrative, and that DNR’s decision to terminate the lease was not arbitrary and capricious. Accordingly, we affirm the superior court’s final order upholding DNR’s lease termination decision.

This week’s decision concludes a nearly four-year appeal process that began in early 2018 when Cooke filed suit against DNR, arguing the agency had wrongfully terminated the lease ahead of the 2025 expiration date. In 2020, a Thurston County Superior Court Judge rejected Cooke’s challenge and the company appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals which issued the opinion this week.

DNR terminated the lease in December 2017 after an investigation revealed various violations at the Port Angeles facility,including operating outside of its boundaries, failure to pay rent timely, and not operating the facility in a safe condition.Shortly following the termination, the net pens were completely removed from Port Angeles Harbor.This week the Court overwhelming rejected Cooke’s opinion that the decision to terminate the lease was arbitrary and capricious, finding DNR’s decision “was based on facts supported by substantial evidence, pursuant to plain terms of the contract, was well reasoned and made with due regard to the facts and circumstances.”Cooke is also suing DNR in a separate ongoing lawsuit over the early termination of the company’s Cypress Island lease.The lease was terminated following the 2017 catastrophic collapse of a Cooke net pen that released over 260,000 nonnative Atlantic salmon infected with an exotic virus into Puget Sound. A comprehensive investigation by Washington agencies found Cooke at fault for the collapse and Cooke was also required to pay $2.75 million in Clean Water Act violations in a lawsuit brought by Wild Fish Conservancy. The collapse also resulted in Washington passing a landmark and widely celebrated law banning all nonnative Atlantic salmon finfish aquaculture, Cooke’s only enterprise at the time.“I hope the public will join me in thanking Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and her department for their unwavering commitment to protecting Puget Sound in the face of Cooke’s meritless, costly, and time-consuming lawsuits,” says Beardslee. “Under Commissioner Franz’s leadership, DNR has a proven record as the only regulatory agency in Washington willing to take bold action to hold this dangerous industry accountable.”In a controversial decision, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife permitted Cooke in 2020 to begin rearing steelhead in their Puget Sound net pens where the company holds valid leases. With the Cypress Island and Port Angeles leases terminated by DNR, Cooke only holds valid leases for two net pen sites in Puget Sound. Both leases will expire next year and Cooke will need to apply and secure new leases from DNR to continue operating in Washington. In a letter to Cooke earlier this year, DNR warned the company that the agency has not yet decided if they will issue Cooke new leases.“This week’s Court decision could not have come at a more important time. With Cooke’s only existing leases set to expire next year, DNR is in a critical decision-making period that will determine the future of this industry in Puget Sound,” says Beardslee. “

The Court’s decision removes any opportunity for Cooke to try and recover millions in lost revenue from DNR, which would have provided Cooke important leverage to potentially negotiate their future and new leases in our public waters.”

In July 2020, Wild Fish Conservancy submitted official applications to DNR requesting to lease all of the sites used by Cooke for commercial net pen aquaculture. This alternative proposal, the Taking Back Our Sound Restoration Project,seeks to hold these waters in public trust for the sole purposes of restoring these polluted sites to their natural state and restoring the public’s access to over 130 acres of Puget Sound that have been restricted for private profit for over three decades. This proposal is supported by a broad-based coalition of over 100 businesses and organizations and over 6,000 individuals who have signed onto an ongoing petition to Commissioner Franz calling on DNR to not extend, renew, or reissue leases for commercial net pen aquaculture in Puget Sound and to instead lease these waters for this unprecedented restoration project.“The expiration of these leases comes only once in a decade and offers the public a rare opportunity to work together to take back our sound from the net pen industry, “says Beardslee. “Cooke’s first lease will expire in March 2022, there foreit’s critical at this time that we continue to work together to call on DNR to make the right decision for wild fish and the health of Puget Sound.

In western Washington’s Elwha River, the removal of two dams led to a resurgence of fish runs; could a similar scenario play out on the Snake River? – Lewiston Tribune

Very interesting short story by a reporter for the Lewiston Tribune who was sent to get an overview of the success of the Elwha Dam removal and how it might be applied to the Snake River dam removals. Lots of good context to the story, including comparing the John Day and the Snake, along with interview excerpts from tribal members of the Lower Elwha on restoration results. Worth a quick, read.

“What has been really exciting has not only been the increase in abundance we have seen in a lot of species, but we are starting to see new life histories arise that we didn’t see before the dams were out,” he said. “For example, summer steelhead have come back really strong, the bull trout have resumed migration back to the ocean and the king salmon are starting to produce remarkable numbers of naturally produced offspring.”

https://www.kpvi.com/news/national_news/in-western-washington-s-elwha-river-the-removal-of-two-dams-led-to-a-resurgence/article_37f34ba0-3969-550a-9e6e-8a8b4c47974c.html
Elwha Dam – Photo by National Park Service

December’s first razor clam digs moving ahead on Washington coast

More good news.

OLYMPIA – Razor clam digging continues in December, as shellfish managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have approved the next round of digs for Washington’s coastal beaches.

Photo courtesy NOAA

The latest tests for marine toxins came back all clear from the Washington Department of Health, which means the first round of December digs can proceed as planned.

“The weather hasn’t always been cooperative the last couple of weeks, but there’s still plenty of opportunities to hit the beach and dig for some razor clams,” said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager with WDFW. “Hopefully December will bring some clearer winter days for people to get out and enjoy this amazing resource.”

Read the whole story here:

https://wdfw.wa.gov/news/decembers-first-razor-clam-digs-moving-ahead-washington-coast-0

West Coast Dungeness crab season to open Dec. 1 for first time in years – AP

Very good news for both the crab and those of us that eat them.

For the first time in years, commercial Dungeness crab fisheries in Oregon, Washington state and Northern California will begin on the traditional Dec. 1 opener after recent preseason testing showed high meat yield in crabs across the region.

Seattle Times
Photo courtesy of NOAA

Read the whole story here.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/west-coast-dungeness-crab-season-to-open-dec-1-for-first-time-in-years/

https://wdfw.wa.gov/news/marine-area-10-seattlebremerton-reopens-nov-22-late-season-crab-fishing

Anti-Resort Group Requests Jefferson County Collect Fees from Pleasant Harbor Proposal Work

The ongoing saga of the development of Black Point, a beautiful promontory covered in tall firs and having unique geographic elements overlooking the Hood Canal, has taken another turn for the worse. It appears that the Statesman Group, the international developer who claimed to have vast resources available to successfully do this project, has not paid the County for work that the county did on behalf of them for the last six years. The county, operating on good faith back then, along with the County Commissioners that backed it, bought their promises without any financial bonding to ensure the work would be completed on time and budget. Hundreds of people in the County publicly questioned this decision and unfortunately, they appear to have been proven correct in their concerns.

The Brinnon Group, the organization of local people challenging the Pleasant Harbor has requested that Jefferson County  collect the fees due it by for the work done on the proposal.These fees, in the amount of $191,379.25, are for 2133 hours of work the county did for Statesman between 2016 and 2019.  It is unclear if Statesman is in breach of contract with the county, and whether the county could sue for payment and revoke the agreement. It is also unclear of whether the county has been attempting to collect on these fees.The invoice provided to The Brinnon Group attorney, was dated June 6th, 2020.

The letter, sent to Jefferson County Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney  Philip C. Hunsucker called into question the financial ability of the Statesmen group to complete the project. It stated the following (bold face has been done by me to highlight key issues):


Dear Mr. Hunsucker: As you know, this office represents the Brinnon Group, a local community organization concerned with the proposed master planned resort (MPR) at Black Point. This proposal, termed the Pleasant Harbor development, has been under various stages of review since 2007.

Most recently, a development plan was approved that called for phased construction on the site. However, to date there has been little progress toward completion of the development plan, which advertises a variety of amenities for the community, including a large community center.

Over the past several years, Statesman’s development proposal has consumed significant time of county staff in reviewing and processing this complex proposal. Pursuant to adopted codes and ordinances, well known to Statesman, Jefferson County charges staff time spent on land development proposals back to the developer. This process, adopted by the Jefferson County Commissioners, is to assure that county taxpayers do not subsidize land developers. The requirement of reimbursement applies uniformly to all persons using the services of Jefferson County planning employees.

Over the past several months, my client has directed emails to the County regarding the Pleasant Harbor development and the status of billings and payments by Statesman for work performed by county employees. After expressing financial concerns about this project numerous times, my client was shocked to find that Statesman is in arrears to the County for $191,379.25, accumulated from 2016 to 2019, representing more than 2,000 staff hours spent on the Pleasant Harbor application (see Attachment 1, Jefferson County Invoice 20-001 issued June 9, 2020). Based on current information, we cannot find a record of payment for these fees. Our investigation has been hampered by redactions of emails and other information by your office, which seem wholly inappropriate when inquiries into taxpayer-supported county finances are involved.

It certainly appears that special privileges are being extended to Statesman by Jefferson County. County residents or other developers who owe taxes and fees to the County are expected to promptly pay their obligations and cannot just ask the County to “put it on their tab” for several years. Article 8, Section 7 of the Washington Constitution states: “No county, city, town or other municipal corporation shall hereafter give any money, or property, or loan its money, or credit to or in aid of any individual, association, company or corporation . . .” (emphasis added). While Jefferson County appropriately grants leeway to county residents in times of need, such as that caused by Covid-19 impacts, Statesman is a large development company with substantial holdings in the United States and Canada and certainly has, or should have resources to pay its bills.

The Statesman’s arrearage to the County raises another serious issue: does Statesman have the resources to implement the complex venture they are proposing? The Pleasant Harbor plan includes multiple phases, most of which will require substantial financial wherewithal to construct. One of the proposed amenities is the large community center, which will be a multi-million dollar project with unclear and uncertain financial returns. A redflag on Statesman finances was raised back in August, 2016, when the company distributed a flyer that proposed public financing of the Pleasant Harbor development. A copy of that brochure is attached. Statesman proposed a $2,000,000 “Recreational Community Grant” from Jefferson County. A transfer of about 30 acres of the Pleasant Harbor site to the state for another Recreational Community Grant in the amount of $9,250,000 was proposed (a cost of over $308,000/acre of undeveloped, vacant land), as well as a $26,500,000 loan from the state. These requests totaled almost $38,000,000 in corporate welfare to Statesman.

During this time in 2016, while Statesman was asking for public money for its project, it was not paying its bills to Jefferson County. These events raise the real concern that Statesman lacks the financial backing to complete the Pleasant Harbor proposal. The Northwest and other parts of the United States are littered with partially completed resort and recreational proposals that have been abandoned. Regrettably, these failures have created substantial costs for local governments.

Based on the foregoing, Jefferson County should take two actions. First, it should insist that Statesman’s past due bills for county services be paid immediately, and with interest. Jefferson County finances are not such that special privileges and deferral of payment can be allowed to land developers, including Statesman. After Statesman has come current on their account, the County should insist that any additional services provided be paid in a timely fashion. If further deferrals of payment are proposed by Statesman, they should be accompanied by complete financial security or a bond for payment to the County, such as an irrevocable line of credit from an established financial institution.

Second, Jefferson County should insist that Statesman demonstrate that it has the financial backing to complete the entire Pleasant Harbor project. These assurances should take the form of third party assurances of financing for the project, again from established banks or other financial institutions, or private committed financing. Jefferson County is not Statesman’s bank. Moreover, it is time for the County to insist, after 15 years of inaction, that Statesman demonstrate it can complete this project and not leave Jefferson County taxpayers holding the bag for a partially completed project that does not meet master plan resort standards. 

J. Richard Aramburu

The letter from Mr. Aramburu goes on to state that

Moreover, our investigations have disclosed a residential/recreational development in eastern
British Columbia with many similarities to Pleasant Harbor, this one called Pine Ridge. One of those
similarities is a proposed and promised community center which has been advertised as far back as 2008.
Over the years, Statesman has also proposed public financing for this project. However, neither public nor
private financing has been secured for this community center, and, like the one at Pleasant Harbor, it has
not been constructed. A video from Statesman discussing the project, and community center, is here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhE0z31AGLw. Discussion of the proposed Community Center
occurs at approximately 2’35”.

The County has been in discussions with the Statesman Group to get these bills paid, but the Groups’ lawyer is pushing back very hard on the County, refusing to pay based on a variety of details. On May 19th the County sent an email to the lawyer for Statesman, very strongly worded about the County’s billing, and demanding immediate payment.

Is the county finally ready to withdraw this approval and force Statesman to go back to the drawing board for this project? Is anyone at the county paying attention to this project at all?

Proposed Pleasant Harbor Resort

Will Reviving B.C.s declining salmon stocks require a rethink of hatcheries? – The Narwhal

Someday the people unwilling to even consider the end of hatcheries will come around to the science that is more and more frequently showing it doesn’t help.


After 150 years of experimenting, it’s becoming clear that pumping more baby fish into the ocean may actually be making the problem worse. Ryan Stuart reports…Releasing more fish into the environment might seem like an easy solution to declining numbers. But in nature, this rarely works. 

The Narwhal

https://bityl.co/9NdB

Can biologists estimate the massive loss of shellfish caused by low tides, high temps? PSI

We are just beginning to understand the incredible loss of shellfish from the latest heat wave.


The putrid smell of rotting shellfish on some beaches in Puget Sound and elsewhere along the West Coast were a clear sign that large numbers of clams, mussels, oysters and other intertidal creatures were killed from exposure to extreme low tides, record-breaking temperatures and a blazing hot sun. The total losses of shellfish that perished late last month may be difficult to estimate, but experts are beginning to piece together evidence from shoreline residents, state and tribal biologists, and commercial shellfish growers. Their goal is to describe what took place during the record-breaking temperatures of June 25-29 during some of the lowest tides of the past century. Christopher Dunagan reports. (Puget Sound Institute)

Can biologists estimate the massive loss of shellfish caused by low tides, high temps?

Response from Alexandra Morton on yesterday’s article

Yesterday, I published an article here about new research findings of the spread of Picene Orthoreovirus from farmed salmon to wild stocks. In it, I described some of the work that Alexandra Morton had done to bring this to the attention of the world. After reading the article, a local radio host has reached out to her to have her on and discuss her work. During the email exchange, Alexandra talked about the history of the attacks by the salmon farming industry on her, which I had mentioned happening in our local Marine Resources Committee. Here is an excerpt of her response. Unfortunately my blog entry does not allow me to publish PDFs, so I am posting a link to the folder on my web site to download and view the documents if you are interested. 

From Alexandra: “Yes, they like to say I am not a scientist, and yet I was the first to publish that the PRV in British Columbia was a match for PRV in Lofoten Norway (attached), and now 8 years later it would appear I was right.  I have also published on the spread of the virus into wild salmon…  The trouble with these claims is that I am published in some of the top scientific journals in the world, and despite their efforts to get my papers retracted, they have failed.

They have been completely silent about my new book wherein I detail internal DFO/industry communications.”

 

The link to the files is here. I’ll leave it up for 14 days, and then if you want it contact me directly. The radio interview will come out later this month or next. I’ll post when it does. 

https://mountainstoneconsulting-my.sharepoint.com/:f:/p/alb/Eq-IeJs3chpCj8Yfjm_uR1wB84-GXNSLL7D4LgWy7pF54A?e=2eQO35

Winding down Puget Sound’s 2020 targets, as approved shellfish acreage keeps going up – PSI

A good look at the state of shellfish bed recovery over the last 10 years, as measured by the Puget Sound Partnership. This is one indicator that seems to be going in a positive direction. Of course, the goal of this is to promote the conversion of public beaches into industrial aquaculture, so it’s a mixed bag. Some day we’ll see a real discussion in the public sphere about how many acres we are going to convert to industrial aquaculture before they are all turned into off limit farms for the profit of a few large aquaculture organizations. Good reporting from the Puget Sound Institute. Worth reading.

Cooke’s Washington steelhead switch approved – The Fish Site

As long time readers of this blog will note, I am highly critical of the state granting permission to this company, which did such a horrible job of managing it’s facilities in the past. They showed by their previous actions to be incapable of being trusted in their maintenance and operational quality. The State also has fault, in that the legislature allowed, in years gone by, to have the over-site of the pens split between two different state agencies. The hope is that the over-site has been significantly strengthened, and that given the fiasco they brought to themselves that they have learned something. The article sited here only mentions that they passed the State’s scientific muster. No mention of tighter rules and regs on the farms.

They have also been working with some tribes locally in a type of partnership, which was to be expected as the tribes supported shutting down the raising of Atlantic salmon but did not want to back removing the pens. I predicted then that the tribes would be looking to get into the net pen business as Cooke was evicted, and here we are. The “science” that found that there is no ‘harm’ to the environment likely downplayed the destruction to the benthic layer under the farms, which is total and for all practical purposes, permanent, as long as the farm is there. We’ve seen NOAA downplay this risk, in order to promote aquaculture.

Cooke Aquaculture has been granted permission to start growing steelhead at four of its former salmon sites in Washington State.

https://thefishsite.com/articles/cookes-washington-steelhead-switch-approved

Hotly debated national permit for shellfish farms could be passed to Biden Administration – Puget Sound Institute

This is an important article to help one understand the forces at play over this issue. The Army Corp of Engineers current proposal, described in this article, would lead to more destruction of the remaining virgin bays it wants for commercial activities and likely lead to ever more lawsuits. The Corps and the industry are in this mess because a group challenged the Corps and unearthed the fraud behind the science they have been putting out for decades. Now we hold our breath and see if we get a push into the next administration for update to the process, but will they send it back for changes or approve it to get the industry back working?

But as they leave, the wrecking crew of the Trump administration is doing it’s best to destroy any and all environmental protections.

Legal protections for marine shorelines, streams and wetlands could be revised just before President Trump leaves office, as the Army Corps of Engineers updates 52 “nationwide permits” that allow for a variety of water-related projects. …”Another growing concern is the effect of shellfish operations on spawning habitat for so-called forage fish, considered critical to salmon and other important species”, said Laura Hendricks, executive director of the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat. Two key species, surf smelt and sand lance, spawn in the intertidal area where shellfish grow and where activities can affect their populations, she said.

Hotly debated national permit for shellfish farms could be passed to Biden administration | Puget Sound Institute

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