APHETI Issues Alert Regarding Commercial Use of Shorelines

From The Association for the Protection of Hammersley, Eld and Totten Inlets (APHETI), we received this notice:

Dear Neighbor –

This is to inform you of our State’s interest to turn control of the Puget Sound beaches over for the profit of the commercial shellfish industry:

Celia Barton, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, in The Peninsula Gateway, Oct. 4, 2006 – “All tide (beds) should be made available for aquaculture”;

Douglas McCrae, Washington Shellfish, in conversation with property owner at Gig Harbor Rosedale Hall concerned citizens meeting, October 4, 2006 – All tidelands are farmlands; and

Peter Downey, Pacific Shellfish Growers Association, in a letter to the Pierce County Planning Commission, Jan. 15, 2007 – “Private tidelands are misrepresented as residential/recreational beaches. The County must recognize that the primary purpose of privately held tidelands is shellfish farming and not residential recreation…moreover, shellfish farmers have every right to post these private tidelands and prevent trespass”.

Visit the APHETI website (www.apheti.com) for a pictorial slide show of results of this flawed public policy. Presently, there is virtually nothing to stop what you will see from happening to the beach in front of you! Is it environmentally sound? – No.

The inter-tidal zone of a beach lies between the low and high tide line. It is the most critical habitat for supporting all life species in Puget Sound (see Science Links in the APHETI website). However, the commercial shellfish industry is given nearly free reign by State and local County agencies to decimate these areas.

Shellfish companies insert some 43,500 PVC tubes per acre into the inter-tidal substrate as “predator” exclusion devices. An acre of tubes may stretch across 700 lineal feet of beach – wider than 2 city blocks. Up to 5 infant Geoducks are planted in each tube to grow 3-4 feet into the substrate. The entire acreage of tubes is covered with giant nets which frequently ensnare and kill shore birds and marine mammals.

When mature after several years, the clams are harvested by high-pressure hydraulic jets. This liquefies the inter-tidal zone, killing surface and substrate organisms down to a depth of 3-4 feet. Suspended sediment, carried long distances by the tide, smothers critical inter-tidal organisms. The beach is left cratered like a “moonscape” (Seattle PI article). The area is harvested several times to get every last Geoduck. Thereafter the area is repeatedly replanted and the whole process continues without end.

Other problems with these practices pertain to impacts on Carrying and Flushing capacities of the shallow embayments where Geoduck farms are sited:

Carrying Capacity is the amount of “life” that can be supported by the finite amount of microscopic food and oxygen in the water which is the foundation of the marine food chain. How much of this limited food supply is being consumed by the tens of millions of Goeducks being planted? How much is too much? – Unknown!!

Flushing Capacity is the ability of tidal currents to flush away unwanted waste. The shellfish industry promotes the filtering ability of Geoducks to clean the water. A single Geoduck filters in about 31 gallons of water per day. A single farming operation can contain millions of individual Geoducks. A Geoduck is an animal – what goes in comes out as biological fecal and pseudo fecal waste matter.

The waste can cause eutrophication of the marine environment, furthering oxygen depletion, killing everything and leaving a dead zone. How much of this waste can our local marine environments handle?? – Unknown!!

No site specific Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) are prepared prior to inter-tidal Geoduck farms being allowed to operate. After the damage occurs, and the shellfish industry has left with millions in profit, it is the public who is left to pay for cleanup and attempt restoration. In some cases the damage is irreversible.

Response by the State Legislature –

Substitute House Bill 2220 is moving through our State Legislature. It proposes a “review of literature” and several studies to examine the effects of intensive Geoduck farming on the natural environments of Puget Sound. This bill is not a compromise between the shellfish industry and concerned citizen groups and has a number of serious shortfalls:

  1. Studies are not mandated but may be performed “as needed”;
  2. Much of the scientific literature available for review is biased by way of being directly produced by or paid for by the shellfish industry;
  3. Studies for Carrying and Flushing Capacities are not identified;
  4. The State Deptartment of Natural Resources is allowed to lease 25 acres per year of state owned lands for inter-tidal commercial Geoduck farms;
  5. State monitoring of the environmental impacts of lease operations is secondary to the “economic viability” of the leases;
  6. There is no moratorium on continued expansion of inter-tidal Geoduck farming while the proposed studies are being completed – if they ever will; and
  7. Site-specific, Environmental Impact Statements are not mandated for current and future inter-tidal commercial Geoduck farming operations.

Through your generous donations, APHETI has retained a highly experienced environmental law firm and marine environmental research group employing marine scientists with both field experience and PhD academic credentials. Both organizations provide expert input and testimony to this issue.

Regardless of law and science, the final outcome of this issue will come right down to how many individual citizens take the time to express their concerns to those who make the decisions. Individual voices do make a difference.

Please take just a small amount of time to provide your individual input regarding inter-tidal Geoduck farming practices and Substitute House Bill 2220 to the Mason and Thurston County Planning Departments and to your local State Legislators. Contact information follows:


Mr. Michael Welter, Director
Thurston County Development Services
Building 1, Second Floor
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Olympia, WA 98502
(360) 786-5490

Mr. Mike Kain, Manager
Planning and Environmental Services
Thurston County Development Services
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Olympia, WA 98502
(360) 786-5490


Mr. Emmett Dobey, Director
Mason County Community Development
PO Box 279
Shelton, WA 98584
(360) 427-7262, Ext. 263

Mr. Robert Fink, Manager
Mason County Planning Services
PO Box 279
Shelton, WA 98584
(360) 427-7262, Ext 366

Toll Free Legislative Hotline – 1 (800) 562-6000

Includes the East shoreline of Eld Inlet; the shorelines of Budd and Henderson Inlets and the Nisqually Reach.

State Senator Karen Fraser
404 Legislative Building
PO Box 40422
Olympia, WA 98504-0422
(360) 786-7642

State Representative Sam Hunt
438B Legislative Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7992

State Representative Brendan Williams
420 John L. O’Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7940

Includes the East and West shorelines of Totten Inlet and the Eld Inlet shoreline of the Steamboat Island peninsula

State Senator Tim Sheldon
412 Legislative Building
PO Box 40435
Olympia, WA 98504-0435
(360) 786-7668

State Representative William “Ike” Eickmeyer
328 John L. O’Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7902

State Representative Kathy Haigh
431 John L. O’Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7966

Finally, APHETI is paying attention – and – looking out for your concerns. If you are not already a member – Join us at http://www.apheti.com/contactus.asp

If you are a current member, please renew your membership.

Membership information is kept confidential and used only for member notices. Return your membership form and check to: APHETI, PO Box 11523, Olympia, WA 98508-1523.

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