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Citizens Petition Ecology To Change Geoduck Aquaculture Rulemaking

Citizens have petitioned The Washington Department of Ecology to amend geoduck aquaculture rulemaking. The new rule adopted by Ecology puts in place a permit exemption for geoduck aquaculture that is not authorized by the Shoreline Management Act. The overall policy of the SMA is to protect the State's shorelines, wildlife and fisheries resources. The SMA was not intended to open the doors for expansion of industrial aquaculture operations that degrade habitat, water quality and eliminate native species.

The Current Ecology WAC 173-26-241(3)(b) Rulemaking Aquaculture Standards: "As determined by Attorney General Opinion 2007 No.1, the planting, growing and harvesting of farm-raised geoduck clam requires a substantial development permit if a specific project or practice causes substantial interference with the normal public use of the surface waters but not otherwise."

Citizens proposed WAC 173-26-241(3)(b) Rulemaking Aquaculture Standards: The cultivation of farm-raised geoduck clams using methods including, but not limited to, (1) the placement of an array of man-made tubes/pipes within the substrate and (2) hatchery platforms comprised of floats, booms, and seed trays, requires a substantial development permit if a specific project or practice meets the definition of a "substantial development" as provided in RCW 90.58.030(3)(e). Practices and procedures for geoduck aquaculture operations continue to evolve and, therefore, analysis of new methods will be necessary to ensure compliance with the requirements and definitions of the Shoreline Management Act.

The AGO's error in ignoring half of the definition was recently addressed--and discredited by the Thurston County Superior Court Judge Tabor in his ruling in Taylor Shellfish Company Inc. v. Thurston County. In the courts oral ruling Judge Tabor stated: "The Attorney General's Opinion about the idea of structure, first of all misinterprets the fact that there are two provisions to that definition, and secondly, only gives a few lines of analysis."

In addition to filing this rulemaking petition, citizens are currently appealing a Pierce County geoduck decision at the Shorelines Hearings Board to be heard January 19-20, 2012. David Bricklin and Julie Ainsworth-Taylor are the citizen's Washington environmental attorneys Stephan Volker, a California attorney with expertise in federal litigation including the Clean Water Act, has recently been retained to insure industry compliance with federal standards.

The Sierra Club Washington State Chapter officially supports these legal challenges that are necessary to protect Puget Sound aquatic life and the right for all citizens to responsibly enjoy the natural shorelines of our state. Since 2008, the Sierra Club has been pointing out to state agencies that recovery of Puget Sound is threatened by these industrial geoduck operations.

"Citizens have presented to the state, photos, peer reviewed science and testimony from scientists. We will seek resolution thru the courts to protect our fisheries resources," said Curt Puddicombe of The Case Inlet Shoreline Association.

For more information, see the petition link and visit the following websites: Petition



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