by Kirk Kirkland
Workers attempt to free bird tangled in geoduck netting.
Burley Lagoon is ground zero for impacts of the shellfish industry on local residents. For decades oyster companies have used the area, but lately clam and geoduck companies have taken over the shorelines.
In 2021 Taylor Shellfish proposed the largest geoduck farm in the county. This expansion came at a time when the summer heat was increasing algae blooms in the inlet, which is part of a major salmon run in Pierce county.
In December 2021, Tahoma Audubon joined with other environmental groups who had previously opposed expansion of geoduck aquaculture since 2007. Each group has an area of specialty. Together we are quite a team.
Laura Hendricks has the most legal experience. In 2019 she successfully appealed an Army Corp of Engineers Nationwide Permit and won. It resulted in 900 permits being revoked.
We also have an environmental design planner, Rob Wenman, who has previously appealed a shellfish permit to state appeals court and won a favorable ruling on eelgrass buffers.
There’s also Bruce Morse, who has brought in people from Hood Canal who have experience with wildlife and fighting Army Corps permits in their own area. Bruce Morse stepped forward to coordinate this effort when he put together a 9 page appeal with 6 different authors in just a few days.
Audubon's role will be to show how the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) failed to look at the cumulative impacts of the shellfish industry in South Sound, and how one more 25 acre farm will contribute significantly to the continuing decline in eelgrass, forage fish and salmon runs.
Industrial aquaculture proposes expansion of largest farm in county for already crowded Burley Lagoon, seen in this photo littered with plastic geoduck tubes.
There were also significant mistakes made by the county staff when they limited the scope of the FEIS to just 25 acres rather than examine the total impact of continued expansion in the lagoon. We believe that with the current farming methods used, there has been a considerable net loss in shoreline function and value.
These are only a few of the 40 concerns presented in the appeal, which will go to the local planning advisory board before appearing before the Pierce County’s Hearing Examiner this summer.