Olympic Forest Coalition

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Important Dabob Bay Natural Area Expansion Meeting and Hearing

by Peter Bahls, Executive Director
Northwest Watershed Institute

Friends of Tarboo–Dabob Bay,

Great news! Peter Goldmark, outgoing Commissioner of Public Lands, is interested in protecting more high-priority conservation lands around Dabob Bay as part of his legacy! The Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) is now considering expanding the proposed boundaries of the Dabob Bay and Devils Lake Natural Areas (as shown on the map below). This will not happen without a strong show of support from the community. Please mark your calendars for two important meetings in the Quilcene High School multi-purpose room to learn more about the proposal and voice your support. DNR has started the public outreach process but please spread the word!

Public informational meeting on Wednesday, September 28, 6 p.m. to approximately 8 p.m.

Public hearing on proposed site boundaries on Thursday, October 13, 6 p.m. to approximately 8 p.m.

Preliminary info on the conservation proposal:
The proposal would expand the existing Devils Lake Natural Resource Conservation Area (NRCA) by 415 acres and the Dabob Bay Natural Area by 4,345 acres (of new NRCA). The expanded boundary is not regulatory in any way, but simply allows DNR to apply for grants and purchase lands from willing landowners within the boundary. Within the boundary, DNR can also transfer state timber lands from timber management to permanent natural area protection. Included within the proposed boundary are high priority conservation lands such as:

•  One mile of pristine, forested, steep shoreline along the west side of Quilcene Bay, below Devils Lake

•  Steep, forested slopes along the east side of Dabob Bay, south of the existing Natural Area boundary

•  Thorndyke Bay, one of the least-developed salt marsh estuaries remaining in Hood Canal and Straits region

•  Older forests, including a globally imperiled forest plant community, once common in Puget Sound, but now known to occur in good condition in only eight locations, including the Devils Lake and Dabob proposed additions

•  A broad wildlife corridor of conservation land connecting Dabob Bay and Thorndyke Bay

Lands purchased and protected as NRCAs allow for low-impact public use that is compatible with habitat and ecosystem conservation.

DNR has time-tested processes in place, called Intergrant Exchange and Trust Land Transfer, that allow them to transfer state lands within the boundary from timber management to natural area protection without loss of Forest Board lands or the tax revenue they provide to the county.

dabob-map

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Good Guys Win

by John Fabianhood-canal-640

The official end of the state conservation easement appeal process ended on 9/2 when the State Court of Appeals declared the case closed after HOOD Canal Sand and Gravel did not file an appeal to the State Supreme Court. Here is the DNR press release that was issued:

 

Agreement to protect Hood Canal affirmed: Court rulings in favor of easement stand after gravel firm drops appeal
News Date: SEPTEMBER 7, 2016

More than 4,800 acres of pristine Hood Canal tidelands and bedlands will be protected for the future after a Jefferson County gravel firm dropped its appeal of a conservation easement granted the U.S. Navy by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Hood Canal Sand & Gravel appealed a May 2015 ruling in Jefferson County Superior Court that DNR “had the authority to grant the easement to the United States Navy” and the easement “was not arbitrary, capricious or unlawful.”

That decision was affirmed by a three-member panel of the Washington State Court of Appeals in July. Hood Canal Sand & Gravel did not appeal that decision to the Washington State Supreme Court by the Aug. 26 deadline, according to court documents filed last week.

“The people of Washington benefit from this agreement, both environmentally and economically,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “The courts’ affirmations ensure our agreement will provide a legacy of protection for a vital marine ecosystem and of certainty for the Navy’s national security operations.”

A federal lawsuit challenging the easement was dismissed in September of last year.

In July 2014, the Navy paid DNR $720,000 for a 50-year restrictive easement on 4,804 tidelands and bedlands in Hood Canal.

As steward of more than 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands, DNR ensures that the people of Washington benefit from the use of aquatic lands while also ensuring environmental protection of the state’s aquatic resources.

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Olympic Experimental State Forest Final EIS Finally Issued

On August 4, the Department of Natural Resources issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Olympic Experimental State Forest (OESF) HCP (Habitat Conservation Plan) Planning Unit forest land plan; the memorandum is below. For more information, please click here.

OESF-FEIS

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Forest Service Delays Again

The West Coast Action Alliance reports that The U.S. Forest Service has again delayed their decision on the use of Navy mobile electronic warfare emitters in Olympic National Forest. Kim Crider, USFS Environmental Planner/Coordinator, said, “Our schedule has been delayed and the draft Decision Notice is not likely to be released until mid-to-late July at the soonest. You will be notified by email when the draft document is released for the 45-day Objection Period.”

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Judge allows suit against Coast Seafoods to proceed

by Allison Arthur
reprinted with permission from The Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader, June 8, 2016

A lawsuit against Coast Seafoods Co. over the discharge of effluent into Quilcene Bay is moving forward after a U.S. District Court judge rejected a motion by the company to dismiss the case outright.

The case was filed Jan. 28 by the Olympic Forest Coalition (OFCO), an environmental nonprofit based in Quilcene.

U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton concluded in a written statement June 3 that OFCO’s claim for relief can move forward because it has “plausibly stated a claim for relief in this case.”

The nonprofit is suing the largest employer in south Jefferson County, alleging that the shellfish company ought to be filtering its discharge into Quilcene Bay.

Connie Gallant, OFCO board president, said on June 6 that the nonprofit brought the suit against the company because there are a lot of questions about what types of chemicals are being discharged as well how much oyster poop is going into the bay.

Since Coast Seafood was purchased by Oregon-based Pacific Seafood in 2012, there has been a significant increase in the amount of material discharged, all without a pollution discharge permit, Gallant said.

The company claims to have increased its production of baby oysters, known as spat, from 8 billion annually to 40 billion annually over the past five years, OFCO’s website contends. Coast Seafoods’ website boasts it produces “45 billion eyed oyster larvae per year.”

“We started with a complaint to [the state Department of] Ecology, and they dismissed our complaint and didn’t do anything about it, including inspect it like we asked. They just followed the reports that Coast hired, and that report does say they pollute,” Gallant said.

“All we’re after is for them to put in a filtering system,” Gallant told the Leader in February. The legal move is not about trying to curtail or close the business operation, Gallant said at the outset.

Attorney Paul A. Kampmeier, who is representing OFCO, said Tuesday that he felt the judge ruled correctly.

“In the face of a plausible allegation that Coast Seafoods is discharging pollutants from pipes and ditches, the statutory language compels this Court to deny defendant’s motion to dismiss,” Judge Leighton wrote in his decision.

Kampmeier also noted that there were no agencies, such as the federal Environmental Protection Agency or state Department of Ecology, that joined Coast Seafoods as a friend and there were no trade associations that came to their defense either.

“Those entities were absent and I think that speaks volumes about the validity of their legal argument” that they don’t need a permit, Kampmeier said.

COAST RESPONSE

Tony Dal Ponte, deputy general counsel for Coast Seafoods, said on June 6 that the case proceeds now with no date yet set for another hearing.

“We’re disappointed with the judge’s ruling but confident we will ultimately prevail,” he said.

Dal Ponte said the state Department of Ecology (DOE) has looked into complaints by Gallant and her husband, J.D. Gallant, and when the DOE didn’t take action, OFCO sued.

From Coast Seafoods’ perspective, the legal action appears to be aimed at regulatory control by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Water Act, through a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

The state DOE is designated by the EPA to oversee water pollution control laws and regulation, and issues NPDES permits, which is why the Gallants started with that state agency.

“Coast Seafoods fully complies with all regulatory requirements. The regulations don’t require us to have a permit, so we don’t have a permit,” Dal Ponte said.

“We are fully committed to sustainable practices. It’s one of our core values. We’re committed to the health of Quilcene Bay. It’s where we grow our oysters and where our employees make their home,” he said.

In February, Dal Ponte said the issue was with the state’s regulatory framework and that Coast Seafoods “fully complies with all permitting requirements, and we expect the suit will be promptly dismissed by the courts.”

Kampmeier also was unsure what the next step would be in the suit.

“It depends on whether they want to continue fighting or whether they want to talk to the community and my client about a different arrangement and coming to an agreement that has them getting a permit and mitigating any past pollutions at the facility,” Kampmeier said.

HISTORY

Coast Seafoods Co. has operated in Quilcene since 1946 and currently employs 45 people. The company’s website states, “At our Quilcene Hatchery, advanced technology, experienced technicians and a superb natural environment have combined to make it the world’s largest shellfish hatchery capable of producing over 45 billion eyed oyster larvae (diploid and triploid) per year.”

Coast Seafoods was made aware of this potential litigation last year.

The suit alleges that “effluent from the facility contains pollutants, including but not limited to total suspended solids, nitrogen, phosphorous, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, Chlorophyll a, Phaeophytin a, heat, pH, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and chlorine. These and the other materials in the facility’s effluent constitute chemical wastes, biological materials, heat, industrial waste, and other ‘pollutants’ as defined by the Clean Water Act.”

It also notes that Coast Seafoods hired a consultant, Rensel Associates Aquatic Sciences, to assess the effluent discharged into Quilcene Bay, which led to a report in 2013. The Rensel report “documents point-source dischargers of pollutants” that include pipes, ditches and channels, OFCO contends.

The Olympic Forest Coalition is asking the federal court to grant injunctive relief and require Coast Seafoods to comply with the Clean Water Act and apply for an NPDES permit. It also asks for civil penalties as allowed, and to award the plaintiff its litigation expenses, including costs and reasonable attorneys’ and expert witnesses’ fees.

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