As part of its ongoing mission to report news affecting local residents in a fair and balanced manner, the Key Pen News has joined forces with the Key Peninsula Community Council and Shellfish Partners (a cooperative consisting of Pierce County Water Programs, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and Pierce Conservation District) to sponsor a gathering at which Key Pen residents can learn more about the issues surrounding geoduck aquaculture on public and private tidelands.
The public forum will be held on Thursday, April 5, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Key Peninsula Civic Center.
At stake are questions of private property rights, the potential “industrialization” of portions of newly classified peninsula shorelines, and broad concerns regarding the acknowledged lack of long-term science to ensure the continued health of Puget Sound. Efforts are underway in Olympia to craft compromise regulations intended to satisfy both environmental and industry concerns. In May, the Pierce County Council expects to discuss proposed drafted interim county geoduck farming regulations. The April forum is designed to provide attendees with information pertinent to both of those bodies, to have questions answered, and to give citizen input to the presenters.
“Commercial geoduck farming is a sensitive issue that impacts the entire community,” says Rodika Tollefson, Key Peninsula News executive editor. “This controversial subject deserves continued public attention, and the purpose of the forum is to provide local residents with an opportunity to learn more.”
Speaking for the Community Council, President Barbara Trotter says, “We see this forum as the first step in a process of informing our community and ourselves on all sides of this issue… We plan to make a recommendation to Pierce County Council as they discuss this issue later this year.”
The forum will include presentations from panelists representing different sides of the issue, a question and answer period, and citizen comment. Confirmed panelists include Pierce County Councilman Terry Lee, Taylor Shellfish Co. Inc. Public Affairs Manager Bill Dewey, Henderson Bay Shoreline Association President Laura Hendricks, and Department of Natural Resources Assistant Division Manager Sarah Dzinbal. Other presenters may be included as the organizers finalize plans.
Dewey, with for Shelton-based Taylor Shellfish, is a 25-year shellfish farmer. He has taken an active industry role in environmental and human health issues and shellfish farming regulations. In an email response, Dewey says, “Shellfish growers look forward to meeting more of our neighbors and discussing the opportunities and issues geoduck farming presents to the Key Peninsula.”
Dzinbal represents DNR’s aquaculture program. She will provide background on the state’s Geoduck Aquaculture Program, an update on the current status of the leasing program and the environmental monitoring program nested within it.
Lee, who has extensive land-use background, including as a former Pierce County planning commissioner, will address the pros and cons of landowner property rights. He acknowledges the characteristics of geoduck aquaculture as “a collision of (three) special interests: environmental concerns, economic development, and private property rights.”
Hendricks, co-founder of Henderson Bay Shoreline Association, represents a coalition of environmental organizations and concerns throughout the South Puget Sound region. The environmental groups’ stated mission is to promote “aquaculture industry regulation and science required for new, intensive methods prior to any further expansion.” Hendricks’ topic addresses environmental concerns, from documentable, available science perspectives, in opposition to geoduck farming.
Pierce Conservation District’s Erin Ewald says, “The issue of geoduck farming, property rights, and the environmental effects of land use has brought a lot of attention to the Key Peninsula and its natural resources. There are important points to be made on each side. This forum has the opportunity to engage participants into positive discussion on these topics and encourage them to make educated decisions about their community and its future.”
All panelists have been asked to also answer the question: “What are the short and long-range outcomes (commercially, economically, and recreationally) of this activity on the Key Peninsula?” District 26 House of Representatives and Senate legislators have been invited to provide a short statement regarding this important issue on the Key Peninsula. An audience question-and-answer session will follow all panelist presentations; the event will conclude with an opportunity for citizens to provide public comment.
“The KP News has become an objective and reliable source of news regarding the issues that impact local residents. We are proud to be a major sponsor for this event and collaborate with other sponsors who feel this topic is important,” says KP News Publishing Board President Irene Torres. “We hope the community will turn out to hear the issues, and as a result, be better informed about them.”
Where do the “rights” of all parties begin and end? It is a contentious question with no legal end in sight, subject to re-review, appeal upon appeal, headed up the legal food chain, where eventually it will be decided by legislative action and/or the courts.
Greg Combs, Washington State Department of Health
Topic: The process used by DOH to classify and monitor tidelands for commercial geoduck cultivation Greg Combs, from DOH Office of Shellfish and Water Protection, is a public health adviser who works in the shellfish restoration program and the recreational shellfish program. The emphasis of the restoration program is to organize activities to identify and correct pollution problems that impact shellfish growing areas so that shellfish in those areas are safe to eat. The recreational shellfish program focuses on preventing illnesses by classifying recreational shellfish areas and providing public health information to recreational shellfish harvesters. Both of these programs work closely with local governments, tribes, and other state agencies.
Bill Dewey, Taylor Shellfish Co. public affairs manager and owner of Chuckanut Shellfish, Inc.
Topic: The advantages of geduck farming to the community During his 25 years as a shellfish farmer, Bill Dewey has taken an active role on behalf of the industry on environmental and human health issues and shellfish farming regulations. He serves on a number of boards and committees locally and nationally. Originally appointed by Gov. Lowry, he is currently in his third term representing the shellfish industry on the Puget Sound Council. He is president of the Pacific Shellfish Institute and chairs the Mason County Planning Advisory Commission. He was recently appointed by U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez to serve on NOAA’s Marine Fish Advisory Committee. In March, the National Shellfisheries Association honored Dewey with the David H. Wallace award in recognition of his service in promoting research, understanding and cooperation among shellfisheries scientists, culturists, managers, producers and regulators.
Sarah Dzinbal, Washington State Department of Natural Resources assistant division manager
Topic: DNR’s intertidal geoduck leasing monitoring Sarah Dzinbal manages six statewide programs, including the geoduck aquaculture program, the wild stock geoduck fishery, and the derelict vessel, dredged material and invasive species programs. Prior to working for DNR, she worked with the state Department of Ecology, monitoring pollutants in marine waters and sediments. Before this, she worked for ten years in the submarine telecom cable industry, conducting geophysical surveys, cable installations and ROV work internationally. Sarah has a Master of Science in marine geophysics and geotechnics, and a Bachelor of Science in geology.
Laura Hendricks, Henderson Bay Shoreline Association co-founder Topic: Environmental concerns based on documentable science Laura Hendricks is the co-founder of Henderson Bay Shoreline Association, which is focused on aquaculture industry regulation and science required for new, intensive methods prior to any further expansion. Hendricks has been an outspoken advocate and lobbyist on behalf of the environmental community on the topic of aquaculture. A former realtor and CPA, she has a master’s degree in finance.
Terry Lee, Pierce County councilman
Topic: Pros and cons of landowner property rights Terry Lee represents District 7, which includes the Gig Harbor and Key Peninsulas, Fircrest, University Place, W. Tacoma, and Fox Island. He is a lifelong resident of Council District 7, living in University Place for 26 years and in Gig Harbor for the last 34 years. He graduated from Central Washington University, where he majored in chemistry and zoology, and then completed postgraduate studies in nuclear physics and radiology. Lee served on the Peninsula Advisory Commission (PAC) from 1983-1991 and on the Pierce County Planning Commission from 1991-2002, as chair for the last seven years. The PAC was the first land use advisory commission in Pierce County. As chair of that body, he helped create the Burley-Minter Sensitive Area that reduced densities; the PAC also created the Rural Special designation with reduced densities in some of the valleys. While on the Planning Commission, he worked to develop the Pierce County Comprehensive Plan and many community plans for the county.