You would have been excused if you were at the hearing for Net Pen legislation this week, and you thought it was the Department of Commerce and not Ecology sitting hand in hand with the net pen industry lobbyist. Reminiscent of The Walrus and the Carpenter in Lewis Carrol, who went walking hand in hand, crying fake tears as they bemoaned the carving up of the oysters, who represented the ‘little people’. Not much has changed it seems, in the 150 years, since Carroll penned this quaint little poem, about the cozy relationship of government with industry, despite the concerns of those who pay their salaries. This short bill would have allowed local jurisdictions to prohibit net pens in their Shoreline Master Programs (SMPs). It would have allowed the rules to be strengthened, not weakened. It wouldn’t have even prohibited net pens , but allowed those jurisdictions that wanted to prohibit them to do so. And to be clear, there are *no* net pens currently in Jefferson County, so we aren’t even talking about affecting a current industry. No jobs are being “lost”. Why? Because it isn’t economically viable to put pens in Jefferson County. You would think that DOE, after allowing us to put in large shoreline buffers would have been in support of giving us the right to prohibit an industry that has mounting scientific evidence of harm to the very species that agency is supposed to be trying to save. But after hearing the testimony, and allowing this industry that is a recipient of our government largess, along with the professional bureaucratic stonewalling of DOE on their behalf to dominate the committee hearing, they allowed them to run-out the clock on testimony before the chairman arbitrarily changed the length of time for anti netpen forces to testify, and the bill died in committee this week. The bill’s sponsor(s) apparently never showed up to testify.
Our county commissioners will now have to send DOE their conditional use criteria for net pens.
This open display of DOE collusion with the net pen industry, working together with the committee officials to quash this bill, over objections by a wide range of water based industries and supporters, shows how weak the environmental community is in Olympia this year. Where was the new head of DOE, Maia Bellon? Where was anyone from The Puget Sound Partnership who is charged with helping make the Salish Sea ‘fishable, drinkable, swimmable” by 2020? Where was any representation from the Governor’s office? Nowhere to be seen. Is Ms. Bellan going to challenge the DOE bureaucrats that she oversees, those folks in Bellevue and Olympia (yes, we know which departments they are in) that have abrogated it’s jurisdiction over the mounting concern of the environmental effects of the Net Pen industry? Perhaps a significant series of lawsuits against the department, it’s charter, and the industry that it claims to be overseeing is in order. We’ve done all we can do to work inside the system. Now it’s probably time to mount legal attacks outside it. We can clearly assume from this hearing that our Department of Ecology, at least as it relates to the Net Pen industry, like it’s British Columbia counterparts, have been bought and paid by the industry. They have shown no interest in the concerns of our county commissioners, one of whom is an ex-fisherman. Ted Sturdevant, prior to leaving the head of DOE, told this reporter that he had no clue that there was any problem with net pens, and hadn’t read anything of concern from British Columbia. It was a rather shocking admission from the head of the agency that was charged with regulating it.
So I agree with Billy Frank Jr. who has, on numerous occasions gotten angry at our elected officials and assumed we can’t hope for any of them to do the right thing without pressure (listen to his impassioned speech from the Northwest Straits Annual Meeting last fall). Billy Frank Jr. said last November, “When it comes to salmon, to Treaty Rights, no one is in charge. So how do we make it happen? You make it happen, we all make it happen. In 1976 Judge Boldt took away the right of the State of Washington to manage the salmon, because they were not doing their job (emphasis mine).Well, the Federal Court put a stop to it. Today the State of Washington is broke, but when they had money they didn’t do anything to manage the resources. So here we are, we are the bad guys again. Why do we have to go to the United States Government and tell them about the laws? “
So where are we supposed to turn for a fair hearing if DOE isn’t even reading of the controversy in BC? First Nation tribes on Vancouver Island have been leading huge rallies (that have not been well reported here) and marching down the length of the Island to the Parliament Is it time for us to lead a similar march down the length of the Hood Canal to Olympia? And one from Bellingham, perhaps tying in the Coal port proposal and the Net Pens? In the hearing DOE said that they made a mistake in Whatcom County that they intend to fix in the next round of the SMP there. It seems that any further discussions with either body should be done in a court of law. Our State, and the Federal Government, are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to restore native salmon runs. A small DNA mutation to the viruses attacking the net pen fish, which is what virus’ do, or the accumulated problems of sea lice that the pens breed, can be a tipping point that could make all that for nothing. Is it really worth the risk for a tiny industry? The implied threats of DOE to “fix” their bureaucratic ‘mistake’ on behalf of an industry makes a mockery out of their oversight of our Ecology.Let’s remember, that it is not the Department of Ecology’s, Ecology. It is our ecology, we who are paying for these people to fight us for years over this issue. When they want an SMP done, they want us to do all the heavy lifting, for free, of putting in place buffers on their behalf in the SMP, allowing us to prohibit shoreline mining, fighting that fight over years of public meetings with screaming crowds that have been fed misinformation by the folks who want to do whatever they want with streams and the buffers. DOE gave us nothing in the way of science to help with this. We had to go to scientists in other parts of the country to get the examples. They don’t even do their homework in DOEland.
There’s an old blues song, that goes, “He’s got a hand full of gimme, and a mouth full of much obliged.” It seems apt to what Ecology is doing to us. They come here and want us to write the SMP, then when we make it work for us, more stringent than they would do, they say we can’t do that. It’s time to change the game.
It’s time the environmental community got as angry as Billy Frank Jr, at our government inaction and endless meetings. The NW Indian Fisheries Commission are demanding that things get done. We would like to see Governor Inslee and Ms. Bellan declare a moratorium on net pens, and spend as long studying the emerging science on them as they have fighting us over prohibiting them. Governor Inslee stood in the Rotunda of the Capital in front of hundreds of environmental supporters last week, as this bill was being killed, people who made the difference of getting him elected, and told them that he wanted to make Washington the “greenest” state in the union. Let’s see him start right here and now and open this debate back up. Let’s see our legislators get this done, as they say they want to. Throwing a bill over the wall to a committee that is manipulated to kill it, and not seeing it pushed through , is only playing half court basketball. The least they can do for us is fight to reopen the scientific basis for the support of the industry, which is over 20 years old. If Inslee and Bellam don’t want to see this done, then it’s time to change the game and take them to court. Given the concerns being raised just over the border to the north, it’s time to challenge this cozy relationship. Go ahead, county commissioners, and put the conditions in to the SMP, set the bar plenty high. We sincerely appreciate that you fought this as far as you have. Let’s get this round of the SMP done. But Ms Bellon’s honeymoon period with the environment that she is chartered to protect, is over. Her team suited up to play ball, but came out on the wrong side of the court. Now it’s time for those of us who care about restoring the salmon runs, to hire some ringers and win this game.
“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
“To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“The butter’s spread too thick!”
“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.
Filed under: Aquaculture, fisheries, Jefferson County, Net Pens Aquaculture, Olympic Peninsula, Puget Sound | 1 Comment »