Van De Wege explained that county governments are unlikely to unilaterally oppose aquaculture. (Photo: Washington State House of Representatives/FIS)
Will counties be able to ban aquaculture?
Friday, February 08, 2013, 23:10 (GMT + 9)
A state representative in the Washington House sponsored a bill this week that would endanger fish farm operations: it would let counties ban net pen aquaculture.
“Master programmes may include provisions for siting or prohibiting the siting of marine aquaculture net pen facilities,” says the bill by Representative Kevin Van De Wege.
The bill, HB 1599, does not impact any net pens already in operation, he pointed out.
Steve Gray, Clallam County deputy director of the Department of Community Development, handles the county’s update of its shoreline master programme, which is still in early stages, Peninsula Daily News reports.
“The next step would be to develop a working draft and submit it to the planning commission, followed by a series of public hearings,” he commented.
There is currently just one net pen operation in Clallam County, and it falls under the jurisdiction of the city of Port Angeles, he told.
Commissioner David Sullivan noted that the bill may not affect that county even if it becomes law.
“I’ve heard about this bill, but I’m not sure it will change our situation,” Sullivan said. “The bill would go into effect in July and we may have a conditional use structure by then.”
For two years now, the county’s shoreline management plan has been on hiatus as negotiations take place between the county and the state Department of Ecology, which supervises net pen fish farming. While county officials want to ban this type of aquaculture, Ecology believes that counties should not get to decide that.
The bill has already been referred to the House Local Government Committee. It states that, as of 28 July 28 2013, it does not allow a local government to ban facilities in conformity with requirements.
Alan Cook, vice president of Seattle-based American Gold Seafoods -- which operates net pen farms in the Port Angeles Harbor and in other nearby locations -- said he wants the state to continue to supervise the industry.
“We oppose the bill,” he told. “There is a lot of information out there and we don’t feel that the counties are equipped to make the decision.”
Van De Wege differed, explaining that county governments are unlikely to unilaterally oppose aquaculture.
A key issue being considered for a potential conditional use permit process is the threat of parasites and pollutants contaminating wild fish, County Administrator Philip Morley said.
Cook argued that as an approved water dependent use, net pens do not jeopardise Puget Sound.
“This is a highly regulated industry,” Cook said.
The county staff will present several options for the development of a conditional use permit this month, Sullivan informed.