State repeals permit on geoduck farm

Staff writerJanuary 24, 2014 

A state panel has overturned a Pierce County permit allowing a commercial geoduck farm on Henderson Bay between Purdy and Key Peninsula.

The state Shorelines Hearings Board cited potential harm to eelgrass and the safety threat to windsurfers in overruling a county hearing examiner’s approval of the permit for a 5-acre farm.

In its 58-page ruling Wednesday, the board sided with ecological and recreational concerns in rejecting the permit for Chelsea Farms, the first geoduck farming permit for Henderson Bay.

Hearing Examiner Kimberly Allen approved the permit in May.

“This farm’s proposed location on a shoreline of statewide significance means that particular consideration must be given to balancing the interests of aquaculture as one statewide interest, with other statewide interests like the shoreline’s ecological value and the public’s recreational use,” the board said.

The Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat challenged the county’s approval of the permit, as did Paul and Betty Garrison, who live near the farm site. Chelsea Farms and property owner Darrell de Tienne filed for the permit in 2005. Harvesting of geoducks at the site on the north shore of Henderson Bay had not been started.

De Tienne, who lives in San Francisco, said he hasn’t decided whether to appeal to Superior Court.

“I’m disappointed for sure,” de Tienne said. The farming of geoducks cleans the water and “is good for the environment,” he said.

The board said the permit’s conditions – including buffers – were inadequate to protect eelgrass, which had been damaged by previous operations at the site.

“Eelgrass and macroalgae serve vital ecological roles in addition to providing spawning habitat,” the board said.

It also said canopy nets as well as equipment used below the water surface for geoduck farming could pose a risk to windsurfers.

The panel said an analysis of “cumulative impacts” should have been completed prior to approving the permit.

Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647 steve.maynard@ @TNTstevemaynard

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