Excavation for salt marsh at Big Quilcene River mouth resumes today after conflict between salmon, shellfish interests

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

QUILCENE — Work to rebuild a salt marsh at the mouth of the Big Quilcene River will resume today after a conflict between a salmon restoration group and an oyster farm was resolved.

The Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group halted excavation last month after Coast Seafoods, a shellfish farming enterprise with hatcheries in Quilcene and Hawaii, demanded it immediately stop all work, saying it could “cause immediate and irreparable damage to Coast’s Quilcene shellfish hatchery.”

The conflict was due to a breakdown in communication and is now resolved, both parties have said.

They reached an accord Thursday.

“Coast wasn’t aware of what we are doing, and we realized the necessity to keep them in the loop,” said Mendy Harlow, the salmon group’s executive director.

“Our concerns were satisfied,” said Coast’s attorney, Robert M. Smith of Plauche and Carr LLP of Seattle.

“We have discussed the issue and can now move forward.”

The Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group on Aug. 7 began the excavation of about 22,000 cubic yards of soil and fill as part of a marsh restoration project to rebuild the spawning ground of chum salmon that has been under sediment since the 1940s.

In an Aug. 15 letter, Smith said Coast was concerned the salt marsh restoration could result in dike failure.

If the dikes failed, the Quilcene River could change its direction over time, the letter said, bringing in more sediment and fresh water into the tidelands and hatchery.

“This would result in significant mortality of Coast’s shellfish,” the letter said.

The letter also said the excavation was a violation of a previous agreement with Coast to provide notice about excavation projects.

Notice had not been given, Harlow said, because she was not aware of the agreement.

“This happened because I am a relatively new executive director, and I didn’t know about some of the agreements that had been made,” said Harlow, who began in July 2013.

In the letter, Smith said that Coast would take “any and all appropriate legal actions to protect its operations.”

On Thursday, he said he does not expect any such action will occur.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: September 01. 2014 6:02PM
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