Fin-fish farm issue resolved, Jefferson County officials say

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County’s updated shoreline management plan is expected to be in place by mid-December now that the conflict over fin-fish aquaculture has been resolved, according to the county’s lead on the project.

“We will allow the use of net pens, although only in certain geographical areas and with a conditional-use permit,” said Associate Planner Michelle McConnell, whose department is preparing paperwork that the three county commissioners will consider for approval Nov. 18.

“Having a plan in place will also allow people who have been waiting to develop shoreline property to proceed and offer them different options for that development,” McConnell said.

County Commissioner David Sullivan said he thinks “it’s the best we can do.

“All this does is kick it down to the permit level and deal with net pens on a case-by-case basis instead of having it be on the program level, but anyone who wants to put in a net pen will have to meet all of the conditions,” Sullivan said.

No businesses have requested placing fin-fish aquaculture in Jefferson County,

If commissioners approve the policy during their regular meeting at 9 a.m. Nov. 18, then it will be submitted to the state Department of Ecology on Nov. 22, according to a county Department of Community Development timeline.

Ecology is expected to send an approval letter by Dec. 6, with the new shoreline master program going into effect Dec. 13.

Long time coming

The net pen policy has held up approval of the shoreline management program, which regulates development on the shoreline, since February 2011.

That’s when Ecology approved most of a proposed update of the shoreline management program, also known as an SMP, except for a proposed county ban on fin-fish aquaculture, which raises non-native species, such as Atlantic salmon, in pens.

A ban on net-pens prohibition has been the single point of contention between county and state officials since then.

The update had been sent to the state in November 2010. Before that, the last revision of the program had been in 1998.

“The commissioners wanted to impose a complete prohibition, but the state said that net pens were a water-dependent use and couldn’t be banned outright,” McConnell said.

“The new SMP will allow the process, but applicants will be limited to certain locations and will have to meet several performance standards.”

Locations allowed

Net pens will not be allowed within 1,500 feet of the boundaries of the Protection Island Aquatic Reserve, in Discovery Bay, within the South Port Townsend Bay Mooring Buoy Management Plan area or in Hood Canal, south of the line from Tala Point to Foulweather Bluff, due to water quality concerns, the latest update of the program says.

Possible siting locations are in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Glen Cove, Mats Mats and Port Ludlow, according to the update.

“Fin-fish aquaculture that uses or releases herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, nonindigenous species, parasites, genetically modified organisms or feed into surrounding waters must demonstrate all significant impacts have been mitigated,” according to the update.

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

Last modified: October 09. 2013 5:42PM
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