PORT LUDLOW — When the state Department of Natural Resources identified a 2-acre spit of state-owned beach on Hood Head as a lease site for geoduck farming in 2007, Bruce Olsen said he and his fellow landowners saw only two options.
“We were going to fight it or we were going to lease it ourselves,” Olsen said.
“Two years later, here we are, working on getting the farm going.”
The group is working to lease the area for So Happy Farms LLC. It has just begun the permitting process — with a public comment period open until July 24 — and has not begun negotiations for a lease with DNR.
Hood Head is a small section of forested land connected to the mainland just south of Port Ludlow by a sand spit and accessible by boat.
Olsen said he and the other land owners involved in the proposal have small cabins among the trees and live there some of the time.
When the land came up for lease, Olsen and his neighbors on the eastern edge of Hood Head wanted to make sure the beaches didn’t end up in the hands of “someone who would come in, set up the farm and then take off.”
So they decided to do it themselves — and do it right.
So Happy Farms
Olsen and his neighbors created a proposal to farm geoducks — large salt-water clams — in a way that would affect the environment and public use as little as possible.
“We view this lease as an opportunity to have some control over the tidelands next to our properties,” Olsen said.
“We don’t intend to go in and plant the entire area in one shot like most farms do.”
The group plans to farm only one acre, planting only one-sixth of that in any given year.
They intend to stay away from the eelgrass and use mesh tubing, rather than the traditional plastic piping, to bury the geoduck seedlings — a method Olsen hopes will allow sediment to move freely.
For the last two years, the group has collected biological, environmental and cultural impact studies of the area to prepare for the permitting process.
The first permit they seek is from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for use of the beach.
The permit proposal is currently open for public comment until July 24 and can be viewed and commented on at www.nws.usace.army.mil/PublicMenu/Menu.cfm?sitename=REG&pagename=Public_Notices.
If the permit is approved, Olsen said his group would work with DNR to secure a lease.
Permits are also needed from the state Department of Health and Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Al Scalf, Jefferson County director of community development, said the county didn’t have any permitting issues with creating a geoduck farm, since such a farm is considered passive aquaculture.
“Even if we get all the permits to do it, you can’t find much seed for the geoducks right now,” Olsen said.
“There are a lot of hurdles still, but we thought this would be the most environmentally friendly way to do this and to protect our land.”
Reporter Erik Hidle can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]