PORT ANGELES — Cooke Aquaculture plans to relocate its Atlantic-salmon farming operation east of Ediz Hook because of the U.S. Navy’s pier project at the hook, Innes Weir, general manager, said Tuesday.
“The Navy in its divine wisdom decided it was going to build a pier pretty much on top of where we farm,” he told Port Angeles Business Association members during their meeting Tuesday.
“Whether or not we can stay here while the pier is being built remains to be seen, but we certainly can’t stay here while the pier is operational.”
The pier is expected to be operational in June 2019, Weir said.
Pile-driving for the $25.6 million pier project off the southern shore of Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles began in February. The in-water construction window that permits pile-driving closed Feb. 15 to protect salmon species and reopens July 16.
Cooke bought Icicle Seafoods, which operated the Port Angeles Atlantic salmon farm, in May 2016.
The plan, he said, is to reduce the number of pens from 20 to 14. The pens would be more spread out than they are now.
“We’ve reduced the number of cages but made them slightly bigger and moved them apart,” he said.
The new facility, which he said will be built to the highest modern standards, is estimated to cost the company about $9 million.
“[Costs] go up every day,” Weir said. “It’s a state-of-the-art facility.”
The plastic cages would be black and difficult to see from shore.
From land, the farm would barely be visible, he said.
In 2014, it was estimated to cost about $7 million, Weir said.
Now the company is working through the permitting process for the facility.
Weir said Cooke is working now to secure permits from Clallam County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before seeking permits from the state departments of Ecology and Fish and Wildlife.
Cooke needs 11 permits to move forward with the project, he said.
Weir believes the county and Army Corps of Engineers permits would be issued sometime this summer.
He said that until recently, the Navy hadn’t been too helpful in the process.
“They have new people in charge of the project … that are more understanding of the fact that we have a working business they are putting in jeopardy,” Weir said. “Now they are more understanding.”
He told those at the meeting the new pens are designed to reduce the risk of escape and to prevent predators from getting into the pens.
If fish escape, Weir said, the risk of them spreading disease is low. The company is required to test for disease throughout the process to ensure diseases don’t spread.
Those that do escape typically stay around the farm where they were raised, he said.
Weir said there is a hope the company could add a warehouse facility in Port Angeles.
“It’s a sustainable place to work,” he said. “It’s something we want to go forward with.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.