A proposal by Penn Cove Shellfish, LLC to add nine raft clusters to 15 existing raft clusters at its mussel farm in Quilcene Bay is the first floating aquaculture project to be reviewed under the new …
A proposal by Penn Cove Shellfish, LLC to add nine raft clusters to 15 existing raft clusters at its mussel farm in Quilcene Bay is the first floating aquaculture project to be reviewed under the new Shoreline Master Program.
Anna Bausher, project planner for Jefferson County Department of Community Development, explained that under the previous Shoreline Master Program, the proposal would have been allowed outright without review by the county.
Under the current shoreline rules, the project requires a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit application and is subject to State Environmental Policy Act review. The proposal also is subject to approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Natural Resources.
A comment period for the project ends May 11.
Penn Cove Shellfish, which is based in Coupeville, currently leases 21.57 acres of aquatic lands through the DNR.
The proposal is to add nine raft clusters. Each raft cluster is 40 feet by 120 feet, which includes three attached rafts measuring 40 feet by 40 feet, according to a legal notice of the project. Each raft cluster is to be located approximately 250 feet apart end to end with approximately 75 feet between clusters laterally. Each raft cluster would contain approximately 650, 20-foot-long seed-and-grow outlines suspended from the raft, according to the notice.
The total water coverage for the proposed nine raft clusters is 1 acre floating over subtidal habitat. The value of the proposal is estimated at $135,000.
“The mussels are harvested by cutting the lines and bringing them on board a vessel, which contains machinery that strips the mussels from the lines,” Bausher wrote in an email response to questions from The Leader. “The mussels are placed in insulated plastic totes and are loaded onto a work skiff for transportation to the Quilcene Boat Haven. The mussels are then loaded into refrigerated trucks to transport to Coupeville, Washington, where Penn Cove Shellfish’s packing and shipping planted is located.”
A 117-page biological evaluation report, compiled and edited by Penn Cove Shellfish, was submitted with the application. The report, dated August 2017, concluded that the proposed action has the potential to affect some species or their habitat, though not permanently.
“Construction could temporarily increase noise and possibly causes [sic] listed species to avoid immediate work area, but these effects would be temporary, occasional, and minor,” the report stated. “Operation could affect water quality (nitrogen concentrations) and benthic epifauna, but the affect is expected to be insignificant,” the report added, noting best management practices, raft design and placement would be “used to reduce impact.”
The evaluation report lists a number of species that could potentially be adversely affected, including Puget Sound chinook salmon; steelhead trout; summer-run chum salmon; bull trout; bocaccio, canary and yelloweye rockfish; and the marbled murrelet.
In a letter dated Dec. 4, 2017 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Eric V. Rickerson, state supervisor for the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department, wrote the farm is “located in deep water, over a largely barren, unconsolidated substrate, and is well flushed.”
“Farm operations will result in impacts to water quality, but are unlikely to cause measurable impacts to native substrates, benthos, submerged aquatic vegetation or marine forage fish,” Rickerson wrote.
The project is a Type III permit application, and an open record hearing is to be scheduled after a public comment period. Comments should be submitted to the DCD by 4:30 p.m. May 11.
“The Jefferson County Shoreline Substantial Development Permit will not require approval from the Department of Ecology,” Bausher wrote.
She noted a final permit decision is to be determined by a hearings examiner.
The DCD has not made any recommendations yet about whether to approve the request.
“No determination will occur until after the public comment period has ended,” she wrote.
The state Department of Ecology first approved the SMP in February 2014, after Jefferson County commissioners had unanimously approved it in December 2013. It took effect in February 2014 and has continued to be challenged in court by the Olympic Stewardship Foundation and the Jefferson County Chapter of the Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights.
The Washington State Supreme Court declined in February to hear appeals by the Olympic Stewardship Foundation.