Taylor shellfish case: Pandora’s box has been opened

When Taylor Shellfish Farms was found to be trespassing on state tidelands in Totten Inlet by growing geoducks and oysters, I wrote a blog entry (July 23) suggesting that the state look into other potential encroachments on all its tidelands:

We could be opening Pandora’s Box, in which property boundary encroachments are revealed by expensive surveys. That could lead to expensive legal battles over who gets to claim what. It’s a rather chilling prospect, but who knows how much potential revenue the state may be missing.

Meanwhile, the state is not subject to adverse possession laws, yet private property owners are.

Some might say we should leave this alone, but I do not subscribe to the idea that ignorance is bliss.

Later, I was told by Fran McNair of the Washington Department of Natural Resources that the Legislature maintains tight control over the Division of Aquatics Lands, and there is no assurance that any money recovered would even pay for the staff it would take to uncover the problems. In fact, she said, uncovering the problems with Taylor has taken staff away from their main duties, and now they are behind on other projects. See my entry from Oct. 30.

I have to admit now that I did not know how big Pandora’s box might be. Taylor has taken the approach that the tidelands in Totten Inlet should have been conveyed to private property owners back in the early 1900s. While the state may not be subject to adverse possession, the company’s lawyers are advancing some interesting legal theories about why Taylor should end up owning the land in question.

If Taylor were to prevail, what would that mean to other areas where shellfish growers may be encroaching on state land? Maybe the state would lose more land? Would it make any difference if a bunch of shellfish growers are already using the land as if it were theirs?

Anyway, the latest news on this issue comes from my story last week about Taylor filing a lawsuit in federal court (see Wednesday’s Kitsap Sun) in addition to the case already filed in state court (see Feb. 23 Kitsap Sun). For the legal details, download the complaint filed in state court (PDF 2.2 mb) and the complaint filed in federal court (PDF 2.0 mb).

Other recent stories:

Michelle Ma, a reporter for the Seattle Times, wrote a nice background piece in Sunday’s paper on geoduck harvesting in light of the recent controversy in Totten Inlet.

Brad Shannon, a reporter for The Olympian, wrote a somewhat revealing piece today about Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark’s ethics pledge to avoid making decisions affecting major campaign donors.

And, if you’re new to the commercial geoduck issue, Craig Welch has written an article long on history for Smithsonian magazine.

3 thoughts on “Taylor shellfish case: Pandora’s box has been opened

  1. Unfortunately for the citizens of Washington, the illegal use of state lands is far from over. According to other Puget Sound residents, shellfish growers are using state lands in numerous locations. With Taylor is trying to set a precedent to start “the geoduck tideland grab” in Washington, others are just waiting for their chance. With geoduck feedlots bringing in between $1,000,000-$1,500,000 per acre over a 5 year period with little cost and little work, it is the most valuable land in Washington. Citizens must let Commissioner Goldmark and legislators know that no industry is above the law and should be given a free ride to take public property when so many citizens are barely able to hang onto the few assets they own. Taylor has worked extremely hard for decades to make sure they were on all state committees and gave loads of free shellfish for officials, legislators and environmental groups fundraisers so they would look the other way—and it worked like a charm.

  2. Unfortunately for Citizens of Washington, the unethical and deceptive use of Blogs is far from over. According to other Puget Sound residents, Beachlife (aka Laura Hendricks) is still using forums to lie and deceive and push her own political agenda and real-estate interests. Laura is trying to set a precedent to start “the shellfish ground land grab” in Washington, and other real-estate investors are just waiting for their chance. With Real-estate “feedlots” growing all around the Sound, Laura and her cronies don’t want to look at working people and feel that expelling this 160 year old sustainable industry will increase the value of their real-estate investments by millions. What she fails to realize is that without the growers advocating for clean water and healthy ecosystems the Sound is doomed to go the way of the Chesapeake. Honest Citizens must let Commissioner Goldmark know that his pandering to special interest groups and campaign donors like “the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound” (a misnomer if there ever was one) and his association with Laura Hendricks, will ultimately reveal his lack of vision in dealing with the large issues of Puget Sound health. Laura has lied to Goldmark and others about the impacts and business of geoduck farming and continues to call hard working farmers lazy and unethical. Laura has worked hard for year to frame this debate as “citizens” with no private interest vs. corporate interests, but this is false. In reality this is a fight for the future of Puget Sound and Laura would like nothing more than to see water quality downgrades so that Shellfish farmers have to look elseware for clean water. Do not let her self-interested rhetoric sway you or others. The health of Puget Sound depends on the Canaries in the Coal Mines, our Shellfish growers (Including Geoduck farmers).

  3. To be clear, Taylor has most certainly donated to environmental groups fundraisers, but not so they can “look the other way.” The reality of this is that both Taylor and ‘environmental groups’ like ones I belong to, have in common the goal of clean water for the Sound and Hood Canal. While we may differ on harvest techniques for geoduck farming that have yet to have full scientific understanding of their consequences, we do not differ on working to provide clean water for shellfish and the ecosystem. It’s a goal we can agree on, while we agree to disagree on other points of view. I consider this a mature attitude, not a sell out.

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