Tag Archives: Peter Goldmark

New protections planned for Devils Lake and Dabob Bay natural areas

In 1991, accompanied by botanist Jerry Gorsline, I visited Devils Lake for the first time. I remember being awestruck — in part by the beauty of the place but also because of the many unusual native plants that Jerry raved about. Not one invasive species had reached this place.

“Visiting Devils Lake,” I wrote, “is like stepping back in time, perhaps 200-300 years, to a period when civilization had not yet carried the seeds of foreign plants to the Pacific Northwest. At one end of the lake lies an enchanted world — a rare bog, where the sound of distant bubbles accompanies each footstep in the spongy moss.”

Proposed expansion of Devils Lake Natural Resources Conservation Area Map: DNR
Proposed expansion of Devils Lake Natural Resources Conservation Area // Map: DNR

Jerry worried that telling the story of Devils Lake would bring irresponsible people to the lake, people who could destroy the fragile ecosystem. But he also worried that not telling the story would lead to a massive clearcut on this state-owned land and that this wonderland would slip away. You can read this story online in Chapter 10 of the book “Hood Canal: Splendor at Risk” (PDF 5.2 mb).

Jerry and others were successful in limiting the logging, in part because of increasing environmental awareness and a new program called the Timber, Fish and Wildlife Agreement. In 2002, 80 acres containing the lake were permanently set aside as a natural resource conservation area.

Now Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark wants to add another 415 acres to the NRCA before he leaves office. The added property, now held in trust for state school construction, would extend the protected habitat to the western shore of Quilcene Bay. To gain special protections, the land would need to go through a process to compensate the trust for the loss of land and timber values.

Proposed expansion of Dabob Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area. Map: DNR
Proposed expansion of Dabob Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area. // Map: DNR

Nearby, the 2,771-acre Dabob Bay natural area — which includes the highly valued natural area preserve and the surrounding NRCA — would increase by 3,640 acres under the expansion plan. About 940 acres is held by the state in trust status. Private lands, totaling 2,700 acres, could be purchased by the state but only from willing sellers.

Basic details are provided in a fact sheet from DNR (PDF 318 kb). Peter Bahls, executive director of Northwest Watershed Institute, wrote an article about the plan for Olympic Forest Coalition.

Two public meetings have been scheduled at Quilcene High School to discuss the plan:

  • Informational discussion: Wednesday, Sept. 28, from 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Public hearing for comments: Thursday, Oct. 13, from 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Written comments: Information available at the link above.

Information on the previous Dabob Bay NRCA expansion and request for related funding can be found in the DNR publication “Dabob Bay Coastal Conservation” (PDF 12.3 mb).

Tidelands search: A hunt for truth or Pandora’s box?

Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark has decided it is time to see how many private shellfish farms are encroaching on public tidelands.

Goldmark said he made up his mind when he learned that Taylor Shellfish Farms appeared to have crossed a private property line with a geoduck farm and trespassed onto state tidelands in North Bay. If true, it would be the second time that Taylor was caught in such an act. See my story in today’s Kitsap Sun.

Long before Goldmark took office in January, groups including the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat were talking about places they suspected trespass was occurring.

When I raised the question last year about using technology to check all state tidelands, officials with the Department of Natural Resources told me they didn’t have the staff to do that. OK, I said, but what if you could show that you could collect enough money to pay the cost through charges for back leases where trespass was taking place. That would not work, I was told, because the revenue does not come back to pay the staff.

It turns out that this statement may have been only half true. Revenues from tideland leases go into the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account. Half the money in the account goes to local entities for restoration and recreation projects. The other half goes back to the DNR for management. If management includes checking boundaries and if the state could collect twice the cost, then the program would pay for itself.

When I made that point this week to Bridget Moran, deputy supervisor for aquatic and agency resources, she downplayed the revenue-generating aspects. With the tight economy and businesses hurting, I guess it wouldn’t look good for the state to focus on cold, hard cash. Because geoduck revenues go into that aquatic lands account, the fund really isn’t hurting anyway.

“Our intent is to make sure the people’s resources are being managed in a sustainable way,” Moran told me. “If through this process we find trespass, we will put that money into the ALEA.”

Moran is new to the job, coming to DNR from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and previously the Department of Agriculture. In my dealings with her, I have found her to be exceedingly capable, and I wish her well in her new high-profile position.

My only suggestion — and this idea comes from Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish Farms — is to communicate well with the growers. Call a public meeting or two to explain what is going on, what is expected of the growers and what the growers can expect from the state.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Pandora’s shellfish basket may still contain a legal bombshell. Taylor Shellfish Farms has advanced a legal theory contending that, in the early 1900s, the state intended to sell the property in Totten Inlet where Taylor was growing geoducks. Under that theory, the state should be forced to correct the “mistake” made so many years ago.

I don’t how legitimate the idea is, but when Taylor and Goldmark settled their dispute out of court, the question went unresolved. If problems are widespread, might one or more disgruntled shellfish farmers raise the theory again?

I have written a lot about this topic of trespass, both in stories and in Water Ways. Check out a previous blog post from May 7, when I listed most of my writings.

Taylor Shellfish case ends quietly, but several issues remain

Washington Department of Natural Resources and Taylor Shellfish quietly resolved their dispute behind closed doors, then announced the $1.5 million settlement yesterday.

It was a dramatic turnabout in tone from the battle waged in legal documents and news releases just a few weeks ago, when Taylor officials were claiming rights to state land. The issue grew out of a finding that Taylor had planted shellfish on state tidelands and was “trespassing” on state property.

See the story in today’s Kitsap Sun for the latest, including these statements:

Peter Goldmark, commissioner of public lands: “This is a fair and equitable agreement for the people of the state of Washington. We will continue working with the shellfish growers in our state to ensure that this sustainable industry creates jobs and generates revenue for restoration projects in Puget Sound.”

Bill Taylor, owner of Taylor Shellfish: “”This agreement is a win-win for both Taylor and the DNR. We are pleased with the outcome. With this issue behind us, we look forward to focusing on our operations, creating jobs and stimulating our local economy with our business activities. Now more than ever, working families need the types of jobs that Taylor provides.”

Among the questions that remain are whether other shellfish growers may be encroaching on state tidelands, what Goldmark intends to do about this overall question and whether Taylor’s legal claims could be used by another grower. Beyond that, are the debates about geoduck aquaculture that will soon begin to play out at the county and state levels.

Here’s a chronology from the stories I have written since this dispute started:

July 22, 2008: Shellfish Company’s Encroachment Raises State Revenue Questions

Oct. 29, 2008: Taylor Shellfish Faces $1.3 Million Fine

Dec. 23, 2008: Lease With State Would Let Taylor Shellfish Recover Its Geoducks

Jan. 13, 2009:
DNR, Company Settle Shellfish Farming Dispute (AP)

Jan. 13, 2009: New Lands Commissioner Could Have Final Say on Taylor Shellfish

Feb. 5, 2009: State Agreement With Taylor Shellfish Put on Hold

Feb. 23, 2009:
Lawsuit Filed in Taylor Shellfish Dispute

March 4, 2009:
Taylor Shellfish Makes it a Federal Case

March 13, 2009:
State Lays Out Case Against Taylor Shellfish

May 6, 2009:
Lands Chief Settles Dispute With Taylor Shellfish

The following are Water Ways entries I have written:

July 23, 2008: Tideland boundary questions could be Pandora’s Box

Oct. 30, 2008:
Should the state look for more encroachments on its tidelands?

Jan. 14, 2009: Taylor offers evidence to justify shellfish trespass

Feb. 24, 2009:
Legal writing rarely reaches this level of precision

March 9, 2009:
Taylor shellfish case: Pandora’s box has been opened

March 18, 2009:
DNR says Taylor Shellfish claims are all wet

May 7, 2009: Taylor Shellfish case ends quietly, but several issues remain

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.

Legal writing rarely reaches this level of precision

Taylor Shellfish Farms has filed a lawsuit against the state regarding the company’s so-called “trespass” on state tidelands in Totten Inlet. See my story in today’s Kitsap Sun.

I’d like to say something here in a nonjudgmental voice, taking neither side in the legal battle between Taylor Shellfish Farms and the Washington Department of Natural Resources:

I found a work of art in the legal complaint filed by Taylor’s team of lawyers.

Given the complex and obscure legal theories, I can’t begin to predict how this will turn out. But I want to say that the complaint drafted by the law firm Gordon Derr was written with such precision that anyone can walk through the document and not feel lost in what could have been a dense jungle of legal arguments.

Download the complaint (PDF 2.2 mb) from the Kitsap Sun’s Web site and read it for yourself. But remember that we have not yet heard the arguments from the state’s side. Maybe it’s all empty rhetoric, but I thought it was worth giving credit for the writing itself. I can’t tell you how many times I have struggled through legal documents trying to understand much simpler arguments than these.

Whether the state’s counter-arguments would be as eloquent may never be seen. Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark has expressed interest in settling this out of court. His only point, according to his chief spokesman Aaron Toso, is that he wants the settlement and lease agreement to be open for public review and discussion.

Bill Dewey, spokesman for Taylor, told me a couple of weeks ago that Bill Taylor was disappointed with a meeting he had with Goldmark on Feb. 9. The meeting followed Goldmark’s decision not to lease the property to Taylor for the time being. See the Feb. 5 story in the Kitsap Sun.

Taylor expected in the meeting to talk about issues regarding the company’s inadvertent use of state tidelands and how to work through the problems. But the discussion never got beyond a general overview of the shellfish industry.

It seems likely that Taylor left the meeting convinced that he needed to take a stand, thus the filing of the lawsuit.

Toso told me this morning that Taylor had been informed in advance that no lawyers were going to be present and that Goldmark did not want to get into what could be considered negotiations.

“We had conveyed on two different phone calls that we weren’t going to be negotiating in that meeting because we didn’t have lawyers there,” Toso told me. “The commissioner understands that the shellfish industry is an important part of Washington’s economy. It’s still the commissioner’s goal that this can be settled outside of a courtroom.”