Washington shellfish aquaculture permitting challenged again

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been sued to prevent it from issuing shellfish aquaculture licenses without considering their environmental impact.

For the second time in four years, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) has taken the federal government to court to keep the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from approving projects in Washington state that expand shellfish aquaculture without considering their environmental impact.

The lawsuit, filed Monday, 19 December in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Washington, by CFS claims the Corps’ policies violate the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other federal laws. It comes after the Corps finalized a new permit in January 2021, during the final days of the Trump administration.

CFS and the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound, a co-plaintiff in the case, said the new permit was expedited and did not take their comments into consideration. They said commercial shellfish farms in Puget Sound and Willapa Bay could endanger area ecosystems.

It’s similar to the permit the Corps tried to issue in 2017, only to have CFS get it blocked through the courts.

“Despite clear statutory mandates and a previous court decision requiring the government to fully consider the potential impacts of proposed shellfish operations, the Corps continues to ignore its duties by allowing industrial shellfish operations to degrade important aquatic habitats, including through the use of plastics and pesticides, endangering Washington’s shorelines, biodiversity, and surrounding communities,” CFS Senior Attorney Amy van Saun said in a statement.

Many of the permitted shellfish farms are located near breeding and spawning grounds for species like salmon and whales. Conservation groups also said the farms eliminate plants and grasses that sustain other wildlife and protect the environment.

Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Director Laura Hendricks said in a statement the government needs to do a better job for Washington’s coastal areas.

“The Coalition is outraged that the Corps would try to avoid doing what is necessary as a bare minimum under the law to protect orcas, salmon, and marine life in Washington from the toxic and physical impacts of the massive number of industrial-scale aquaculture operations that have been proposed,” Hendricks said.

Photo courtesy of StompingGirl/Shutterstock


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