Taylor, Wash. DNR settle lawsuit


James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
May 6, 2009

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Taylor Shellfish Farms of Shelton, Wash., on Wednesday settled a lengthy and contentious dispute over shellfish farming in Totten Inlet, at the southern end of Puget Sound.

The agreement resolves ownership of disputed tidelands, ownership and access to shellfish remaining in the growing areas, and settled any issues regarding past use. The agreement allows the parties to move forward with a cooperative relationship and prevents further costly legal proceedings.

"This is a fair and equitable agreement for the people of the state of Washington," said Peter Goldmark, commissioner of public lands. "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."

DNR will grant Taylor Shellfish two separate rights of entry to harvest shellfish from the growing areas; oysters will be removed within six months and geoducks within five years. The company previously told SeaFood Business that the tidelands in question contain 240,000 oysters and 300,000 geoducks, or large burrowing clams that take several years to grow to market size.

The company has been prohibited from harvesting the tidelands until the matter was resolved. No future lease will be issued to the shellfish grower and no oysters or geoducks will be replanted.

"This agreement is a win-win for both Taylor and the DNR. We are pleased with the outcome," added Bill Taylor, owner of Taylor Shellfish. "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."

In turn, Taylor Shellfish will pay DNR USD 1.5 million (EUR 1.1 million) over the next three years and withdraw its lawsuits with DNR over Totten Inlet. The agreement also grants Taylor quiet title of the state-owned aquatic lands and shellfish products produced there.

The dispute began shortly after Goldmark took office in January. Taylor Shellfish reached a lease agreement with former commissioner Doug Southerland the day before he left office. Goldmark, claiming the public was shut out of the process, refused to honor the agreement. Taylor then filed lawsuits in both state and federal courts.

Taylor has farmed shellfish in the area since 1969 and always maintained its ownership of the property, but recent land surveys indicated that they were inadvertently trespassing on state-owned lands.

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