Just before he left office, former state Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland (former Tacoma mayor) signed a settlement and lease agreement with Taylor Shellfish for the harvest of geoducks on state lands.
New Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark says he isn’t going to sign it. It’s basically a do-over.
Taylor Shellfish is getting fined for harvesting geoducks from state lands without and lease and the company is now getting the lease they should have gotten in the first place, said Goldmark spokesman Aaron Toso.
“The lease and the settlement are separate issues,” Toso said “But they were tied together (in Sutherland’s deal) and the public didn’t have a voice in the lease.”
The deal that Sutherland signed imposed a $630,000 fine on the shellfish company for harvesting geoducks and oysters from Totten Inlet. It gave the company 5 years to pay off the fine.
It also gave Taylor Shellfish Farms a 10-year lease to 10 acres of state tidelands for about 11 percent of the value of its geoduck harvest and 15 percent of its oyster harvest, plus a fee of about $11,500 a year.
Here’s the whole deal.
Goldmark said he will meet with company officials on Monday.
Also, just before he left office, Sutherland signed a 30-year lease for gravel removal from the Maury Island. Goldmark’s staff is still reviewing that agreement.
OLYMPIA – Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark today announced that he will not sign a lease with Taylor Shellfish with terms as negotiated by the previous commissioner. The terms had been set in a settlement addressing the company’s trespass on state aquatic lands in Totten Inlet.
The current settlement was signed in the final hours of the previous commissioner’s tenure and set the terms for a lease that was still under an open public comment period for under the state’s environmental review process. This SEPA process was to be completed on January 23, 2009. The settlement was signed on January 12, 2009, the day before the previous commissioner left office.
"The public was shut out of this process," said Goldmark. "It is my intention to renegotiate the settlement for the trespass on public land as an issue separate from the lease."
When Commissioner Goldmark took office, he laid out three principles that will guide decisions made at DNR under his leadership. Those include: sustainable management of our natural resources; conduct our work is the public’s interest with public’s knowledge; and ensure sound and credible science is guiding our actions.
"I believe that public input should be an important component of our decisions at DNR. When a state agency asks for the public’s input when the issue is already decided, it is a violation of the public’s trust," said Goldmark.
The shellfish industry is an important part of our economy, heritage of the state, and revenue from DNR-managed state aquatic lands. The commissioner will work in good faith to find a solution that is in the best interest of the public.
Commissioner Goldmark has a meeting scheduled with Taylor Shellfish on Monday to discuss the issue.
DNR Aquatic Lands Management
Led by the Commissioner of Public Lands, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources manages about 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands, including the bedlands of Puget Sound and the coast, many of Washington’s beaches, navigable rivers and natural lakes.
On behalf of the people of Washington, DNR works to protect the environment, provide opportunities for recreation, support water-dependent businesses, and promote sustainable use of natural resources.
Revenues generated from DNR’s management of the state’s aquatic resources support ongoing restoration and cleanup of Washington’s aquatic lands and provide grants to agencies and communities.
Peter Goldmark, who leads the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, is Washington’s 13th Commissioner of Public Lands since statehood in 1889 and the first commissioner from Eastern Washington.