BILL REQ. #:  S-4295.4 


State of Washington62nd Legislature2012 Regular Session

By Senate Environment (originally sponsored by Senator Nelson)

READ FIRST TIME 02/02/12.   

     AN ACT Relating to improving water quality to support the health of marine waters of Washington state; and creating new sections.


NEW SECTION.  Sec. 1   The legislature finds that the marine waters of Washington state and their associated tidelands and bedlands, located in Puget Sound and related inland marine waterways, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Hood Canal, the outer coastal waters, together with the lakes, rivers, and streams that flow to them, represent a unique and unparalleled resource to the state of Washington.
     Their rich and varied range of freshwater and marine organisms comprise an interdependent, sensitive communal ecosystem that is beneficial both for ecosystem quality and economic opportunity.
     Closures of beaches to shellfish harvest due to the risk of disease have become more frequent and widespread. Through reinvigorated efforts of the public, tribes, nongovernmental organizations, public agencies, and the private sector, Washington's marine waters should become a model of a thriving natural system, with: Clean marine and freshwaters; clean sediments; healthy and abundant native species; natural shorelines and places for public enjoyment; and a vibrant economy that prospers in productive harmony with a healthy Puget Sound.
     One component of restoring Puget Sound is ensuring healthy shellfish. Shellfish can help filter and improve the quality of our marine waters, thereby being part of the solution to restoring and preserving ecosystem health. Shellfish aquaculture, commercial and tribal harvest of wild shellfish resources, recreational shellfish harvest, and preservation of natural marine areas are water-dependent uses that rely on excellent water quality. Healthy marine waters and productive shellfish beds are essential for a growing shellfish industry, Native American tribes, public recreational harvest, economic opportunity, and an enjoyable quality of life.
     To this end, the governor announced the Washington state shellfish initiative in 2011. The initiative is a convergence of the national oceanic and atmospheric administration's national shellfish initiative and the state's long-standing interest in promoting clean water industries and a healthy marine ecosystem.
     Therefore, it is the purpose of this act to require reports to the legislature, the governor, and the public on the progress of and opportunities for implementing elements of the national shellfish initiative and related activities.

NEW SECTION.  Sec. 2   (1) Consistent with RCW 43.01.036, the department of ecology shall cooperate with other federal, state, and local agencies, and academic institutions in reviewing peer-reviewed scientific literature, and environmental impact statements, on the relationship between shellfish and water quality in marine waters and prepare a report by December 1, 2012, to the governor and legislature covering their findings on:
     (a) The baseline water quality impacts of natural populations on unimpaired waters;
     (b) The relationship of intensified shellfish populations due to farming, on both unimpaired and impaired waters;
     (c) Descriptions of and evaluations of projects using shellfish to improve marine water quality;
     (d) The effectiveness of strategies for preventing and apprehending shellfish poachers and recommendations on whether improvements are needed or will be needed as the industry grows.
     (2) Consistent with RCW 43.01.036, the department of ecology, together with the department of natural resources and the Puget Sound partnership, in cooperation with partner agencies, must submit a progress report to the appropriate standing committees of the senate and house of representatives by December 1, 2012, on the following elements of the initiative and associated activities:
     (a) Research by the Washington sea grant program and the national oceanic and atmospheric administration on the scientific basis for a variety of current and potential shellfish farming practices that ensure ecosystem health, including: Siting, site preparation, planting or installation, operation, and harvest of commercial shellfish operations, including land and water transportation and equipment used, with the expectation that the report will include, but not be limited to:
     (i) Impacts on salmon and forage fish habitat, including eel grass;
     (ii) Improved ability to assess risks of toxic algae blooms;
     (iii) Marine litter prevention and cleanup;
     (iv) Water quality and habitat impacts of commercial planting and harvesting of shellfish on both tidelands and bedlands, including impacts on sand dollars, snails, birds, and native geoduck populations;
     (v) Impacts of shellfish excretions from concentrated shellfish farming;
     (vi) Methods for estimating the carrying capacity of Puget Sound bays and waters to achieve both sustainable shellfish farming and sustainable water quality;
     (b) Recommendations for and examples of methods for achieving balance between new shellfish farms and: Nearby terrestrial land uses; marine water space utilization; bedland and tideland uses; habitat for other marine species, including birds; environmental protection; and coastal development;
     (c) A summary of the shellfish restoration priorities of the Puget Sound partnership, including a detailed description of their goals for upgrading ten thousand eight hundred acres of harvestable quantities of additional shellfish harvest, including types and quantities of additional shellfish harvest intended, the geographic areas intended, and an estimate of the number of acres of bedlands and tidelands intended, whether tidelands and bedlands of state parks are intended, and an estimate of the number of linear beach miles intended in Puget Sound and in other marine water regions;     
     (d) The proposed model permitting program, and associated pilot projects, established as part of the shellfish initiative, together with an evaluation of whether the model permitting program will provide more timeliness and certainty to the industry and improved opportunities for interested citizens to become informed about new proposals and provide input into decision-making processes;
     (e) The plan to restore nineteen historic Puget Sound Olympia oyster beds and associated local ecosystems;
     (f) The plan for bolstering pinto abalone populations;
     (g) Recommendations for improving and increasing public access to shellfish on public tidelands for tribal and recreational harvest, together with recommended policies for avoiding use conflicts involving water, beaches, public parks, outdoor recreation, and adjacent land owners, including consideration of transportation related needs of shellfish farming and harvest operations;
     (h) Improving water quality in commercial, recreational, and tribal shellfish growing areas;
     (i) Creation of a pollution identification and correction program, in cooperation with local governments;
     (j) Implementation of a pollution action team to respond quickly when water quality problems threaten shellfish harvest areas;
     (k) A summary of the estimated impact of the shellfish industry in the state of Washington, both currently, and as projected from results of the state and federal shellfish initiatives, including jobs, investment, economic multiplier effects, revenues to state and local governments, and contributions to international trade;
     (l) Improved effectiveness of on-site sewage management programs;
     (m) Reductions in agricultural run-off affecting marine water quality; and
     (n) A summary of the activities of the blue ribbon panel on ocean acidification.
     (3) The definitions in this subsection apply throughout this section unless the context clearly requires otherwise.
     (a) "Blue ribbon panel on ocean acidification" means the panel of scientific experts and the relevant agencies and stakeholders formed under the initiative to develop clear, actionable recommendations on understanding, monitoring, adapting, and mitigating ocean acidification in Puget Sound and Washington waters.
     (b) "Initiative" means the Washington state shellfish initiative, which is an agreement among federal and state governments, tribes, and the shellfish industry to restore and expand Washington's shellfish resources to promote clean water industries and create family wage jobs.
     (c) "Pollution action team" means a team formed with staff from the United States environmental protection agency, the department of ecology, the department of health, and the department of agriculture designed to respond quickly when water quality problems are identified that threaten shellfish areas, initially focusing on Drayton Harbor and Portage Bay.

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