Conservation groups sue Army Corps to protect Seattle’s marine life from shell harvest

The Puget Sound Habitat Protection Coalition and the Food Safety Center filed a complaint in Seattle’s Western Washington District against the US Army Corps of Engineers in an attempt to stop the expansion of industrial shellfish farming operations that could harm the native wildlife of Puget Sound and Willapa Bay.

Since 2007, the shellfish harvest has continued to grow in Washington under the protection of National Permit 48 (NWP 48) until it is released in 2020, according to the complaint. This permit authorized shellfish farming, which “degrades water quality, reduces seagrass populations and destroys aquatic habitats”. Additionally, geoduck aquaculture can release plastics into the water, which are even more harmful to the environment, and can harm native eelgrass which is essential to the local ecosystem. These microplastics, along with authorized pesticides, can cause “abrasions, obstructions and other serious physical injuries” to wildlife and can affect “growth, development, mobility, reproduction and survival”.

On January 4, 2021, the Army Corps released a decision document, which is its Environmental Assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This extended NWP 48 for another five years although it contains “almost no new analysis compared to the previous NWP 48 of 2017 and eliminates one of the only apparent protective measures contained in the previous permit”. The decision document also failed to “provide quantitative data regarding the cumulative effects of NWP 48” and relied on “limited studies to make broad generalizations about potential impacts”.

Accordingly, the plaintiffs sued for violation of the Clean Waters Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the River and Harbors Act and the Endangered Species Act.

The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction and declaratory measure to overturn the 2021 decision document for NWP 48, that the Corps violated the CWA, APA, NEPA, RHA and ESA, fees and costs of ‘lawyer and other remedies.

The plaintiffs are represented by the law firm of Karl G. Anuta, PC

Comments are closed.