PURDY, Wash. - A local family business with more than a century-old tie to the community is now even closer to expanding its geoduck business in Puget Sound.
Taylor Shellfish hope to turn a portion of a Key Peninsula into a farm for the Pacific Northwest’s iconic clam that could help grow the company’s business, but detractors worry the plans would spread negatively impact the local environment.
Shellfish have been harvested in Burley Lagoon near Purdy for generations. Today 300 acres of oysters and clams are farmed by Taylor Shellfish. Only 25 acres are being considered for geoduck, but concerned neighbors worry the clam is being farmed for customers willing to pay a premium.
"This lagoon has been an amazing ecological marvel," said neighbor Karen McDonell.
The waters have been home to shellfish harvesting for more than a century. If state officials approve a request, geoduck may be farmed at the lagoon for the first time.
McDonell says the lagoon once supported only a small time operation. The Tyee Oyster Company harvested shellfish in the 1940’s. Allowing now-owners Taylor Shellfish to produce geoduck will bring even more changes to the area than she’s ever seen before.
"It’s hard for us to believe this is being allowed in Washington."
In October a draft environmental review considers three options for Taylor Shellfish to convert around 25 of 300 acres of shellfish farms for the geoduck.
Company owners say it takes around six years before it can harvest the clam and requires intensive investment. Neighbors worry the lagoon will be transformed into an aquatic industrial operation all to grow a clam that fetches high prices far away from home.
"A high priced commodity that goes for over 100 a plate in China," said Laura Hendricks from Coalition to Protect Puget Sound. "We’re letting them destroy this natural resource we’ll never get back."
Hendricks also warns plans to use PVC pipe intended to ensure more geoduck survive will instead shed micro plastic into the water. She adds that farm operations will become louder and change the lagoon from the serene place it once was.
The environmental impact study suggests adding geoduck wont significantly change the ecosystem that exists today.
Taylor Shellfish told FOX 13 News in a statement the company encourages neighbors to review the study and offer comment to ensure the final draft is comprehensive and science based.
The coalition claims aquaculture has already permanently changed what makes our home so special in the first place – Puget Sound.
"The balance is already tipped and that’s why the coalition sued the army corps, they voided all the permits, and we’re not done," said Hendricks. "We’re going to continue to fight for Puget Sound because the industrialization of the sound should not be allowed."
People who wish to weigh in on the plan have until December 3 before public comment closes. More public meetings with regional commissions and county officials will follow. State ecology officials will later determine if the proposal receives approval..
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