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Geoduck issue still unresolved

The fate of commercial geoduck harvesting is still unknown, since Kitsap County’s hearing examiner this month denied — for the second time — a permit to harvest the large clams.

The decision will be appealed to county commissioners by the end of the week — they previously remanded the matter to the hearing examiner in February. So said Joe V. Panesko, assistant state attorney general representing the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the agency proposing the permit application.

The proposal calls for allowing the commercial harvest of 1.1 million pounds of geoduck a year for five years from subtidal beds near Blake Island and the northern Hood Canal.

Kitsap County has the largest share of geoducks of any Washington county, with 40 percent of the harvestable Puget Sound giant clams located here.

In his decision, Deputy Hearing Examiner Terrence McCarthy said it was important for the county to secure an independent analysis of the environmental issues surrounding the commercial harvest of geoducks.

McCarthy said the potential for conflict-of-interest was just too great.

He reasoned the discrepancy was clear because the state is responsible for the environmental review of its own application and the management of the resource, while standing to gain from any revenues generated from the approval of a permit.

But at the direction of county commissioners, McCarthy outlined a series of conditions that could be implemented if the permit were to be approved.

McCarthy crafted the conditions based on the assumption the state’s environmental analyses are accurate. The conditions dealt with a variety of issues, including maximum allowable harvests from each tidal bed tract, total allowable catch standards, contract compliance, noise control, time of harvest, and enforcement.

McCarthy said the hearing examiner’s office would reconsider the state’s proposal and his denial if the DNR hired an outside, independent expert to conduct some analyses. If not, then the state can appeal the case to the county commissioners again, before April 28, he said.

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