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Geoduck clam hearing Wednesday -- News Roundup

The state Department of Natural Resources will go before a city hearing examiner this morning, seeking approval for the harvest of geoduck clams on more than 1,500 acres of state-owned bedlands around Bainbridge Island.

The DNR is seeking a shoreline conditional use permit for a commercial harvest on tracts in the Agate Passage, Battle Point, Murden Cove, Port Madison and Skiff Point areas.

The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. in the council chambers. A single day of testimony is planned, but the hearing could be extended.

A harvest operation typically involves a half-dozen or dozen commercial vessels working under contract with the state, each with a tender and one or two divers.

Divers use water jets to dislodge the burrowing clams from the bottom of the sound, sending them back to the surface in baskets.

The operation is monitored by a DNR compliance vessel, with all catches weighed out to ensure against overharvesting.

The cylindrical clams weigh in at up to 10 pounds, and are a delicacy favored for sushi and chowders. Many are shipped to Japan, where they fetch a high price in restaurants.

According to information from the DNR, the fishery has yielded between one and two million pounds of clams each year since 1992. The state uses funds raised from the harvest program – some $5-7 million annually – for aquatic enhancement programs.

The harvests are rotated around the state each year, as part of a management plan to conserve the resource.

While 80 percent of the clams in individual beds may be harvested, overall activities take no more than 2 percent of the resource statewide each year, according to the DNR management plan.

When the DNR applied for a

permit to conduct test harvests off Bainbridge a decade ago, some shoreline residents expressed concern over the noise of compressors and other equipment on the boats.

The permit was ultimately approved, and harvests have taken place intermittently since then.

Bainbridge-area geoducks are also harvested by local tribes, which are entitled by treaty to half of the fishery. Those activities are not part of the state harvest, and are not subject to the terms of city permits.

The new application has attracted only scattered comments so far, with objections including the nuisance factor for shoreline residents and the environmental impacts of the harvest.

Among those commenting against the permit was Jim Webster, a Sunrise Drive resident.

Webster alleges poor management of the geoduck resource, and said poaching and overharvesting have destroyed habitat for crabs and fish in his area.

He also questions the sustainability of the state’s harvest approach, which some liken to “clearcutting” the geoduck stock in a given bed.

“It takes 25-40 years (for the stock) to come back,” Webster said. “Once you get rid of them, you’ve got to go away for 40 years.

“Is that sustainable? I don’t think so.”

Another comment was submitted by a Falk Road resident, who wrote: “I can’t emphasize strongly enough that this is only a great idea for the geoduck harvesters to make some money, not for the long-suffering homeowners who live around the edges of Bainbridge Island, whose taxes increase every year for the questionable privilege of living on this island.”

The DNR has faced objections to harvests in other areas as well, with an ongoing scientific debate over the replenishment of the Puget Sound geoduck stock.

Kitsap County last year denied a permit application for harvests off Manchester and in Hood Canal. At issue there is the adequacy of the DNR’s environmental impact study, which the county wants to see reviewed by a third party.

That decision is currently under appeal, with a June 9 hearing slated before Kitsap County commissioners.

– Douglas Crist

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***Motor home lost in blaze

An older motor home was destroyed in a blaze on Yeomalt Point Drive Sunday afternoon.

The fire was reported at 3:15 p.m. May 18 by the vehicle’s owner and, ironically, Bainbridge fire marshal Earl Davis.

Davis and a recreational boater called 911 from the water to report a plume of black smoke coming from the Yeomalt neighborhood.

Fire crews found the motor home engulfed in flames, but were able to prevent damage to nearby structures. The vehicle was unoccupied at the time of the blaze, and no injuries were reported.

The owner was working on the engine when the fire broke out, officials said. The vehicle was a total loss.

– Douglas Crist

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***Head o’ Bay as open space?

The Bainbridge Island City Council’s land use committee will discuss future land-use options for the public works facility at the Head of the Bay at its regular meeting this morning, May 21.

The meeting begins at 9 a.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, with the Head of the Bay discussion beginning around 11:30 a.m.

The discussion is prompted by recent requests to have the property retired as public open space, Councilman Michael Pollock said.

The parcel is currently used as a public works materials storage yard and for other activities, and has been tentatively proposed as a site for the decanting of ditch spoils and other wastes.

An open house on the decant proposal will be held 6-9 p.m. May 29 in the Bainbridge Commons.

Information: 842-7633.

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***City to discuss Ericksen plans

The city will hold an open house this evening to discuss planned improvements to Ericksen Avenue.

Public works staff will unveil the contractor’s schedule for work from Winslow Way to Wallace Way, answer questions and take feedback from neighboring property owners and the public.

Construction will begin in June, public works Director Randy Witt said, although more information on the contractor’s schedule was not available at press time.

The project will add a bike lane to the east side of the street and a sidewalk to the west. Utility upgrades and power undergrounding are also planned, and the street itself will be resurfaced.

The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers. Information: 842-2016.

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***Nemo swims into Pavilion

The Poulsbo Marine Science Center will hold a benefit screening of the new Disney/Pixar film, “Finding Nemo,” at 7:30 p.m. May 30 at Bainbridge Cinemas.

“Finding Nemo” tells the story of two fish – the overly cautious Marlin and his curious son Nemo – who become separated in the Great Barrier Reef.

Buoyed by the companionship of a friendly-but-forgetful fish named Dory, Marlin finds himself the unlikely hero of an undersea adventure to rescue his son.

All proceeds will go to support the Center’s marine science educational programs.

In addition to a special screening of the film, event-goers will be treated to refreshments and gifts from the Marine Science Center, Disney/Pixar studio and other sponsors.

“We’re very excited about this screening of ‘Finding Nemo,’ as the film fits so well with the mission of the Center,” said Michelle Benedict, executive director of the Marine Science Center.

“Our goal has always been to excite and educate the community about marine science. The film will, undoubtedly, encourage people to learn more about marine life and care about what happens to our local and global waters.”

Tickets are available for $10/child (under 11) and $15/adult. They can be purchased at the Marine Science Center on Front Street in Poulsbo, or at Bainbridge Cinemas. Passes can also be ordered by calling (360) 779-5549.

For more information on the Marine Science Center, see www.poulsbomsc.org.

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