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Cash Diversion Demand to Protect Oyster Farmers

WASHINGTON STATE - Willapa Bay's oystermen are once again looking for legal help to protect their livelihoods. Ghost shrimp are damaging the Bay's oyster beds and they says funds need to diverted into research to find ways of controlling the problems.

In 2000 lawmakers approved funding to stop the pollution from poorly maintained septic systems that threatened to destroy oyster beds. However, the growers now feel some of this funding would be better invested in research into invasive species

Currently, about 40 percent of revenues collected from the state’s sale of oyster seed that money is earmarked for research, 10 percent goes in the state general fund and 50 percent is spent on the department’s low-interest loan program for helping homeowners repair failing septic systems.

House Bill 2823, sponsored by state Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, would alter the formula the state Department of Fish and Wildlife uses to allocate revenues and hopefully provide more resources for research.

According to news service TDN.com, Mr Blake says more needs to be done about the problem.
“(Oysters are) just hugely important to Southwest coastal Washington. It’s just a critical part of the economy in the Willapa region.”

Accumulation

Brian Sheldon, a Willapa Bay oyster farmer and estuary advocate, says that most of the money accumulating in the loan fund for septic repairs is going unused. It now totals about $350,000, yet Pacific County has estimated it needs only $100,000 a year to fund these repairs.

Under Blake’s bill, Fish and Wildlife would maintain $100,000 to the repairs fund, but it could divert the extra money toward research into controlling invasive species which would of far more benefit to the Bay's stricken oystermen.

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Ellen Hardy

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