Shellfish growers from Willapa Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association (WGHOGA) have requested a permit to use the pesticide imidacloprid on burrowing shrimp in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. As a critical step in considering the permit, we assessed the potential environmental impacts from the use of the pesticide.
Where are we now?
Our findings have been adopted in a formal report, called a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement
. The report compiles what was learned by reviewing the best available science on this proposal and the public input received during a 45-day public comment period.
We will use these findings to inform the agency’s decision on the pending permit applications.
Supplemental environmental review findings
The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement includes the assessment of environmental impacts and responses to the 8,287 comments received when the draft was released for public review.
This review adds to the initial Environmental Impact Statement adopted in 2015. No preferred alternative was identified.
The supplemental environmental review found:
- Significant impacts to sediment quality and benthic invertebrates.
- Adverse impacts to juvenile worms and crustaceans in the areas treated with imidacloprid and the nearby areas covered by incoming tides.
- Concern about non-lethal impacts to invertebrates in the water column and sediment.
- New information shows a risk of impacts from imidacloprid even at low concentrations.
- Likely indirect impacts to fish and birds if food sources are disrupted.
- Little known direct risk to fish, birds, marine mammals, and human health.
- Increased uncertainty about long-term, non-lethal, and cumulative impacts.
- Continued knowledge gaps about imidacloprid.
We are currently pre-decisional in our process, which means we have not made a decision about whether to deny the permit application or develop a draft permit approval.
What’s different this time around?
The current proposal is similar — but not identical — to the one submitted by WGHOGA to use imidacloprid in 2015. The applicants propose treating less acreage — 485 acres in Willapa Bay and 15 acres in Grays Harbor — as opposed to 2,000 acres across the two bays in the previous permit. They also propose in this application to treat tidelands with hand or ground equipment as opposed to aerial spraying.
The 2015 permit was canceled at the growers’ request and never used.
New research, data, and information on the environmental risks of imidacloprid have become available since the 2015 process ended. This information was evaluated in the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to inform the agency's decision on this pending request for a permit. New research has been released by scientists and government agencies. Several new risk assessments have been completed in North America and Europe providing the best available up-to-date science. There is also a growing public concern about imidacloprid, which is a neonicitinoid pesticide.
As part of the environmental review process for the current application, we have considered and evaluated new research and analyses that were not available during the previous environmental review.
Current proposal application process
The growers completed and submitted an application for the required National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, and applications for two Sediment Impact Zone authorizations for areas in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor in April 2017.
These permits regulate a source of pollution in water (in this case, the discharge of a pesticide) and set rules for the discharge, such as containing that pollution to a specific area and requiring that the effect of the discharge is at — or below — a minor adverse biological effects level.
New review, new decision process
This new, independent permit application is going through the full, normal regulatory process.
This process breaks down into three distinct phases: review of the environmental impacts, a decision on whether or not to develop a permit, and the permit development process.
First phases in the process:
If we decide the proposal cannot be sufficiently conditioned to comply with Washington's sediment and water protection laws — for example, the proposal has too many acute, unavoidable environmental impacts — we will deny the application and the process will end. If we determine the proposal can be conditioned to meet all the requirements in the regulations, we will continue with the permit development process. A draft permit would go through a separate public review and comment process.
The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement compiles what was learned by reviewing new research and the public input received during a 45-day public comment period. This additional review builds on the initial Environmental Impact Statement adopted during the 2015 permit process.
Public input on environmental review
We compiled our findings in a formal report, officially referred to as a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. We held a 45-day public comment period on the draft of this report from Sept. 18 through Nov. 1, 2017. Two public meetings were held in October, 2017 — one in Lacey and one in South Bend. This included public hearings, briefings for stakeholders, tribes, and natural resource agencies, as well as other opportunities for review and input. We received 8,287 public comments on the draft of this report.
Permit decision point
At this point, we are considering everything we learned from our environmental review and public input. We are using that information to inform the agency's decision on the pending permit applications. We are currently pre-decisional in our process, which means we have not made a decision about whether to deny the permit application or develop a draft permit approval.
Environmental review process
We have the responsibility to evaluate projects that might have a significant environmental impact under the Washington State Environmental Policy Act. We are evaluating this proposal to determine whether it can meet the requirements of Washington's sediment and water protection laws.
We prepared an Environmental Impact Statement for the 2015 permit process, and we will supplement it with the most up-to-date research and information available. The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement builds on the Environmental Impact Statement from 2015. It compiles new research and information that wasn't available to us when we prepared the 2015 Environmental Impact Statement.
Current proposal application documents:
Historic information on insecticide Carbaryl/Sevin:
To stay informed on opportunities to comment on this process, please join our Aquatic Pesticide Permit listserv.