Danger of new collapse cited, as Cooke loses another lease

William Stoichevski

Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources, the DNR, has ended Cooke’s Cypress Island lease just two months after terminating another lease at Port Angeles. It says yet another Cooke array is still in danger of collapse at Cypress Island, and that it’s studying the condition of farms at two other leases.

Embattled Cooke Aquaculture Pacific had its Cypress Island salmon-farming lease terminated on Sunday by the State of Washington, it has been learned.

The State last week presented its reasons for terminating the company’s lease, saying failed maintenance had led to a build-up of aquatic growth that eventually caused one pen-array at Cypress Island to collapse and result in a mass release of thousands of Atlantic salmon into the Salish Sea. Cooke admitted its maintenance efforts had failed at the site but contested the scale and causes of the incident.

Additions not allowed
As in its December 2017 termination of another Cooke site at Port Angles, the DNR said that Cooke at Cypress Island had failed to maintain two sites “in good order and repair, in a clean, attractive, and safe condition”. In addition, the State has newly accused Cooke of adding a feed barge and an office platform to the lease “without DNR’s prior written consent” and without paying a bond “equal to 150-percent” the new structure’s cost.

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The state said, “facility additions added without consent”, and the “failure to maintain another net pen at the site, one which is in poor condition and in danger of catastrophic failure”, were added reasons for terminating the lease.

“Cooke has flagrantly violated the terms of its lease at Cypress Island,” said Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands. “The company’s reckless disregard endangered the health of our waters and our people, and it will not be tolerated. On behalf of all Washingtonians, and in fulfillment of my duty to protect our state’s waters, I am terminating the lease.”

Two more investigations
In 2008, DNR entered into a 15-year lease with Icicle Acquisition Subsidiary for the Cypress Island site. Cooke assumed the lease when it purchased Icicle in May 2016.

The DNR said is is reviewing Cooke’s other Atlantic salmon facilities at Rich Passage and Hope Island.

“When that process is complete, Commissioner Franz will assess DNR’s legal options,” the state said. However, Cooke is understood to still have a law suite filed against the state which largely accuses the state of knowing the condition of the Icicle farm when Cooke bought it and understanding that it would require Cooke time to effect repairs.


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