Pepper Fisher

PORT ANGELES – Cooke Aquaculture removed their entire net pen facility from Port Angeles Harbor late last month and are now awaiting a new lease agreement with the state Department of Natural Resources to build a new facility, in partnership with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, to raise steelhead and cod.

The facility was used to raise Atlantic salmon but was shut down after the company’s lease was terminated following the collapse of a similar facility off Cypress Island, releasing some 250,000 fish into Puget Sound waters.

Cooke is appealing that decision and the case is still making its way through the courts.

Company spokesman Joel Richardson says replacing the aging equipment was always part of the plan.

“All through this process, including the Cypress pens, the one that unfortunately collapsed, all that equipment was was original equipment. So our plan all the way along was to reinvest and replace equipment. So new equipment has been on order and, you know, now we’re just waiting for the appropriate approval processes to go through before we make those new capital investments.”

Getting their lease renewed is not a sure thing. The non-profit group Wild Fish Conservancy Northwest is competing for the 15-year lease with the intention of leaving the area in its natural state.

Cooke Aquaculture settled a Clean Water Act lawsuit with the group in November for the sum of $2.75 million.

(Photo: New construction on the Coast Guard base frames the waters where the net pens used to be off Ediz Hook.)