Friday, December 16, 2011

'Sewage is good for you'

(Washington State Archives)
That's Washington Governor Dixy Lee Ray back in 1991 quoted in a 1991 Associated Press story, "Dixy Lee Ray lashes out at environmentalists"

Governor Dixy Lee came to mind with this week's flurry of news that the federal and state governments are putting $4.5 million into the local shellfish industry by cleaning up the poop going into Puget Sound.

Dr. Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, heralded the National Shellfish Initiative as bringing jobs, clean water and more "healthy, tasty food."

Gov. Chris Gregoire's messaging about our Washington Shellfish Initiative was how shellfish are the perfect all-natural environmental cleanup crew.

The juxtaposition of powerful shellfish cleaning up poop and yummy shellfish as "healthy, tasty food" isn't the brand the shellfish industry would market, I'm sure.

The Sierra Club. for one, isn't standing up and cheering for the Initiative.

Previously, some opponents of shellfish aquaculture like mussel rafts have contended that the filter-feeding mollusks make the water too clean and damage the ecosystem.

Which brings me back to Gov. Dixy Lee.

Reporter Hal Spencer ends his 1991 account of the governor's talk to the Pacific Coast Association of Port Authorities with:

"Ray cited an attempt by Los Angeles officials to eliminate al traces of human sewage in the city's harbor. They wiped out a "fine fishery" of anchovy, perch, herring and other species, she said.
"What happened, she said, was that the sewage treatment system robbed the fish of their main food supply. 'Without something to eat, without organic material in the water, the fish cannot survive. You can draw any conclusion that you wish, including that sewage is good for you,' she said to appreciative chuckles from the crowd."
Oh, Dixy.

--Mike Sato

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