Tim Eyman wrote the Secretary of State’s office Friday withdrawing both referendums, stopping what surely would have been an acrimonious campaign before it even started.
Tim Eyman, the anti-tax crusader and longtime initiative sponsor, has withdrawn his proposed referendums on the Atlantic salmon net-pen ban enacted by the Legislature.
The law, signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday, phases out open-water Atlantic salmon net pens in Washington by 2025. More than 12,000 people asked the Legislature and Inslee to support the ban, and the bill passed the Legislature by wide margins.
Eyman on March 15 filed two referendum petitions that would have put all or part of HB 2957 to a public vote. He wrote the Secretary of State’s office Friday withdrawing both referendums, stopping what surely would have been an acrimonious campaign before it even started.
Even Cooke Aquaculture, the company that owns and runs the farms in Washington, didn’t want anything to do with Eyman’s referendum campaign.
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“Our company had no affiliation with this individual,” Joel Richardson, vice president of public affairs for Cooke wrote The Seattle Times in an email Friday morning. “Our efforts remain focused on exploring operational options which are helpful and respectful to our employees, tribal, state and community partners.”
Cooke spent about $76 million on its net-pen operation in Washington, acquired in 2016, and it has an $8.5 million payroll here. The company, a $2.5 billion multinational, privately-held company based in Canada, said it will take the time it needs now to decide what to do next.
The company is under pressure from the State Department of Natural Resources to shut down and clear out of its farm at Cypress Island, where a net-pen breach last August released as many as 230,000 Atlantic salmon into the Salish Sea, leading to a public outcry against the industry in Washington.
State investigators found the company solely at fault for the collapse and the Department of Ecology fined the company $332,000 for water-quality violations resulting from the net-pen break.
The department has terminated Cooke’s lease at Cypress Island and the company’s net-pen farm in Port Angeles for lease violations. Cooke is fighting the Port Angeles lease termination in court.
Eyman said he was withdrawing the petitions because even Cooke did not support his referendums.
“In the case of the governor and the Legislature killing jobs and destroying an industry this legislative session, I believe that decision was so radical, so fact-free, and so science-free that it needed second-guessing and deserved to be appealed to the people,” Eyman wrote in his letter to the Secretary of State.
But company officials seem to believe voters won’t listen, he added.
“I think they’re wrong,” he wrote, “because the voters have proved time and again that they’re a heck of a lot more likely to listen to the facts than a bunch of skittish, paid-off, emotion-based politicians. But it’s their industry, and if they want to abandon their workers and our state without an appeal to the voters at the ballot box, so be it.”