South Sound Update February Newsletter

February 1, 2022

Electron Dam Operators Face Criminal Charges

You’ll recall that CHB and Puget Soundkeeper Alliance (PSA) have sued Electron Hydro – which operates the Electron Dam on the Puyallup River – for violations of the Clean Water Act. CHB and PSA understand that during a maintenance project at Electron Dam at the end of July, the dam’s owner used old field turf during a construction project in the river, much of which subsequently washed down stream. CHB and PSA allege that these and other discharges are illegal and have put the health of the river and salmon returning to the river in danger.

Our letter of intent to sue was sent in late 2020, and was quickly followed by additional lawsuits from the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Justice. The Puyallup Tribe of Indians has joined these lawsuits and ours – we are all working together to hold Electron Hydro accountable. Additionally, there are two cases against Electron Hydro alleging Endangered Species Act violations, brought by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and the environmental groups American Rivers and American Whitewater.

This suite of cases against Electron is remarkable and continues to grow. On January 10, WA State Attorney General (AG) Bob Ferguson filed 36 gross misdemeanor charges against Electron Hydro and its Chief Operating Officer, Thom Fischer. The charges include criminal violations of the state’s Water Pollution Control Act, Shoreline Management Act, and Pierce County Code, and adds yet another case against Electron Dam to the growing list of cases.

If convicted of the criminal charges, Fischer faces a maximum penalty of 90 or 364 days in jail per charge. Additionally, Fischer faces fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 per charge. As a business entity, Electron Hydro faces a maximum penalty of $250,000 for each of the 36 charges.

We cannot understate the significance of the AG’s filing of criminal charges. This is very rare in environmental cases – neither our executive director, who has been involved with environmental law and policy for over 15 years, nor our attorney, who has been practicing environmental law for over 20 years, can recall this happening in any cases in which they have been involved. We are glad to see the effort that state and federal agencies are putting in to hold Electron accountable. Stay tuned as this case progresses!

Alan joined CHB’s Board of Directors in the Fall of 2019. As the director of two organizations, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (PDZA) and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park (NWT), Alan appreciates the critical need to make connections between conservations efforts and the guest that visit the parks. Over his career Alan has been involved in many species’ recovery efforts, from the California condors to red wolves, and island foxes. Recovery takes healthy habitat. And, most importantly, it takes community support. Alan believes that CHB provides a specific, tangible example of what conservation looks like. CHB, PDZA, and NWT all recognize that connecting care for nature with our communities it the key element to successful stewardship of our planet.

What drew Alan to his position on the CHB Board of Directors?
“I was drawn to CHB because I wanted to be involved in an environmental movement that was in my backyard and that recognized the needs of our region.”

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your board work?
“Of course, it’s great to be a part of an organization that cares for our bay, but, perhaps the most rewarding aspect of our board work is the recognition of interdependency. That is, our interdependency with the bay and the interdependency with each other in our communities.”

Tales from Bay Patrol – 2021 Year in Review

As the only environmental organization with a patrol vessel in the South Sound, Communities for a Healthy Bay is committed to monitoring Commencement Bay and our neighboring waters. In 2021, CHB conducted 100 Bay Patrols with over 150 community members. We picked up over 450 pounds of debris from the water, as well as monitored and reported on several derelict vessels found along the Bay. Events ranging from non-permitted construction, to ships on fire, and even a wedding on the water, 2021 was a very eventful year for our Bay Patrol. Learn more about our Bay Patrol program here!

Since its official inception in 2002, the Cheers to a Healthy Bay annual benefit auction has raised over $1 million in support of Communities for a Healthy Bay. This funding is critical to the vitality and growth of the organization every year. With over $70,000 raised at last year’s virtual auction, CHB was able to continue to fund our work to protect Commencement Bay and our South Sound waterways.

We hope that you will join us Friday, May 20th, at the Foss Waterway Seaport for our Cheers to a Healthy Bay annual benefit auction. After two years of virtual events, we aim to hold this year’s auction in person and cannot wait to celebrate with our supporters and friends.

More details to come, so stay tuned!

Interested in donating an item or becoming a sponsor?
Contact CHB’s Development Director Katy Stone or (253) 383-2429 x4


We are deeply grateful for the generous gifts to CHB during our recent end of year fundraising campaign. We had a record number of new donors give this year and are humbled by the kindness and dedication of our continued supporters. We are thrilled to announce that we raised over $20,000 towards funding our new Communications and Marketing Director position. We are continually humbled by the overwhelming generosity of our supporters; we couldn’t do this work without YOU!

Special thanks to our longtime supporters Jeff and Sheri Tonn for the incredibly generous $5,000 match challenge gift and to all the donors who helped us achieve this important gift.