(Fish and Game) Commissioner Michael Sutton: “Our jurisdiction in this matter is clear. We have exercised it in the form of a lease … We … confirm that … we support our continuing authority … and our support for the lease in Drakes Estero.”
(Fish and Game ) Commissioner Richard B. Rogers: “I agree … here is a strong affirmation, a message from the commission … We believe the water-bottom lease should continue until 2029. … We control those bottoms, not the National Park Service…”
By William Bagley
Guest op-ed column
THE EXTREME ideologues, intent upon shucking the entire Drakes Estero oyster farm, are now attacking California’s most respected officeholder, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, for trying to save aquaculture production in Point Reyes.
Extreme ideologues have trouble accepting facts.
That goes with the mindset of Marin Voice author Gordon Bennett (IJ, June 14) but it provides an opportunity to again set forth some irrefutable facts.
The newest fact is that the California Fish and Game Commission, exercising its constitutionally granted authority, has again asserted its jurisdiction over Drakes Estero oyster beds at its May meeting in Monterey.
Former Congressman Pete McCloskey (in April) and I in May appeared before the commission, on our own and for the public good, to express our views. Pete spoke of his House committee vote on the 1976 Wilderness Act, saying that he and then Marin Rep. John Burton and California’s then-U.S. Sen. John Tunney, the bill’s author, all stated and believed that the oyster farm would not be affected.
I, as author of the 1965 State Tidelands grant to the National Park Service, which reserved state control over the existing oyster farm, appeared to defend my own legislation.
We cited National Park Service documents that defined and then accepted the reserved state control. Existing state oyster bed leases continued to be issued for a full 50 years after the Point Reyes Seashore was established in 1962.
Simply stated, the state’s rights are vested and the commission has agreed.
Regarding Sen. Feinstein, there are no secret negotiations. At the commission meeting, I just said it would help the senator in her effort to save the farm if the commission were to strongly state its position regarding state jurisdiction.
I had asked for a commission statement.
Now, note the commissioners’ quoted words from the meeting transcript:
Commissioner Michael Sutton: “Our jurisdiction in this matter is clear. We have exercised it in the form of a lease … We … confirm that … we support our continuing authority … and our support for the lease in Drakes Estero.”
Commissioner Richard B. Rogers: “I agree … here is a strong affirmation, a message from the commission … We believe the water-bottom lease should continue until 2029. … We control those bottoms, not the National Park Service and there is no lawyer in this room who would tell me differently, unless they work for the park.
Commissioner Jim Kellogg: “It is what it is, and this is the conclusion we came up to for this commission.”
Commission President Daniel W. Richards: “We have all made statements — let’s move on, back to our agenda.”
Thus spoke the commission regarding our 1965 legislation reserving the state’s control of these oyster beds, and so spoke the park service.
In an April 23, 1974, final Environmental Impact Statement, a precursor to passage of the Wilderness Act, the park service states on page 56: “Control of the lease with presumed renewal indefinitely is within the rights reserved by the state on those submerged lands.”
Folks should not try to change the facts nor this history — at least while this author is alive. Let’s also save the dairy ranches on Point Reyes Seashore, leased by the park service to longtime Marin farmers.
William Bagley has practiced law for 60 years. He represented Marin and Sonoma counties in the state Assembly from 1961-1974.