03-14-13 E&E News PM: Farm Groups, Businesses, Back DBOC

03/14/13 E&ENews PM 

Farm groups, businesses back Calif. oyster farm’s bid to stay at national seashore


Jessica Estepa, E&E reporter

Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013

A coalition of local businesses and agriculture interests yesterday came out in support of a California oyster farm slated for closure in Point Reyes National Seashore.

In the first of what is likely to be many legal briefs on both sides to be filed ahead of a May hearing with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the coalition said it supports the Drakes Bay Oyster Co.’s case for an injunction that would allow it to remain open while a lawsuit against the Interior Department is settled.

“Closing the Oyster Farm would have a broad, negative and immediate impact, on the local economy and the sustainable agriculture and food industry in the San Francisco Bay Area, on the school children of the workers who live in the housing units onsite, and, in the longer term, on food security and the U.S. balance of trade,” the group said in its brief.

At issue is a dispute over the oyster farm in an area that has been designated as potential federal wilderness. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last year decided not to renew the farm’s lease, which expired last year. Farm owner Kevin Lunny has sued Interior, saying Salazar did not adequately follow the National Environmental Policy Act before making his decision.

The 9th Circuit will hear the injunction case in May and granted an emergency stay for the farm to remain open until then (E&E Daily, Feb. 26).

Those that filed the brief: Hayes Street Grill, Tomales Bay Oyster Co., the California Farm Bureau Federation, the Marin County Farm Bureau, the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, Food Democracy Now, Marin Organic, the Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture, chef Alice Waters and Marin County Agricultural Commissioner Stacy Carlsen.

In the brief, the groups argue that the oysters produced by Drakes Bay provide a local, sustainable food source. Additionally, they criticize the National Park Service for its role in the Drakes Bay case and say public comments on the draft environmental impact were not taken into consideration.

“This Court can best serve the public interest in this case by issuing the preliminary injunction requested and returning the case to the District Court along with instructions in which misstatement of both pertinent facts and applicable law are corrected,” the brief says.

Environmentalists dismissed the brief, saying it “offered nothing new” in the case. They noted that Drakes Bay had recently received a cease-and-desist order from a state agency.

“It is a shame that these groups and individuals represent Drakes Bay Oyster Co.’s egregious record of violations with the California Coastal Act as ‘sustainable’ agricultural practices,” said Amy Trainer, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin.

She added, “Is this really the type of practice they want more of on our coastal and public lands?”

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