|Drakes Bay Oyster Co. attracts support from restaurateurs, Republicans
By Mark Prado
Marin Independent Journal
Posted: 03/15/2013 06:44:32 PM PDT
Famed chef Alice Waters, San Francisco’s Hayes Street Grill and the Tomales Bay Oyster Co. and others joined the fight on behalf of the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. in a friend-of-the-court brief filed this week.
And more support has come via Republican lawmakers who want to save the oyster farm as part of a bill aimed at more offshore oil and gas production.
Waters, who owns the Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, gave her support to Drakes Bay owner Kevin Lunny in the filing.
“Over the course of nearly 40 years, Chez Panisse has helped create a community of scores of local farmers and ranchers, such as the Lunnys, whose dedication to sustainable aquaculture and agriculture assures the restaurant a steady supply of fresh and pure ingredients,” states the brief, filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday.
The threatened closure of Drakes Bay came about in November when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced he would allow a 40-year lease — originally negotiated with the Johnson Oyster Co. in 1972 and taken on by Drakes Bay — to expire.
Lunny has appealed the decision and is seeking an injunction to keep his business open while a larger lawsuit can be considered. The request for an injunction will be heard by the 9th Circuit in May and a group of interested parties that wants to see the oyster operation stay open has jumped into the legal fray.
The Hayes Street Grill, known for its fresh fish
and seafood, said the loss of Drakes Bay would hurt its business.
“The loss of the shellfish DBOC produces and sells in the San Francisco Bay Area would have a devastating impact on the Grill’s ability to serve fresh shellfish,” the filing states.
The Tomales Bay Oyster Co., which would seemingly benefit from less competition, also joined the brief.
“The demand for oysters is too high for the Tomales Bay oyster farms to meet even with DBOC in production. They do not have the capacity to expand, and there is no other source for local shellfish. TBOC customers will be adversely affected if DBOC’s 50,000 customers attempt to visit TBOC.”
Marin County Agricultural Commissioner Stacy Carlsen, who also joined in the filing, wrote that he is concerned, among other things, about the impact closing the oyster farm would have on the lives of children and the working families who are part of the “social fabric of the community where they live.”
The California Farm Bureau Federation, Marin County Farm Bureau, Sonoma County Farm Bureau, Food Democracy Now and Marin Organic also joined the filing.
Amy Trainer, of the West Marin Environmental Action Committee, was critical of the filing by those who support the oyster operation and call it a “sustainable” operation.
“This brief offers nothing new in the attempt to distort the real issue here, which is federal public lands policy,” she said. “It is a shame that these groups and individuals represent Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s egregious record of violations with the California Coastal Act as ‘sustainable’ agricultural practices. The company is already in violation of the recently issued cease and desist order against it; is this really the type of practice they want more of on our coastal and public lands?”
Meanwhile, the Republican-led Energy Production and Project Delivery Act of 2013 seeks to create jobs by allowing more offshore oil and gas production. It also seeks a 10-year lease extension for Drakes Bay in order to save 30 jobs.
“Interior is making its best effort to flat out kill this oyster farm and its jobs by using misleading science and ignoring economic impacts,” Sen. David Vitter, R-La., one of the lead sponsors — 22 other Republicans have signed onto the bill — wrote in a statement to the Independent Journal. “My bill would implement a good first step to letting the Drakes Bay workers continue working.”
The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources