06-27-14 WSJ: Oyster Farm Digs in for High Court Hearing

Oyster Farm Digs in for High Court Hearing

 

“The oyster farm’s owners, Kevin Lunny and his family, have staved off closure so far by appealing the decision in the federal courts. They are now waiting to learn whether the U.S. Supreme Court will hear their case.

If the answer is yes, it would allow the Lunnys at least a few more months to continue their business, which employs 25 people and produces about a third of California-harvested oysters. The court’s decision on whether to hear the case next fall could be posted on its website Monday.

Amid the uncertainty, Mr. Lunny said he has reduced his staffing from 30 to 25, mostly through attrition. While he remains hopeful of ultimately winning the fight, he said it has taken a toll on him.

“The government is a powerful group to be up against,” said Mr. Lunny, who is being represented by pro bono attorneys. “They have unlimited resources and they just line up the lawyers.”

 

 

Businessman Staves Off Closure as Clock Runs Out on Lease in Wilderness-Designated Area Along California Coast

By Jim Carlton

 

June 27, 2014 7:03 p.m. ET

 

POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE, Calif.—Bill Fischer has been making a trek to buy freshly harvested oysters along the Marin County coast here for 60 years.

“These are some of the best oysters anywhere,” said Mr. Fischer, an 82-year-old retired legal analyst from Lafayette, Calif., who walked away with a bagful after a visit to the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. near Inverness with his wife this week.

But trips here by aficionados like Mr. Fischer may soon come to an end. Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in November 2012 ordered Drakes Bay to shut down after its 40-year lease with the National Park Service ended on Nov. 30, 2012.

In so doing, Mr. Salazar cited Congress’s 1976 designation of much of the Point Reyes preserve as wilderness.

The oyster farm’s owners, Kevin Lunny and his family, have staved off closure so far by appealing the decision in the federal courts. They are now waiting to learn whether the U.S. Supreme Court will hear their case.

If the answer is yes, it would allow the Lunnys at least a few more months to continue their business, which employs 25 people and produces about a third of California-harvested oysters. The court’s decision on whether to hear the case next fall could be posted on its website Monday.

“I certainly hope things go your way,” Mr. Fischer, 82, told Mr. Lunny, who is 56-years-old.

Drakes Bay is one of several traditional businesses and activities located on the West’s vast federal lands that have come under pressure to close or reduce operations, often at the behest of environmental groups.

Mining claims have been taken over in Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve, while in Yellowstone National Park use of snowmobiles has been greatly restricted.

Ranchers throughout the West have had grazing leases on federal public land restricted or canceled, or ended their own private operations amid increasing regulatory pressures.

“People working and living on landscapes just doesn’t fit in their vision of what a national park should be,” said Laura Watt, associate professor and chair of environmental studies and planning at Sonoma State University, and a supporter of Mr. Lunny.

Interior Department and Justice Department officials wouldn’t comment, citing the pending litigation. But government supporters say Mr. Lunny knew the lease would expire in 2012 when he bought the oyster farm in 2004, but said he believed at the time it could be renewed.

“The government has acted fairly,” said Neal Desai, a director for the National Parks Conservation Association, an environmental nonprofit in San Francisco that supports closing the farm. “It’s only fair the contract is upheld.”

The fate of the oyster farm, which has been in operation on the site since 1934, has divided the area.

“Save Our Drakes Bay Oyster Farm” signs can be spotted throughout the community. Support extends across the San Francisco Bay Area, where Drakes Bay is a major supplier to restaurants such as Burgers & Vine in Sonoma, Calif.

Drakes Bay, which produces about 450,000 pounds of oyster meat annually with revenues of $1.5 million, is the largest of about a half-dozen oyster farms in the West Marin area.

If it closed, there likely would be no shortage of oysters because there are big producers elsewhere, such as in Washington state, to fill the gap. Oysters are also abundant on the global market, which includes Asia.

“It’s a crock, and you can quote me on that,” Carlo Cavallo, who owns Burgers & Vine, said of the ordered closure. “We are talking about a farm that has been there for almost 100 years.”

But some environmentalists and other backers of the closure say the farm, with its boats, buildings and processing activity, isn’t compatible with a wilderness area.

“Wilderness is a place where people can go to renew their spirits,” said Karen Gray, 67, owner of a bed-and-breakfast in nearby Point Reyes Station who supports the closure.

“And it provides for future generations refuge for the spirit,” she said.

The prospect of closure, meanwhile, is having a chilling effect on the farm and its employees. Paco Aceves, a crew supervisor who has worked at the farm for four years, said uncertainty about his employment has put college plans on hold for his oldest son.

“It’s hard to make plans for him,” said the 45-year-old father of three.

Amid the uncertainty, Mr. Lunny said he has reduced his staffing from 30 to 25, mostly through attrition. While he remains hopeful of ultimately winning the fight, he said it has taken a toll on him.

“The government is a powerful group to be up against,” said Mr. Lunny, who is being represented by pro bono attorneys. “They have unlimited resources and they just line up the lawyers.”

 

 

The article’s behind a paywall, but here’s the link:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/oyster-farm-digs-in-for-high-court-hearing-1403910202

 

 

06-27-14 Marin Co Sup Court DBOC WINS OVER CCC, CCC ABUSED DISCRETION & VIOLATED the LAW

“DRAKES BAY OYSTER WAS VINDICATED TODAY

in its fight against unjust enforcement orders imposed last year

BY THE CALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION.

The Marin County Superior Court 

OVERTURNED THOSE ORDERS IN EVERY SIGNIFICANT EFFECT,

finding that the

COMMISSION’S

UNFAIR PROCESS

WAS AN

ABUSE OF DISCRETION

AND A

VIOLATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAW.”

 

June 27, 2014  Media Contact: Tina Walker Office: 415.227.9700 Cell: 650.248.1037 Email: tina@singersf.com    

 

Drakes Bay Wins: Court Overturns California Coastal Commission Orders Against Oyster Farm Commission abused its discretion and violated environmental law

INVERNESS, CALIF. — Drakes Bay Oyster was vindicated today in its fight against unjust enforcement orders imposed last year by the California Coastal Commission. The Marin County Superior Court overturned those orders in every significant respect, finding that the Commission’s unfair process was an abuse of discretion and a violation of environmental law.

 

The enforcement orders were based on false allegations for which there was no evidence. Before a hearing last February, expert evidence disproving the allegations was provided by the Lunnys, but the Commission voted to exclude all the evidence the Lunnys presented in their own defense.

 

“This is a good day for California,” said Phyllis Faber, a Marin County environmental activist and biologist who was a founding member of the Commission. “The Coastal Commission had seriously abused its power. It was necessary to hold them accountable.”

 

Now that the Commission’s unfair enforcement orders have been overturned, the oyster farm and the Commission can get back to working on a permit for the farm.

 

Drakes Bay’s lawsuit against the Coastal Commission is separate from its suit against the National Park Service, which is currently pending at the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court could decide as soon as Monday whether to take Drakes Bay’s case.

 

About Drakes Bay Oyster Company

The historic oyster farm in Drakes Estero, located in Point Reyes, Marin County, has been part of the community for nearly 100 years. The Lunnys, a fourth-generation Point Reyes ranching family, purchased the oyster farm in 2004. Modern environmentalists and proponents of sustainable agriculture praise Drakes Bay Oyster as a superb example of how people can produce high-quality food in harmony with the environment. The farm produces approximately one third of all oysters grown in California, and employs 30 members of the community. The Lunnys also contribute the oyster shells that make possible the restoration of native oysters in San Francisco Bay and the oyster shells used to create habitat for the endangered Snowy Plover and Least Tern. As the last oyster cannery in California, Drakes Bay is the only local (and thus the only safe and affordable) source of these shells. The Lunny family is proud of its contributions to a sustainable food model that conserves and maintains the productivity of the local landscapes and the health of its inhabitants. For more information, please visit www.drakesbayoyster.comand www.savedrakesbay.com

04-16-14 Marin Superior Court Judge Chernus says “will take it under advisement” at end of hearing

04-16-14 Judge Chernus listened attentively to arguments from both sides, took notes, and at the end of the hearing stated “You’ve given us a lot to think about. I will take it under advisement and get back to you.”

His honor did not specify a date by which he will let us know his decision. Nevertheless, the attorneys are speculating the final ruling may be out within the next three weeks. The ruling could come as early as tomorrow yet on the other hand, it doesn’t have to be out for months from now.

04-15-14 Judge Ruled Ca. Coastal Comm. Violated Environmental Law & Abused its Discretion

04-15-14

Marin Superior Court, Judge Chernus,

issued his temporary ruling today stating the

California Coastal Commission violated environmental law

by not conducting an environmental review, and

abused its discretion by excluding Drakes Bay Oyster Farm evidence.

 

Racks and buildings need not be removed.

Didemnum measures struck down.

Existing Manila clams can stay.

 

To read the ruling, please click on the link below.

tentative 15 apr 2014

This is a tentative ruling.

All parties will appear in Marin County Superior Court, Department B, tomorrow morning, 04-16-14 at 8:30 AM to present arguments.

 

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