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California | North Bay / Marin | Environment & Forest Defense

Repeated Coastal Act Violations Earn Drakes Bay Oyster Company Cease & Desist Order
by EAC of West Marin
Tuesday Jan 29th, 2013 1:32 PM
Point Reyes, CA – In rejecting excuses for seven years of unpermitted development and Coastal Act violations, the California Coastal Commission has proposed issuance of a unilateral Cease and Desist Order against the Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC).
The Coastal Commission's proposed Cease and Desist Order against the oyster company states that, “DBOC violated multiple provisions of the 2007 Consent Order, through its actions and its failures to act,” including for ongoing unpermitted development, violations of harbor seal protection requirements, failure to control significant amounts of its plastic that has polluted the marine environment, failure to pay fines imposed in 2009 for illegal activities, and failure to correct ongoing violations of the California Coastal Act despite repeated notices from the Commission. These violations of the Coastal Act add to the significant negative impacts that a legally compliant oyster operation would have on the marine wilderness area and its wildlife.

The Order expresses concerns over ongoing impacts to eelgrass from motorboat propeller cuts, impacts to water quality from wooden racks treated with chromated copper arsenate, the spread of the aggressive and highly invasive Didemnum vexillum, the spread of other invasive species including Manila clams, and the general nature of ongoing mariculture operations without required Commission review. The Commission rejected DBOC’s offered explanations as “without factual support.”

The Order further states that, “additional issues have arisen since the 2007 Consent Orders, including new instances of unpermitted development and additional concerns regarding potential operational impacts on coastal resources, which would have been addressed” if DBOC had properly obtained a coastal development permit like it was expressly and repeatedly instructed to do over the past seven years.

In addition to detailing a seven-year history of violations, the Order proposes various compliance steps applicable to DBOC as it completes removal of its shellfish by February 28th. The Commission Cease and Desist Order follows three prior letters since September 2011 year rebuking the oyster company for violations. Violations of the Coastal Act can bring penalties of up to $30,000 for each violation and up to $15,000 per day for knowingly committing violations of unpermitted development or operations.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar decided on November 29, 2012 to let the existing operating permit expire on its own terms. On December 4, 2012, the National Park Service published a Federal Register notice declaring that all non-conforming commercial uses within Drakes Estero had ceased, thereby converting 1,363 acres of “potential” wilderness to full wilderness. This designation created the only marine wilderness outside of Alaska.

The Coastal Commission will hold a public hearing on the Cease and Desist Order on February 7, 2013 at its meeting in Redondo Beach.