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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.

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by via East Bay Express
Friday Feb 1st, 2013 2:45 PM
Drakes Bay Oyster Company Turns to Koch Brothers-Linked Group
Robert Gammon — Wed, Dec 5, 2012 at 12:43 PM

Drakes Bay Oyster Company, which has portrayed itself as a progressive and environmentally sustainable business and has been supported heavily by Democratic US Senator Dianne Feinstein, has joined forces with a secretive group that has ties to the ultra-conservative Koch Brothers and the Republican Party. The secretive group, which calls itself Cause of Action, is leading the legal fight for the oyster company against the Obama administration’s decision late last week to close the oyster farm at Point Reyes National Seashore and create the first marine wilderness on the West Coast.


Dan Epstein
Cause of Action is run by Dan Epstein, a former staffer for the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Epstein also was the lead Republican attorney for the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform — which is headed by California GOP Congressman Darrell Issa.
Charles Koch and his brother, David, made billions in the oil and natural gas industries and spent hundreds of millions of dollars this year attempting to defeat President Obama. The Koch Brothers also are the primary financiers of the Tea Party, and have heavily backed ultra-right-wing Republican candidates in recent years.

As for Issa, as head of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, he has led a series of investigations into the Obama administration since Republicans regained control of the House in 2010. Issa’s probes, viewed by Democrats as being overly partisan, have included the Fast and Furious scandal, have dominated Republican talking points, and have provided regular fodder for Fox News.

Despite the ties to the Koch brothers and the Republican Party, Mary Beth Hutchins, a spokeswoman for Epstein’s group Cause of Action, maintained in an interview with the Express that the group is a “nonpartisan” charity. Hutchins, however, declined to reveal the identity of the group’s donors. Cause of Action has yet to file a federal tax return with the IRS, so it’s finances are not yet public; Hutchins said the group formed in 2011 and received its 501 (c)(3) status earlier this year.

In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Hutchins said Cause of Action was helping Drakes Bay Oyster Company, owned by rancher Kevin Lunny, free of charge.

This is also not the first time that Lunny has received help from Issa. Last year, Issa strongly criticized the National Park Service for its contention that the oyster company’s lease at Point Reyes should not be renewed. Issa also instructed his Oversight Committee to launch an investigation. Issa and his committee’s actions were viewed by many Democrats, including North Bay Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, as just another attempt by Republicans to embarrass the Obama administration. The oyster company’s fight against the park service also has been taken up by Fox News.

Cause of Action, meanwhile, has been criticized by progressives for sending threatening letters to nonprofits that fight against obesity and tobacco-use. According to a report in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the letters were viewed as attempts to intimidate and quash liberal causes.

Cause of Action’s fight on behalf of Drakes Bay Oyster Company also is viewed in the environmental community as part of a right-wing effort to privatize public land. In a federal lawsuit filed against Obama’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar earlier this week on behalf of the oyster company, Cause of Action argued that Salazar’s decision to not renew oyster farm’s lease amounted to “an illegal taking” of private property — even though the oyster farm was operating on public land and its owner Lunny knew when he bought the farm in 2005 that the park service had no intention of re-upping his lease after its November 30, 2012 expiration date.

Cause of Action also argues in its suit that Salazar was required by law to conduct a comprehensive environmental review of the oyster farm’s impacts on Point Reyes before deciding to not extend Lunny’s lease. Although the park service did conduct such a review, Cause of Action contends that it was inadequate. Salazar, however, said that his decision to not renew the oyster farm’s lease was not based on the environmental impacts of the oyster farm and instead was based on existing law and policy concerning commercial enterprises on land that had been designated by Congress to become federally protected wilderness — as was the case with Drakes Estero in Point Reyes. Salazar also contends that a full environmental review is not required when making a decision on whether to renew such a lease.

However, if Cause of Action wins its fight, it could force the federal government to complete full environmental reviews every time a private company wants to renew its lease on national parkland designated to become wilderness. Ironically, for Republicans, such an outcome could prove to be quite expensive for taxpayers. The environmental review conducted for Drakes Bay Oyster Company has already cost the federal government more than $3 million, according to Amy Trainer, executive director of The Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, a group that has strongly opposed renewing the oyster farm’s lease.

In fact, the prohibitively high costs associated with completing such environmental reviews could prompt cash-strapped public agencies to renew leases for private companies on public land rather than spend the money. “What we’re talking about is defacto privatization,” Trainer said.

Indeed, Cause of Action’s co-counsel, the Southern California law firm Stoel Rives, argued in a letter last month to Salazar that it believed it would be legally okay for him to renew Lunny’s lease at Drakes Estero without a full environmental review — but not okay for him to let the lease expire without such a review.

http://www.eastbayexpress.com/92510/archives/2012/12/05/drakes-bay-oyster-company-turns-to-koch-brothers-linked-group
by via Mercury News
Friday Feb 1st, 2013 2:51 PM
Point Reyes' natural treasure is at risk

By Amy Meyer
Special to the Mercury News
Posted: 11/15/2012

Any day now, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will determine the fate of one of California's natural treasures, Drakes Estero. Long considered the ecological heart of the Point Reyes National Seashore, this five-bay estuary is the nation's only opportunity for a marine wilderness experience on the West Coast.

In 1976, Congress declared that the highest and best purpose of this site of uniquely superior habitat and wildlife value would be as a protected marine wilderness. That legacy is now threatened by a selfish attempt to keep a private, commercial business operating at its center.

When it designated Drakes Estero a Wilderness Area in 1976, Congress allowed an existing oyster company to grow nonnative oysters until its lease expired on Nov. 30, 2012. The law intended that Drakes Estero's ecologically rich features would then be protected and restored. This centerpiece of the larger marine ecosystem, already paid for and owned by the people of the United States, would be whole again.

But the oyster company changed hands in 2005 and the new proprietors want to stay indefinitely.

Despite a growing awareness of the immense benefits derived from protecting natural areas, this temporary arrangement has been tolerated for 36 years. The waters of Drakes Estero support a dozen species of marine mammals that live or migrate through it, including one of the largest breeding colonies of harbor seals on the California coast; endangered Coho salmon and steelhead; and hundreds of species of birds.

I served as vice chair of the federal advisory commission for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the Point Reyes National Seashore when, in 1975 at a commission hearing, several hundred people supported a big wilderness area and the commission voted its agreement with them. Congress codified our recommendation to the secretary of the interior into law. The deal to let the lease expire this year and protect Drakes Estero's natural resources was a promise to future generations. And it should be kept.

This year, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Point Reyes seashore, I reflect on the progress made to protect this national park's diverse landscapes. Dotting the seashore's pastoral hillsides, the dairy ranches have survived better than those located outside the seashore, with the help of millions of dollars in park service support for their capital improvements. Support for these dairy ranches remains strong and the future looks bright for them. The remaining piece to complete this park is the protection of Drakes Estero.

The commercial development, nonnative invasive species and disruptive motorboats that come with the oyster operation are entirely incompatible with what the public expects in our national park wilderness areas. Legal researchers at the UC Berkeley School of Law have stated that granting a new permit would set a precedent that would weaken the integrity of our national parks and wilderness systems.

The decision to protect this wilderness within Point Reyes National Seashore is critically important on many levels -- environmentally, legally and ideologically.

For the first time since the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act, this Congress did not pass a single wilderness bill. Drakes Estero is the one wilderness opportunity that rests solely within the hands of Interior Secretary Salazar, who understands that these special places stand for our vision of tomorrow, not for profits or the politics of today. It should become a reality this year.

The integrity of America's remaining wilderness and national parks is on the line with Salazar's decision. I hope with all my heart that he makes the right choice.


Amy Meyer of San Francisco was vice chairwoman of the former federal advisory commission for Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the Point Reyes National Seashore. She is author of "New Guardians for the Golden Gate: How America Got a Great National Park." She wrote this for this newspaper.

http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_21998460/amy-meyer-point-reyes-natural-treasure-is-at
by Repost
Friday Feb 1st, 2013 5:00 PM
A pack of rabid Enviro-Fanatics have started a Crusade, backed by faked "Scientific" data, lying Park Service Employees and with Blinders on about their Favored (Cattle Ranching) Abuses, in an effort to take Lock up more Public Recreation Land from the general public.

What makes them hate normal citizens so much?

Is their arrogance funded by the Privelege of living in Marvelous Marin, rubbing shoulders with the 1%er and wanna be 1%ers?

Are they greedy for the Power that comes from TAKING from the common citizens? Their arrogance has certainly blinded them from the reality that ordinary people would rather have an environmentally beneficial oyster farm than a crappy sloppy cattle ranch on their picturesque National SEASHORE, NOT "Wilderness Exclusion Zone"!.