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California | North Bay / Marin | Environment & Forest Defense

Legal Brief Shows the Federal District Court Was Right to Deny Injunction to Oyster Co.
by Environmental Action Committee of West Marin
Wednesday Apr 10th, 2013 2:16 PM
Local and national environmental organizations filed a brief in federal court today that highlights the multiple legal and factual errors in the controversial oyster company's attempt to overturn the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act.
Local and national environmental organizations filed an amicus “friend of the court” brief today lending strong support to the Interior Department’s legal case that the federal district court was right to deny a preliminary injunction to the controversial Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC).

“For the millions of Americans that own the Point Reyes National Seashore, and who highly value our national park and wilderness areas, we believe the law clearly supports Secretary Salazar’s decision to create the first marine wilderness on the West Coast at Drakes Estero,” said Amy Trainer, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. “The district court was correct in upholding Secretary Salazar’s decision and denying an injunction to the oyster company, and we are hopeful the court of appeals will do the same,” said Trainer.

World-renowned marine scientist Dr. Sylvia Earle noted that the continuation of the commercial oyster operation is “in direct conflict with the Seashore’s mandate of natural systems management as well as wilderness laws and national park management policies.” The brief also noted that, “the public interest in this case favors removal of the commercial oyster operations from Drakes Estero so that the estuary can achieve the wilderness protection that Congress intended and the public can enjoy this conservation achievement.” The public interest includes honoring a 1972 taxpayer purchase agreement that gave the oyster operation 40 years to operate ending Nov. 30th 2012, but does not include the “unsubstantiated allegations regarding private economic interests presented by” Alice Waters and others.

Leading scientists opined that the environmental harms from the commercial oyster operations and repeated violations of state and federal environmental laws support closure of the operation. Scientific experts cited in the environmental brief include:

- Dr. Dominique Richard, an acoustics expert who noted that “continued normal DBOC operations do make enough noise from motorized boats to have negative impacts to harbor seals”;
- Dr. John Kelly, an avian biologist who noted that the motorized boat activity “introduces a level of disturbance that is incompatible with migratory and resident waterbirds that use” the Estero; and
- Dr. Peter Baye, an expert coastal ecologist who noted that “water quality in Drakes Estero will not suffer or decline with the removal of DBOC’s non-native oysters and oyster infrastructure.”

The California Coastal Commission issued a Cease and Desist Order against the Company for multiple violations of the California Coastal Act in February. The company's bid to overturn the decision of the Obama Administration is being aided by right-wing special interest groups with links to the Koch Brothers, as well as conservative Republican legislators Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana and Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington State.