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California River Watch Sues Drakes Bay Oyster Company For Clean Water Act Violations
California River Watch, a Sebastopol-based organization devoted to protecting Northern California's water quality, announced that it filed a lawsuit against the Drakes Bay Oyster Company last week.
California River Watch says that the commercial shellfish business operating in the Point Reyes National Seashore is polluting the national park waters and ocean with waste water, plastic, and invasive species and has failed to obtain the required pollution discharge permits for over seven years.
"Drakes Bay Oyster Company, which has been repeatedly cited by state agencies for its pollution, failure to obtain permits, and violations of environmental protection laws, is at it again," said Larry Hanson of California River Watch. "The Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s lack of adherence to the federal Clean Water Act fouls pollutes our national park waters and degrades one of the most ecologically important wilderness areas established in the United States."
The complaint filed Friday, February 7th by California River Watch alleges that the oyster company has been unlawfully discharging polluted wastewater from its shellfish operations into the Drakes Estero marine wilderness in violation of the Clean Water Act. The lawsuit documents that the oyster company is discharging and helping to propagate the invasive, fast-growing sea squirt Didemnum vexillum (“Dvex”) which can cripple fisheries and natural areas “causing significant ecological and economic damage.” The lawsuit seeks immediate cessation of the company’s unlawful discharges, civil penalties, and a bond to ensure the shellfish operation facility and Drakes Estero are remediated.
Drakes Bay Oyster Company was cited by the California Coastal Commission in February 2013 for a host of violations of the California Coastal Act, and for failing to obtain the required coastal development permit. Rather than complying, the oyster company sued the Coastal Commission and has to-date not taken any steps to come into compliance. The Commission counter-sued the oyster company for ongoing violations of the Coastal Act and past Cease and Desist Orders.