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More on Drakes Bay Oyster Company

by D. Boyer
Drakes Bay Oyster Company Special Use Permit Environmental Statement contradicts actual kayakers experience's with that company on Drakes Bay.
After publishing the first piece about the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, I discovered new information in regards to Kayakers comments about the existence of that company in Drakes Bay. In a statement released by the 3 local kayaking companies there appears to be all positive comments about the existence of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company in Drakes Bay. As a matter of fact the three top kayaking companies in the area, have stated that Draft Environmental Impact Statement did not accurately reflect their experiences with the DBOC. The impact statement indicates that the wilderness area is disrupted by the pneumatic tools and or powerboats, but representatives from those kayak companies state that the existence of the Drakes bay Oyster company adds to the wilderness experience instead of impacting them negatively. I have enclosed the text from their statement below:
As the three largest and longest operating local kayaking companies, that consistently provide the majority of kayaking tours on Drakes Estero, we feel it important to provide a statement of our experiences of Drakes Estero and Drakes Bay Oyster Company. Between our 3 companies we operate at least 85% of the public kayaking tours on Drakes Estero. We feel the paragraph below misrepresents the wilderness experience that we have consistently encountered over the years and that we have been misrepresented within this section of the impact statement. “In 2010, three of the authorized kayak operators reported providing tours in Drakes Estero. In total, 221 visitors were accommodated on these tours during the 8-month period Drakes Estero is open to kayakers. Drakes Estero, which is congressionally designed potential wilderness, offers kayakers an outstanding opportunity for solitude while enjoying primitive and unconfined recreation. This is a hallmark quality of a designated wilderness area. Such a wilderness experience, however, is currently subject to interruption by motorized boat traffic, handheld pneumatic drills, and other generators of noise associated with DBOC operations. A more in-depth description of the soundscapes within the project area can be found in the “Soundscapes” section of this chapter. Additional background on wilderness qualities can be found in the “Impact Topic: Wilderness” section.” (p. 213 DEIS)

During our many kayak outings on the estero, the “soundscape” of the wilderness area has not been impacted by the noise of the farm. The use of power tools can be heard while one is on shore preparing to launch, but the noise quickly fades after leaving the shore in Schooner Bay paddling toward the potential wilderness area. While kayaking on Home Bay and Creamery Bay, any noise of farm operation is undetectable. Over many years of operating tours on the estero, we have never had guides or clients comment on the pneumatic drills negatively impacting their experience while kayaking or hiking within the estero.

Oyster boats are rarely seen in action and if we do encounter boats, they are always very respectful of our presence, making sure not to disturb us or wildlife in any way. “I have been guiding on the estero for four years and only once have I encountered a motor boat. And it was on purpose. Kevin Lunny was meeting our group at the oyster beds to discuss the history of aquaculture, and his oyster farming techniques.” Tressa Bronner, Point Reyes Outdoors

We feel that the above section of the DEIS does not accurately represent our experience of Drakes Estero or Drakes Bay Oyster Company and infers that we have stated these complaints to the park or others when we have not. Nor we have we been contacted directly by the park for feedback on our experiences concerning either Drakes Estero or Drakes Bay Oyster Company.

Attached you will find comments from the individual companies that collectively signed this statement.
Thank you.
Laurie Manarik, Mike Rudolph, Tressa Bronner - Point Reyes Outdoors – Point Reyes Station
Bob Licht, Steve Hayward - Sea Trek Kayaking Center – Sausalito
John Granatir, Pamalah McNeilly - Blue Waters Kayaking - Inverness

Point Reyes Outdoors Company Statement:
I have kayaked and hiked Drakes Estero personally and professionally since 1992 and have never been disappointed with the wilderness experience. The launching experience however, has been much improved since the Lunny family took over operation of the Oyster Farm. Not only have they cleaned and improved the physical location but they offer an educational and historical component that enhances our client’s experience of the area. Their willingness to share information on sustainable aquaculture and its history in the area has been a terrific addition to tours for school groups and scout troops.

Having the DBOC operation means there is an emergency phone and boats within the estero and accessible to us which provides a welcome level of comfort, knowing help is available in an area that is hard for rescue operations to get to quickly. While this is not a component of wilderness, their generous assistance did help us get a client who was having trouble breathing back to shore quickly and without incident.

Laurie Manarik, Point Reyes Outdoors – Point Reyes Station

Sea Trek Company Statement:

I have always felt that the Oyster Company adds rather than distracts from the paddling experience. It is rare that people get to see an environmentally conscious operation and they like to find out the story of how oysters are grown. It is similar to MALT taking people on educational tours of the Strauss Dairy. We have never heard any complaints from our clients about the noise or distraction of motorboats. The expectation is that one is entering a working Bay which only adds to the experience and we still see the requisite amount of wildlife, seals and waterfowl. We haven't noticed that they are disturbed by the operation.
Bob Licht/Owner - Sea Trek Kayak and Paddleboard Center

Blue Waters Kayak Company Statement:
We at Blue Waters Kayaking feel that the presence of Drake’s Oyster Farm has not been of any detriment to Blue Waters Kayaking or any of our clients. On the contrary, we feel that it has positive cultural and historical significance, is of economic importance to the local community, is a significant example of benign, non-harmful aquaculture, is a safety resource for recreation users, and is in general a model and well run company that should have the option of continued presence on Drake’s Estero. We do not feel that the “wilderness” aspect of the Estero is compromised by the presence of the Oyster farm.
John Granitir & Pamalah MacNeily – Blue Water Kayak
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