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Coastal Commission Issues Cease & Desist Order Against Drakes Bay Oyster Company
The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously on February 7th to issue a unilateral Cease and Desist Order against the Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC).
The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously on February 7th to issue a unilateral Cease and Desist Order against the Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC). The Coastal Commission's Order 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.
Coastal Commissioner Esther Sanchez, in supporting approval of the Cease and Desist Order, said the oyster company’s violations were “egregious” and urged the Commission to take immediate action. Commissioner Brian Brennan told Drakes Bay Oyster Company that “while you have used the public space for private gain . . . some of that should be put back into the restoration . . . some of that which was taken away,” and “also want to recognize that there is a public good here that needs to be protected.” Commissioner Robert Garcia urged the Coastal Commission staff to look into collecting the $61,500 fine that was assessed in 2009 for violating harbor seal protection areas but which the oyster company has not paid. Commissioners Brian Brennan and Jana Zimmer thanked coastal advocates, including the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, for bringing these issues to their attention the past several months.
The Restoration Order addresses 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. It provides the necessary authority for the DBOC to clean up Drakes Estero, including removal of the pressure-treated wooden racks.
The Cease and Desist 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. The Commission rejected DBOC’s offered explanations as “without factual support.”
On February 4th, a federal district court denied the DBOC’s request for a preliminary injunction, thus maintaining the requirement that the oyster company be out of Drakes Estero by February 28th, and out of their onshore operations by March 15th. In addition to detailing a seven-year history of violations, both Orders propose various compliance steps applicable to Drakes Bay Oyster Company as it completes removal of its shellfish and mariculture gear by February 28th.