Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) lashed out at Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and accused him of using junk science to kill the last operating oyster cannery in her home state.
The Drakes Bay Oyster Company had been in a long fight with the Interior Department, who said the fourth-generation family business was harming harbor seal pups and native plants, and wanted to return the coastal region in Marin County to its natural state.
In 1972, the National Park Service purchased the land that housed the oyster operation and the owner reserved a 40-year right to continue its activities through November 30, 2012.
“I’ve taken this matter very seriously. We’ve undertaken a robust public process to review the matter from all sides, and I have personally visited the park to meet with the company and members of the community,” said Salazar in a statement yesterday. “After careful consideration of the applicable law and policy, I have directed the National Park Service to allow the permit for the Drakes Bay Oyster Company to expire at the end of its current term and to return the Drakes Estero to the state of wilderness that Congress designated for it in 1976. I believe it is the right decision for Point Reyes National Seashore and for future generations who will enjoy this treasured landscape.”
The popular business enjoyed strong community support and over the years millions of dollars in studies went into the protracted fight with the government.
“As stewards of the land, our practices are driven by a deep respect for the earth and the waters of the Estero ecosystem. The farms provide jobs, housing, and income to many locals, and are a significant part of the history and diversity of this thriving agricultural community,” the company said on its website.
Now, just before the holidays, 30 people are out of work.
“I am extremely disappointed that Secretary Salazar chose not to renew the operating permit for the Drakes Bay Oyster Company,” Feinstein said. “The National Park Service’s review process has been flawed from the beginning with false and misleading science, which was also used in the Environmental Impact Statement.”
The case divided California’s two Democratic senators, with Feinstein laboring to keep the business alive and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) supporting the environmentalists.
“The secretary’s decision effectively puts this historic California oyster farm out of business,” Feinstein said. “As a result, the farm will be forced to cease operations and 30 Californians will lose their jobs.”