Drakes Bay Oyster Co. Seeks TRO To Keep Point Reyes National Seashore Oyster Farm In Business
Attorneys for the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. on Wednesday sought a temporary restraining order to prevent the Interior Department from ordering the oyster farm out of Point Reyes National Seashore.
The lawyers supported their request with claims that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar broke the Administrative Procedures Act and violated the National Environmental Policy Act when he decided late last month not to extend the oyster company's lease for 10 years. Instead the secretary gave the company 90 days to remove its operations from the shoreline and waters of Drakes Estero.
In denying the lease extension on November 29, the Interior secretary cited the value of wilderness and congressional intent. On the very next day, Park Service Director Jon Jarvis declared the estero part of the Philip Burton Wilderness at the Seashore, effective December 4.
"Public Law 94-567 identified much of Drakes Estero as potential wilderness, and not as designated wilderness, due to the presence of a commercial shellfish operation in the estero. The authorizations for the commercial shellfish business operating in Drakes Estero expire on November 30, 2012. Accordingly, all uses prohibited under the Wilderness Act within Drakes Estero have ceased as of 11:59 p.m. on November 30, 2012," the director wrote. "Drakes Estero is entirely in federal ownership. Pursuant to Section 3 of Public Law 94-567, publication of this notice hereby effects the change in status of 1,363 acres of Drakes Estero, more or less, from potential wilderness to designated wilderness."
In heading to court for the TRO, the oyster farm's lawyers argued that implementing the Interior secretary's order "will cause the immediate and irreparable loss of 2.5 million oyster spat (approximately 20-25 percent of its 2014 crop) and the corresponding immediate layoff of one-third of its employees over the Holiday season, and it will cause the utter destruction of Plaintiffs’ business, harm to the public, and irreparable environmental damage to Drakes Estero in the next 90 days. Furthermore, it is impossible for Plaintiffs to comply with the Secretary’s decision because it would take much longer than 90 days for Plaintiffs to comply."
The attorneys also pointed out that no harm would be done by blocking the secretary's order, since the Park Service had the option in 2004 to block the transfer of the Johnson Oyster Company to Kevin Lunny and his Drakes Bay Oyster Co. but didn't exercise that option. "If NPS judged it sufficient to wait at least until the end of the RUO (Reservation of Use and Occupancy), it cannot claim imminent harm from waiting a short while longer to allow Plaintiffs' claims to be heard," they wrote.
Furthermore, they said complying with the secretary's order would actually lead to environmental damage to the estero due to "increased nutrient loading and nitrogen pollution from upland sources due to the absence of the shellfish that filter, sequester, and remove these pollutants from the ecosystem..."