An oyster farm ordered out of Point Reyes National Seashore will be allowed to continue operations at least until a court hearing in late January under an agreement the operation's owner reached with the Justice Department.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar late last month refused to extend the lease Drakes Bay Oyster Co. held to cultivate oysters in the waters of Drakes Estero. At the time he ordered the operation to end operations on November 30, and gave the owners 90 days to remove its facilities from the seashore so the estero could be managed as official wilderness.
On Monday, the two sides agreed to allow Kevin Lunny and his crews to "conduct activities involving planting and growing new oysters," a move said to prevent 10 of the oyster company's 30 employees from losing their jobs right before the year-end holidays.
Additionally, the agreement allows the oyster company to keep in place "mobile residential units located on site and currently inhabited by Drakes Bay Oyster Company employees, thereby providing more time for those employees to look for affordable housing."
The oyster company last week had sought a temporary restraining order to allow it to continue operations. The agreement reached Monday led the company to withdraw its request for a TRO. A court hearing has been set for January 25 to consider the company's motion for a preliminary injunction to set aside Secretary Salazar's order, pending a legal challenge against it.
While the Interior secretary had given the oyster company 90 days to remove its facilities from the on-shore area, the agreement reached Monday extends that deadline to March 15, 2013.
However, Mr. Lunny has indicated that it could take nearly two years to fully remove the oyster growing operations from the estero's waters. In a statement attached to the filing seeking the TRO, Mr. Lunny said that:
We can remove approximately 100,000 oysters or 100,000 clams per day on average. Accordingly, it would take approximately 220 work days to remove all oysters and clams because there are currently 20 million oysters and 2 million clams in Drakes Estero.
... There are 95 oyster racks in Drakes Estero. Each oyster rack is 300 feet long and 12 feet wide on average, and is composed of 2” x 8”, 2” x 6”, and 2” x 4” pressure treated lumber, held together by galvanized and stainless steel fasteners. In sum, the oyster racks in Drakes Estero account for approximately 250,000 board feet of lumber, which weighs approximately 375 tons, and may weigh more due to water absorbed into the wood.
... Because it is only possible to dismantle oyster racks at low tide and under good weather conditions, I estimate DBOC could average three days of work per week. Taking into account the winter tides and inclement weather Drakes Estero experiences between December 1 and February 28, I estimate DBOC may only average two days of work per week.
... At low tide, oyster racks would be dismantled using the following process: oyster rack rails and supports would be cut free using a chain saw; posts would be strapped and lifted vertically out of the substrate using a boom or crane mounted on a barge; when lifting the posts, the connecting 2” x 4”s at the base of the posts would also be lifted free of the substrate and cut free using a chain saw. All debris would be placed on the barge, unloaded by forklift and loaded onto trucks, and hauled to the landfill.
... I estimate it will take approximately three days to dismantle each rack in good weather conditions, and five to seven days to dismantle each oyster rack in bad weather conditions, for a total of 285 work days within approximately 665 calendar days to dismantle and remove all 95 oyster racks.