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Drakes Bay Oyster Co. to Be Shut Down, 30 Employees Lose Jobs

After 40 years, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that he has decided to let the Drakes Bay Oyster Company's operating permit expire Friday.

Drakes Bay Oyster Company owner Kevin Lunny called the decision today by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar not to extend his company's operating permit "a devastating blow to the West Marin economy and community."

Salazar, who toured the oyster company on Drakes Estero last week, decided the let the permit expire Friday as scheduled.

The oyster operation had a 40-year permit to operate through Nov. 30, 2012. Lunny acquired the business from the Johnson Oyster Co. in 2004 and was seeking a 10-year extension of the permit.

Today's decision will end the company's operations within the Point Reyes National Seashore, including an on-shore oyster processing facility and offshore oyster harvesting activities that occur on 1,000 acres of estuary, the Department of the Interior said in a news release.

"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," Salazar said in a statement.

"I believe it is the right decision for Point Reyes National Seashore and for future generations who will enjoy this treasured landscape," Salazar said.

Lunny said Salazar telephoned him this morning before publicly announcing his decision. "I had to deliver the news to our 30 workers that the Secretary of the Interior has decided to put them out of work and out of their homes," Lunny said.

Some of the workers live on the company's site, according to Lunny."Many of them are highly skilled workers who have been here 30 years," he said. "They grew up in our community. This will forever change West Marin."

Lunny's family also runs a cattle ranch, but the oyster company, which he said brought in about $1.5 million annually, was the family's main source of income.

Lunny said he is still in shock and will have to consult with the company's advisers regarding his next step. A petition on Change.org urging Salazar to renew the lease has gained over 9,000 signatures as of Thursday.

The petition has gain support from Marin and beyond. "[Drakes Bay Oyser Co.] is a source for all that has been there for over 30 years. It should now be considered as part of the environment," posted Marvin Morita from El Cerrito.

"If the oyster farm goes, the rest of the ranches will go next," posted Pt. Reyes Station resident Steve Doughty.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein favored extending the oyster company's permit. She asked the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate a National Park Service report that was critical of the oyster company's presence in the national seashore.

"I am extremely disappointed that Secretary Salazar chose not to renew the operating permit for Drakes Bay Oyster Company," Feinstein said on her website today.

"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," Feinstein said.

"The secretary's decision effectively puts this historic California oyster farm out of business. As a result, the farm will be forced to cease operations and 30 Californians will lose their jobs," she said.

Environmentalists and the National Park Service objected to the oyster company's operations, claiming they were a threat to endangered species, including harbor seals.

A spokesman for the Point Reyes National Seashore did not immediately return a call for comment this afternoon.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer said she has great respect for Salazar's decision."He studied the issue carefully, he listened closely to all sides and, in the end, he made his decision based on the science and the law," Boxer said.

Salazar's supporters also included retired Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, who said the secretary made a "fair, thorough and knowledgeable" decision.

"[Salazar's] personal experience as a rancher gave him a unique perspective in addressing these issues that lends additional credibility to his decision," she said in a statment. "By directing the National Park Service to pursue permit extensions (from 10 to 20 years) for ranches operating in the Point Reyes National Seashore pastoral zone, he is making every effort to give ranchers the certainty they need to thrive."

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said, "We're thrilled that after three decades, this amazing piece of Point Reyes National Seashore will finally receive the protection it deserves."

"Preserving this area fulfills Congress' promise to all Americans when it passed the Point Reyes Wilderness Act. The National Park Service rightly concluded in its study that the oyster factory is damaging the national park," Brune said.

--Bay City News Service

Reginald "Rex" Henderson November 30, 2012 at 04:27 AM
Put a sock in it, Ghigliotti!
Xerxes Whitney November 30, 2012 at 04:31 AM
The Lunny's bought this oyster farm 7 to 10 years ago from the Johnson's with full knowledge that the lease would expire in 2012. The Lunny's are very savy business people so they knew what they were getting into. It was not something the NPS sprung on them. It's too bad these people would lose their jobs but they knew this was possibility for several years.
Keeping it Real November 30, 2012 at 05:55 AM
Will miss them. Went there at least once or twice a year for our oyster feeds for 20 years. Great group of people. Sorry to see them go.
Christine Koenig November 30, 2012 at 06:21 AM
Sor sorry to see Drake's Oyster Farm close. It was th eonly place we liked buying oysters - excellent flavor, fair price, staff were always great. Thank you for your quality business. any chance of appealling or have all avenues been explored. Maybe other Oyster business will share their sites - or is that just too much to ask or expect?
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr November 30, 2012 at 07:47 AM
Put a sock in Hussein's administration that seeks to tell us what is best for us in all instances according to their politically correct national socialism. Or do you support the politically correct view that only the national socialist views are permitted under the First Amendment, and not mine?
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr November 30, 2012 at 08:15 AM
I do not even eat oysters and I think that we should keep the oyster farm and replace the government that took it away from us. Has anyone read that thing that reads: "When in the course of human events...? Technically, most scholars believe that the Constitution made the Declaration of Independence illegal.
Reginald "Rex" Henderson November 30, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Mr. Ghigliotti -- Your views are not fact-based and are loaded with ignorance and bigotry. No need debating facts with because you are entrenched in your own vitriol. (Look it up if you dont know the meaning). Hope you get deprogrammed soon.
Tamsen Young November 30, 2012 at 04:09 PM
What I can't understand is why the Sierra Club made such an issue of this! Seems they have much bigger fish to fry the messing around with Point Reyes which is working fine.
linda appleby November 30, 2012 at 04:40 PM
OH PLEASE stop blaming Obama for this. This was started in the 70's. If you want to blame anyone for the closing of Drakes then blame the environmentalists etc. I think it is very sad for the people losing their jobs and us losing our yummy oysters that we have all enjoyed for so many years. If you didn't write a letter to Salazar then shut up. It sounded to me like a whole lot of Republicans complaining again.
linda appleby November 30, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Also..Mr. Ghigliotti...Our Presidents name is Pres. Obama....Don't be rude!!!
Jeffrey Gimzek November 30, 2012 at 05:34 PM
This process began under the Bush Administration you ranting bigot. I am sure you can peddle your low information comments with more success over at Fox Nation or some other ignorant loudmouth-oriented site.
Jeffrey Gimzek November 30, 2012 at 05:48 PM
This such a sad day. The "environmentalists" supporting this closing have their heads stuck in the 70's. There is only one environmental issue now: Global Climate Change, and 50 years from now Drakes Estuary and likely the majority of the Oyster Co. out buildings and infrastructure will be under 5 feet of water, shutting the company down and changing the entirety of the West Marin landscape. This closing is not taking the "long view for future generations" as Salazar claims, but an unnecessary pre-emption of a (semi-) sustainable business that has a few good decades left.
Alex Johnson-Rodriguez November 30, 2012 at 06:48 PM
I am saddened.. I understand the want to protect the seashore. But i am sure that ending a landmark business which brings so much to the residents could have been handled in a much more eco friendly manner.
Betty Pancakes November 30, 2012 at 06:51 PM
No matter which half of the shell you fall on (get it, like which side of the aisle ... but we're talking 'bout oysters here so shells instead of aisles, tee hee) ... I don't know how much good comes of bemoaning a decision that's been made. It's like that game show Survivor, what does the host say? The tribe has spoken or something v. powerful like that? Then he snuffs out your flame and you have to walk away. I hate to say it, but the tribe has spoken and snuff out of the flame of this oyster operation. I say we all come together and channel our energy for the good of something else.
linda appleby November 30, 2012 at 07:31 PM
The present owners DID know the possibility of its closing when they bought the business. Stop blaming Obama!
UncleMookie November 30, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Is it just me or do all these politicians sound like Charlie Brown's teacher?
UncleMookie November 30, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Wow. The tribe has spoken? Well then, where should we all meet you to channel our energy to throw our next pebble into the ocean?
Michael November 30, 2012 at 09:25 PM
I did write, many times, and they do not listen. Our federal government and the overpaid leaders are only connected toth4e will of the people when a vote is at stake. No whining but reality. Obama has hired an army of advisers like no president ever before him. And this is what they focus on? Why Salazar focuses on this speck of an issue (Drake's Bay) much of our land is being raped by fracking for gas and our water supply is being poisoned. A travesty is being committed against our people and lands and guess what... Obama and all of his czars cater to big oil. We lose. Whether you choose to believe this or not is irrelevant as the facts remain (oh how the politicians loathe facts). People need to wake up.
Sheila McNulty November 30, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Drakes Bay has been a crucial part of our economic and environmental landscape. They have donated to several charitable causes and have been present at many non-profit and community events. The loss of Drakes Bay Oyster Company will be regretted for many years to come. RENEW THE LEASE for well-being of all of us.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr December 01, 2012 at 03:00 AM
We citizens have lost the ability to make this decision, or even to influence it.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr December 01, 2012 at 03:26 AM
I am very pleased to know that you are aware of programming.
linda appleby December 01, 2012 at 05:16 AM
DARLIN...IT WAS OUT OF OUR HANDS BACK IN THE 70'S. SAD BUT TRUE..DON'T YOU GET IT. THE SIERRA CLUB ETC MADE A POINT TO HAVE THIS AREA MADE A PARK AND TO SAVE IT FOR THE GENERATIONS TO COME. DRAKES HAD AN EXTENSION FOR 40 YEARS. THAT TIME IS OVER. IT IS SAD BUT IT WAS STARTED A LONG TIME AGO. THAT IS WHEN YOU ALL SHOULD HAVE STARTED THE CONVERSATION. IT'S TOOOOOOO LATE. AGAIN..SAD BUT TRUE!
Jeffrey Gimzek December 01, 2012 at 03:32 PM
The thing is, the planet is a different place than it was in the 70's. The entire drakes and tomalas bay area is going to RADICALLY different in 50 years. It's likely Rt 1 will be cut off by the sea in several places. The road through Inverness also. The environmental policies of the 70s dont make any sense any more, and that's why this decision is stupid. We aren't saving anything for "generations to come", we're burning it up and drowning it. The environmental movement and those retro Sierra Club people better get on the ball and realize it's all hands on Climate Change. Lunny and company would have left of their own accord 40 years from now when his barn has two feet of water in it during high tide.
linda appleby December 01, 2012 at 04:06 PM
yes..this is all true...I don't know if I would have taken the gamble when the Lunneys bought Drakes knowing 2012 was probably going to be it. Either way it is sad. Most of my response it to that one someone who seems to blame Pres. Obama for everything.
J D Harris December 01, 2012 at 05:18 PM
I am sad for the people who will be unemployed and the loss to Marin of yet another a longtime local business. It was a lease, though. And leases are sometimes not renewed. The Lunny's knew that. As an renter in the same apartment community for over two decades now, I am keenly aware that my annual lease may not be renewed, no matter how good and valuable a tenant I have been. Right or wrong, it's reality. I hope the decision gets overturned. I am disappointed with Babs, Dianne and Lynn. I wonder what Rep.-elect Jared Hoffman's position is on this is.
Marys Mama December 01, 2012 at 05:51 PM
While I feel for anyone who loses his or her job, I think it's only fair to put this issue, relative to unemployment into perspective: 30 people. Don't get me wrong, if I was one of those 30, or a child/spouse dependent on one of those 30 paychecks, I would indeed feel as though my world had suddenly come screeching to a halt. However, it is not as if a major, MAJOR employer - one responsible for the paychecks of hundreds or thousands of workers - has suddenly ceased operations. Additionally, how great was the "trickle down" effect of this particular operation? Stated differently, how many other people and/or industries benefit from a 30-person operation?
brad reich December 02, 2012 at 11:16 PM
While it is sad about the jobs and the 40 years it took to build a business it is even worse that "we the people" let our representatives run over us like this. it is time or past time to not let these liberal idiots that make decisions that effect the many at the cost of the needs/wants of the few. It is time that Salazar and Boxer get out, I am sickened by the liberal bullshit and career politicians.
Brad Kava (Editor) December 05, 2012 at 06:34 AM
Obviously, it's not one party or the other. Feinstein supported Drakes. This really is bad news and shows that our bureaucracy is getting like the old Soviet Union's.
Ken Delfino December 30, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Prove to us that he's an American and then he'll be called President
Ken Delfino December 30, 2012 at 08:56 PM
It's pretty pathetic that Woolsey chose to support a non-resident's decision to close down a business in her district. How much confidence does this give other small businesses that your congresswoman will support you? She, like Salazar, are all supporters of Agenda 21....I mean, Future Earth (they changed their name last week). Look it up and see what's in store for all of us if you don't know what this is about.

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