Letters for the Week of July 4, 2012 

Readers sound off on the OPD, Drakes Bay Oyster Company, and public-employee pensions.

"Damning Report of OPD," News, 6/20

Stop the Cynicism

In this article, [former legal adviser to Jean Quan] Dan Siegel commented that it was disingenuous to have the inspector general reporting to [City Administrator] Deanna Santana. His cynical remark I found overly negative. I have no doubt that if the inspector general's office is moved into the city administrator's office, there will be many corrective meetings between Ms. Santana's lips and the OPD butts; she just needs a chance to do what she does best. Shame on you, Dan, for your lack of confidence in Oakland's (very) remarkable government.

James J. Fenton, Oakland


"Feinstein's Folly," Feature, 6/13

A Deal's a Deal

Thank you for shedding some light on the wilderness part of this issue, which has been diverted by Drakes Bay Oyster Company and Feinstein to a supposed debate about "good" science. Many of us who live in west Marin support wilderness for Drakes Estero and are sick of the oyster farm and Feinstein's endless, fabricated smear campaign against the park service. We want to see the oyster operation pack up and go, as its management agreed to do when they bought the remaining lease seven years ago. A deal is a deal. This is an important estuary and wilderness area, and commercial operations that spread invasive species (none of their oysters are native) are incompatible. The public overwhelmingly wants the operation gone and full protection for the estuary.

Jeff Miller, Inverness

Shucks for You, Salazar

I think Robert Gammon's article is excellent, and it confirms my belief that Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar should honor the enabling legislation and terminate the Drakes Bay Oyster Company's lease.

Point Reyes may have been a cultural landscape for 150 years (actually, it's been one for thousands of years, not forgetting the Miwoks and their likely predecessors) but it's always been a natural landscape — and the California public is running low on those, what with state parks closing and the cultural landscape's relentless expansion. What's more, it is a natural landscape that is essential to one of the planet's main megafaunas — the Pacific coast marine mammals. I doubt there would be elephant seals breeding on Drakes Bay now if the seashore hadn't been established as a way to restore some of the wildlife that has been destroyed in so many other places. Point Reyes would be covered with second homes, monster homes, bedroom tracts, marinas, malls, etc. — a process that was already underway when David Brower, Phil Burton, Edgar Wayburn, and many others managed to win one of life's all-too-uncommon victories over money.

Drakes Bay was a major sea otter habitat when Western civilization arrived — it's where the Yankee fur hunting ships anchored. I'd like to see sea otters in Drakes Bay again. The river otter was "extinct" on the seashore twenty years ago — now it's back, so why not the sea otter? But I don't think the oyster farm's continuation would contribute to that — maybe the contrary, since I suppose sea otters like oysters, although they might not be too enthusiastic about the Drakes Bay ones, which are fatty and rather tasteless in my experience. Plenty of oyster farms in legally designated cultural landscapes produce better ones.

Anyway, it's up to Secretary Salazar now. His address, by the way, is 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240 or Feedback@ios.doi.gov.

David Rains Wallace, Berkeley

An Oyster Farmer Weighs in

I am an oyster farmer on Morro Bay. I used to live in Bodega Bay, and I got to visit beautiful Drakes Estero a few times back when the Johnsons ran the farm. I have a natural sympathy for other oyster growers here in California, and Drakes Estero is the best oyster-growing bay in California, so I have been alarmed at the predicament that the Lunnys are in. I know what a beautiful place the estero is. Reading your thorough article I learned a lot about the controversy and I had several thoughts.

First, the dispute seems to center on whether or not the original agreement between the Johnsons and the park service was to allow renewal of the oyster lease when it expires or not. You seem to believe that it was clear to all at the outset that the lease would not be renewed, while the Lunnys say no, the agreement did not preclude lease renewal. In attempting to settle this dispute, I think that retired Congressmen Pete McCloskey's testimony is especially weighty since he co-authored the Pt. Reyes wilderness act. And he states clearly that it was not the intent of the law to kick the oyster grower out in 2012.

Second, how important is it, really, to have this estero be a wilderness area with no shellfish cultivation? The shellfish cultivation leases from the Department of Fish and Game only give the grower the right to plant, tend, and harvest the shellfish. They do not preclude the public from kayaking over the oysters, exploring, and enjoying the estero. You just can't take or harm the oysters. If you have legitimate environmental concerns, such as plastic oyster-growing debris on the beach, or actual threats to the seal population, then the oyster grower has to, by law and by their lease agreements, address these concerns. I think the Lunnys will be proactive on these problems. Otherwise, we know that oyster cultivation is generally environmentally benign and good for water quality. I hope the Lunnys can continue growing shellfish on the estero and that the public can continue to enjoy the estero as well, with its rich diversity of birds, fish and invertebrates that coexist alongside the oysters.

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