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Oyster farm fight has many interested parties

Drakes Bay Oyster Co.'s 40-year lease with the National Park Service ended in 2012, but the company is suing to stay on.

February 23, 2013|By Julie Cart, Los Angeles Times

At Feinstein's urging, the Park Service commissioned outside reviews of its ongoing study of Drakes Estero. The effort to resolve the scientific debate has morphed into a multimillion-dollar morass of scientific studies and investigations by Interior's inspector general, the National Academy of Sciences and the Marine Mammal Commission, paid for by taxpayers.

The results: In some instances the Park Service conclusions overreached, in some instances they were correct, and most of the time it was impossible to determine the accuracy of any claim without more study.

Apart from his trouble with the park, Lunny has a history of not complying with California Coastal Commission orders. For six years, Lunny's farm has failed to acquire the appropriate state permits to operate in a coastal zone.

The Coastal Commission earlier this month issued its second cease-and-desist order to the farm. "I find that this is one of the most egregious, egregious violations that I have seen," Commissioner Esther Sanchez said in a hearing.

Now that Drakes Bay Oyster Co.'s closure looms, the farm's plight has become a cause for groups with disparate agendas. Some represent the interests of the shellfish industry, which seeks to operate in protected waters up and down the coast. Some favor more commercial activities in national parks, and others espouse virulently anti-government views.

Lunny's supporters are threatening to stage protests and even blockade the road if authorities are required to escort Lunny and his staff from the seashore.

Lunny, a genial and quiet man, said he doesn't want to be associated with "right-wing land rights and anti-government groups."

"This has spun out of control like none of us would ever have imagined," Lunny said. "Some of these groups came out of the woodwork" after Salazar decided against extending the lease. "All of a sudden we have some new friends."

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