The Collaborative Management Alternative

In 2012, the Park Service created an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) about Drakes Bay Oyster Company. The EIS has become infamous for its misrepresentation of the facts and for its lawlessness. For example, the EIS lacked a valid “no action” baseline, something the NEPA process requires–in this case, every proposed alternative assumed the removal of the oyster farm.

Much has been written about the problems with the EIS and the problems with the process used to create it.

Less well known is that during this time, a group of West Marin community members, led by Dr. Jeff Creque, a founding member of the Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture (ALSA), decided to provide some much-needed leadership and create a serious, workable plan. That plan, the Collaborative Management Alternative, presented below, was submitted during the public comment process, and received wide support in the community. The community and the oyster farm stand ready to work with the Park Service based on this plan.


Collaborative Management Alternative

The Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture will submit the following proposed alternative to the National Park Service (NPS) with the recommendation that it be incorporated into and adopted as the “Preferred Alternative” in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on a Proposed Special Use Permit (SUP) for the Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC).

In 2009 Congress authorized the Secretary of the Interior to grant DBOC a SUP with the same terms and conditions as the Reservation of Use and Occupancy that expires in 2012, modified to take into consideration “recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences [NAS] Report pertaining to shellfish mariculture in Point Reyes National Seashore.”

The National Research Council (NRC) of the NAS found a lack of scientific evidence that shellfish cultivation has adverse effects on Drakes Estero. It proposed establishment of a “mariculture interpretive center” that would include exhibits on the ecology of the Estero, including its shellfish mariculture.  Members of the Marine Mammal Commission (MMC) Panel convened in February 2010 to study the impact of shellfish cultivation in Drakes Estero encouraged a “collaborative and adaptive approach” to resolving questions about potential impacts of shellfish cultivation.  The 2011 MMC  report recommended development of a collaborative adaptive management approach to management of shellfish mariculture in the Estero.

Members of the public who wish to show their support for this collaborative alternative are encouraged to submit comments to the NPS to urge adoption of the “Collaborative Management Alternative” as the “preferred alternative” in the final EIS.

COLLABORATIVE MANAGEMENT ALTERNATIVE: A Ten-Year Special Use Permit with Option for Extension; Rehabilitation of Existing Facilities; and Construction of New Processing Facilities

This alternative permits DBOC to continue to utilize onshore facilities within the Seashore (PRNS) pastoral zone to support shellfish cultivation in Drakes Estero pursuant to its leases from the California Department of Fish and Game [CDFG].  DBOC would pay “fair market value” for use of the on-shore facilities, which would take into account the value of interpretive services provided and the investment needed to rehabilitate existing facilities and construct new processing facilities.  The rehabilitation and construction work would be as described in the discussion of Alternative D.

Under this alternative, DBOC will collaborate with relevant organizations, including but not limited to the NPS, the CDFG, the UC SeaGrant program and other educational and research agencies and in developing interpretive programs and scientifically valid research projects as recommended by the NRC and MMC.  This alternative provides educational opportunities for people of all ages, including Seashore visitors, students and researchers, relating to estuarine ecology and mariculture.

This alternative is consistent with the “national interest” expressed in President Clinton’s May 26, 2000 Executive Order 13158 directing the Departments of Commerce (DOC) and Interior to expand and strengthen the “Nation’s system of marine protected areas.”  It respects the California Fish and Game Commission designation, effective May 2010, of Drakes Estero as a State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA), a protected area in which recreational clam digging and shellfish cultivation pursuant to CDFG leases are permitted.  DBOC’s operation within a SMCA and PRNS presents a unique opportunity for collaborative research that supports the policies of the National Shellfish Initiative [Initiative] announced by NOAA and DOC in June 2011, and responds directly and positively to NRC and MMC recommendations regarding collaborative efforts to inform adaptive management of Drakes Estero.

This alternative supports the goals of the Initiative, which are to increase domestic seafood production, create sustainable jobs and restore marine habitats.  It provides opportunities for research as called for by the Initiative, “….on the interactions between shellfish and the environment in terms of climate change, ocean acidification, naturally occurring pathogens and parasites, and other factors . . .” This alternative supports DBOC’s efforts to restore native oysters in Drakes Estero and to study the potential for native oysters to withstand the effects of global ocean acidification now beginning to affect all Pacific coast shellfish.

This alternative sustainably supports the local economy by continuing to attract thousands of ethnically diverse visitors to West Marin every year and continuing to provide over half of the San Francisco Bay Area’s sustainably farmed shellfish.  It protects desperately needed affordable housing for farmworkers on remote Point Reyes ranches.

Under this alternative, DBOC will continue to provide essential oyster shell for environmental programs, such as the San Francisco Bay Native Oyster Restoration Project, the SF Bay Bird Observatory Snowy Plover Habitat Enhancement Project and the California Department of Fish and Game Least Tern Habitat Enhancement Project.

This alternative supports a landscape that is ecologically and economically sustainable.  It is consistent with the natural resource management provisions in the PRNS General Management Plan, and enables the Seashore to collaboratively integrate ecosystem science and natural and cultural resource management to better understand and manage relationships among the physical, biological, and cultural elements of a working land and seascape, while maintaining its distinctive “sense of place and character.”