Supporters of Drakes Bay Oyster Co. have filed suit in Marin Superior Court against the California Coastal Commission challenging the agency's orders against the operation.
In February the commission unanimously approved cease-and-desist and restoration orders against the oyster company, operated by Kevin Lunny, citing several violations of the state's Coastal Act.
In particular, the commission noted discharging of marine debris; operation of offshore aquaculture facilities; the processing and sale of its product; construction, installation and alteration of structures; and land alterations.
Now the Marshall-based Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture and Phyllis Faber, a longtime Marin County environmental activist and former member of the California Coastal Commission, are seeking to overturn the decision.
The lawsuit - filed Friday - alleges the commission's decision violated the California Environmental Quality Act and the state Coastal Act. The petition alleges the commission's staff excluded evidence that the orders would cause significant negative environmental impacts. The exclusion constitutes a violation of CEQA, according to the suit.
"They dropped out material Lunny's lawyers brought to them, that's pretty unacceptable," said Faber, who helped establish the coastal commission and served on its board. "The restoration plan they now have will destroy the estero."
By removing the oysters and
clams from the estero under the state's plan, the ecosystem would be damaged in the process, Faber said.
"It breaks my heart to do this, I am a big supporter of the commission, but they need a hand-slapping," she said.
Coastal Commission officials could not be reached for comment.
The Environmental Action Committee of West Marin criticized the suit.
"This corporation has made millions of dollars cultivating shellfish in our public waters without any coastal permits, yet thinks the coastal protection rules of California somehow do not apply to it," said Amy Trainer, executive director of the group in a written statement. "After being caught violating harbor seal protections, littering beaches and marine waters with thousands of pieces of its plastic debris, spreading invasive species, and developing without any permits, it chose to sue the commission rather than comply with coastal protection laws. It's just plain shameful."
Meanwhile, Drakes Bay is also appealing a decision issued by the U.S. District Court that rejected a preliminary injunction to stop closure of the operation, which came about after Lunny's lease expired and was not renewed by the federal government.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will take up that case May 14.
Contact Mark Prado via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
©2013 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)
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