POINT REYES STATION (KCBS)— The National Park Service announced a joint filing of a settlement agreement Monday that would end ongoing litigation between Drakes Bay Oyster Company pending a U.S. District Court’s approval.
The settlement and proposed consent decree would end the legal battle that began in 2012. It would allow the company’s harvest of shellfish in Drakes Estero to continue until December 31st, 2014, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
At the end of the year the agreement would cease the company from operating, while the consent decree would allow the National Park Service to remove certain onshore and offshore equipment related to shellfish cultivation.
The drawn-out legal battle started in 2012 when then Interior Secretary Ken Salazar opted to allow the lease Drakes Bay had with the government to expire, as it was set to do so the land could return to wilderness.
As part of the Point Reyes National Seashore, Drakes Estero was included as land designated by Congress to be protected along a vast stretch of California’s coastline.
The National Park Service has stated the consent decree would facilitate management of the land as part of the Phillip Burton Wilderness, “the only marine wilderness on the West Coast outside of Alaska”.
As part of the agreement, the National Park Service would extend federal relocation benefits to qualified Drakes Bay Oyster Company employees living on site. In addition, the company and its owners, Kevin and Nancy Lunny, would waive all claims and relinquish their right to conduct future commercial shellfish operations in Point Reyes National Seashore.
KCBS has reached out to the owners of Drakes Bay Oyster Company on this latest development and is waiting for their comments.