POINT REYES (CBS SF) — As oyster season opens, a major player in Marin County will be missing from the action this year.
In the fall of 2014, the National Park Service won a long-fought battle to evict the popular Drakes Bay Oyster Company in Point Reyes.
Now a massive, multi-million dollar cleanup is underway.
National Park Service crews are removing the old wooden oyster racks from Drakes Estero.
What was once the backbone of Johnson’s Oyster Farm is now a growing pile of wood, nails and dead oysters.
“There’s about five miles of racks, oyster racks, that still need to be removed,” said John Dell’Osso, the Pt. Reyes Chief of Interpretation and Resource Education. “And there’s significant amount of debris that is under those racks as well.”
Each day, a small barge removes chunks of pilings. The four million dollar project has attracted attention not only from those who fought and failed to keep Johnson’s Oyster Farm, but from local fauna too.
One river otter has been swimming around the crews for days. The animal appeared to be quite comfortable around all the activity, and he was not alone.
“You’ll find things like river otters. You’ll find a number of species of water birds and sea birds that come in here,” said Dell’Osso.
The National Park Service says eventually eelgrass will cover the areas once shaded by the oyster racks.
“We’re doing this for the eelgrass, but the eelgrass is good for animals, good for the fish we eat, good for the fish we don’t eat,” said Pt. Reyes Marine Biologist Dr. Ben Becker.
While oysters will no longer be harvested here, there are other local options.
“Yes indeed, this operation has ended, but there are still two in adjacent waters in Tomales Bay,” said Dell’Osso.
While there are certainly folks who are not happy with what happened to the oyster farm, there is no turning back the clock now. Men and machinery will continue working through the year to remove the racks. The Park Service says the public may have access by next spring.