Salty Situation

Right-wing ideologues fighting to overturn Drakes Bay permit expiration

Wendy Krupnik’s letter (“On Wilderness,” May 22) is misleading and simply wrong. Kevin Lunny knew that Congress destined the bottom lands of Drakes Estero to be wilderness long before he purchased Johnson’s Oyster Company and renamed it Drakes Bay Oyster Company eight years ago. He then proceeded to move processing facilities that were in Santa Rosa out into the park and ramped up production.

We hear much about the money Mr. Lunny spent “cleaning up” the estuary. We never hear about the money he makes, and will continue to make, “cleaning up on” it if he prevails in court. Nor do we hear about the implications his lawsuit has for public lands in general. The head of Lunny’s legal team, Daniel Epstein, formerly worked for the Koch brothers and Darrell Issa. Doc Hastings, a right-wing warhorse, has asked to see all the papers regarding Drakes Bay Oyster Co. Pacific Legal Foundation has signed on, and David Vitter added a pro–Drakes Bay Oyster Co. rider to his XL Pipeline bill. While this may warm the hearts of the Koch brothers, it’s small beer for us little people.

The California Coastal Commission does not concur with Ms. Kopnik’s rosy assessment of the benefits of the oyster business. It issued a unanimous cease-and-desist order against Drakes Bay Oyster Co. for Mr. Lunny’s high-handed treatment of the estuary: spreading Didemnum vexillum (aka “marine vomit”), unauthorized planting of invasive Manila clams and not controlling the debris that sheds from his five miles of oyster racks, among many other violations. Is it Ms. Krupnik’s point that since the estuary is sullied by commercial aquaculture it should remain that way?

Some of us would be grateful for a sweetheart deal wherein we were allowed to operate a multimillion-dollar business for eight years in a national park for less than the cost of an overnight campsite. Some of us would acknowledge the terms of our permit and exit gracefully. But then some of us don’t have access to the deep pockets and political clout of right-wing ideologues and their legal teams with a lot more than (shell) fish to fry.

Bruce Kranzler is a cabinetmaker living in Tomales.Open Mic is a weekly op/ed feature. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write [email protected].

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