Feinstein in the News

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is criticizing the scientific analysis in a preliminary environmental impact statement report that evaluates the impact of commercial shellfish operations in Drakes Estero in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

The Drakes Bay Oyster Co.'s lease allowing it to grow and harvest oysters in Drakes Estero ends on Nov. 30, 2012, and the Point Reyes National Seashore has indicated it wants to return it to a wilderness area thereafter. The National Park Service issued its environmental report Friday, but it doesn't identify a preferred alternative for oyster operations.

Feinstein, D-Calif., who has long been critical of the National Park Service's position on oyster farming in Drakes Estero, said in a statement Monday that she was "troubled" by the draft report.

She criticized officials for not waiting until findings were released by the federal Marine Mammal Commission, which is looking into the potential impact on harbor seals.

She also said the report largely ignores the conclusion reached in 2009 by the National Academy of Sciences that "there is a lack of strong scientific evidence that shellfish farming has major adverse ecological effects on Drakes Estero."

The park service also excluded photos from consideration in the environmental report even though they provide a record of the effects of oyster boats on harbor seals, Feinstein said.

"Missteps by the National Park Service have fundamentally undermined its ability to accurately review this application," she said. "It is my hope that the final environmental report, and Secretary (Ken) Salazar's decision, will rely on objective findings from the National Academies of Science and the Marine Mammal Commission. I believe that (this) course is the only way for the Park Service to salvage any credibility."

Park service officials declined to comment on Feinstein's assertions, but Melanie Gunn, outreach coordinator for the oyster report said, "we welcome everyone's comments; it's a very complex document and a lot to digest. Comments bring focus to this issue."

Kevin Lunny, who operates Drakes Bay Oyster Co., wrote a letter to Salazar earlier this month that was echoed in Feinstein's letter.

"I believe that the (Marine Mammal) Commission must have an opportunity to report their findings before the draft environmental impact statement is released," he wrote. "The Park Service has refused to delay its release in order to incorporate this review. This action shows a continued lack of accountability at the Point Reyes National Seashore."