Interior Secretary to decide CA oyster farm's fate

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, right, looks over bags of oyster shells during a tour of Drakes Bay Oyster Company with owner Kevin Lunny, left, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012 in Point Reyes National Seashore, Calif. Salazar is on a fact-finding mission in Marin County to decide the fate of the family-run oyster farm. The Interior Secretary is expected to decide next week whether to allow the 70-year-old oyster farm to continue operating in the national seashore. In addition to visiting the farm Salazar met with environmentalists and National Park Service officials.(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

November 21, 2012 8:31:40 PM PST
After years of debate, the fate of a popular North Bay oyster farm may soon be decided. Wednesday, Secretary Of The Interior Ken Salazar heard from both sides of this contentious debate at the Point Reyes National Seashore.

They have been commercially harvesting oysters at the site of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company since 1934. But that may soon end; its lease to operate will expire at the end of the month.

Salazar will make the final decision. He toured the farm with owner Kevin Lunny, talking to workers and seeing first-hand how the farm works.

Lunny bought the aging farm in 2005, hoping he would be able to renew the lease if he fixed up the operation. The farm estimates it produces 40 percent of the state's oyster harvest.

"I would not be here today if this was not a profoundly important decision," Salazar said.

Wednesday was Lunny's first and only chance to sit down with the secretary and explain why he should be allowed to stay.

"I felt that he was trying to get fully educated to make, you know, an informed decision," Lunny said.

But some environmentalists argue that the area was designated as potential wilderness when the park was created in the mid-1960s. They say it is time for the farm to go and shared their concerns with the secretary.

"We're really pleased that he came out to listen to us to hear the tremendous support from our organization and the many local and national conservation organizations," National Parks Conservation Association spokesperson Neal Desai said.

The secretary will base his decision in part on a controversial environmental review released Tuesday night by the National Park Service. It has been the source of scientific debate between the park service and advocates for the farm.

"Understanding what's happening, meeting with Kevin and his family on the oyster farm and meeting with his workers that was very important for me to understand that, because there are consequences to the decision that I will make," Salazar said.

The secretary says he will announce his decision by the end of next week.

Written and produced by Ken Miguel