Emergency Suit Filed to Stop DBOC Closure

by admin on July 22, 2014

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Update 7/25/14:

Oyster Dependent Businesses Gain Commitment from National Park Service [Read press release]

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Local Businesses at Risk If Drakes Bay Oyster Company Is Shut Down on July 31

SAN FRANCISCO—(July 22, 2014 – Globe Newswire)—Late last Thursday night, West Marin businesses and others that directly depend on the continued operation of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company filed an emergency action to stop its closure by the federal government on July 31st.

The Tomales Bay Oyster Company, a plaintiff in the case, stated in papers filed in support for a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction that the company stands to lose between $250 and $400 thousand a year if the Drakes Bay Oyster Company is shut down.

Charles “Tod” Friend, owner of the Tomales Bay Oyster Company, stated, “I’ve been involved in the West Marin oyster farming for thirty-five years. This is a close-knit community. We depend on each other. If they close down Drakes Bay, it is not only the Lunnys and all of their hard-working employees who will suffer.” Mr. Friend explained that Tomales Bay Oyster Company grows oysters itself, but depends on Drakes Bay Oyster Company when customer demand at their retail operations on shores of Tomales Bay outstrips what they can grow.

These sentiments were echoed by longtime West Marin resident and manager at Drakes Bay Oyster Company, Loretta Murphy, also a plaintiff. “Drakes Bay Oyster Company and the oyster farm workers are an integral part of the community fabric. If the oyster farm is forced to close and the oyster workers lose their housing and move to other areas it will be a large negative impact on the local school, the local church, and countless businesses, shops and restaurants. The loss of these jobs will mean upheaval for over 40 family members and there will be much collateral damage from such a large change in such a small town.”

The list of restaurants joining Tomales Bay Oyster Company and Loretta Murphy as plaintiffs read like a who’s who of the West Marin farm-to-table culinary scene, including Margaret Grade of Sir and Star, Osteria Stellina, Saltwater Oyster Depot, and Café Reyes.

Also joining as plaintiffs are Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture (ALSA); Dr. Jeffrey Creque, founding member of ALSA; the Hayes Street Grill; and its co-owner and local food advocate, Patricia Unterman.

Luc Chamberland, owner of the Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness, emphasized the importance of Drakes Bay oysters in the ability of his restaurant and others to deliver what their clientele has come to expect. “I and the other West Marin restaurateurs have built our reputations on providing an exceedingly fresh farm-to-table experience in a location that is remarkably close to one of the most urbanized places in the country. Closing Drakes Bay Oyster Company threatens our ability to do that.”

Stuart G. Gross of Gross Law, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, explained that the suit is fundamentally about ensuring that government agencies follow the law. “The Secretary of the Interior explicitly declared himself exempt from all legal requirements in deciding whether to close Drakes Bay Oyster Company. This was wrong. There are laws that he was required to follow, and he didn’t. This suit seeks to compel his compliance.”

Drakes Bay Oyster Company provides between one third and half of all oysters grown in California and as much as 70% of the oysters grown in Marin County. The nearest other growers to the San Francisco Bay area are hundreds of miles away. The suit alleges that the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service ignored their responsibilities under the National Aquaculture Act and the Coastal Management Act and disregarded the public trust rights of the people of California and California’s enforceable policies against conversion of coastal areas from agricultural use. Also named as a defendant is the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Representing plaintiffs in addition to Stuart G. Gross of Gross Law is former California state assemblyman Bill Bagley of Nossaman, LLP.

The lawsuit is titled, Tomales Bay Oyster Company, et al. v. U.S. Dep’t of the Interior, et al., No. 14-3246, and was filed in the District Court of the Northern District of California.

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is administering the litigation fund for the case. Those interested in donating should contact FTCLDF by phone 703-208-3276 or by email info@farmtoconsumer.org.

Gross Law is located at Pier 9 on The Embarcadero in San Francisco, California. Gross Law represents clients in natural resource, environmental, commercial, and business practices litigation throughout the United States.

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund defends the rights and broadens the freedoms of family farms and artisan food producers while protecting consumer access to raw milk and nutrient-dense foods.

Media Contacts:
Stuart G. Gross, Esq., Gross Law, (415) 671-4628, ext. 101, sgross@gross-law.com
Kimberly Hartke, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, 703-860-2711, press@farmtoconsumer.org

 
Editor’s correction (7/25/14): U.S. Congressman Paul “Pete” McCloskey of Cotchett, Pitre, & McCarthy, LLP was listed in error as an attorney for the plaintiffs.

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