Point Reyes National Seashore Staff Accused Of More Wrongdoing In Measuring Impacts Of Oyster Farm

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, in a blistering letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, says the Point Reyes National Seashore staff has again "falsified" science to reach a desired conclusion on the fate of an oyster company operating there.

Specifically, the California Democrat, who long has supported the Drakes Bay Oyster Co.'s efforts to get an extension to its lease that runs out in November, says the Park Service relied on data collected by New Jersey State Police 17 years ago in describing noise from the oyster company's boats.

As proof the senator points to a June 2011 version of the seashore's draft Environmental Impact Statement on the oyster company's operations. In that document there's a table pertaining to "noise generation" from oyster company boats operating in Drakes Estero at Point Reyes. The table clearly states that the source for "sound estimations" came from New Jersey State Police tests on marine craft from 1995.

"I am frankly stunned that after all the controversy over past abuse of science on this issue, Park Service employees would feel emboldened to once again fabricate the science in building a case against the oyster company," wrote the senator in a letter (attached below) sent Thursday. "I can only attribute this conduct to an unwavering bias against the oyster company and historic ranches."

Park Service staff in Washington, D.C., would not comment on the senator's letter, saying they had not yet seen it, and that once it does arrive they would reply to her staff directly, not to the media. When asked specifically about the noise generation table in the DEIS that notes that data from New Jersey, not actual sound measured from oyster company boats in the estero, was used in the DEIS, Park Service spokesman David Barna said, "These allegations will be reviewed under the standard procedures contained in DOI's scientific integrity policy."

The fracas around the oyster company has been going on for years. The lease it holds to operate in the estero ends in November. If the lease is not renewed, the Park Service will work towards seeing the estero designated as official wilderness, a move previously directed by Congress.

Sen. Feinstein and other proponents of the oyster company, though, have been lobbying the Park Service to extend the company's lease. As part of that campaign, they have pointed out flaws in seashore studies into the impacts of the oyster farm.

The Park Service's handling of the matter has been both contentious and embarrassing for the agency. While an earlier Park Service report on the oyster operation concluded that it was impacting harbor seals, that report at times has withered under scrutiny. In 2009 the National Research Council said the NPS report was skewed, "selectively" manipulated in several areas, and inconclusive overall.

Appreciative of the outside scrutiny, the Park Service had an outside consultant review the seashore's DEIS on the oyster farm. Earlier this month that peer-review report was released. In it the consultants said the DEIS was not perfect, but that it was an "adequate analysis" in light of the "available scientific information."

"Overall, the reviewers found the analyses to be appropriate, and that there is no fundamental flaw with the larger scientific underpinning of the DEIS," noted the evaluation prepared by Atkins North America. "The identified scientific misinterpretations, or lack of citation of appropriate literature are for the most part minor, and can be rectified if the NPS so wishes. This may also include making some additional adjustments to interpretation, and explicit acknowledgement of the lack of information on some key issues."

In her letter to Secretary Salazar, Sen. Feinstein said the staff at Point Reyes National Seashore has time and again misrepresented and even "falsified" data in its analyses.

"My attention was drawn to the Seashore when I fought to extend local ranching leases from 5 to 10 years so there would be sufficient investment and time for the farmers and ranchers to not only operate viable businesses, but to perform environmental improvements," she wrote.

"Despite efforts to comply, the ranches and oyster farm have been subject to repeated mistreatment that is unbecoming of your Department," the senator continued. "The Park Service has falsified and misrepresented data, hidden science and even promoted employees who knew about the falsehoods all in an effort to advance a predetermined outcome against the oyster farm.

"Using 17-year-old data from New Jersey jet skis as documentation of noise from oyster boat engines in the estuary is incomprehensible. It is my belief that the case against Drakes Bay Oyster Co. is deceptive and potentially fraudulent."

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Comments

once again, our Senior Senator endorses anti-science agenda in order to keep this controversial and inappropriate commercial use in the heart of this national park wilderness. Feinstein relies on the industry scientist/advocate Corey Goodman, whose efforts have been discredited by the Coastal Commission and the Marine Mammal Commission.
Feinstein's fake argument of ranches within the "pastoral zone" being removed if wilderness is protected outside the "pastoral zone" is not supported by the law and easily shot down if one just looks at the strong support of agriculture by the NPS in the Seashore.

Kurt, you really missed an opportunity to highlight how off-base Feinstein is in this latest letter.

Time to focus on the legislation that created the Pt. Reyes Wilderness. The NPS may have used some oddities in their reports (the 1995 New Jersey jet ski noise stats) and the local Feinstein science guy, Cory Goodman, may have other motives as a ranch owner in the region. I want to know if Public Law 94-544 be fully enacted for the benefit of the people of the United States? Or, will special interest worm they way around law and the will of the public?

Technically, the oyster farm is in the Pastoral Zone. It isn't in the wilderness plan. The only part that's leased by DBOC from NPS is a few acres of dry land in the Pastoral Zone.

As for Goodman's ranch, I don't see how it really matters other than he's a proponent of sustainable agriculture. The ranch is located on private land (specifically a Marin Argicultural Land Trust easement), although there is grazing going on in that part of Marin on Golden Gate NRA land. I remember taking a short walk on Bolinas Ridge, and seeing the cows grazing, along with the double gates that had to be closed to keep the cows from escaping.

There are other proponents for extension. Sen Feinstein was mentioned, and it's not as if she's a lackey for anti-NPS interests. She's been dead set against a possible casino near the main visitor center of Joshua Tree NP. Former Congressman John Burton is a proponent. I'd love to be in the room to hear his uncensored comments about what he thinks of this. Of course don't let your kids into the room. Then there's Pete McCloskey, who co-founded Earth Day and was a co-author of the Endangered Species Act. I'm sure he's a lackey for anti-environmental interests.

Certain ranchers were told by Neubacher, the PRNS superintendent until recently, that the NPS WANTED to get RID of the ranches and getting rid of the oyster farm was the first step. That is really what this is about. The NPS again oversteps its bounds.
Read The Case of the Indian Trader: Billy Malone and the National Park Service Investigation at Hubbell Trading Post by Paul Berkowitz. Mr Berkowitz was a 30 year veteral of the NPS and witnessed first hand many abnormalities of how the NPS deals with its neighbors. There is an unholy brotherhood of NPS employees who will stop at nothing to promote what the NPS wants.
I have always been on the environmental side of things. In this case, groups like National Parks and Conservation are wasting prescious resources. I certainly won't be giving them any money Ever again.

Someone mentioned that wilderness designation is the will of the public. Not sure that is the case. I sure see no positive benefit from such a designation, and have worked there and been following this subject for years.

I think this is important, as the DEIS by NPS makes claims that somehow the noises impact the wilderness character of Drakes Estero.

First of all, I would again note that the shore area is not and will not be part of any wilderness plan. The fact is that they use small power tools and not jackhammers. I think you barely notice the sound of the powered hand tools they use to separate oysters. The sounds of Mexican music are probably louder, and frankly give the place some charm. Even at the oyster farm, the sound of a Harley from Sir Francis Drake Blvd is probably more jarring that the noises coming from the oyster farm.

But back to the EIS, apparently several of the kayaking companies authorized to launch in Drakes Estero have made note that they feel they have been improperly implied as being the source of complaints about DBOC noise. All the companies with permits to operate in Drakes Estero would like the oyster farm to remain - especially after the Lunnys took over. They also value the oyster farm because they have a phone available for emergencies in an area with sketchy cell phone reception and a ready spot to land a helicopter should there be need for an emergency airlift.

http://oysterzone.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/local-kayaking-companies-deis-comment-letter.doc

During our many kayak outings on the estero, the “soundscape” of the wilderness area has not been impacted by the noise of the farm. The use of power tools can be heard while one is on shore preparing to launch, but the noise quickly fades after leaving the shore in Schooner Bay paddling toward the potential wilderness area. While kayaking on Home Bay and Creamery Bay, any noise of farm operation is undetectable. Over many years of operating tours on the estero, we have never had guides or clients comment on the pneumatic drills negatively impacting their experience while kayaking or hiking within the estero.

Oyster boats are rarely seen in action and if we do encounter boats, they are always very respectful of our presence, making sure not to disturb us or wildlife in any way. “I have been guiding on the estero for four years and only once have I encountered a motor boat. And it was on purpose. Kevin Lunny was meeting our group at the oyster beds to discuss the history of aquaculture, and his oyster farming techniques.” Tressa Bronner, Point Reyes Outdoors

We feel that the above section of the DEIS does not accurately represent our experience of Drakes Estero or Drakes Bay Oyster Company and infers that we have stated these complaints to the park or others when we have not. Nor we have we been contacted directly by the park for feedback on our experiences concerning either Drakes Estero or Drakes Bay Oyster Company.

Attached you will find comments from the individual companies that collectively signed this statement.

Thank you.
Laurie Manarik, Mike Rudolph, Tressa Bronner - Point Reyes Outdoors – Point Reyes Station
Bob Licht, Steve Hayward - Sea Trek Kayaking Center – Sausalito
John Granatir, Pamalah McNeilly - Blue Waters Kayaking - Inverness

What has been "falsified" if the facts are plain as daylight in the report for everyone to read?! Please. Feinstein is a farce.