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Sonoma takes unexpected stand on Drakes Bay Oyster Co.

  • Michael Scorsone, left, and Hunt Bailie shucks oysters from Drakes Bay Oyster Company at Murphy's Irish Pub in Sonoma, Tuesday, June 4, 2013.

Situated about 50 miles from Drakes Estero in Marin County, the landlocked city of Sonoma would seem an unlikely place to take a stand in an oyster company's fight for survival.

But colorful signs supporting the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. have popped up all over town, and the Sonoma City Council on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution calling on state and federal legislators to intervene on the company's behalf.

The city's resolution cites the "heroic efforts" by Kevin and Nancy Lunny to keep their oyster company going in Drakes Estero, a 2,500-acre federally protected estuary in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

Murphy's Irish Pub Oyster Night

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Sonoma leaders consider the company a sterling example of sustainable agriculture and the kind of environmental leadership the city of 10,000 residents promotes.

Councilwoman Laurie Gallian said the case highlights "what is being done to (a) small farmer without due process." If the city failed to act, "we would be very lax in our ability to set policy and lead communities," she said.

On Tuesday, Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, said the state Legislature cannot get involved in pending litigation, referring to the oyster farm's legal battle with the Department of the Interior following former Secretary Ken Salazar's order last fall to close the farm that harvests $1.5 million worth of oysters a year.

"We need to await the outcome of that (legal) process," said Levine, who was elected in November to a Sonoma-Marin district that includes Drakes Estero.

Asked if he thought California had the right to lease the estero bottom for oyster production, a fact assumed by the resolution, Levine said that even if that were the case the oyster company "still may need to deal with getting access to the shoreline."

"That's a question that I would have," he said.

Rep. Jared Huffman, also a San Rafael Democrat whose North Coast district includes Drakes Estero, declined comment Tuesday, citing the press of congressional business.


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