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Jared Huffman won't back Sonoma's call to investigate oyster farm closure

  • Jessica McGroarty, of Sonoma rides past a "Save our Drakes Bay Oyster Farm," sign on Highway 12 at West Spain St. in Sonoma, Tuesday, June 4, 2013. (Crista Jeremiason/PD)

Rep. Jared Huffman said Wednesday he is rejecting the city of Sonoma's request that he support a congressional investigation into the federal government's decision to close an oyster farm in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

Huffman, D-San Rafael, whose district includes the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. near Inverness but not the town of Sonoma, challenged three of the assumptions contained in a resolution adopted Monday night that supports the oyster farm.

The resolution “seemed to presume” there was a “clear-cut case of scientific misconduct,” Huffman said, involved in former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's decision in November not to renew the permit for the farm that harvests $1.5 million worth of oysters a year from Drakes Estero.

Farm operator Kevin Lunny is challenging Salazar's decision in the federal courts.

The resolution also said there was “bipartisan support” for an inquiry launched in April by Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington, the Republican chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Huffman, a Resources Committee member, described the inquiry as “a Republican-inspired effort.” In April, he called it “a political witch hunt to embarrass the administration.”

Finally, Huffman said, the allegations of faulty science — included in the Sonoma resolution and repeatedly raised in Lunny's legal arguments — incorrectly assert that the science informed Salazar's decision.

Salazar “clearly stated” that his decision was “based on law and policy,” not the disputed scientific assessments of the oyster farm's impact on the estero, a 2,500-acre federally protected waterway, Huffman said.

Huffman said he will continue to follow the controversy that has gained national attention, pitting wilderness advocates who want the oyster farm removed versus supporters who consider it an example of sustainable agriculture and part of the local food movement.

But the case for a congressional investigation “hasn't been made very convincingly,” he said.

Sonoma's resolution also asked state Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, to back the oyster farm's claim that it still holds fishing rights granted by the state.

Levine said he would not get involved in a case that is in the courts.

(You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.)

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