Drakes Estero (Figure 1.1) is part of the Point Reyes National Seashore (henceforth referred to as “the Seashore”) which was established by Congress in 1962 (Point Reyes National Seashore Enabling Act, 16 U.S.C. § 459c–459c-7). In 1972, the mariculture property was sold to the National Park Service (NPS), in exchange for a 40-year Reservation of Use and Occupancy (RUO) and Special Use Permit (SUP) allowing continuation of commercial shellfish operations until expiration. In the Point Reyes Wilderness Act of 1976, Congress designated 25,370 acres of the Seashore as wilderness and 8,00310 acres as potential wilderness (NRC, 2009). The latter includes approximately 1,363 acres of tidal wetlands and subtidal waters within Drakes Estero utilized by DBOC operations (Point Reyes Wilderness Act, Public Law 95-544).11 The current RUO and SUP will expire by law on November 30, 2012,12 thereby terminating DBOC operations in Drakes Estero. The removal of this sole nonconforming activity would result in conversion of Drakes Estero from congressionally designated potential wilderness to congressionally designated wilderness, becoming one of eleven marine wilderness areas in the U.S. and the first on the west coast (NPS, 2007).
10 DEIS, p. 15.
11 DEIS, p. 11.
12 In 2004, the U.S. Department of the Interior Solicitor determined that, based on the intent of Public Law No. 94-544, Public Law No. 94-567, and NPS wilderness management policies, NPS had no authority to extend the RUO and SUP beyond November 30, 2012. DEIS, p. 2.