NorCal oyster farm dispute spreads to Capitol Hill

By JASON DEAREN | December 10, 2011 | 11:05 AM EST

POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE, Calif. (AP) — For more than 70 years oystermen have culled delicious bivalves from the salty waters of Drakes Estero amid green rolling hills in Point Reyes National Seashore.

The oyster farm was allowed to remain after the area became a national park in 1962. But Drakes Bay Oyster Co.'s permit is set to expire.

The forthcoming renewal decision has become a controversy that has pitted liberal versus liberal in the wealthy coastal enclaves around the park, and the rancor has spread to Washington.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. and the National Academy of Sciences have charged the National Park Service with using bad science to oust the oyster company.

But environmentalists and park rangers say the operation is harming harbor seals and native grasses, and want the estuary designated a marine wilderness area.