Hog Island Coastal Development Project Approved

Hog Island.JPG

Hog Island Oyster Company (Hog Island) submitted a coastal development permit amendment application to the California Coastal Commission (Commission) for four coastal development permits. The application was approved unanimously by the Commission on February 8, 2019. The application included requests to expand shellfish aquaculture operations to 54 acres of state tidelands including the use of new equipment and additional species, approval for after-the-fact permits for cultivation development, and requests for the approval of installation and use of cultivation equipment within Hog Island’s current 25 acres of operations.

Hog Island currently leases 163 acres from the California Fish and Game Commission. Of that 163 acres, 25 acres are under development for shellfish growing and 17 of those acres consisted of activities that were not permitted, including bottom bags, floating culture, stanway units, overlapped racks, and clam rolls.

EAC supported the Coastal Commission Staff’s efforts to bring Hog Island’s operation into Coastal Act compliance and supports the Special Conditions that protect and define eelgrass and benthic habitat, mitigate harmful environmental impacts from the use of clam rolls during harvest and management, and implement a series of Best Management Practices (BMPs) to prevent debris in the Bay.

Although EAC was supportive of many of the Special Conditions, we were extremely concerned with the allowance of after-the-fact permitting for development located within mapped eelgrass (Zostera marina) habitat. Eelgrass is considered a species of special biological significance as outlined in Section 30230 of the Coastal Act which should also be considered environmentally sensitive habitat areas. Any after-the-fact permitting should be reviewed as new development, meaning that new development should not be allowed in sensitive habitat. This does not include areas where development was installed with appropriate permits and eelgrass migrated into the development.

Problematic areas considered for after-the-fact permitting in mapped eelgrass:
Estimates of development for each CDP and Lease from Staff Report Appendix B, Hog Island project description. Actual estimates of development may vary.

  • 0.2 acres or estimating 622 bottom bags
    CDP No. 2-81-40-A1 / Lease No. M-430-10

  • 0.08 acres or estimating 249 bottom bags
    CDP No. 2-84-2-A1 / Lease No. M-430-11

  • 0.34 acres or estimating 404 overlapped racks
    CDP No. 2-84-10-A1 / Lease No. M-430-12

  • 0.56 acres or estimating 6 lines from floating culture
    CDP No. 2-84-10-A1 / Lease No. M-430-12

In the areas of disagreement, EAC worked directly with Hog Island and the Commission Staff to address our concerns and continued constructive dialogue, eventually finding a path to come together alongside Commission staff.

These discussions resulted in the agreement to create 1.2 acres of potential habitat by the removal of aquaculture development that overlaps with mapped eelgrass in three lease areas. Due to the crucial role of eelgrass in aquatic ecosystems, and its susceptibility to harm from human impacts, eelgrass beds are protected under state and federal law. This agreement is formalized through the Commission’s approval of its staff addendum and Hog Island’s permit amendments.

This agreement is formalized through the Commission’s approval of its staff addendum and Hog Island’s permit amendments.

EAC is thankful for the Coastal Commission staff’s efforts to bring Hog Island’s permits up to date, uphold the Commission’s standard of review for development, and to protect sensitive eelgrass habitat in Tomales Bay. The continued dialogue between Hog Island and EAC around this complex issue has resulted in the creation of potential habitat. Many species of fish and birds, including Pacific herring, coho salmon, Dungeness crab, and Black Brant depend on Tomales Bays’ extensive eelgrass beds.
— Morgan Patton, EAC Executive Director
We are glad to have completed the very complicated process of updating our decades old Coastal Development permits, and thank the Coastal Commission staff for working through the issues with us. The ongoing dialogue with EAC was an important step to this process. We now have updated permits that allow us to continue to sustainably raise shellfish, expand our farm, and continue to safeguard the natural resources of our beloved Tomales Bay.
— John Finger, CEO Hog Island Oyster Company

Updated: February 12, 2019