WASHINGTON - The Department of the Interior today publicly released the results from an independent peer review panel that evaluated the scientific and technical information and scholarly analysis in the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on a commercial shellfish operation in Point Reyes National Seashore, California. The panel's detailed findings and recommendations will help inform the National Park Service's final EIS on the Drakes Bay Oyster Company Special Use Permit.
Atkins North America, an independent consulting firm specializing in peer reviews, facilitated the panel of five independent subject-matter experts from across the nation to obtain suggestions on how the draft EIS can be improved from a scientific perspective.
Atkins found generally the analyses in the draft EIS to be “appropriate, and that there is no fundamental flaw with the larger scientific underpinning of the DEIS.” The panel also makes specific recommendations for how the final EIS can be strengthened, including: a more explicit discussion of the uncertainty associated with the estimates of eelgrass cover and damage due to boat propellers; a more robust analysis of potential effects on juvenile coho salmon of chemicals leached from pressure-treated wood used by the company; conducting a “sound source verification” study to document all the company's noise sources; and, most significantly, using the best available science and additional quantitative measurements and data to conduct the socioeconomic analysis.
The peer-review report and its recommendations are available here.
“The peer-review accomplished exactly what we were seeking – that is, specific recommendations on how to improve the final environmental impact statement to make it a better science product,” stated Dr. Ralph Morgenweck, Interior's Scientific Integrity Officer.
Morgenweck commissioned the independent peer review of the draft EIS in recognition of high interest in the science related to Point Reyes.
“We welcome these constructive recommendations that will help strengthen the Final EIS,” said Peggy O'Dell, Deputy Director for Operations of the National Park Service. “We will look to address the Atkins Report comments, as well as information contained in the public comments on the draft EIS as we work toward a more comprehensive and thorough final report."
The National Park Service released the draft EIS in September 2011 which evaluates four alternatives on the potential issuance of a permit, from “no-action” under which the existing agreement to operate will expire and the area would be converted to wilderness, to the issuance of a new 10-year permit at differing levels of operation.
The National Park Service's final EIS will be informed by the peer review report released today, the public comments received on the draft EIS, and any other relevant scientific and technical information. This may include the Marine Mammal Commission Report and any National Academy of Science review.