Oyster farmer wants spot near national park; government objects

Monday, June 3, 2002

SEWARD, Alaska -- A businessman wants to launch a commercial oyster farm in Alaska's scenic Kenai fjords, but he is running into plenty of opposition.

Robert Hardy applied for a lease to run the oyster operation on the waters of Kenai Fjords National Park, leading to angry responses from the federal government and environmental organizations.

They are shocked that commercial development might occur in a place that's supposed to be unfettered by man-made structures. National Park Service officials are appealing to the state to stop the development.

"There's the definite feeling this will negatively affect resident and commercial sightseeing in the park," said Anne Castellina, the park's superintendent.

State officials and members of Alaska's burgeoning shellfish farming industry say there might be room for oyster growing. It is a quiet, clean, low-profile business, they say.

The National Park Service limits development on the land, but the agency's authority stops at the water's edge. There, Alaska's Department of Natural Resources takes over.

Hardy's permit application also depends on the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates structures built in navigable waters. There is no firm timeline for when the Corps will make its decision.

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