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Marin County oyster farmer seeks OK to resume work

SAN FRANCISCO — Drakes Bay Oyster Co. operator Kevin Lunny and his opponents emerged optimistic Tuesday from a federal appeals court hearing with the fate of the Marin County oyster farm at sake.

"I believe this court is going to come to a decision that will allow us to continue," Lunny said in a sidewalk press conference following a 50-minute hearing before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"We feel comfortable that we're doing the right thing," Lunny said, referring to his family-owned operation that harvests $1.5 million worth of oysters a year from Drakes Estero in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

Drakes Bay Oyster Company

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The environmental damages alleged by the farm's critics "don't exist," Lunny said.

Lunny acknowledged that his livelihood depends on the granting of a court order, known as an injunction, allowing him to do business pending a hearing on his lawsuit challenging former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's shutdown order issued in November.

Legislation by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein granted Salazar sole discretion to extend the permit — issued in 1972 — for 10 years.

The seven-year-old controversy over the oyster farm in the 2,500-acre estero has divided neighbors in West Marin County and gained national attention, with advocates for greater commercial use of public lands jumping in on Lunny's side.

A decision in Lunny's favor could bolster their cause, a legal expert said previously.

The three appellate judges did not indicate when they would issue a ruling, but Lunny and others said it should come within two months.

If the appeals court grants Lunny an injunction, his case — alleging Salazar's decision was "arbitrary and capricious" — would be returned to the federal district court in Oakland.


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