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Point Reyes oyster farm owners file lawsuit to block closure

The owners of a controversial oyster farm on the Point Reyes National Seashore vowed Tuesday to fight federal efforts to shut down the business.

Drakes Bay Oyster Co. filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn last week's decision by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who refused to grant a 10-year permit extension to the oyster farm and required it to close in 90 days.

"We're not going to walk away," owner Kevin Lunny told reporters Tuesday in a conference call. "We're fighting for our community, our employees and families against a federal bureaucracy that seems to value lies over truth and special interest over the welfare of the whole community."

Drakes Bay Oyster Company

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In a 34-page lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Lunny alleged that Salazar failed to follow environmental law and relied on bad science in making his decision.

Also, Lunny contends the three-month deadline violates a state water bottom lease and will force him to destroy up to 10 million immature oysters planted in Drake's Estero.

Lunny will seek a preliminary injunction later this week to halt the closure, said Amber Abbasi, chief counsel for Cause of Action, a Washington, D.C., watchdog group working on the case.

Salazar was named as a defendant along with Jonathan Jarvis, head of the National Park Service, and other government officials. Salazar's spokesman responded Tuesday with a brief statement:

"The secretary made his decision after careful consideration of the applicable law and policy," spokesman Blake Androff said in an e-mail. "The department will carefully review the complaint and any related materials that may be filed."

Local environmentalists urging Salazar to evict the farm and designate the spot a public wilderness area said the lawsuit was off-target.

Neal Desai, director of the National Parks Conservation Association, said Salazar didn't consider the environmental analysis to reach his decision. The expired contract and concerns about land use policy were the main factors he cited, Desai said.


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