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Drakes Bay Oyster Company's allies say deal will allow it to stay open at least a bit longer

  • Drakes Bay Oyster Company, Monday June 30, 2014 at Point Reyes National Seashore. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Allies of Drakes Bay Oyster Co. announced Friday they had secured an agreement with the National Park Service to give the embattled Marin County oyster farm 30 days’ notice before ordering it to shut down operations in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

The agreement “ensures the status quo,” enabling oysterman Kevin Lunny’s company to continue harvesting oysters until a competitor, Tomales Bay Oyster Co., can get its case before a federal judge, possibly in September, said Stuart Gross, a San Francisco attorney representing Tomales Bay.

Gross said he had reached the agreement with the park service and it did not need a judge’s approval. A proposed schedule for future hearing dates requires that action, however.

Lunny, who had battled the federal government for the right to stay in business for 19 months, announced two weeks ago that he would close his retail oyster shack and cannery at the edge of Drakes Estero by the end of July.

The following week, a group of farmers, foodmakers and restaurant owners, including Tomales Bay Oyster Co., filed their own federal court action to keep Lunny in business, harvesting $1.5 million worth of oysters a year from the federally protected estero.

Gross said the park service had agreed to give 30 days’ notice for any order to halt oyster harvesting or require Lunny to remove oysters from the water.

Tomales Bay owner Charles “Tod” Friend said last week that his business and others would suffer economic losses if Drakes Bay Oyster Co. closed.

Other parties in Tomales Bay’s legal action are Sir and Star, Osteria Stellina, Cafe Reyes and Hayes Street Grill in San Francisco.

Gross said he and the park service’s attorneys had agreed to seek a Sept. 9 hearing on their request to let Lunny stay in business until his allies’ case is resolved.

Lunny and representatives from the parks service could not be reached for comment Friday.

Ultimately, Gross said his clients intend to challenge former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s decision in November 2012 not to renew Lunny’s permit to grow oysters in a wilderness waterway. The oyster farm had a 40-year permit to operate on federal land. The Lunny family bought the business in 2005.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.


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