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Judge rejects firms’ bid to keep Drakes Bay Oyster Co. open

A federal judge Tuesday flatly rejected a bid to extend Drakes Bay Oyster Co.’s right to continue doing business in the Point Reyes National Seashore, asserting that the issues have already been resolved by appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Federal District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers made her ruling from the bench in her Oakland courtroom after hearing arguments from lawyers for the Interior Department and a coalition of Marin County interests including Tomales Bay Oyster Co.

Rejecting virtually all of the coalition’s arguments, Rogers told their attorney, Stuart Gross of San Francisco, that she had considered issuing sanctions for bringing a frivolous lawsuit based on the “complete lack of merit” in the case.

Responding to a question from Rogers, the Interior Department’s lawyers said they would file a motion to dismiss the matter.

The group of farmers, foodmakers and restaurant owners had asked for a court order allowing Kevin Lunny, operator of Drakes Bay Oyster Co., to continue harvesting oysters from Drakes Estero, a 2,500-acre federally protected estuary in the national seashore.

Lunny’s own legal case, filed nearly two years ago, was rejected by Rogers and twice by federal appeals court panels before the U.S. Supreme Court terminated the action by declining to consider the case in June.

The coalition stepped forward with its lawsuit two weeks later, asserting that shutting down Drakes Bay Oyster Co. would deal West Marin County an economic blow.

Lunny closed his oyster sales shack and canning operation at Drakes Estero on July 31, and his attorneys are negotiating a timetable with Interior Department attorneys for ending harvest operations and removing millions of mollusks from the estero.

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

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