Lawyers for the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will square off today before a federal judge in Oakland in the first round of a legal battle over the commercial oyster operation in the Point Reyes National Seashore.
At stake is Salazar's decision in November not to renew a 40-year lease that gave oyster farm operator Kevin Lunny the right to commercial operations in 2,500-acre Drakes Estero, a five-fingered estuary that features extensive eelgrass beds and a harbor seal colony.
The decision, hailed by wilderness advocates, gave Lunny's company 90 days to shut a business that plants and harvests 8 million oysters -- worth about $1.5 million a year -- from the near-pristine estero. The deadline was subsequently extended to March 15.
Four days after Salazar's Nov. 29 decision, a Washington-based nonprofit filed a federal lawsuit alleging it violated federal rules and was based on faulty science.
"The government has doubled down on bad science, refusing to listen to anyone who tells them anything to the contrary," said Amber Abbasi, an attorney for the group Cause of Action, who will argue Lunny's case on Friday before U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.