Drakes Bay Oyster Co. goes to court to fight closure

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.

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