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Marin County oyster farmer seeks OK to resume work

SAN FRANCISCO — Drakes Bay Oyster Co. operator Kevin Lunny and his opponents emerged optimistic Tuesday from a federal appeals court hearing with the fate of the Marin County oyster farm at sake.

“I believe this court is going to come to a decision that will allow us to continue,” Lunny said in a sidewalk press conference following a 50-minute hearing before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We feel comfortable that we're doing the right thing,” Lunny said, referring to his family-owned operation that harvests $1.5 million worth of oysters a year from Drakes Estero in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

The environmental damages alleged by the farm's critics “don't exist,” Lunny said.

Lunny acknowledged that his livelihood depends on the granting of a court order, known as an injunction, allowing him to do business pending a hearing on his lawsuit challenging former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's shutdown order issued in November.

Legislation by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein granted Salazar sole discretion to extend the permit — issued in 1972 — for 10 years.

The seven-year-old controversy over the oyster farm in the 2,500-acre estero has divided neighbors in West Marin County and gained national attention, with advocates for greater commercial use of public lands jumping in on Lunny's side.

A decision in Lunny's favor could bolster their cause, a legal expert said previously.

The three appellate judges did not indicate when they would issue a ruling, but Lunny and others said it should come within two months.

If the appeals court grants Lunny an injunction, his case — alleging Salazar's decision was “arbitrary and capricious” — would be returned to the federal district court in Oakland.

If he cannot continue selling oysters, Lunny said the case is most likely moot.

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