Drakes Bay Oyster Co. will be able to keep harvesting oysters for at least another 30 days in the wake of an agreement reached with the National Park Service Friday.
After 19 months of legal fights, the oyster operation is suspending its retail operations Thursday, but a group of restaurants and other businesses that rely on its oysters is carrying on the battle to save the company. That group forged the agreement, and the group's request for an injunction will likely be heard Sept. 9.
"This ensures that oyster harvesting will continue while the court hears the plaintiffs' request for interim relief," said Stuart Gross, the San Francisco attorney representing the restaurants and other businesses who are the plaintiffs.
The West Marin businesses that depend on the continued operation of the company have filed a lawsuit that essentially contends that the U.S. Department of the Interior didn't follow the law when it made its decision to close down the oyster farm.
If the group of businesses should prevail in its lawsuit, such success wouldn't mean much if the entire business had been scrubbed, its equipment dismantled and the oysters removed, Gross said. Hence, the court is allowing operations to continue for at least 30 days while the plaintiffs pursue their case.
The oyster company still plans to suspend its retail operations Thursday, Gross said, but the harvesting operations can go on for 30 days after the court rules on the injunction.
The Department of the Interior has said it will not renew the oyster company's lease because it wants to include the 1,100-acre property in a marine wilderness area. Environmentalists, property rights advocates and fans of the business have come to its defense. Oyster-harvesting operations have gone on in the area for at least a century.
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