Federal judge rejects latest bid by restaurants to keep Northern California oyster farm open

IndustriesAssociated Press

A federal judge rejected on Tuesday an 11th-hour attempt to keep open a popular Northern California oyster operation that was ordered closed by the federal government.

Drakes Bay Oyster Co. closed its cannery in July after the U.S. Department of the Interior refused to renew its lease along the Point Reyes National Seashore because of environmental concerns.

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Another oyster farm — Tomales Bay Oyster Co. — and four restaurants sued, arguing that Drakes Bay's closure would cause them to lose seafood supplies and customers.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said the arguments in the suit were the same as the ones made by Drakes Bay's owners, which she heard and rejected last year.

"You're awfully late to the game," the judge told the plaintiffs' lawyer.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports (http://bit.ly/ZgmOzn ) the judge denied the plaintiffs' request for an injunction to let the oyster operation continue while the Interior Department further examines the environmental effects of oyster harvesting.

Drakes Bay is negotiating with the government on how long it can continue harvesting oysters.

The company was notified in 2007 that its 40-year lease would not be renewed when it expired in 2012. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, won passage of a bill in 2009 allowing the Interior secretary to extend the lease for another 10 years. Nonetheless, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar denied a renewal in 2012, saying the oyster harvesting shouldn't be permitted in a federally designated wilderness area.