The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked the National Park Service from forcing an oyster farm out of Point Reyes National Seashore and scheduled a hearing on the dispute for May.
In a terse order filed Monday, the appellate court granted the request for an emergency injunction from the Drakes Bay Oyster Co., whose lease to operate in the national seashore's waters expired in November. The appellate court was asked to consider the motion after a lower court denied the same request.
"Appellants’ emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal is granted, because there are serious legal questions and the balance of hardships tips sharply in appellants’ favor," the order read.
On February 4, a U.S. District Court judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order that would have allowed the oyster farm to continue operations in Drakes Estero while its owner, Kevin Lunny, pursued a lawsuit against the federal government.
In seeking the TRO, the company's lawyers argued that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar broke the Administrative Procedures Act and violated the National Environmental Policy Act when he decided last November not to extend the lease for 10 years. In denying the lease extension, the Interior secretary cited the value of wilderness and congressional intent. On the very next day, Park Service Director Jon Jarvis declared the estero part of the Philip Burton Wilderness at the Seashore, effective December 4.
In her ruling, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers held that she had no jurisdiction to rule on whether the Interior secretary broke the APA, and even if she did, Mr. Lunny did not prove that Secretary Salazar acted arbitrary or capricious, or abused his discretion, in his decision.
Drakes Bay Oyster Co. also is facing a cease-and-desist order handed it by the California Coastal Commission last month. That order cited unpermitted operations in the seashore's waters by the oyster company, land alterations, debris from the farming operations, violations of previous cease-and-desist orders, and company boats operating in waters that were supposed to be closed to traffic due to harbor seal pupping.