The Drakes Bay Oyster Co. and a citizens' group have filed two similar but separate lawsuits in Marin County Superior Court to challenge recent California Coastal Commission orders that would require the oyster farm to curtail its activities.
The two lawsuits, both filed on Friday, are not part of a federal case in which the farm at Point Reyes National Seashore is challenging a decision by U.S. Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar to close it.
In the federal case, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is due to hear arguments in San Francisco on May 14 on the company's appeal of Salazar's decision to deny it a permit extension and thereby enable the site to return to wilderness.
The court has allowed the farm to continue operating during the appeal.
One of the Superior Court lawsuits was filed by the Marin County-based Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture and Phyllis Faber, an alliance member who is a former Coastal Commission member.
The second was filed soon afterwards by the oyster company.
Both suits allege the orders issued by the commission on Feb. 7 "would effectively shut down the farm," even if it wins its federal case, through expensive requirements for removal of certain equipment and changes in its operations.
"The effect of the operational constraints, cultivation restrictions and other work immediately required would be so financially onerous on the family-owned farm as to cause it to cease operations," both lawsuits say.
Zachary Walton, a lawyer for the alliance, said Superior Court Judge Lynn Duryee Wednesday morning scheduled a July 9 hearing on the alliance's request for a ruling overturning the commission orders.
Walton said he was not aware of any request by the oyster farm for a similar hearing, but noted that the farm could seek to participate in the July 9 session either as a so-called "real party in interest" in the alliance lawsuit or in connection with its own lawsuit.
Richard Idell, a lawyer who filed the oyster company's Superior Court lawsuit, was out of town and not available for comment Wednesday.
Amy Trainer, the executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, said, "This corporation has made millions of dollars cultivating shellfish in our public waters without any coastal permits, yet thinks the coastal protection rules of California somehow do not apply to it."
The committee has participated in the federal case by filing friend-of-the-court briefs supporting Salazar's decision.