Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Firebaugh Canal Water District v. U.S. DOI

Apr 5: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 11-17715. Appealed from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. The Appeals Court affirmed the district court's summary judgment in favor of the United States Department of the Interior (DOI) in an action challenging the Agency's management of California's Central Valley Project (CVP) -- the massive undertaking to transfer water from the northern part of California's Central Valley to the relatively arid southern part of the valley.
    The Appeals Court indicates, "Interior's management of the CVP has been the subject of much litigation. Here, we address the claim of the Firebaugh Canal Water District and the Central California Irrigation District (collectively, Firebaugh) that a lack of adequate drainage in part of the CVP causes poor quality water to flow into its service area. Firebaugh argues that Interior should be ordered to provide the necessary drainage or, alternatively, to pay money damages. . . we hold that Interior's broad discretion in matters of drainage precludes both claims."
    In its conclusion, the Appeals Court said, "We do not minimize the very real costs that continued operation of the San Luis Unit imposes on downslope lands, and we repeat Firebaugh I's holding that Interior is obliged to find a solution. We also reaffirm, however, that the contours of the solution lie within Interior's discretion. That discretion places Interior's actions beyond the scope of both the APA and the FTCA [Federal Tort Claims Act].
    "There is, to be sure, some point at which Interior's actions could become so sluggish that we could rightly say that the agency has entirely abandoned its legal duty to provide drainage within the San Luis Unit. The record before us does not now support that conclusion. Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is affirmed."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Water, #CA9]
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