Description: Endangered Species Act citizen suit challenging the renewal, implementation, and approval of renewal and implementation of certain long-term water contracts.
Natural Resources Defense Council v. Zinke
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 09/28/2018 Memorandum Decision Download Memorandum decision and order issued denying plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, granting federal defendants' motion to dismiss in part, and denying federal defendants' motion for summary judgment on one claim, and delaying resolution of cross motions for summary judgment on two other claims. Federal Court Said Endangered Species Act Claim Based on Alleged Temperature-Related Mortality of Salmonids Would Go to Trial. The federal district court for the Eastern District of California concluded that a claim that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (the Bureau) and holders of Sacramento River Settlement Contracts (SRS Contractors) violated the Endangered Species Act’s prohibition against taking listed species could not be resolved on motions to dismiss and for summary judgment. A coalition of environmental groups asserts that the SRS Contractors caused substantial temperature-related mortality of listed salmonids by diverting and transferring water in 2014 and 2015 without an appropriate permit. The environmental groups contend that the Bureau took listed salmonids by approving water transfers from SRS Contractors to others in 2014 and 2015. Due to failure to provide proper notice, the court dismissed the aspect of the unlawful taking claim against the Bureau that was based on a theory that the Bureau should have required one SRS Contractor to divert water from a source other than the Sacramento River. The court rejected the Bureau’s other rationales for dismissing the claim against it, including the Bureau’s argument that the claim involved wholly past agency actions. The court found that the environmental groups had presented evidence to support the assertions that conditions similar to the dry conditions in 2014 and 2015 could recur due to climate change. The court concluded that the plaintiffs had established a likelihood of future recurrence sufficient to withstand dismissal. The court also denied both the Bureau’s and the environmental groups’ motions for summary judgment. Regarding the environmental groups’ motion, the court found that the SRS Contractors’ evidence was sufficient to cast doubt on the conclusion that the Sacramento River’s temperature during 2014 and 2015 caused mortality.