Recently, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a concerned citizen against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) alleging Endangered Species Act (ESA) violations in connection with the Corps’ operation of the Coyote Valley Dam on the Russian River in Northern California. The court opined that federal defendants cannot avoid having to defend their prior actions simply by initiating the consultation process under section 7(a)(2) of the ESA, and the equities ...
On November 17, 2022, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) voted unanimously to issue an Order Modifying and Approving Surrender License and Removal of Project Facilities (“Order”) for the Lower Klamath Project (“Project”). The Order allows the dams’ private operator to surrender its operating license and was one of the final hurdles for the largest dam removal project in United States history. The $450 million project involves the removal of four dams along the Klamath River near the border of Northern California and Southern Oregon.
A noteworthy ...
Reversing the district court, a divided panel of the Ninth Circuit held that that the Bureau of Reclamation and a local water agency have discretion to release water from Twitchell Dam on the Santa Maria River on the Central Coast of California to comply with the federal Endangered Species Act. San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper v. Santa Maria Valley Water Conservation Dist. (Ninth Cir. No. 21-55479, Sept. 23, 2022). The court concluded that a 1958 federal law (P.L. 774) authorizing the operation of the dam for purposes other than irrigation, flood control, and water conservation provided ...
Over the past decade, proponents of an effort to remove four dams on the lower Klamath River have hit a series of roadblocks. The most recent came on July 16, 2020, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) voted 3-0 to partially transfer the license for the four dams to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) but also required PacifiCorp, the current owner and operator of the dams, to remain a co-licensee. FERC determined that retaining PacifiCorp as co-licensee is in the public interest because of significant uncertainty regarding the proposed dam ...
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit recently affirmed a lower court decision that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers need not consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act regarding the operation of dams and other facilities on the Rio Grande River, in WildEarth Guardians v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, No. 18-2153 (10th Cir. Jan. 17, 2020). The dispositive issue in the case was whether the Corps has discretion to act such that it is obliged to engage in consultation regarding the effects of its operation of the Middle Rio ...
In a recent opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed in part the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California’s grant of summary judgment to the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) in Friends of the River v. NMFS, No. 18-15623 (9th Cir. Oct. 3, 2019).
Plaintiff Friends of the River (“FOR”) challenged (1) NMFS’ decision to characterize the existence of federally-managed dams on the Yuba River as part of the environmental baseline in a 2014 BiOp and Letter of Concurrence (“LOC”) issued to the Corps for the ...
Nossaman’s Endangered Species Law & Policy blog focuses on news, events, and policies affecting endangered species issues in California and throughout the United States. Topics include listing and critical habitat decisions, conservation and recovery planning, inter-agency consultation, and related developments in law, policy, and science. We also inform readers about regulatory and legislative developments, as well as key court decisions.
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