Central Delta Water Agency v. Bureau of Reclamation: How the Ninth Circuit Paved the Way for the Next Fish Kill

Skillen, Elisabeth
August 2007
Ecology Law Quarterly;2007, Vol. 34 Issue 3, p979
Academic Journal
In Central Delta Water Agency v. Bureau of Reclamation, the Ninth Circuit implicitly applied a narrowly-focused finality standard that hindered interested parties' access to judicial review in the policing of environmental laws. California Delta farmers sought an injunction against a water allocation plan because they feared that the Federal Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) would reserve water for instream uses to maintain local fisheries at the expense of their water supply. To support their contentions, the farmers provided hydrological models demonstrating that a drought would likely challenge the Bureau's ability to meet both agricultural and instream uses of water under its current plan. The court held that the evidence provided by the plaintiffs was too speculative to prove that the farmers faced imminent injury. The Ninth Circuit implicitly premised its denial on the lack of finality of Bureau's current water distribution plan. In doing so, the Ninth Circuit accorded substantial deference to the Bureau's authority to revise its current water distribution plan as circumstances demanded. This barrier to judicial review not only frustrates attempts of interested parties to encourage the Bureau to form an emergency water allocation plan for shortages in the California Delta, but it also frustrates California's interests in adjudicating potential public trust violations. Most striking, it can prevent judicial review of the Bureau's actions until an environmental harm is unavoidable. Such an ex post standard frustrates the goals of environmental law. If the court could check the Bureau's decisions when it becomes apparent that the Bureau's plans are essentially final, the court could encourage the Bureau to enact better emergency water distribution plans before the harm is unavoidable. In contrast to the narrowly-focused finality standard implicitly applied by the Ninth Circuit, ripeness inquiries are broader in scope and consider environmental hardships resulting from the failure to grant review. Such an analysis provides a more comprehensive model that would address the potential harms faced by both the farmers and the fish if the Bureau's water distribution plan fails in an emergency.


Related Articles

  • FOREWORD. Garrison, Emma; Owley, Jessica // Ecology Law Quarterly;2003, Vol. 30 Issue 3, p395 

    Explores cases and changes in the U.S. environmental law.

  • When a Federal Agency Is at Fault. Pendergrass, John // Environmental Forum;Mar/Apr2008, Vol. 25 Issue 2, p10 

    The author presents an analysis on the decision by the Court Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, invalidating the decision by the Army Corps of Engineers on water distribution from a reservoir in Georgia. He discusses the legal issues related to operational changes in the reservoir, which the Court of...

  • The Mobile Source Air Toxics Rule: How Does the Greatest Reduction Become No Reduction? Stanfield, Sky // Ecology Law Quarterly;2004, Vol. 31 Issue 3, p563 

    In Sierra Club v. EPA the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that the EPA had acted within the Clean Air Act's statutory mandate in promulgating the Mobile Source Air Toxics Rule despite the fact that the rule did not actual require any reduction in emission levels. By allowing an...

  • Carson Harbor Village v. Unocal Corporation: Using Background Principles to Solve CERCLA's Ambiguities? Ruiz-Esquide, Andrea // Ecology Law Quarterly;2003, Vol. 30 Issue 3, p473 

    Examines the case, Carson Harbor Village v. Unocal Corp., proposing the use of background principles to solve vague provisions of the U.S. Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. Legal background of the act; Facts of the case; Analysis of the court's decision in...

  • New Cooling-Water Intake Is Low-Cost and Fish-Friendly. Armistead, Thomas F // ENR: Engineering News-Record;4/4/2005, Vol. 254 Issue 13, p17 

    The article reports that a new federal regulation for cooling-water-intake systems has powerplant operators shopping for solutions. A New York engineering firm has developed a system that it claims complies with the new regulation at a fraction of the cost of a new cooling tower and with none of...

  • States sue EPA over carbon dioxide emissions. Arias, Donya C. // Nation's Health;Aug2003, Vol. 33 Issue 6, p10 

    Reports on the move of three New England states to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in June 2003 in an effort to force the government to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. Basis of the lawsuit; Dangers posed by global warming to the public; Provisions of the Clean Air Act.

  • Court tells EPA to rewrite emissions rule. Toloken, Steve // Plastics News;6/28/2004, Vol. 16 Issue 17, p11 

    A federal court has tossed out part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) emissions standards for PVC manufacturing plants, ruling that the agency failed to set limits for emissions of several hazardous air pollutants. The June 18 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the...

  • AMERICAN ELECTRIC POWER CO. V. CONNECTICUT. Brody, David R. // Harvard Environmental Law Review;2012, Vol. 36 Issue 1, p297 

    On June 20, 2011, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous and straightforward decision that the Clean Air Act displaces federal common law public nuisance claims against greenhouse gas emitters. The decision solidifies the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA")'s primacy, established in...

  • Bear hnut challenge dead. Moorhouse, Barney // Ontario Out of Doors;May2003, Vol. 35 Issue 4, p6 

    CANADA'S Supreme Court has refused to hear the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters'(OFAH) spring bear hunt challenge against the Ontario government. Greg Farrant, government relations manager for OFAH has said that the federation would meet with legal council to consider further...


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics