Court Grants Federal Government Additional Year To Issue New Biological Opinions For California Water Projects

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On April 9, 2013, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California ruled (pdf) on a motion (pdf) by the United States and the State of California to extend the period of time to issue new biological opinions regarding the effects of continued operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project on a number of fish species listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.  The U.S. and California sought a three year extension of the time to issue biological opinions that were previously held to be unlawful.  The court granted a one year extension and left open the potential to seek two additional one year extensions but only in the event that the court is satisfied that the parties are making "substantial progress" toward developing relevant scientific information in a collaborative manner.

The court required the parties to submit a joint status report detailing their effort to implement the so-called Collaborative Science and Adaptive Management Process (or CSAMP) on or before February 15, 2014.  The court explained that at that time it will "entertain a request to extend the remand schedule by an additional year, with the understanding that if substantial progress has been made along the lines outlined by Movants, such an extension will be granted."  But the court went on to caution the parties that further extensions may not be granted: "The opposite is equally true. If substantial progress has not been made, further extensions will be nonexistent."