Managing Water Releases From Dams to Protect Fish: A Tale of Good Legislation and Bad Engineering

by Foley Hoag LLP - Environmental Law
Contact

Earlier this week, the 9th Circuit found that the Bureau of Reclamation had authority under 1955 legislation to order additional releases of water to the Trinity River from the Lewiston Dam beyond the amount designated in an official release schedule, where necessary to protect downstream fish populations.  The Court basically held that general language in the 1955 Act trumped later legislation that seemed to prescribe or at least authorize more limited releases.

The 1955 Act was intended to make more water available to the famous – or infamous – Central Valley Project.  It was based on findings by the Department of Interior that much more water could be provided to the CPV without harming fish resources.  Notwithstanding that conclusion, Congress wrote into the act general protection of fisheries:

Subject to the provisions of this Act, the operation of the Trinity River division shall be integrated and coordinated, from both a financial and an operational standpoint, with the operation of other features of the Central Valley project, as presently authorized and as may in the future be authorized by Act of Congress, in such manner as will effectuate the fullest, most beneficial, and most economic utilization of the water resources hereby made available: Provided, That the Secretary is authorized and directed to adopt appropriate measures to insure the preservation and propagation of fish and wildlife. 

The Court, rightly, I think, concluded that this unambiguously gave BOR the authority it needed to order the releases.  As the Court noted,

Congress wanted to, and thought it could, maintain the rivers and their fish populations below the TRD while diverting substantial inflow to the Sacramento River.  However, Congress was not sure what these effects would be. So, to account for unintended consequences, Congress used general language, with no geographic limitation, to empower the Secretary to take any measures it found necessary to preserve all fish and wildlife.

In short, there is a reason why Congress writes in broad terms and delegates details to those hated bureaucrats.  Such delegation allows for do-overs, such as what we saw in this case, without the need for additional legislation.  All of which is the perfect segue to my next point.

I am a generally a technological optimist.  (For example, I still think we can address climate change.)  As the Court told the tale,

Reports suggested that only 120,500 acre-feet of water were needed to maintain the fishery resources of the Trinity and Lewiston Rivers. These reports also suggested that the construction of dams on the Trinity would actually help the fishery resources. Congress ultimately concluded that 700,000 acre-feet of the Trinity’s annual flow was being lost to the Pacific Ocean and could be  diverted to the Central Valley without harming the Trinity or lower Klamath Rivers.

The dams were built and the diversions to the CPV were made and, lo and behold,

The construction and operation of the TRD had devastating effects on the Trinity River environment and fish populations.

Optimism is one thing, but, as Congress recognized in 1955, hubris is another.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Foley Hoag LLP - Environmental Law | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Foley Hoag LLP - Environmental Law
Contact
more
less

Foley Hoag LLP - Environmental Law on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.