Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision (pdf) relating to the 2008 biological opinion (BiOp) issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) regarding the effects of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project on the delta smelt. The long-awaited decision (oral argument was held on September 10, 2012) reversed in part and affirmed in part the district court’s judgment invalidating the BiOp and remanding it to the Service. The opinion is authored by Judge Bybee, with partial concurrence and partial dissent by both Judge Rawlinson and visiting Eighth Circuit Judge Arnold.
While the panel reversed several aspects of the lower court’s decision concerning the merits of the case under the Endangered Species Act, the panel affirmed the district court’s order remanding the BiOp so that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation can prepare an environmental impact statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act.