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National Audubon Soc'y v. Watt

Citation: 11 ELR 20551
No. No. 76-0943, 16 ERC 1401/(D.D.C., 05/06/1981)

The court enjoins the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the State of North Dakota from proceeding with construction of the Garrison River diversion project for lack of congressional authorization. In 1977, plaintiff filed suit challenging the adequacy of the project's environmental impact statement (EIS). Subsequently, the parties entered into a stipulation staying the initial proceedings, 7 ELR 20414 and 8 ELR 20232, until Congress reauthorized the project and DOI prepared a supplemental EIS. Opposing plaintiff's action to enforce the 1977 stipulation, defendants contended that subsequent litigation nullified the prior agreement. The court first rules that an expired Senate resolution, which disapproved of deferral of budget authority for the project, has no effect on the present action. Moreover, the court rejects DOI's argument that the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 1980, which appropriated $9.7 million for continuing construction of the Garrison project, deprived the Secretary of the Interior of discretion to carry out the terms of the stipulation. Since the Act merely appropriated money rather than compelled the expenditure of funds on the project, the stipulation is not, therefore, nullified. Further, the court rejects defendants' contention that plaintiff abandoned all of its rights under the stipulation by consenting to proceed with the merits of the case. The court determines that there is no merit to defendants' allegation that the stipulation is unenforceable because the Interior Secretary lacked discretion to enter into this agreement which suspended project construction and postponed expenditure of appropriate funds. Finally, since this is a valid, enforceable contract that was voluntarily entered into and that has not been legally nullified, defendants are enjoined from engaging in activities in violation of the stipulation. In addition, the court rules that this case shall not proceed on the merits until Congress passes a reauthorization measure.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Bruce Terris
Terris & Sunderland
1526 18th St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 332-1882

Charles Dayton, Jim Payne
Dayton, Herman, Graham & Getts
10 5th St., Suite 930, Minneapolis MN 55401
(612) 339-7633

Counsel for Defendants
Andrew Walch
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-4112

Lou Mouro
Department of the Interior
18th & C St. NW, Rm. 6039, Washington DC 20240
(202) 343-9393

Murray G. Sagsveen
Zuger & Bucklin
316 N. 5th St., Bismarck ND 58501
(701) 223-2711

Gary Helgeson
Governor's Office
State Capitol, Bismarck ND 58505
(701) 223-2711